TAAS test pencil

TAAS & TAKS Test Swag and the Evolution of Standardized Test Branding in Texas

The only thing Texans love more than the Alamo is branding. You've gotta admit, we're pretty good at it, and we utilize it wherever we can. Whether it's daring people to take a canon or encouraging people to throw away trash, we've got a brand for everything.  We don't even refer to ourselves by “Texas”. We're the “Lone Star State”. So, why wouldn't we brand the crap out of our tests?

Many of you have taken to social media to tell us how our TAKS and TAAS test shirts have invoked your PTSD, and while we recognize your trauma, you've gotta admit...you'll never forget those test logos. So, let's take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce about how Texas took boring tests and seared their brands into our brains.


These tests were before my time, so I don't have much info here besides digging up some old logos.  I’d like to think that maybe some hip teachers created some shirts while blasting Duran Duran on their way to school.

The logos on these early tests introduced the stars within the "T".  While the brand may be iconic, the staying power diminished, simply because of the lack of swag.  Education was different in the 80's.  There was more emphasis on studying and test scores, and a lot less focus on image.


Now this…this is where I believe the gold standard of promoting standardized tests came from.  Picture this - you’re in elementary school practicing for the TAAS, only a few days away.  You’re dreading the idea of taking an hour-long exam.  Then your teacher walks into the closet and pulls out a bunch of pencils that look like hammers that say “POUND THE TAAS!”.  Now you’re pumped, she’s pumped, the whole freaking classroom is pumped.

texas taas test pencil

Do I have a hoarding problem? Maybe.  But also, look how cool this pencil is.

This is why I think Texas might have a little obsession over branding, but also why we’re so good at it.  That hammer pencil became a core memory for me, and I still have it 30 years later.  Amazing work to the poor soul tasked with promoting the TAAS.


If the TAAS was the trailblazer for test branding, TAKS took it to the next level and made it the ‘standard’ (Get it?). TAKS branding was all over test supplements and school supplies, so it was impossible to confuse it for a different test.  While the TAKS flourished, other states struggled.  Just look at some of the other tests around the country...


This is Colorado's annual test - the CSAP.  The logo lacks in both uniqueness and flavor.  At a quick glance, it looks like they wrote "CRAP" on the test booklets, which would be true, because that's what this logo looks like.


Florida did not fair any better with their test, the FCAT.  Overall the logo is just bland, and looks like what you'd expect a standardized test to look like.  If one were to peruse supplemental materials in a book store, it would probably blend in in the SAT and the ACT.


Illinois isn't too bad with its "land of the rising sun" vibes.  The logo is more recognizable than other tests, but not quite as interesting as Texas.  It's fun, but a little too busy.


Now THIS is a test logo.  It's sleek, it's got stars, and it's in italic.  Compared to these other states it really is much more interesting.  It even had its own chant. Who doesn't remember the old famous chant;

Do your best,

On the TAKS Test!”



We're in the new era of standardized test branding now. While I'm too old to have experienced the STAAR, myself, it's impossible to avoid the tsunami of merch that shows up in the Spring.  People make shirts, there are full sets of pencils and erasers, and I've seen a few flags as well.  How can we not? It's the “STAAR” and we're the “Lone Star State” for crying out loud.

staar test flag

I know some of you still think we're psychopaths for glorifying one of the worst parts of public school in Texas, but it's kinda fun to look back at some (mostly) harmless propaganda.  Before you judge this essay too harshly, just remember that this would probably score a 3 or 4…easily.

Does anybody still have their old test scores? Send a picture over to us on Instagram, we'd love to see it!

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