7 STAAR Tips for U.S. History Students

By this point, you must have figured out that I'm not a teacher who cares about the school ratings, silly banners, or achievement pins they give us for your success. Go be awesome at something you like, and come back to tell me about it. That's the only win that keeps me coming back for more.

But since you have to do it, let's kick this STAAR test all over the place with a few tips.

1. Read the question, and read it again.

Read the question and the choices before rereading the question and testing answer choices. Consider each answer choice at least once and two of the better options a few more times. Whatever you do, don't waste time second guessing yourself (refer to number 4 on this list).

2. Let your own questions about each test item help you understand what's it's asking you to do.

Trust the inquiry skills we've practiced this year. Use the basic question you think about as you read and pull apart the question.

3. What's up Doc?

Whether the document is an image, cartoon, newspaper headlines, excerpt from a speech, poster, or any number of possibilities, read the question and answer choices before getting too involved in the document.

Use these tips for visuals. For all documents, consider who wrote it or made it and what message is supposed to be conveyed. Put yourself in the author's shoes.
  • What do you see?
  • Read the title and look for a date.
  • Is there any text? 
  • What's the relationship between the title and what you see?
  • Refer back to the question and answer choices to make a decision. 

4. Mark the questions in the test booklet that you're unsure about.

If you're unsure, there's no sense in worrying about it. Whatever you do, don't second guess yourself. More often than not, your first guess is the correct the answer. Make a choice and mark the item with a question mark or a star (or something), and go back to it after you tackle the questions that you're more confident about.

5. Expect some questions to require you to think about causes / effects or similarities / differences.

One of these things is not like the other, or maybe it is. Be on the look out for any historical thinking that question might want to test. Just play around with how the information in the question, in the answer choices, and in you noggin might relate.

Where would everything fit in a Venn diagram? Does the information seem like dominoes knocking down the next event?

In addition to the skills listed above, a question might require you to summarize by choosing a likely newspaper headline or categorize by asking you to choose the answer that completes the graphic organizer.

6. Only watch your favorite parts of Crash Course.

Stick to the "Thought Bubble" or the summary piece that John Green does when the text scrolls and the icons pop out to jog you memory. Since you don't have time to watch hours of Crash Course videos, just find the two and a half minutes that work best for you.

After each segment, stop the video and practice thinking of five main ideas or words that describe the points he has making about the topic. When you put it in your own words, you'll own it.

7. Spend time on what you're good at.

The reality is that you'll probably get some questions wrong. Don't agonize over the ones that you don't know. Do the ones that are familiar. Also, don't be afraid to look back at your choices when you finish. You'll probably be happy that you finished, but wouldn't it be great if you finished knowing that you didn't make any careless mistakes bubbling choices.

I could probably go on and on with test-taking tips, but I probably could have stopped at number 3. Good luck. I wouldn't get every question right, but I'd pass it. Commended? That would be cool, but either way it would over and I'd be the same person.