Page 1 High School English I: Reading Study Guide for the STAAR® test
How to Prepare for the Reading Questions on the STAAR® High School English I Test
The English I test is one of the two STAAR® tests of English you must pass to graduate from high school in the State of Texas. It is recommended that you take this test as closely as possible to your completion date of the English I course in school. Note, however, that our information indicates that the English I and II tests are given about a month earlier than the other required high school tests.
“Passing” is a level II or III score designation, according to the following system of grading:
- III—Advanced Academic Performance
- II—Satisfactory Academic Performance
- I—Unsatisfactory Academic Performance
This study guide will help you prepare for the 34 reading questions of the 52 total multiple-choice questions on the STAAR® High School English I test. Your performance on these reading questions will account for 50% of your score on the entire test. That test also contains multiple-choice questions about writing (26% of your score) and one question that requires you to write a composition (24% of your score). You’ll need to consult our other study guides for the STAAR® English I test to prepare for the writing (multiple-choice) and composition (essay) parts of the English I test.
The reading-related questions assess your ability to read and fully understand material at the typical high school English I level. The passages will be harder than those you saw on your eighth grade English or Reading tests. There are three types of reading passages used on this test: literary texts, informational texts, and texts that may be from any genre.
The outline in this study guide will give you a good idea about how your reading will be assessed. Be sure you are comfortable with all of the terms and can apply them to the material you read. Some reading strategies will be needed in more than one area, and we have listed them in each case. However, if a term or strategy has been previously explained or defined in this guide, only the item itself is listed. You’ll need to try to remember its meaning or flip back to the point at which the explanation is given.
Basic Reading Strategies
The STAAR® test assesses your reading skills in a variety of ways using several literary genres. When there are reading components on a test, it is important to review some basic reading strategies before test time. Below, you will find a list of some of the common “directions” and terms you are likely to see on the STAAR® test. Understanding what each of them means and requires you to actually do will help you be successful on the test.
Remember, basic reading strategies should be applied to all reading parts of the test, including the directions, the test questions themselves, and the answer options, in addition to the text you’re being asked to read and respond to. This means reading things carefully, identifying what you are actually being asked to do, and applying your prior knowledge and experience to select the best answer option.
When you are asked to analyze something, it means to look at it closely and inspect it carefully. Analysis of text requires thoughtful attention to detail and cannot be done well with just a cursory skim through the passage. In analyzing, you will need to examine the text or an identified portion of the text critically and really give it thoughtful attention.
If a test question or test direction asks you to synthesize, that means to combine a bunch of different aspects or parts into a cohesive whole. Synthesizing a text requires that you not only identify the key parts (like you would for a summary), but that you combine those key parts with your own understanding and background knowledge to offer unique ideas and insight and demonstrate a deeper understanding of, and connection to, the text. Synthesis may be done not only within one text, but between multiple texts as you determine the common traits and connections between them.
Inferences are assumptions readers make based on the evidence provided in a text and their own personal experience. Making an inference requires logical consideration of the evidence an author provides and coming to a conclusion based on that evidence and what makes sense to you and your personal experience. If something is inferred, it will not be stated outright, but must be “figured out” by the reader, based on the evidence and the application of common sense and experience. It’s like “reading between the lines.”
We draw conclusions based on inferences. Drawing conclusions requires readers to use implied or inferred information to determine an “end statement.” When you draw a conclusion, you put together all of the inferences and couple them with your common sense and reason to create a final, definitive statement about the text. For example, a text says:
“Martin shuffled his way to school five minutes late to his zero period class. He tried to stifle his yawns, but his eyelids grew heavy and soon he found his head on his desk, right onto the test he had studied so late into the night for.”
We could infer from this that Martin was tired—he shuffled, yawned, had heavy eyelids, and put his head down—all evidence of being tired that we may have seen or experienced before. Note that the text doesn’t say Martin is tired, but we read between the lines and make that inference. In thinking about possible reasons why Martin might be tired and noting that he “studied late into the night,” we could then draw the conclusion that he did not get enough sleep the night before.
Find Supporting Evidence
To defend a conclusion or inference, you should use supporting evidence. Supporting evidence includes the clues in a text that lead you to make an inference or draw a particular conclusion. For example, concerning the above paragraph we read about Martin, if someone asked, “How do you know he was tired?” we could point to the evidence in the text: his slow “shuffling” to class, the yawns he tried to hide, his heavy eyes, etc. To test whether something is supporting evidence to a claim, conclusion, or inference, put it to the test. How does it help to explain or expose or support the claim made about the text? If it has nothing to do with it, it’s not supporting evidence.
Use Metacognitive Skills
Metacognitive skills are not as scary as they sound. The term simply refers to the thinking that takes place when you read. So, metacognition is really just “thinking about your own thinking,” or thought processes. Good, effective readers employ certain behaviors and practices as they read, including:
- making predictions about the text, looking at the textual features and structure
- making personal connections with the text or the characters in the text
- using context clues
- writing down questions or comments as they read
You may do some of these automatically when you read, and you don’t even have to think about them. But it’s a good idea before and during a big test to remind ourselves of how to tackle a challenging text so that we can access it more easily. You will actually think about how you think about a text and apply your skills in a thoughtful way.