General Strategies for the SOL in Reading and Literature: Grade 8

The state of Virginia issues an annual exam to students in grades 3-8 to make sure students are meeting their Standards of Learning (SOL). If your child is entering 8th grade, he or she will be taking assessments in English, math, science and history. Keep reading to find out how you can help your child prepare.

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Preparing for the English SOL Assessment

What Your Child Should Know

The SOL for 8th grade English has three main focuses: oral language, reading and writing. Students are expected to give oral presentations and think critically about the media. When reading, they identify and analyze figurative language, recognize themes and draw conclusions using evidence from the text. Finally, 8th graders are expected to organize their writing, use proper grammar throughout and consider sentence structure.

What to Expect

On the reading exam, your child will be given a variety of reading passages, including narratives and informational texts. After each section, he will be asked multiple-choice questions relating to comprehension and language. For instance, a question may ask him to define a difficult word or draw conclusions based on the passage.

For the writing exam, students are asked to read a sentence or passage and answer multiple-choice questions about the writing process, grammar and mechanics. Your child will also be given a writing prompt to respond to, along with a checklist to assist him with the steps from planning to editing.

How to Prepare

Practice Tests

The Virginia Department of Education provides sample tests on their website that your 8th grader can use to prepare for the exam ( The more familiar she is with answering multiple-choice questions, the more comfortable and confident she'll be on the actual exam. Set up a test-taking environment that is free from distractions. You may also want to set a timer to get your child used to the time limit. Afterward, correct her exam and look for patterns in her mistakes so you'll know what areas to concentrate on.

At-Home Exercises

Once you've identified what your child needs to work on, use exercises to review at home. If, for instance, your child needs help identifying the main idea of a text, you can practice by reading a variety of texts at home. Pick out a newspaper article and a short story. After reading both, have your child summarize the text in one sentence. The 1-sentence limit is challenging, but it will help your child think only about the most important parts of the story.

Test-Taking Strategies

Multiple-choice questions can be tricky because, most of the time, at least two answers are very similar. Test-taking strategies can make these questions less intimidating because your child will know how to tackle them. Your child should begin by reading the question and coming up with his own answer. Then, read the answers and find the option that is closest to his own. It also helps to use the process of elimination to remove the answers you know aren't correct.

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