STAAR Dictionary Policy

Dictionaries must be available to all students taking

  • STAAR grades 3–8 reading tests,
  • STAAR grades 4 and 7 writing tests,
  • STAAR Spanish grades 3–5 reading tests,
  • STAAR Spanish grade 4 writing test, and
  • STAAR English I, English II, and English III tests.

The following types of dictionaries are allowable:

  • standard monolingual dictionaries in English or the language most appropriate for the student
  • dictionary/thesaurus combinations
  • bilingual dictionaries*
  • English as a second language (ESL) dictionaries* (define English word using simplified English)
  • sign language dictionaries
  • picture dictionaries

Both paper and electronic dictionaries, including applications on a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, are permitted. If electronic dictionaries are used by a student during testing, Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidelines on the use of this technology must be followed in order to maintain the security and validity of the assessment. Although some technology may be very useful during a daily academic setting, technology that has functionality that violates TEA guidelines cannot be used during a state assessment. The technology guidelines for state assessments, as well as a supplementary training presentation, can be found in these District and Campus Coordinator Resources.

Students must have access to a dictionary while working through the tests listed above. Students should use the same type of dictionary they routinely use during classroom instruction and classroom testing to the extent allowable. Additional sections in the dictionary (e.g., abbreviations, biographical or geographical entries, style or grammar guides) do not have to be restricted as they are also a part of the dictionary used routinely during classroom instruction. The school may provide dictionaries, or students may bring them from home. Dictionaries may be provided in the language that is most appropriate for the student. However, specialty dictionaries, such as teacher-made, student-made, subject-specific, or slang dictionaries, are NOT allowed. 

The minimum number of dictionaries a school must provide is one dictionary for every five students testing, but the state’s recommendation is one for every three students or, optimally, one for each student. Although thesauruses are not required, they are allowable on all the tests listed above, either in combination with a dictionary or as a separate resource. If districts make thesauruses available to students during testing, it is recommended that there be one thesaurus for every five students.



*Bilingual and ESL dictionaries should be provided in accordance with individual student needs based on how much students use them in instruction and classroom testing. While there is no requirement regarding a minimum number of bilingual or ESL dictionaries schools must provide, for English learners (ELs) who depend heavily on a dictionary in language arts instruction, it is recommended that there be one dictionary for each student. Additionally, it is important for language proficiency assessment committees (LPACs) to consider the degree to which an EL student relies on a dictionary during language arts instruction or testing when making exit decisions at the end of the school year.