High School English II: Reading Study Guide for the STAAR test

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General Information

Just completing the English II course will not entitle you to a high school diploma in the State of Texas. You must also pass the STAAR® end-of-course English II test. You should take this test as closely as possible to the end date of the course. All STAAR® English tests are typically administered about a month sooner than other STAAR® high school tests.

To pass, you’ll need to achieve either a II or III score level out of these level designations:

  • III—Advanced Academic Performance
  • II—Satisfactory Academic Performance
  • I—Unsatisfactory Academic Performance

Reading is only one of the parts of the English II STAAR® test. The others are Writing and Composition. These are dealt with in our other STAAR® High School study guides, as is preparation for the English I and other high school STAAR® tests. Your degree of success on the reading questions will account for 50% of your total English II score.

Preparation for this test is similar to that for the English I test, with some additional terms and procedures added.

  1. You should review our STAAR® High School English I: Reading study guide. It goes over most of the necessary terms and concepts you’ll also need for this test. (We know this because we have done a side-by-side comparison of the curriculum covered in both tests.)

  2. Look through the sections below where we’ve only listed terms and concepts that were not assessed on the English I test but that you will need to know for the English II test.

  3. For other helpful reading tips, look through the Critical Reading Study Guide for our English Basics test.

On the English II test, you will again be exposed to passages from literary texts, informational texts, and other genres, but the English II passage content is a bit more sophisticated than that on the English I test.

This is the curriculum covered on the English II test that was not contained in the English I test:

Passage Type I: Reading Across Genres

The assessment of your ability to “read across genres” just means that they are looking to see how well you read and comprehend a variety of written texts presented in multiple forms and covering a variety of topics. The genres assessed on the STAAR® may include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama, and you may be asked to analyze the texts based on different cultural or historical contexts. Eight of the 34 multiple-choice reading questions on the English II test involve passages that require you to “read across genres.”


The STAAR® test assesses your vocabulary skills by asking you to determine the meaning of grade-level words in a variety of contexts. Using your knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, and roots from Greek and Latin can help you determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Your vocabulary knowledge may also be tested by asking you to infer a word’s meaning through analogies or word relationships of key words in the text. You should be able to distinguish between a word’s connotation and denotation, which means understanding what a word literally means (denotation) and how it is likely to affect the reader (connotation).

Understanding the meaning of foreign words or phrases often used in English will also help you on this test. Phrases like these could appear on this test:

avant-garde—French for new or experimental or cutting-edge ideas, especially in the arts

coup d’etat—also French; means a sudden takeover of power or control; an upheaval of the government or authority

glasnost—Russian for “a more open policy or form of government”

You may connect many of these phrases to your study of history or social studies.

Questions asking you to use a dictionary, thesaurus, or other resource material to determine or confirm the meaning of a word and its etymology are another way vocabulary and reading skills are tested. Be sure to use context clues and recognizable word parts to help you determine the meaning of unfamiliar words: if you can narrow down your choices and make an educated guess, you’ll be in good shape.


Assessing your comprehension just means measuring how well you understand a text. Are you able to read and process what you read in an analytical way that allows you to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text? Because the reading passages are from a variety of genres in multiple context areas, you will need to be able to identify the theme and genre and conduct your analysis through cultural, historical, or contemporary lenses of context. To ensure that you aren’t just making things up, the questions may ask you for evidence to support your conclusion or inference by asking you which detail from the passage is most important to the author’s argument or position and then giving you four statements from which to choose.

Time Differences in Literary Texts

In addition to all of the elements of comprehension from the English I assessment, the STAAR® English II test includes an assessment of your ability to compare and contrast themes expressed in texts from different time periods. In other words, there may be a contemporary poem about racism or prejudice coupled with a passage from a primary source document like Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. You would analyze the theme of each (racism, prejudice, the cruelty of slavery, etc.) and compare the themes between the two texts. Though they may have been written years apart or for different audiences or purposes, there is something that connects their themes to one another.


All Study Guides for the STAAR test are now available as downloadable PDFs