TExES Core Subjects EC-6 Practice Test and Prep

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Welcome to our TExES Core Subjects EC-6 practice test and prep page. We provide this free resource so you can see how prepared you are to take the official Core Subjects EC-6 391, which is made up of five subject exams. On this page, we outline the key competencies for each of the subject exams.

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In this article, we will cover:

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TExES Core Subjects EC-6 Test Information

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The TExES CORE Subjects EC-6 (391) exam evaluates the knowledge and skills necessary to become an entry-level teacher in Texas public schools. This exam is an updated version of what was previously the CORE Subjects EC-6 (291) exam. If you’re planning on becoming an elementary teacher in Texas, you will most likely need to take this exam.


SubtestsApproximate Percentage of Exam
    ELAR (901)
    Mathematics (902)
    Social Studies (903)
    Science (904)
    Fine Arts, Health and PE (905)

There are a total of 210 selected-response questions on the exam. The timing of the exam is by subtest, rather than the total exam.

Cost: $116 (all five subtests) or $58 (each individual subtest)

Time Limit: 5 hours

Scoring: The score range for the TExES 391 is 100-300. A passing score is 240.

Core Subjects EC-6 ELAR Key Concepts

TExES 391 Subtest 1: English Language Arts and Reading

The first subtest, English Language Arts and Reading, has 45 selected-response questions which accounts for about 21.5% of the entire exam. You will have 70 minutes to complete this section of the exam. There are 10 areas, referred to as competencies, on the ELAR subject exam.

  1. Oral Language
  2. Word Analysis and Identification Skills
  3. Reading Fluency
  4. Reading Comprehension and Applications
  5. Vocabulary Development
  6. Reading, Inquiry, and Research
  7. Writing Conventions
  8. Written Communication
  9. Viewing and Representing
  10. Assessment of Developing Literacy

Each of these competencies has descriptive statements that further describe the skills and knowledge needed for teaching. You will also want to know that a lot of these questions are scenario-based. This means not only do you need to know the language arts content, but you’ll have to apply it to a variety of teaching situations to find your best answer for the questions.

Let’s look at the first competency, Oral Language. This competency involves the listening and speaking skills students need to develop as the foundation for learning to read. You will need to understand the importance of oral language, how to provide students with varied opportunities to develop listening and speaking skills, and the developmental processes of oral language.

To develop their language skills, students need many opportunities to speak to a variety of audiences. For example, talking with one partner, a small group of classmates, or participating in a whole group discussion are all ways for students to practice talking.

Sentence frames or sentence stems give students part of a sentence, then they fill in the rest. They can be a great tool to help them explain their thinking or use more complex sentence structures when speaking to a variety of audiences.



In the scenario above, students are working with partners. The teacher might give them sentence frames to guide their conversation, such as “I agree with you because ___.” or “Why do you think__?”

You will also want to understand the meaning of and how to teach basic linguistic concepts:

  • Phonology – the study of speech sounds.
  • Morphology – the study of the formation of words.
  • Semantics – the study of meaning.
  • Syntax – the study of the formation of sentences.
    •  subject-verb agreement
    • subject-verb inversion
  • Pragmatics – the study of language use.

Competency 2, Word Analysis and Identification Skills, covers topics that relate to the skills students need to learn how to read words on their own.

Structural analysis, also known as morphemic analysis or simply word analysis, refers to the process of breaking words into meaningful parts — or morphemes — to determine what those parts mean, and putting them back together to determine the meaning of the whole word. Those meaningful parts are often prefixes, root words, and suffixes.

Let’s look at an example chart:


In the chart above you can see that:

re + visit = revisit

color + ful = colorful

un + believe + able = unbelievable

On your exam, you might be asked to select a word that morphemic analysis would work on. Let’s look at a practice question to see how this type of question would look.

Which of the following word sets would best support a lesson on structural analysis?

