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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the STAAR test
- About the STAAR Test
- Sections of the STAAR test
- What to Expect on Test Day
- Best Ways to Study for the STAAR
- STAAR Tips and Tricks
- STAAR FAQ:
About the STAAR Test
The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, program is used to assess competency of public school students. This testing program has been used in the state since 2012, when it replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills program. It was developed by the Texas Education Agency, Pearson Education, and collaborators from the Texas public school educators. Exams are often given at the end of grades 3-5 in elementary school, grades 6-8 in middle school, and upon the conclusion of certain high school courses. These exams are required for all public school students in Texas.
Our current preparation focuses on the high school exams which are end-of-course exams that must be passed in order to graduate. These exams are given after the student has taken English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology, and U.S. History. There are additional optional exams being developed to be administered after students complete English III and Algebra II.
The legislation governing the STAAR exams dictates that no more than 75% of the questions can be multiple-choice, so students will encounter many different types of questions on the exams. Depending upon the subject completed, the number of questions may vary. The exams taken after English I and English II have a five-hour time limit, while all other exams have a four-hour time limit.
Since passing these exams is required to graduate, preparing for them is essential for most high school students in Texas. Students will have already been taught the content assessed, but there is a lot covered in each high school class. You will definitely want to review.
Sections of the STAAR test
High School Algebra I
The STAAR High School Algebra I test covers all of the concepts listed in the Algebra I curriculum for public schools in the state of Texas. Basic topic areas covered are algebraic methods, linear equations, functions, quadratic equations and functions, and exponential equations and functions. As you answer the questions, you will also be assessed on process skills you use to solve the problems, but you will not receive a separate score for this. Most of the 54 questions are in multiple-choice format, but you’ll need to actually find and write (“grid in”) the answer for five of them.
High School Biology
This STAAR High School Biology test is loaded with visual input, both within questions and as answer choices. These graphics include charts, diagrams, and graphs. Topics covered include cells, genetics, evolution, classification, biological processes and systems, and environmental systems. Questions also assess your facility with scientific processes, but you will not receive a separate score for this. A certain amount of critical thinking, problem solving, and scientific reasoning will also be required for success on the STAAR Biology test.
High School English II: Reading
The STAAR High School English II Reading test questions are about passages and pairs of passages that are on a higher reading level than those for the English I test. Like that test, this one also asks you to compare two passages as well as analyze each passage separately. The content of the reading selections may be less familiar to you than those from the previous year’s test and these questions ask you to delve more deeply into text relationships and meaning. The vocabulary used in these selections may also be more challenging. There are 34 reading-related questions of the total 52 English II test questions. The remainder of the questions on the English II test are about writing and we have separate practice materials for help with that.
High School English II: Writing
Eighteen of the STAAR High School English II: Writing test questions are related to the analysis and correction of another person’s writing. You will also need to write a composition for the English II test, but these questions are in addition to that task. Questions may ask you to correct grammatical errors, suggest a better word or phrasing option, or restructure the piece by moving a sentence. You’ll need to know the best transitional words to use for various circumstances and the correct punctuation within and at the end of a sentence. Like the English II Reading selections, these passages may be more involved than the writing selections on the English I test. But, unlike the reading questions on this test, these are all about the writing process, so we’ve divided our practice materials for maximum support. We also have a study guide to help you prepare for the composition portion of this test.
High School English I: Reading
Our test prep for the STAAR High School English I test is divided into two parts: reading and writing. Of the 52 questions on the STAAR English I test, 34 of them assess your reading ability, and our materials will prepare you specifically for the reading questions on the test. The questions don’t just cover basic comprehension, but may require you to really analyze one or two passages, separately and as compared to each other. There will be at least seven or eight questions about each passage with additional questions about the paired passages. The reading selections are from both fiction and nonfiction genres and you’ll need to be able to digest written material that is more difficult than what you remember from your eighth grade reading tests.
High School English I: Writing
Part of the STAAR English I test involves your writing skill. While there is a one-question composition section as part of the test, the other writing questions do not require you to write anything. These 18 writing questions will ask you to suggest revisions and edits for writing done by another person. The tasks of evaluating the overall organization of the passage, the use of language, the writer’s grammar, and the use of literary devices are commonly directed by STAAR Writing test questions. Writing selections have been specifically written for the exam and are on a high school English I reading level. Since the writing questions require a different set of skills than the reading ones, we have divided our practice materials into those two separate areas. We also offer a study guide only for composition with tips and tricks for that part of the test.
