General Rules for the Paper–Pencil Assessment

This section provides a brief overview of the general test administration rules for different portions of the assessment.

For the Smarter Balanced assessments, specific test items are administered in separate sessions. For example, grades six through eleven mathematics tests include a session in which students may use calculators and another session where calculators are not allowed.

For the CAST, non-PT and PT test items will be presented in a single session. Students taking the CAST are allowed calculators during the entire assessment.

Students may not return to a test section (session) in their test or answer booklet once that part of a test has been completed.

The student test booklets, answer booklets, and CDs are secure. Maintaining the security of all test materials is crucial to obtaining valid and reliable student results. Therefore, test materials must be kept in locked storage, except during actual test administration. It is the responsibility of all individuals who administer the test to follow security procedures.

Allowable Calculators

Students taking a mathematics assessment in grades six, seven, eight, and eleven are able to use calculators for Sessions 2 and 3. Refer to table 1 for allowable calculator types. Students in grades three, four, and five are not permitted to use any calculators except when approved as an unlisted resource; in these grades, the calculator changes the construct of the test and will result in an invalid score.

For Sessions 2 and 3, calculators with the following maximum functionality are acceptable for use. Table 1 lists allowable calculators for each grade level of the Smarter Balanced mathematics assessment.

Table 1. Allowable Calculators for Mathematics

Grade Calculator Type Calculator Description
Grades 3–5 NO CALCULATORS PERMITTED NO CALCULATORS PERMITTED
Grade 6 Four-function calculator Four-function with square root and percentage functions
Grades 7 and 8 Scientific calculator A scientific calculator with exponents, trigonometry, and logarithmic functionalities
Grade 11 Graphing calculator A graphing calculator with similar functionalities to a TI-84

For the CAST, calculators with the following maximum functionality are accepted for use. Table 2 lists allowable calculators for the CAST.

Table 2. Allowable Calculators for the CAST

Grade Calculator Type Calculator Description
Grade 5 Four-function calculator Four-function with square root and percentage functions
Grade 8 and high school Scientific calculator A scientific calculator with exponents, trigonometry, and logarithmic functionalities

Calculator Use Guidelines

  • For the Smarter Balanced assessment in mathematics:
    • Grades three, four, and five: no calculator may be used for any portion of the test.
    • Grades six, seven, eight, and eleven: The first session of each test is a noncalculator session. Be sure that no calculators are available until students begin working on Session 2.
    • Items are placed in the noncalculator section of the assessment when students are expected to be able to perform the skill without a calculator or if a particular calculator would provide an unfair advantage for a student.
  • For the CAST:
    • Grade five uses a basic four-function calculator.
    • Grade eight and high school use a scientific calculator.
    • No grade may use a graphing calculator.
    • All grades may use a calculator for any question on the test.
  • Test administrators are responsible for ensuring and verifying that calculators that have the ability to store functions and equations (e.g., a graphing or a scientific calculator) have the memory cleared before and after each mathematics assessment.
  • Calculators cannot have internet connectivity or be able to connect to anyone inside or outside of the classroom during testing.
  • Students cannot use a calculator on a laptop or other portable computer, electronic organizer, cell phone, device with a typewriter-style keyboard, electronic writing pad, or pen-input device unless a particular assistive device is required for a student and is specified on the student’s individualized education program.
  • No calculators with QWERTY keyboards are allowed.

Science Reference Tools

The CAST assessments for grade eight and high school include a periodic table and a reference sheet of formulas that students may access at any time during testing as universal tools. These are included on an individual page that is folded and inserted at the front of the CAST test booklet.

The reference sheet provides all formulas that a student may need to use in responding to a test item; however, this does not imply that the student will receive a specific item type.

The purposes of these reference tools are to signal that students do not need to memorize formulas and to ensure that students have equal access to the tools during testing. These reference tools are not meant to guide instruction.

The science reference tools pages that contain the reference sheet of formulas and periodic table of the elements must be collected and securely destroyed after testing, as they may have been used as scratch paper by a student.

Testing Times

Table 3 and table 4 contain the estimated times it will take most students to complete the Smarter Balanced paper–pencil test in ELA and mathematics at all grade levels. Table 5 provides the estimated time for most students to complete the CAST. This information is for scheduling purposes only, as the assessments are not timed.

Table 3 provides the estimated timing for ELA.

Table 3. Assessment Sequence—ELA

ELA Session 1 Session 2 Sessions 3 and 4 (PT)
Number of sessions Administered in one session Administered in one session

The PT is presented in two parts.

The recommendation is to administer in two sessions corresponding to Parts 1 and 2 of the PT.

Breaks within sessions

(Note: Online pause rules do not apply.)

A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed. A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed. A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed.
Approximate total duration 15–30 minutes 90–120 minutes 35–40 minutes for Part 1 and 70–85 minutes for Part 2

Table 4 shows the estimated timing for mathematics.

Table 4. Assessment Sequence—Mathematics

Mathematics Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 (PT)
Number of sessions Administered in one session Administered in one session Administered in one session

Breaks within sessions

(Note: Online pause rules do not apply.)

A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed. A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed. A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed.
Approximate total duration 15–90 minutes 15–90 minutes Approximate session duration: 15–90 minutes

Table 5 shows the estimated timing for science.

Table 5. Assessment Sequence—CAST

Science Session
Number of sessions Administered in one session with a “STOP” indicated between each of the four sections. Students should review their answers within the sections and then proceed.

Breaks within sessions

(Note: Online pause rules do not apply.)

A student may be provided breaks within a test session as needed.
Approximate total duration 120 minutes

The Smarter Balanced assessments comprise three sessions for ELA and three sessions for mathematics. The PT (Session 3) for ELA contains two parts, each of which is administered in its own test session. The CAST contains one part that can be administered in a single day.

Smarter Balanced recommends that students take the non-PT portions of the test (Sessions 1 and 2) and the PT (for ELA, this is two parts, Parts 1 and 2) on separate days. For both ELA and mathematics, the order of administration should be Session 1 and Session 2, followed by the PT (for ELA, this is PT Part 1 and then PT Part 2). LEAs or schools may opt to administer in a different order if needed.

Figure 1 illustrates the recommended order for the ELA assessment, where session one is administered, then session two, then the PT in part one of session three, and then, finally, the full write—part two of the PT—in session four.

Recommended order of ELA test administration: 1. Session 1 2. Session 2 3. PT Part 1 (Research Questions) 4. PT Part 2 (Full-Write)

Figure 1. Recommended Order of Test Administration, ELA

Figure 2 illustrates the recommended order for the mathematics assessment, where session one is followed by session two and then, finally, by the PT.

Recommended order of mathematics test administration: 1. Session 1 2. Session 2 3. Performance Task

Figure 2. Recommended Order of Test Administration, Mathematics