Praxis English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL): Ultimate Guide and Practice Test
Preparing to take the Praxis ESOL exam?
You’ve found the right Praxis English to Speakers of Other Languages study guide. We will answer every question you have and tell you exactly what you need to study to pass the ESOL exam, and even provide a Praxis ESOL practice test.
Praxis English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Quick Facts
The Praxis ESOL exam is for those who plan to teach ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) in elementary or secondary schools. It tests your knowledge of linguistics and pedagogy related to teaching English as a second language.
The score range for this test is 100 – 200. The passing score varies from state to state. Passing scores for different states are shown below:
This test has an average score of 177, with an average range of 168 – 185.
In order to feel prepared for the test, plan to spend several weeks preparing. It is helpful to create a schedule for yourself ahead of time by breaking down the test topics into different weeks. This way, you will know you have enough time to study each topic covered on the test, especially by using our Praxis English practice tests.
What test takers wish they would’ve known:
- There are listening questions throughout the test where test takers have to listen to a recording and answer questions about it. You will have an opportunity to listen to a recording multiple times, but keep in mind that this will take up time, and the test has a 2 hour time limit.
- Some of the questions will ask you to choose more than one answer choice. This will be clearly stated in the question by saying something such as, “Select all answer choices that apply.”
- Watch for questions that include the words, “not or except,” which indicates that you need to choose the answer choice that does not apply.
- Keep an eye on the time and make sure you are able to complete the test in the two hour time frame.
- It is better to guess on a question you don’t know the answer to, than to leave it unanswered.
Information and screenshots obtained from the ETS Praxis website: https://www.ets.org/praxis/prepare/materials/5362
Foundations of Linguistics
The Foundations of Linguistics content category has about 22 multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 18% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Let’s take a look at some concepts you definitely need to know for the test.
Derivational versus Inflectional Morphemes
A derivational morpheme is a prefix or suffix that when added to a word, creates a new form of that word or a new word. A derivational morpheme often changes the part of speech of a word and can also change the meaning of the word. For example, adding -er to the word “dance” changes it from a verb (dance) to a noun (dancer). Adding -ize to the word “critic” changes it from a noun (critic) to a verb (criticize).
An inflectional morpheme is different from a derivational morpheme, because it does not change the part of speech of a word. Instead, it is used to show past, present, and future tense, to show possession, to show if a word is singular or plural, or for comparisons. For example, adding -ing to dance changes the word to “dancing,” but it does not change the part of speech. Dance and dancing are both verbs. Similarly, adding -er to short changes it to “shorter.” This does not change the part of speech, because short and shorter are both adjectives. In the English language, there are only eight inflectional morphemes:
- -s to show plural form of a word
- -’s to show possession
- -er used for comparison
- -est used as a superlative
- -s to show 3rd person singular present tense
- -ed to show past tense
- -ing to show present tense
- -en used as a past participle
Cognates are words in different languages that have the same origin and the same or very similar meanings. Because they have the same origin, the spellings are very similar or identical, making them easier to learn than other words when learning another language. The pronunciation of these words are often slightly different. Some examples of English and Spanish cognates include:
- artist (English) and artista (Spanish)
- color (English) and color (Spanish)
- hour (English) and hora (Spanish)
- minute (English) and minuto (Spanish)
- piano (English) and piano (Spanish)
Pragmatics refers to the ways in which people use language to produce and comprehend meaning. This includes social conversational norms, how meaning can change based on context, and how the literal meaning of a phrase is not always what the phrase or expression really means.
When someone speaks or writes, they always have an intended meaning. Intended meaning is what they hope to convey, or what they are meaning to say. When someone is learning another language or is immersed in a different culture, they may have difficulty understanding the intended meaning of a statement or conversation. This can lead to pragmatic failure, meaning that they did not understand the intended meaning of what someone is saying.
A typical example of pragmatic failure is an English Language Learner misunderstanding an idiom or a phrase used in slang. For example, the phrase, “I’ll hit you up later” could be very confusing to a person who only understands the literal meanings of “hit” and “up” and does not understand that the speaker means they will call or contact them later.
Pragmatic failure can also include misunderstandings in conversational norms. For example, it is typical in American culture that when a stranger or acquaintance says, “How are you today,” we reply with a short, positive answer such as, “I’m doing well, how are you?” However, if a person isn’t used to this typical exchange, they might end up telling someone details about their day or how they aren’t doing well, making the person who asked the question feel slightly uncomfortable or unsure how to respond.
