Praxis Middle School English Language Arts: Ultimate Guide and Practice Test
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Praxis Middle School English Language Arts Quick Facts
The Praxis Middle School English Language Arts test is designed to assess whether an examinee has the knowledge and competencies needed for a beginning teacher of ELA at the middle school level.
The exam fee is $146.00
The passing score range varies from state to state. To find the score needed to pass in your state, visit https://www.ets.org/praxis/states.
The pass rate percentage varies by state since each state sets passing standards for licensure.
Once you know your testing date, try to create a schedule that will allow you to cover all of the test topics in a reasonable amount of time. Review the competencies to determine the ones with which you are least comfortable. Spend the majority of your study time on these. Plan to spend at least several weeks studying so that you are not overwhelmed.
What test takers wish they would’ve known:
- Spend time learning what is covered on the test. This Ultimate Guide will help you with that!
- Be sure to read the directions for the questions carefully-they are very clear about how you should respond.
- You can take notes on scratch paper to help you with the Constructed Response section.
- Skip questions you are unsure of, but keep track of your time to allow enough to go back to them. It is to your advantage to attempt to answer every question.
Information and screenshots obtained from the ETS Praxis website: https://www.ets.org/praxis/prepare/materials/5047
The Reading content category has 50 selected-response questions and 1 constructed-response item. These questions account for 46% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 3 sections:
- General Knowledge
- Informational Texts and Rhetoric
So, let’s talk about the General Knowledge section first.
This section tests your general knowledge of literature, genres, and subgenres.
Let’s talk about some concepts that you will more than likely see on the test.
A haiku is a Japanese poem that typically focuses on nature (specifically seasons) and has seventeen syllables. Line one has five syllables, line two has seven syllables, and line three has five syllables. Haikus do not contain similes or metaphors. Example:
Spring morning marvel
lovely nameless little hill
on a sea of mist
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Charles Dickens was an English author (perhaps one of the greatest of the Victorian time period) whose stories and characters are still widely read about today.
Dickens wrote a total of 15 novels and five novellas, along with many short stories. Some of the most well-known works include:
- A Christmas Carol– The main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, was an old man who was known for being mean and miserable. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The ghosts show him different aspects of his life. This leads him to be more understanding, kind, and generous.
- Oliver Twist– Oliver Twist is a young orphan who is sent to a workhouse in London. He escapes the workhouse and meets Artful Dodger, who is a leader of a gang of young thieves. Oliver learns how to pickpocket. He finds he does not like to steal, so he runs away. He is taken in by a victim of the boy’s stealing but is then taken back by leaders of the gang. Oliver is shot in a robbery but is then taken in by the woman whose house he was trying to rob. After a series of events, Dickens reveals that Oliver has much closer ties to the people in his life than he realized, and he is adopted by a generous man named Mr. Brownlow.
- Great Expectations– Pip, a young orphan boy, is adopted by a family who has both luck and expectations, but then lose both. Through the story, Pip learns how to find happiness in any situation and develops meaningful friendships and true love.
- A Tale of Two Cities– A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel that is set in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. The story focuses on a French doctor who is being held in the Bastille in Paris. He is released to London with a daughter he’s never met. The story highlights the conditions that led to the French Revolution.
Fables are short stories that teach a lesson. Usually, fables have animals or inanimate objects as the main characters. Aesop’s Fables are the most well-known fables and include:
- The Tortoise and the Hare
- The Lion and the Mouse
- The Ant and the Grasshopper
This section tests your knowledge of literature, including interpretation, theme, literary elements, word choice, and comprehension skills. It also tests your understanding of poetic structure and devices and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the poem.
Here are some concepts you should know.
Characterization is the way an author conveys information about characters in fiction. Characters…
- are presented through description, action, dialogue, and their thoughts.
- will typically face a problem or challenge at the beginning of the story.
- often change or grow by the end of the story.
Direct characterization is how an author explains a character in a very specific and straightforward way. Many times this helps explain a character’s motivation behind his or her actions. For example:
“The quiet boy and patient girl both had very good manners and did not disobey their teacher.”
The writer tells the reader the exact traits of the characters.
Indirect characterization is a process where an author shows the character’s personality through their actions, appearance, and speech. For example, in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath:
“Joad took a quick drink from the flask. He dragged the last smoke from his raveling cigarette and then, with calloused thumb and forefinger, crushed out the glowing end. He rubbed the butt to a pulp and put it out the window, letting the breeze suck it from his fingers.”
The writer doesn’t specifically say that the character was “down and out,” but the reader knows that based on all the provided context clues.
