Breakdown of the THEA Format

THEA or the Texas Higher Education Assessment is a standardized test designed for assessing students seeking higher education in the state of Texas. It tests the preparedness of students to enroll to regular college courses specifically in Texas.

THEA is a compulsory test for most of the colleges and universities in Texas. Even if you have taken the ACT and SAT, some schools in Texas might ask for your score in THEA. The test is similar to SAT and ACT in some respects, however, the format of THEA is exclusive and should be understood if one decides to take it.

When you have an estimate of what befalls on the day of the test, the whole experience of taking the test becomes trouble-free. In case you are not aware of the facts involved with THEA, you will end up confused to the extent that you will not be able to exploit your full potential. Hence, at the start of preparation, the first thing to do should always be to understand THEA completely.

Two Formats of THEA

1. Paper and Pencil Format – This is the regular paper and pencil test as scheduled by the administration. It is offered five times annually in Texas.

2. Quick Test – This test is similar to the paper and pencil test, but it is offered by the institutions like high schools, colleges and universities according to the schedule prepared by them. Hence, in case the students need to take the test before the testing date of regular tests, they can consider the THEA Quick Test as an option.

Test Specifications

The test is divided into three sections, which are Reading, Mathematics and Writing. The basic purpose of these sections is to conduct an appraisal of students for undergraduate college work. Hence, students are tested for skills considered necessary for entry into such courses, such as reasoning skills, logical mindset, problem solving abilities, ability to understand and interpret ideas etc. The explanation of the test sections is given below.


This section consists of about 40 questions in all. All questions are multiple choice questions based on Reading passages. There are about 7 passages that are from 300 to 750 words long. This test requires students to respond to questions based upon their reading of the passage. The content and the difficulty level of the passages are generally similar to the reading material of first year college.

Questions in the Reading section test the ability of students to identify the main idea and the purpose of writing, identify the point of view and the meaning as intended by the writer, critically evaluate the written content, analyze the various views presented in the writing material and to determine word meanings and meanings of phrases.


The Mathematics section contains about 50 testing items. The questions are of multiple-choice type. The content of the testing questions is taken from fundamental mathematics, algebra, geometry and problem solving.

Students are provided with formulas to help them to solve different problems. The use of simple non-programmable calculators is allowed. The content areas of this section are explained in detail below:

  1. Fundamental Mathematics – It includes questions on solving word problems involving integers, fractions, decimals, ratios, and units of measurements and proportions. Some problems are based on data interpretation and analysis.
  2. Algebra – It includes questions on graph numbers, number relationships, solving equations and word problems of one and two variables, operations of algebraic operations, functional notation and quadric equations.
  3. Geometry – Questions are based on solving problems involving two and three-dimensional geometric figures and using Pythagorean Theorem. Questions are also based on geometric concepts like principles of similarity, congruence, parallelism and perpendicularity.
  4. Problem Solving – This includes questions to be solved using reasoning abilities and other mathematical skills.


This section tests the writing abilities of the students through two different subsections. These are:

  1. Writing Sample Subsection – There is an essay writing prompt and an essay of about 300 to 600 words needs to be written on it. The idea behind this subsection is to test the expression of students. The Writing sample should be written keeping in mind the fundamentals of standard spoken English and must be developed in a logical and effective manner. It must be constructed by providing suitable examples, ideas etc. and should have logical unity till the end. On the whole, it should be a complete effective piece of writing, appropriate to the given prompt.

The scoring of this subsection is done on the basis of the appropriateness of the Writing sample, unity and focus, development and organization of the essay, sentence structure, usage and mechanics.

  1. Multiple-choice Subsection – It contains about 40 questions based on the writing skills of students.

The questions are based on sentence structure, usage and mechanics. In such questions, you can expect questions on identifying effective sentences, identifying ineffective repetition, subject-verb agreement, modifiers, adverbs, plurals, comparatives, superlatives, punctuation etc.
This test also has questions based on various elements of composition like unity and focus, effective organization and recognizing the purpose of writing.

Time Allotment for THEA Test – A single testing session lasts five hours. The test generally begins at 8:00 a.m. in the morning and continues till 1:30 p.m. You may take one, two or all three of the test sections in a single session. The three test sections are not bound by individual testing times. The sections are also not conducted in any particular order. Hence, students can attempt the sections in any order and spend as much time they want on any section. However, all sections need to be completed in five hours.

Since there is no time alert, one has to keep a check of time on one’s own. You will be required to keep a track of the time left and the number of questions you have to attempt in order to score well in the test. One also has to prepare to keep up the energy levels since a five hours long test becomes exhausting.

Scoring of the THEA Sections

Scoring the Reading and Mathematics Sections

The questions on the Reading and Mathematics sections are scored electronically. Each correct response contributes to a point. There is no point awarded or deducted for an incorrect answer, or for an answer left blank. The score is received on a scale of 100 to 300, with 230 as the minimum score requirement for passing either of the sections.

Scoring the Writing Section

Two readers score the writing sample independently on a scale of 1 to 4. The total score in the writing sample is thus received between 2 and 8. An essay which is unscorable due to its being far off from the point or not written in standard English is given a score of U for ‘unscored’. The writing sample score is reported on a scale of 100 to 300.

Passing the Writing Section

THEA lays great importance to the writing sample. This can be realized only when you understand the scoring of the writing section. The minimum passing score for the writing section is 220. The conditions that determine the pass or fail status of a candidate are as follows.

  • A score above 6 in the writing sample determines that the student has passed the writing section.
  • A score of 5 in the writing sample requires at least 70 % score in the multiple-choice section to pass the writing section.
  • A score below 4 in the writing sample is considered fail in the writing section.

Does THEA Require Preparation?

THEA definitely requires preparation. Without preparation, it is not possible to justify the purpose behind taking the test. It is only when you score well that the next step can be taken. Hence, preparation is a mandatory process.

To prepare for the test, it is essential that the students work towards the following:

  1. Collect information about the test and understand it completely.
  2. Collect the study materials relevant for the study of each of the content areas.
  3. Make a list of tips and strategies that can help to score better in THEA.
  4. Identify personal weaknesses either with the help of a guide or through a diagnostic test.
  5. Devise a suitable study plan and follow it religiously.
  6. Seek help if required from seniors, experts, tutors, coaching institutes and online instructors.
  7. Solve numerous sample questions and take timed practice tests.


Preparation makes you realize your own worth. Clubbing it with a proper understanding of the test and skills required to excel in the test would surely result in success. Hence, be well equipped with all the information for the test and face the test with complete self-reliance.