While these pragmatic failures often don’t cause major implications at the time, they can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, as well as stereotypes of different cultures.
Also included in pragmatics is “code switching.” This refers to a speaker of two or more languages alternating or “switching” between various language in conversation. Spanish and English speakers will frequently do this in informal settings. For example, a person who speaks both Spanish and English might include the Spanish word for “why” (porque) in the middle of an English sentence, by saying, “I need a new phone porque mine broke.”
World Englishes refers to the English language being used in numerous places throughout the world, and the fact that English is present even in countries that do not speak English. For example, most airport signs use English in addition to languages used in that country, and most instructions always include English. The concept of World Englishes also includes different varieties of English being used in different areas of the globe. For example, people in England have some words that are not used in America or are used differently, such as calling a cookie a biscuit.
Sociolinguistics is the study of the way language and language use is affected by cultural norms and cultural contexts. Sociolinguistics includes the study of dialects, sociolects, speech community norms, and social functions of a language. Each of these factors is explained below:
- A dialect is a form or variety of a language that is unique to a certain regional area. An example of dialect is people in the southern United States saying “y’all” instead of “you guys.”
- Sociolects, or a social dialect, is a variety of a language that is used by a certain socioeconomic class, age group, or other social group. An example of a sociolect is slang used by teens or terminology used in a certain profession.
- Speech community norms: A speech community is a group of people who share a similar language, but also share the same speech characteristics and linguistic norms. Speech communities are often thought of as being a smaller area, such as a city or small town, rather than an entire region such as the Southwest. An example of a speech community norm is the way people in the Boston area pronounce words with “r,” such as “cah” instead of “car.”
Minimal pairs are two words that differ by only one phoneme. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word, so minimal pairs differ in only one sound. This does not mean that the words differ in only one letter, although this may sometimes be the case, as well. Examples of minimal pairs include:
- pass and path
- sink and think
- vent and tent
- light and right
- fairy and very
Minimal pairs can be difficult for someone who is learning a new language, because of the fact that only one sound is different. They can cause confusion when listening and when speaking.
And that’s some basic info about the Foundations of Linguistics content category.
Foundations of Language Learning
The Foundations of Language Learning content category has about 26
multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 22% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Let’s look at some concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Positive and Negative Transfer
Positive transfer is when your background knowledge or something you have previously learned helps you with something new that you are learning. Negative transfer is when something you have learned interferes with your learning in a negative way. Positive transfer typically occurs more often than negative transfer.
An example of positive transfer is a student who knows how to add two digit numbers by regrouping the tens and can then quickly apply that same concept to adding three digit numbers and regrouping the digits in the hundreds place. An example of negative transfer is when a young child learns that adding “-ed” to the end of a word means it happened in the past, and then they begin to apply this to words that do not follow the same rule, by saying things like “I goed to the store.”
Simultaneous and Sequential Bilingualism
Simultaneous bilingualism is when a child learns two different languages at the same time. This typically occurs with a young child (under two years old) who is learning to talk and lives in a bilingual home. For example, if parents speak both English and Spanish at home and use each language frequently, the child will likely learn both languages at or near the same time. When a child learns two languages at once, both languages are considered their first language.
Sequential bilingualism occurs when a child first learns one language and is later introduced to another language. This new language then becomes their second language. This occurs when a family moves to a new country and the child is introduced to a new language, usually at school. It can also happen when a family already lived in an area, but only spoke their first language at home. For example, a child born in the United States to parents who only speak Spanish will experience sequential bilingualism as they first learn Spanish at home and then English at school.
Interlanguage occurs when a person is in the process of learning a new language and is applying some characteristics of their first language and some characteristics of the new language. Interlanguage constantly changes as the person learns the rules of the second language and has more exposure to it. It can be thought of as being “in between” two languages. An example of someone using interlanguage would be a person progressing through the following phrases:
“I no cake.”
“I no want cake.”
“I don’t want cake.”
Stages of Reading Development
The stages of reading development are:
- Emergent Reading (generally pre-K and Kindergarten)
- Early Reading (generally Kindergarten and 1st grade)
- Transitional Reading (generally 1st and 2nd grade)
- Fluent Reading (generally 3rd grade and beyond)
While most students go through these stages at similar ages and grade levels, ELLs may be in the emergent or early reading stage in later grades when they are learning a second language. For example, a 4th grade student might be a fluent reader in their first language, but in the early reading stage for their second language. This can cause issues when selecting appropriate texts for ELLs. The student is ready for topics geared toward their age, but cannot read on that level yet. Books for emergent and early readers will often not be interesting to them. The teacher should be aware and use various resources to find appropriate books for these students.