Every story has a plot, and every plot follows a specific structure. A plot typically contains:
- Exposition/Introduction- The characters and settings are introduced.
- Conflict- The main problem the characters face.
- Rising Action- Excitement and/or tension builds in the story.
- Climax- The turning point of a story. This moment has the highest emotion of the story and leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.
- Resolution- The conclusion of the story. The resolution will typically be either happy or tragic.
Informational Texts and Rhetoric
This section tests your knowledge interpreting informational texts with attention to organizational patterns, word choice, and methods authors use, such as point of view and rhetoric.
Take a look at these concepts.
Text structures refer to how the information in a text is organized. Informational text is typically organized into one of six structures:
- Cause and Effect- an action or event causes another action or event
- Chronological- written in order of time/date
- Problem and Solution- a problem is presented, and then a solution is found
- Spatial- how a certain space is arranged
- Compare and Contrast- describes similarities and differences
- Descriptive- describes how something looks
Connotation versus Denotation
Connotation and denotation both need to be considered when reading and writing so that the reader can fully understand the author’s message and meaning.
Connotation is used to describe cultural implications, social norms, or emotional meaning.
Denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word or the meaning you would find in a dictionary.
An example would be the words “childlike” and “childish.” The denotations of both words are very similar; however, their connotations are different. The word childish is used with a negative connotation, while the word “childlike” is used in a less negative way. It describes the behavior of an actual child in a more positive way, not someone who is acting childlike but who is not a child and should know better.
And that’s some basic info about the Reading content category.
Language Use and Vocabulary
Concepts to Know
Effective writing uses various sentence types. It is important to understand the differences between each type. Three types of sentences that are most commonly used are:
Simple sentences contain a subject and a verb that come together to create a complete thought. Examples:
Joe and Sam drove to school.
Emily waited for the bus.
The teacher was late.
Compound sentences are made up of two independent clauses that are connected with a conjunction. Conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Examples:
Emily waited for the bus, but the bus was late.
Joe and Sam drove to school, so I missed them at the bus stop.
The teacher was late to school, and she forgot to bring her coffee.
Complex sentences are made up of an independent clause and a dependent clause (or dependent clauses) attached to it. A dependent clause lacks an element that would make it a complete sentence. Examples:
Because Joe and Sam drove to school, I did not see them at the bus stop.
While Emily waited at the bus stop, she realized the bus was running late.
After they drove to school, Joe and Sam realized that Emily was waiting at the bus stop.
Authors use parallel structure (or parallelism) to add clarity to writing by creating word patterns that are easy for a reader to follow. Authors do this by repeating grammatical form in a sentence using a pattern. For example:
Non-parallel: Sarah likes hiking, the movies, and to take long naps.
Parallel: Sarah likes hiking, going to the movies, and taking long naps.
The nonparallel structure was corrected when all the tenses of the verbs were changed to the same tense.
Colon versus Semicolon
Colons and semicolons are used to separate thoughts and independent clauses, which are clauses that could be complete sentences.
A semicolon is used to separate thoughts and provides more separation than a comma, but less separation than a period.
Most often a semicolon will:
- Separate items on a list, especially when some of those items already contain commas. Example:
I bought large, ripe bananas; small, red apples; and fresh blueberries.
- Join two sentences. Example:
I went to the store today. I bought some fruit; bananas, apples, and blueberries were all half off.
Most often a colon will:
- Direct attention to, announce or introduce a list, noun, quote, or example. Examples:
We covered many topics in math class today: multiplication, division, and adding and subtracting fractions.
My parents gave me what I needed most: love, patience, and kindness.
- Join sentences. Example:
A dolphin is not a fish: it is a mammal.
- Express time and use in titles. Examples:
3:45 (three hours and forty-five minutes)
Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
And that’s some basic info about the Language Use and Vocabulary content category.
Writing, Speaking, and Listening
The Writing, Speaking, and Listening content category has 26 selected-response questions. These questions account for 18% of the entire exam.
This content category tests your knowledge of effective writing, including types, purpose, and characteristics. It also tests your knowledge of research practices and speech delivery.
So, let’s talk about some concepts you need to know.
Concepts to Know
Types of Writing
There are four main types of writing:
Expository– The author is writing to explain something to, or inform the reader.
Example: An essay describing the effects of the Civil War.
Narrative– The author is telling a story which could be fact or fiction.
Example: Sherlock Holmes.
Descriptive– A specific type of expository writing that uses the five senses, imagery, and details to help the reader envision what is going on in the story.
Example: A poem about the sounds and sights of fall in Boston.
