Superintendent’s Memo #213-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

August 24, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  New Science Tests Based on the 2010 Science Standards of Learning

As communicated in Superintendent’s Memorandum No. 258-11, dated September 16, 2011, implementation of the new science tests based on the 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOL) will begin with the fall 2012 administration for the end-of-course (EOC) science tests (Earth Science, Biology, and Chemistry) and with the spring 2013 administration for the grades 3, 5, and 8 science tests.

New Blueprints

New blueprints for all science tests have been developed for use with the new SOL and have been posted since September 2011 on the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Web page at:  The blueprints indicate the reporting categories for each test, the number of test items in each reporting category, and the number of field test items per test.  Note that the grade 3 science SOL test will no longer be a cumulative grades K-3 test.  The grade 3 science test will assess grade 2 and grade 3 SOL.  The kindergarten and grade 1 SOL are subsumed in the grade 3 test items.

Technology-Enhanced Items

Technology-enhanced items (TEI) will be included on all science tests.  These items comprise approximately 15 percent of each test.

New Periodic Table of the Elements for Chemistry

The new Chemistry test which will be administered for the first time in fall 2012 will have a new Periodic Table of the Elements.  The new Periodic Table of the Elements is located on the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Web site at:

SOL Practice Items and Guides

To support student preparation for test questions that assess the 2010 Science SOL, a set of practice TEI was posted to the VDOE Web site for each SOL science test in spring 2012.  These practice items provide students an opportunity to become familiar with the types of TEI test questions that will be administered to assess the 2010 Science SOL.  The sets of SOL practice items and their guides can be found at:

A SOL Science Practice Item Guide, which may be used by teachers or other adults to guide students through the practice items, is provided for each set of practice items.  While the use of the guides with the practice items is not required, it is strongly encouraged, as it will help to ensure that students are familiar with the types of items and tools they may encounter in the new online assessments.

Additional practice science items including both multiple-choice and TEI will be released in the fall for end-of-course (EOC) Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Science.  Additional practice items for grades 3, 5, and 8 science will be released in spring 2013.  All items are a representation of the various types of items found on the new science SOL tests and include items which reflect the increased level of rigor.

Use of Color

Color will be used for some test items in the online versions of the new SOL science tests. Colors used with items will be suitable for students with color vision deficiency and will appear in gray scale should the item be presented in paper format.

Emphasis Words

Emphasis words such as closest, best, and main will no longer be italicized or displayed in capital letters on any SOL science test. The only exceptions will be the words NOT and EXCEPT, which will continue to be emphasized with capital letters on all SOL science tests excluding grade 3.  The grade 3 science test will not contain test items with the words NOT and EXCEPT.

If you have questions, please contact the student assessment staff at or by telephone at (804) 225-2102.