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PARCC for Third-Graders: Can You Handle These Sample Questions?

When it comes to the new online exams, the youngest test-takers are definitely not lost in space


After yesterday’s tough Algebra II questions for high school, NJ Spotlight ends its week of PARCC sample questions with one from the other end of the spectrum: third grade.

The following is taken from PARCC’s practice tests of the language-arts section of the third grade exam. It is an example of the kinds of reading passages that the young charges are being asked to read and respond to this month as part of the second phase of PARCC testing in New Jersey.

This one is about astronauts, in a text written by NASA.

Directions: Today, you will be taking the Grade 3 English Language Arts/Literacy End-of-Year Practice Test. You will be asked to read one or more passages. Read each passage and all questions carefully. Some questions will ask you to choose one correct answer, while others will ask you to choose more than one correct answer.

What is a Spacewalk?

Why Do Astronauts Go on Spacewalks?

  1. Astronauts go on spacewalks for many reasons. Spacewalks let astronauts work outside their spacecraft while still in space. Astronauts can do science experiments on a spacewalk. Experiments can be placed on the outside of a spacecraft. This lets scientists learn how being in space affects different things.

  2. Spacewalks also let astronauts test new equipment. They can repair satellites or spacecraft that are in space. By going on spacewalks, astronauts can fix things instead of bringing them back to Earth to fix.

How Do Astronauts Go on Spacewalks?

  1. When astronauts go on spacewalks, they wear spacesuits to keep themselves safe. Inside spacesuits, astronauts have the oxygen they need to breathe. They have the water they need to drink.

  2. Astronauts put on their spacesuits several hours before a spacewalk. The suits are pressurized. This means that the suits are filled with oxygen.

  3. Once in their suits, astronauts breathe pure oxygen for a few hours. Breathing only oxygen gets rid of all the nitrogen in an astronaut’s body. If they didn’t get rid of the nitrogen, the astronauts might get gas bubbles in their body when they walked in space. These gas bubbles can cause astronauts to feel pain in their shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. This pain is called getting “the bends” because it affects the places where the body bends. Scuba divers can also get “the bends.”

  4. Astronauts are now ready to get out of their spacecraft. They leave the spacecraft through a special door called an airlock. The airlock has two doors. When astronauts are inside the spacecraft, the airlock is airtight so no air can get out. When astronauts get ready to go on a spacewalk, they go through the first door and lock it tight behind them. They can then open the second door without any air getting out of the spacecraft. After a spacewalk, astronauts go back inside through the airlock.

How Do Astronauts Stay Safe During Spacewalks?

  1. When on a spacewalk, astronauts use safety tethers to stay close to their spacecraft. Tethers are like ropes. One end is hooked to the spacewalker. The other end is connected to the vehicle. The safety tethers keep astronauts from floating away into space. Astronauts also use tethers to keep tools from floating away. They tether their tools to their spacesuits.

  2. Another way astronauts stay safe during spacewalks is by wearing a SAFER. SAFER stands for Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue. SAFER is worn like a backpack. It uses small jet thrusters to let an astronaut move around in space. If an astronaut were to become untethered and float away, SAFER would help him or her fly back to the spacecraft. Astronauts control SAFER with a small joystick, like on a video game

Question 1:

Part A: What does the word thrusters mean as it is used in the final paragraph of the passage?

A. ropes that connect

B. machines that power

C. spacesuits that protect

D. bags that hold tools

Part B: Which detail from the passage helps the reader understand the meaning of thrusters?

A. “. . . hooked to the spacewalker.”

B. “. . . is worn like a backpack.”

C. “. . . fly back to the spacecraft.”

D. “. . . with a small joystick . . .”

Question 2: Why are two doors needed to create an airlock on a spacecraft?

A. to make it safe for astronauts to enter and exit the spacecraft on Earth

B. to let the astronauts do scientific experiments to see how air in outer space affects living things

C. to allow the astronauts to go into space without letting air out of the spacecraft

D. to provide a place where astronauts can connect their ropes to the spacecraft so they do not float away

Answers to today’s questions for third-grade language arts:

Question 1, Part A: B Question 1, Part B: C Question 2: C

Answers to yesterday’s question from Algebra II practice test: Question 1 (without calculator): D Question 2 (with calculator): D

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