Expert Guide to the Texas STAAR Test

  • What is the Texas STAAR Test?

  • How do Schools Use the Test Results?

  • Who Takes the STAAR Test?

  • What Subjects Does the STAAR Cover?

  • How is the STAAR Formatted?

  • How is the STAAR Scored?

  • What’s the History of the Test?

  • What Makes this Test Unique?

  • Who’s Behind the STAAR Test?

  • What Can I do to Prepare My Child for the Texas STAAR

  • Is There Anywhere I Can Get Free STAAR Sample Questions?
  • What is the Texas STAAR Test?

    The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, is a mandatory, state-wide test, introduced in the 2011 school year. This program was developed in response to new educational requirements set forth by the 80th and 81st Texas legislative districts.

    All questions have been designed to align with the state-mandated curriculum set out by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.

    In addition to the basic Texas STAAR Test, there are three additional versions available for students who do not have English as a first language or who require some sort of testing accommodation.

    How do Schools Use the Test Results?

    Schools use these tests to assess the preparedness of individual children, teachers, and school districts against the required state curriculum. In addition to giving the state a benchmark to measure progress on their mandated goals, the test also allows government officials to define “readiness standards” and “student success initiatives” (SSI).

    While the former outlines the most important topics year to year, the ‘student success initiatives’ are the ones that are vital to your child’s future. A student who does not comply with the SSI requirements can be prevented from moving on to the next grade or course level. If your child does not perform satisfactorily, they will be given three retesting opportunities.

    Who Takes the Texas STAAR Test?

    Except in special circumstances, all children in grades 3 to 8 are required to sit for the annual STAAR exam. Seniors will be expected to pass various subjects on a higher-level STAAR in order to qualify for their high school diploma.

    In terms of requirements, unless your child happens to be receiving instruction above course level, all students will be expected to undergo testing equivalent to their current grade level. For those of heightened academic achievement, the test given will reflect the level of their assigned coursework.

    Most foreign exchange and foreign language students will not be excluded from testing. For example, students who speak Spanish as their first language can take the STAAR-Spanish in lieu of the standard version.

    What Subjects Does the STAAR Cover?

    The subjects covered by the test vary significantly by grade level. All students in grades 3 to 8 will be assessed on mathematics and reading. Additionally, at grade 4 and grade 7, tests will be expanded to include writing questions. Meanwhile, in grade 5 and grade 8, science takes a spot on the exam.

  • Reading: This portion of the rest assesses students on skills relating to reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and text analysis across a variety of genres. The difficulty of passages, and ratio of question types, depends on the test taker’s grade level.
  • Mathematics: Test questions range from the basics to algebra. Regardless of the level of test given, all of them assess students on the following: how well they understand mathematical processing, how well they can communicate mathematical ideas, and how well they communicate through multiple math representation types. All questions will be multiple choice.
  • Writing: Students will be assessed on their abilities to write an assigned essay. To earn the highest score possible, a Level III, your child must be able to write an engaging and thoughtful piece with a clear central idea and organizational structure. Additionally, the writer must provide sentences that are varied and clear in purpose.
  • Science: The science portion of the test focuses on determining your child’s level of scientific reasoning skills and his or her knowledge of the scientific process. More specifically, the student will be asked to use critical thinking skills to evaluate the accuracy of information given, collect and analyze data, and to demonstrate knowledge of safe laboratory practices.
  • Social Studies: To earn a passing score on the social studies portion of the exam, the test taker must demonstrate their ability to use critical thinking and basic communication skills. They will be asked to identify points of view from historical context and to properly apply social studies terminology to complex topics. As with the other question types, these happen to be multiple-choice.
  • For high school level students, the STAAR includes end-of-course (EOC) assessments in biology, U.S. history, algebra I, English I, and English II, as well. However, equivalent tests such as the AP or SAT can be used to fulfill the EOC requirements.

    How is the STAAR Formatted?

    A student will be given instructions from their proctors before testing begins. They will then have four hours to complete the STAAR test in its entirety. While a test may be completed and turned in early, additional work completed past this time limit will not count towards a student’s final score.

    Problem types vary from open-ended to the multiple choice. In addition to testing variety, there are three versions of the test offered by the state of Texas.