Characteristics of At-Risk Students
“At-Risk” is used to refer to students who are considered to be at a higher risk of failing or dropping out of school. Certain factors can cause a student to be considered “at-risk.” These factors can include homelessness, serious illness, socioeconomic status, learning disabilities, family immigration status, and coming from a family whose primary language is not English. The last two factors listed (and sometimes socioeconomic status) are often characteristics of English Language Learners.
Types of Motivation
Types of motivation refers to the reasoning behind what motivates a person to learn or try something new. There are various types of motivation, but the two most common are extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation means that the motivation is coming from some outside source. This can mean that a learner is motivated by something such as a reward or to avoid punishment. With regards to second language acquisition, this can be a student who is motivated to learn, because their parents have told them that they need to learn English and that they need to bring home all A’s and B’s on their report card.
Intrinsic motivation means that a person is motivated to learn because they enjoy learning or feel personal achievement by learning something new. An example of this is a student who wants to learn English, because they enjoy having conversations with friends and want to be able to adapt to their new environment.
While both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can be used with success, students with intrinsic motivation may have longer lasting motivation when it comes to learning a new language.
And that’s some basic info about the Foundations of Language Learning content category.
Planning and Implementing Instruction
The Planning and Implementing Instruction content category has about 28 multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 23% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Let’s talk about some concepts that you may see on the test.
Colloquial language essentially means conversational or informal language. It is language that is used when you are not in a formal setting or not writing something formal. It can include slang, contractions, and shortening of words or phrases, such as saying, “I’m gonna run to the store real quick,” instead of “I am going to go to the store. It will not take long.”
Instructional Delivery Models
Different instructional delivery methods include TPR, push-in, pull-out, and inclusion.
TPR stands for Total Physical Response. It is a language instruction method that combines language and physical movement. When using TPR, a teacher will speak to students in the language they are learning while using body movements that coordinate with what is being said. Students will respond in a similar way, by using language and body movement.
“Push-in” refers to the ELL student staying in the general education classroom, while the ESL teacher comes into the classroom to help the student. In this scenario, the ESL teacher works in collaboration with the general education teacher and works alongside the ELL student to assist him or her.
“Pull-out” refers to the ELL student being removed or “pulled out” of the general education classroom for certain amounts of time to receive specific ESL instruction. The use of a “push-in” or “pull-out” program can depend on the specific needs of the student.
Inclusion refers to the ELL student being taught in the general education classroom for the majority of the day and being included with their English speaking peers. Push-in teaching methods can occur with inclusion.
Acquisition of Productive Skills
Productive skills are speaking and writing, because language is being produced. This is in contrast with receptive skills, which are reading and listening. ELLs acquire productive skills through observing others and by having opportunities to practice these skills in and outside of the classroom. Teachers can promote the acquisition of productive skills by providing authentic and low stress situations for ELLs to practice in, such as having an ELL tell a friend about their weekend or having them write a journal entry about things they enjoy.
Balanced literacy refers to reading instruction that includes components of both phonics and whole language instruction. Important components of balanced literacy include read alouds, guided reading, authentic texts, shared reading, independent reading, and word study. A major goal of balanced literacy is to build proficient and lifelong readers.
Grouping and Previewing
Grouping is a teaching strategy that refers to placing students in well-planned, strategic groups. Students can be grouped in various ways, depending on the intended outcome or purpose of the group. For example, students might be grouped by a similar reading ability for guided reading groups. When working on a group project, you might group students so that there are students of different abilities who can help each other. Grouping is important for ELLs, because it allows them to learn from their peers and also can help them feel less intimidated when they are grouped with students of a similar ability.
Previewing is a reading strategy where students skim through a book before reading it to help activate background knowledge and make predictions before they read. Younger students might look through the pictures and make predictions about what is happening in the story. Older students might look for certain text features, such as diagrams or headings, to tell them what a book might be about. This is an important strategy to use with ELLs, because it helps them think about their current background knowledge, but it can also help the teacher see where there are gaps in background knowledge. For example, if a student looks through a book with pictures of a family going camping and can’t describe what they are doing, the teacher will know that they need to first explain some of these events before the student tries to read the book.