Persuasive– The author is stating their opinion AND attempts to influence the reader’s opinion as well.
Example: An article trying to persuade readers to boycott a specific restaurant.
Effective Research Practices
- Write an articulate question to research.
- Find possible sources of information in various formats. Use multiple methods to gather primary and secondary sources.
- Consider the topic and hypothesis based on the availability of sources. The chosen topic should have plenty of information available.
- Plan the project in advance. Plan a timeline for steps along the way and final completion.
- Take good notes and keep track of sources while researching. Stay organized so that whatever information is found can be cited and used correctly.
- Be sure to use appropriate and trustworthy sources. Stay away from non-scholarly sites like Wikipedia.
- Combine research with prior knowledge. Use prior knowledge to make connections with a research topic.
- Understand and be aware of plagiarism and copyright issues.
- Cite sources properly and completely. Be sure to cite any work that is not original.
And that’s some basic info about the Writing, Speaking, and Listening content category.
English Language Arts Instruction
The English Language Arts Instruction content category has 18 selected-response questions and 1 constructed-response item. These questions account for 25% of the entire exam.
This content category tests your knowledge of using effective English Language Arts instruction and assessment in the classroom for students with various needs.
So, let’s talk about some concepts you need to know.
Concepts to Know
Research-Based Approaches to Grouping Students
Teachers can use different types of grouping in their classroom to better meet the individual learning needs of students. There are many ways to group students, but some of the most effective cooperative grouping strategies are:
Teachers group students and break material into chunks. Students in the group are given a section of material and tasked with becoming the “expert” on that section. Then students share their information with the group, and the whole lesson comes together like a puzzle. Once students have a chance to share their material, each student is tested over all the material from that lesson.
Similar to a jigsaw, a group investigation groups students of mixed abilities. Instead of being responsible for a section of information, each student has a specific role in the group while the whole group works towards the same learning target. Students must fulfill their role so that the task is complete. The teacher evaluates the whole group product as well as each student’s contribution.
Teachers form mixed ability groups and give students tasks to help other students complete. The goal of the group is to complete the assignment together in an effort to encourage students to teach others what they know. This helps both students, the one teaching and the one listening. If the teacher is choosing to use the peer tutoring model, he or she should have already presented the material that the students are asked to cover.
Formative and Summative Assessments
Formative and summative assessments are both necessary in the classroom. Using them at the appropriate time is very important.
A summative assessment is used to evaluate student learning at the end of a unit. Summative assessments are typically weighted heavily and are “high stakes.” Summative assessment should only take place after students have been given many opportunities to learn and practice concepts. The teacher should have also provided the necessary intervention for those who are not understanding concepts. Summative assessments could include:
- Midterm/Semester Exams
- Final Projects
- Final Papers
A formative assessment is an assessment that is used to monitor student learning and adjust instruction accordingly. Formative assessments should help students and teachers identify weaknesses and target areas that need improvement. Formative assessments could include:
- Exit Tickets
- Quick Writes
Supporting Language Acquisition
There are many ways that teachers can support second language acquisition. Some of the most popular and effective are:
- Increasing the opportunities for students to speak in English and work with peers. ELLs need time and practice to acquire English as a second language, and if activities require group participation they are required to use and listen to conversational as well as academic English.
- Explicitly teach vocabulary and grammar structure. It is very important for teachers to correctly teach and emphasize English grammar rules and academic vocabulary.
- Use ELLs’ background knowledge to increase comprehension. ELLs might have a difficult time connecting with a lesson in English, so whenever possible teachers should scaffold instruction as well as draw in background knowledge.
- Increase writing opportunities. Even if grammar and mechanics are not strengths of students who are learning English, continue to encourage writing and encourage their creativity and willingness to write their words and thoughts.
And that’s some basic info about the English Language Arts Instruction content category.
This exam includes two constructed-response questions. Constructed-response, or CR questions, require you to show your knowledge of a subject area by writing your own response to various topics. You might be asked to agree or disagree with a topic by supporting your position with specific examples and reasons from experience or reading.
The CR questions are equally weighted and makeup approximately 25% of the overall score. The questions will fall into three categories:
- Knowledge of concepts relevant to reading and literature study.
- Knowledge of the history and use of the English language.
- Knowledge of concepts relevant to the study of composition and rhetoric.
One question will ask you to interpret a piece of literary or nonfiction text and/or to discuss an approach to interpreting the text. The other question will ask you to discuss approaches to teaching writing or reading.
When answering a CR question, be sure to:
- Accurately AND completely answer the question
- Answer the question that is asked
- Give a thorough and detailed response
- Reread your response