    Please note that all four follow a similar testing format:

  • STAAR: The standard version of the test, it has been designed to be completed by 85-percent of students within two to three hours.
  • STAAR Spanish: This is a version of the designed to assess the knowledge of students who would perform better on a Spanish assessment. Questions have been translated from English and adjusted as needed to ensure accessibility.
  • STAAR L: The STAAR L gives linguistic accommodations to students considered to be English language learners. These adjustments include clarification of unfamiliar English and a verbal reading of the text. Assessment of this test will be performed by the Language proficiency assessment committee.
  • STAAR A: This final version of the test is hosted online and provides embedded support to students with a wide variety of disabilities. These accommodations include graphic organizers, text to speech functionality, question clarification, and visual aids.


    How is the STAAR Test Scored?

    Students will be provided separate scores for each subject in which they took an exam. Scoring is typically done via machine or computer. All scores will be sorted into one of three predetermined performance standards. These are as follows:

  • LEVEL III: Advanced Academic Performance: This level indicates a student has surpassed the standards set out by the state in a given subject, for their grade level.

  • LEVEL II: Satisfactory Academic Performance: Scores in this range qualify a child as sufficiently skilled in a subject to move on to the next grade level.

  • LEVEL I: Unsatisfactory Academic Performance: When a result falls into this area, they have not passed the standards set out by the state of Texas. Scores more than 1.0 standard deviation from the Level II cut-off point will be sorted into this category.

    What’s the History of this Test?

    The STAAR was created in 2008 to replace the then repealed TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests, The EOC exams were introduced four years later in 2011.

    With these additions, the standardized testing workload for your typical Texan student quadrupled. In 2015, the former version of the test, the TAKS, will be completely phased out. While relatively new, the STAAR test has undergone a wide variety of standards.

    For example, in 2016, performance standards were updated for mathematics in all levels. Additionally, to help students with this test, this year also saw the allowable use of calculators has expanded beyond previous levels. Lastly, in May of 2016, the STAAR added Algebra II and English III assessments to its catalog. In short, the test is alive and breathing.

    While typically administered, and developed by Pearson Education, recent years have seen other companies, such as the Educational Testing Services, assume a larger role in test creation. All developers are carefully supervised by the Texas Education Agency throughout the design process.

    What Makes This Test Unique?

    When compared to many other standardized tests, the STAAR is more rigorous. As it focuses on specific courses, instead of grade or age range, it can drill down to a depth not seen in other, similar exams.

    Additionally, by requiring year to year monitoring in performance, the Texas-based test provides a holistic view of a child’s educational process.

    Lastly, unlike most standardized tests, which have been written to align with the common core, the STAAR test has been specifically created to align with guidelines set forth by the state of Texas.

    What’s the difference between the Common Core and Texas standards?

    While they overlap in some areas, the Common Core and Texas’ standards differ at their bases. For example, the STAAR was written to keep all tested subjects and skills closely connected to one another.

    One big difference can be seen on the math and reading tests. While Common Core emphasizes skills needed in academia, such as analyzing non-fiction, the STAAR focuses on things more closely aligned with real-life experiences.

    That’s why, unlike most other standardized test out there, math students need to pass a personal finance section. Lastly, this test has a real effect on report cards. Results from this exam count for 15-percent of a student’s grade in the equivalent course.

    Who Created the STAAR Test?

    The creation of the STAAR test was a collaborative effort between the Texas Education Agency, Pearson Education, and public school educators.

    How Can I Help Prepare my Child for the Texas STAAR test?

    While much of your child’s preparations will be handled throughout the school year, it’s still a good idea that you work at home with him or her before test day. The best way to help your child earn a Level III score on any exam, is to ask them to do one thing: practice. There are plenty of practice questions available online. Be certain to peek at the standard curricula for each subject and structure study time accordingly. Before testing day, you should run through at least one full-length practice test.

    If your child has a learning disability, they can still prepare to do their best on exam day.

    Where can I get free STAAR Sample Questions?

    We provide a checklist on how to effectively use past STAAR tests. Press the download button below and start your child on the road towards a great score.


    You can also review past versions of the Texas STAAR test.

  • What's Next?

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