A graphic organizer is a visual tool that helps organize a student’s thoughts or organize information. Graphic organizers show relationships between concepts and can help students understand these relationships. An example of a graphic organizer is a flowchart that shows the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Another example is a tree map showing different animal kingdoms and species. Graphic organizers are helpful for ELLs, because it adds a visual component that allows them to see direct relationships among concepts they are learning.
And that’s some basic info about the Planning and Implementing Instruction content category.
Assessment and Evaluation
The Assessment and Evaluation content category has about 18 multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 15% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Here are some concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Informal Assessment Methods
Informal assessments are often used as “check-ins” with students to see how they are progressing. Informal assessments are usually completed more often than formal assessments and generally do not have a numerical grade. Informal assessments include running records that are used to assess a student’s reading level, anecdotal notes that a teacher takes during a lesson or when working one-on-one with a student, and rubrics or checklists used to assess a student’s knowledge on a topic.
One example of an informal assessment is the SOLOM, or Student Oral Language Observation Matrix. This is used as a rating scale to assess how a student is doing with regards to oral language, or speaking. The SOLOM can be a helpful informal assessment for teachers with English Language Learners.
Formal Assessment Methods
Formal assessments are used as a standardized way to assess what students know. They will often have a percentage or numerical score, but not always. Formal assessments include End of Course exams (EOCs) that are taken as a statewide assessment, unit tests given to students at the of a unit or end of a grading period, final projects that students have been working on throughout a unit, and portfolios that show a variety of work on a certain topic.
Formative versus Summative Assessments
Formative assessments are assessments that are given throughout a unit or throughout the learning process to check how students are doing. The results of formative assessments are used to plan future assignments and to guide instruction. Examples of formative assessments include graded assignments, quizzes, “exit tickets,” and observations made while students are working.
Summative assessments, on the other hand, are used at the end of a unit to assess what students learned. Summative assessments are often worth a higher percentage of students’ overall grade than formative assessments. Summative assessments include end of unit or end of course exams, final projects, or research papers.
Adapting Classroom Assessments
In order to fit the needs of all learners, ELLs included, classroom assessments often need to be adapted in various ways. Some ways to adapt assessments include:
- Oral administration: This refers to reading a test, or part of a test, out loud to a student. This can be helpful when you are assessing an ELL on something that does not include their ability to read in English. For example, a student may know how to solve a multi-step word problem in math, but if they are asked to read the question on their own they may not be able to demonstrate what they know. Reading the question to them allows them to show that they understand what is being assessed.
- Oral response: Similar to oral administration, this allows ELL students, who are still struggling with the writing component of English, to show a teacher what they know without having to write the answer. For example, if a teacher wanted to assess a student’s knowledge of the water cycle, they could have a student describe orally what they know.
- Shortened test/Fewer questions: ELL test takers may take longer to read questions and answer questions in writing. To accommodate for this, tests can be shortened while still covering all topics that need to be assessed.
- Presenting tests in a different format: Tests can be presented in written format, audio recorded, or include the addition of illustrations to help ELLs understand what is being asked.
Cultural Bias in Testing
Cultural bias in testing occurs when a test includes questions related to culture-specific scenarios or refers indirectly to a cultural-specific idea or item. Standardized tests are often created by people who are part of the predominant culture, and as a result, the test often contains a level of cultural bias.
Cultural bias in testing is not always very obvious. For example, a test might include a reading passage that refers to a baseball game followed by questions that require the student to make inferences about the game. If a student has never seen a baseball game or even heard of baseball, they are already at an unfair disadvantage.
Teachers can try to avoid cultural bias by carefully selecting test questions that do not refer to culture-specific things, by giving students necessary background knowledge ahead of time, and if possible, by having a person of another culture look over an assessment for any cultural bias.
Norm- versus Criterion-Referenced Assessments
Norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests are both ways to assess students, but the difference lies in the scores and how these scores are interpreted. The main difference between criterion-referenced tests and norm-referenced tests is that norm-referenced tests compare students’ scores to their peers. A student may score in the 90th percentile at the beginning of the year on a norm-referenced test, but score in the 30th percentile at the end of the year if they did not make as much progress throughout the year as other students.
In a norm-referenced assessment, a student’s score is compared with the scores of their peers, or the “norm group.” The norm group is usually students of the same age or grade level. Scores from norm-referenced tests are usually reported as a percentile. For example, if a student’s score is shown as the 25th percentile, this means they performed higher than 25% of students in their peer group. Scores may also be reported as “well below average, below average, average, above average, or well above average.” English Language Learners may be at an unfair disadvantage when taking a norm-referenced test if the test “norm group” did not include an adequate amount of ELL students. Students may show up as being “below average,” when really the test included questions that were not appropriate for an English Language Learner at that age.