  1. ate, eat, eating, eaten
  2. visit, revisit, visitor, visiting
  3. sweep, leap, heap, jeep
  4. late, ripe, hike, wire

The correct answer is “visit, revisit, visitor, visting”. Structural analysis refers to breaking the word down into recognizable chunks to ease decoding. All of the words contain the word visit with varying prefixes and suffixes and would work as examples to explain the meaning of structural analysis.

It is important to know a variety of strategies for helping students develop and apply word analysis skills including identifying, categorizing, and using common:

  • Synonyms – a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language. (rich, wealthy)
  • Antonyms – a word that means the opposite of another word. (hot, cold)
  • Homographs – words that are spelt the same but have different meanings. They can have the same or different pronunciations. (bass – a fish,  bass – an instrument)
  • Homophones – words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings and spellings. (there, their, they’re)
  • Analogies – a comparison between two things based on how they are alike. (pear is to fruit as carrot is to vegetable)

Competency 3, Reading Fluency, involves understanding the importance of fluency for reading comprehension and providing many opportunities for students to improve their reading fluency.

A key concept to understand for this competency is the three components of fluency.


Fluency is the ability to read with:

  • accuracy– one’s ability to pronounce words correctly and with automaticity.
  • prosody – reading with expression and correct intonation.
  • speed – the pace of the reader. This includes how many words per minute a student can read.

For example, a student may spend a significant amount of time decoding words to have strong accuracy, but this would lower their speed. The student would need to develop automaticity to improve their fluency. You will need to know various strategies to improve a student’s fluency:

  • choral reading – involves students reading aloud at the same time. This could be as a whole group or in small groups.
  • partner reading – involves two students reading aloud to one another.
  • Reader’s Theater – involves students reading parts of a script aloud.

It is important to make sure students are reading at their independent reading level and to understand the norms for reading fluency that have been established by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Fluency is important because it creates a connection between word recognition and comprehension. Comprehension is the ability to understand what you read. Fluent readers tend to have higher levels of comprehension because they are able to spend less time on decoding and more time on understanding the text.

And that brings us into our next competency, Reading Comprehension. In this competency students move from learning to read to reading to learn. You need to know the difference between literal, inferential and evaluative comprehension. And you’ll need to be able to recognize which strategies or types of questioning are best to develop each kind of comprehension.


Graphic organizers are helpful learning tools to teach comprehension skills. They can help students organize, clarify, and visualize information from a text.


You will need to understand and teach the features of various literary genres, including:

  • Folktales usually have a moral or teach a lesson, the characters are usually animals or people who show a feat of strength
  • Fables always have a moral or lesson, the characters are usually animals that are given human characteristics
  • Legends – have some historical truth, characters are usually faced with a difficult obstacle to overcome
  • Myths – have gods/goddesses, characters who have supernatural powers or involves supernatural elements
  • Realistic fiction – the characters, setting, and events are things that could happen, usually takes place in the present
  • Historical fiction – happens in the past, recreates characters, settings, movements, and events that have happened, it is usually historically accurate with some fiction elements mixed in
  • Tall tales – written with hyperboles and exaggeration, character completes some sort of feat with the help of an animal or object
  • Drama – includes dialogue with characters, a setting, and a plot
  • Poetry– is usually short (compared to other genres) and has rhythm, written to express or elicit an emotional response from its reader

You will also want to know ways to promote the development of literary response using activities that allow students to respond to literature including:

  • literary response journals
  • literature circles
  • literary trading cards

Competency 5, Vocabulary Development, covers the important skill of vocabulary instruction learners need to progress as readers. Vocabulary instruction is an important part of teaching English Language Arts and Reading It is essential for students to read, write, hear, and speak using new vocabulary.

Most vocabulary is learned indirectly. Teachers should expose students to targeted words in multiple contexts. The more times a student comes across a vocabulary word, the more likely they are to make connections between those contexts and internalize the meaning of the word.

