4 Reasons The ELPAC Test is One of the Most Difficult Tests for Students

The ELPAC test takes almost FOUR hours. It is the most important test for our ELD students and their educational success depends on it.

Thousands of students take the ELPAC exam each year, the English reclassification test.

What is the ELPAC Test?

The ELPAC, or the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California. It is the reclassification test for English learners. The exam consists of two tests, the Initial ELPAC, and the Summative ELPAC.

The Summative ELPAC consists of four separate tests; reading, writing, listening and speaking. It takes about four hours to complete, and it is exhausting. It often requires a higher level of proficiency than my native English speakers.

1. Proving English Fluency

English learners must demonstrate English fluency.

In California, students whose native language is something other than English must prove their English language ability in school. Students do not choose whether or not they want to take the test. All public school English learners must take the test.

This year about 80% of my students are English learners, meaning they speak a language other than English at home. A majority of my students take the ELPAC test.

2. Who Takes the ELPAC Test?

Students who are new to American schools take the Initial ELPAC test. Students identified as English learners take the Summative ELPAC test to measure their progress in English proficiency.

The ELPAC is one of the most important exams for students who are non-native English speakers or for those identified as English learners. Students who have a difficult time passing the test are more likely to drop out of school. We do our best to reclassify them before they leave middle school because the test gets much harder in high school. Each year they take an ELD class means they lose their chance to take an elective course. All of their classes are content-heavy.

3. Why is the ELPAC Test Important?

Everyone who speaks another language at home must take the ELPAC.

The test is important because students only have one chance per year to pass the test. Students are required to take an additional English class until they reclassify. Students who do not reclassify before the 10th grade may not graduate from high school.

Since English learners have a lower level of fluency, core classes are likely too difficult for them. Core classes are English, Math, Science, and History, and these are the major courses required for graduation.

4. What Does the ELPAC Test Cover?

The ELPAC test assesses the four language domains: reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and determines whether a student has the necessary English language skills to be successful in academic classes.

Exam results determine the appropriate English language development services and programs for students. The ELPAC test takes several hours, and students often take the exam over several days.

The irony for my students is that English Learners often have a higher proficiency in English than my non-English Learners because they spend so much time preparing for this test.

Is the test biased?

The test is biased in some ways because it requires students to have a grade-level understanding of material. If students do not have a grade-level understanding of the content, they might not be able to pass the test.

For example, when I was teaching in South Los Angeles, I had a few students who did not pass the ELPAC exam because they had undiagnosed learning disabilities. We knew they had issues because they were reading at a first-grade level in the seventh grade.

Unfortunately, because it took almost a full school year to get kids tested, students often fell through the cracks. Since they never tested out of ELD, schools continued to move the students into the next grade – continuing the ELD cycle.

What Can Adults Do to Support Children?

Students only have one chance per year to pass the ELPAC exam.

I understand the parents who need to read this may not be proficient in English. However, as a community, we should understand the impact of this exam on students.

Students who take the ELPAC test have even less downtime than native English speakers. They have less than two weeks before they begin the SBAC exams. It is a tremendous amount of stress for children.

Here Are Some Ways We Can Help Students Prepare for the ELPAC Exam:

1. Read in English

Encourage children to read English-language books, magazines, and newspapers. Make sure students can accurately describe pictures and scenes.

2. Converse in English

Engage in conversations with children in English and encourage them to practice speaking English. If it is difficult to find people to talk with, children should listen to English podcasts and encourage students to listen to music in English.

3. Speak with a Teacher

Ask the child’s teacher for recommendations on additional resources or materials that can help with preparation.

4. Help with Homework

Help children with homework and provide additional support with English language assignments. If parents do not speak English, most schools offer to tutor students.

What Questions Should Parents Ask Teachers About the ELPAC Exam?

The ELPAC covers speaking, listening, reading, and writing, in English

Parents should understand the test material and understand how the exam assesses students.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. How will my child be assessed on the ELPAC exam?
  2. What materials or resources can I use to support my child’s preparation for the exam?
  3. What accommodations are available for English learners during the exam? This part is important because many parents do not know about the additional support available to students.
  4. When will I receive my child’s ELPAC exam results, and how will they be used to determine their academic progress and English language development services?

Resources for Parents:

The California Department of Education offers a range of resources for parents to support their child’s success on the ELPAC exam. These include:

  1. The ELPAC Parent Guide: This guide provides detailed information on the exam, including scoring and resulting data. https://www.elpac.org/resources/parent-guide/
  2. The ELPAC Practice Test: This resource is an excellent way for students to become familiar with the exam’s format and types of questions. https://www.elpac.org/resources/practice-test/
  3. The ELPAC Fact Sheet: This document explains the exam, its purpose, and how it works. https://www.elpac.org/resources/fact-sheet/
  4. ELPAC Training Videos for Parents: These videos provide a comprehensive overview of the ELPAC exam, what to expect, and how to prepare. https://www.elpac.org/resources/training-videos-parents/
  5. California Department of Education’s ELPAC webpage: Provides additional information and resources, including sample test items, test administration manuals, and other helpful tools for parents and educators alike. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ep/

In Conclusion

There are lots of ELPAC resources available for students and parents.

In conclusion, native English speakers might never know about the ELPAC exam. Students taking the test are under pressure in April and May because a lot is riding on their results.

We can help them be successful by ensuring students have the tools they need to be successful.

Valerie de la Rosa


I am an educator with almost 15 years of experience teaching in Japan, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles. My goal is to change education and the way we view literacy instruction in America.

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