In a criterion-referenced assessment, a student’s score is compared with a predetermined standard or performance level. The scores and cut-off values for each performance level do not change based on how other students do on the assessment. A student’s score on a criterion-referenced assessment will show you how they performed in relation to the test standards but not how they performed when compared with peers. Criterion-referenced tests are typically more appropriate for ELL students, because they are able to demonstrate what they know based on the test criteria, rather than being compared to their English speaking peers.
And that’s some basic info about the Assessment and Evaluation content category.
The Culture content category has about 13 multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 11% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Let’s look at some concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Nativists are people who believe that only their culture or the majority culture should be protected, not the culture of immigrants. Nativists often feel threatened by “non-native” people or their cultures. Throughout American history, different groups have been perceived as “outsiders” to nativists, including Irish immigrants, African Americans, and Mexican immigrants.
An ethnocentric mentality refers to the belief that your culture is the superior culture. It means that you use the standards of your culture to judge other cultures. This can lead to a negative view of other cultures, as well as stereotypes of people from that culture.
Culture shock occurs when a person moves to a new area and is overwhelmed by the new culture around them. Students experiencing culture shock may appear nervous, frustrated, distracted, homesick, or anxious. Culture shock can hinder language acquisition, because students experiencing culture shock are not in the best mindset for learning new information. Once a student adjusts to the culture and culture shock wears off, they will be more prepared to learn a new language.
Acculturation versus Assimilation
Assimilation refers to the process of a minority group taking on aspects of the majority group’s culture and losing aspects of their own culture in the process. An example of assimilation is an Asian-American family gradually stopping their Asian customs as they take on American traditions and customs.
Acculturation, on the other hand, refers to a minority group taking on aspects of the majority group’s culture while still maintaining aspects of their own culture. An example of this is a Mexican-American family celebrating American holidays such as Thanksgiving, but still celebrating Mexican holidays such as Dia de los Muertos.
The meaning of eye contact and it’s implications varies from one culture to another. In the United States and in many western European countries, eye contact is considered polite. It shows respect, interest, and engagement in the conversation. In other cultures, however, eye contact can convey a different meaning. For example, in many Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is considered a sign of respect. In other cultures, a child making eye contact with an adult can be considered an act of defiance. It is important that educators understand that the meaning of eye contact varies across cultures. A student who is not maintaining eye contact may not be showing disrespect or disinterest, but is instead not used to making extended eye contact with their teachers.
And that’s some basic info about the Culture content category.
Professionalism and Advocacy
The Professionalism and Advocacy content category has about 13 multiple-choice questions, which accounts for about 11% of the test.
Concepts to Know
Here are some concepts that are likely to appear on the test.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
ESSA is a United States law passed in 2015. The previous version of this law was the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) passed in 1965. ESSA kept many components of NCLB but also made some changes, including the fact that it allows schools to phase in ELLs test results for accountability purposes.
Plyler v. Doe
Plyler v. Doe was a Supreme Court case in 1982 that resulted from a public school district in Texas denying enrollment to students who were not yet legal citizens of the United States. The school district also attempted to require students who were not citizens to pay tuition to attend a public school. The Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court case decided that states and school districts cannot deny students a free public education based on their immigration status. This case continues to ensure that children have access to free public education, regardless of their immigration status.
NABE stands for the National Association for Bilingual Education. It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “[t]o advocate for educational equity and excellence for bilingual/multilingual students in a global society” (Source: www.nabe.org). NABE supports English Language Learners by providing professional development for bilingual educators, by ensuring English Language Learners maintain their rights, and by making sure programs that serve these students receive enough funding.
TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL can refer to certifications required to teach students who speak another language, teaching English to ELLs in general, or to the TESOL International Association (see www.tesol.org).
NIEA stands for the National Indian Education Association. It is a national nonprofit formed in 1969 by Native American educators. NIEA strives to improve education for Native American students and to promote the development of Native American languages and cultures. NIEA provides resources to educators and also encourages changes in policies that will help Native American students (Source: www.niea.org).
TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. It is a test that is taken by those who speak English as a second language and are planning to apply to an English-speaking university. The test consists of four sections: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. TOEFL is considered the most widely accepted English-language test and is accepted by colleges in more than 150 countries.
And that’s some basic info about the Professionalism and Advocacy content category.