High School U.S. History
The STAAR High School U.S. History test contains a total of 68 multiple-choice questions and covers the areas of study listed in the state of Texas high school U.S. History curriculum. These include knowledge of important historical events, the reasons for them, and their results. Questions focus on the ability to analyze the meaning of these events and understand terms associated with them. You’ll also need to analyze a number of visuals, such as political cartoons, maps, and quotations, and match them to the appropriate era in U.S. history. A basic familiarity with important historical documents is also required.
What to Expect on Test Day
The STAAR exams are administered multiple times throughout the school year, and the timeline for taking the exams will be dependent upon what courses the high school student has recently completed. The exams are generally administered at the student’s school. The school will provide additional information related to what each student can expect as each exam day approaches.
However, there are a few general guidelines to remember on testing day. The STAAR exams can be long (four or five hours), so students should eat a hearty meal and get plenty of sleep before arriving on exam day. This will ensure that they can focus solely on the test and are not distracted by hunger or drowsiness. The student and their parent(s) should review all additional information provided by the school about exam day policies and procedures to help them prepare before the day of the exam.
What to Bring
Generally speaking, most students will not need to bring any materials with them on exam day, particularly if they are completing the exam online. If taking the pencil-and paper version, they may be required to bring two No. 2 pencils. The student may also be required to present government-issued identification or their school ID, if one has been issued.
What Not to Bring
No electronics or recording devices are allowed during testing. The school may have additional restrictions related to personal items and they will provide additional information before exam day for students and parents to review.
Best Ways to Study for the STAAR
Take Practice Tests for the STAAR
The STAAR exams assess competency across many subjects, and the best way to prepare for an exam is by taking practice tests. These practice tests can help high school students become familiar with the types of questions they will encounter when taking the actual exam. It can also help them to identify what subjects or specific content may require more study time in order to achieve a passing score. The results of practice tests can help students and their parents develop a comprehensive study plan that will increase the likelihood of success on any STAAR exam.
The Texas Education Agency also periodically releases old versions of the test. While only available as a download and not as an interactive computerized exam, these questions can offer invaluable insight into what the STAAR will look and feel like on test day.
Use Alternative Study Methods
Many students find it very helpful to review information using alternative study methods, such as flashcards for the STAAR and study guides for the STAAR. Reviewing the content areas and specific information across multiple formats can help students to retain the information better.
Simulate the Testing Experience
The STAAR exams are timed at the high school level. All subjects have a four-hour time limit, except for English I & English II, which allow for five hours to complete the exam. For many students, simulating the testing experience under the allowed time constraints can be very helpful. This process can help students better understand how they perform under pressure and help them to address any issues they might have with the mental fatigue that can be experienced during long exams.
STAAR Tips and Tricks
Attend School Every Day
Important information related to the STAAR exams is usually communicated to the student during their regularly scheduled classes, and content found on the exams is covered in class. One of the best ways to prepare or identify areas to study is by attending class every day. If an absence is unavoidable, the student or parent should communicate with the instructor to determine what information was missed.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
The STAAR exams can frequently cause a ton of anxiety for the examinee because performing well is required for high school graduation. Anxiety can cause sweating, shaking, or even a headache. If the examinee is feeling stressed about the exam, it’s often beneficial to discuss ways to reduce anxiety—like deep breathing and focusing techniques.
Skip Questions You Don’t Know and Return to Them Later
The STAAR exams are timed, and one of the best strategies for any timed exam is to answer all of the questions you know first, then come back to the ones you don’t and spend more time on them. If you complete the exam before the time limit has been met, it’s always a good idea to review your answers in case you read a question wrong or want to change an answer.
1. What are the costs associated with taking the STAAR exams?
The STAAR exams are required through Texas Legislation, and all costs are covered by Texas public schools. Parents and students do not have to pay anything to take the STAAR exams.
2. Can I retake a STAAR exam if I don’t pass it on the first attempt?
Each test is administered three times a year, which provides students with multiple opportunities to pass an assessment if they did not on their initial attempt. However, to graduate on time, care should be taken to take each exam as soon as possible after completing the course it tests.
3. What is a good score on the STAAR exams?
Each STAAR exam converts a raw score into a cut score. Three of the cut scores—Masters Grade Level, Meets Grade Level, and Approaches Grade Level—are considered passing scores. The final score, Did Not Meet Grade Level, is a non-passing score and would require that the student retake the exam.
4. Where can I find out more information about the STAAR assessments?
Additional information can be found online at the Texas Education Agency’s website. The student’s school will also provide both parents and students with additional information about the assessments.