Thematic or integrated units are a great way to incorporate the use of vocabulary. These units involve:

  • selecting a theme that aligns to your curriculum or student interests.
  • making sure the unit is grade-appropriate.
  • identifying the unit objectives.
  • determining the materials needed.
  • selecting cross-curricular activities.
  • creating discussion questions.
  • selecting corresponding literature to use.
  • creating assessments to evaluate student progress.

Let’s look at a practice question for vocabulary development.

How can a fourth-grade teacher indirectly expose her students to content-specific vocabulary that they will need in their upcoming unit as a part of indirect and direct vocabulary instruction over the terms?

  1. provide students with a list to define each word before the unit begins
  2. purposefully and frequently use the terms in class
  3. encourage students to use dictionaries when they come across unfamiliar words
  4. require students to find examples of the words used in the real world

The correct answer is B, purposefully and frequently using the terms in class will naturally expose the students to the words and provide context for how they are used in a sentence. Since the teacher is not directly defining or teaching these terms, it would be one of the various ways to indirectly expose the students to the new vocabulary.

Competency 6 is Reading, Inquiry, and Research. This competency is about teaching students the valuable skill of finding information from a variety of sources to answer questions.

The research process involves starting with an open-ended question and having a clear objective and a plan. Some basic steps of the research process:

  1. Develop a question to answer through research. This will become a thesis statement for high-level research.
  2. Locate credible sources with information that can be used to answer the research question.
  3. Create notes with paraphrased and summarized information from the sources.
  4. Organize the information into a product to demonstrate findings from the research. This may be a graphic organizer, visual presentation, or expository essay.

Let’s look at step one a bit closer. You will need to be able to teach students how to develop a topic sentence. A good way for you to model this type of learning is to:

  • read aloud a nonfiction text you want students to research,
  • have students write a question about the topic (what they want to inquire more about), and
  • use chart paper and have all students glue their question on a whole class chart.

During a whole group lesson, you can read aloud the questions students wrote and brainstorm what a good topic sentence looks like with a few of the questions. Next, you will want to create an anchor chart to show what elements a good topic sentence needs and model how to write a topic sentence with the class. This type of teaching will help students to independently be able to form their own topic sentences.

Competency 7, Writing Conventions, is all about how students develop in their use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Spelling development unfolds in a predictable sequence. There are 5 stages you will need to know.

  1. Precommunicative spelling stage – a child uses letters from the alphabet to represent words without demonstrating knowledge of letter-sound correspondence. The words appear as random strings of letters.
  2. Semiphonetic spelling stage – some knowledge of letter-sound correspondence is apparent in a child’s attempt to spell. It is common to see single letters used to represent whole words, syllables, or sounds in which multiple letters are conventionally used.
  3. Phoneticspelling stage – the child uses a letter or group of letters to represent every sound heard in a word. Spelling choices still may not be conventional, but they are easily understood through the lens of letter-sound correspondence.
  4. Transitional spelling stage – a child moves from depending solely on knowledge of letter-sound correspondence to incorporating knowledge of word structure and common visual representations of words in their spelling as well. More conventional spelling is present in the child’s writing, but misspellings are still common and frequent.
  5. Conventional spelling stage – when a student can apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships, general spelling rules, and morphology in their spelling. The child is better able to recognize misspellings, and the spelling in their writing is generally correct.

One of the first steps in teaching handwriting is teaching the correct pencil grip. The correct pencil grip is called a tripod grip, which uses three fingers to hold the pencil. Students will need to grip the pencil with their index finger and thumb and allow the pencil to rest on their middle finger. You will need to be familiar with instructional strategies, materials, and activities to teach the correct pencil grip. These could include:

  • teaching a student the correct pencil grip around age 5
  • having students use their dominant hand
  • having students use tongs to pick up toys

Competency 8, Written Communication, involves teaching students why authors write. Students must understand that there are many different reasons to write. Quality writing instruction involves three main factors:

  1. task – the writing assignment.
  2. purpose – the intention for writing.
  3. intended audience – the recipient of the writing.

Having students write a letter to their parents to persuade them to buy them a pet is an example of a meaningful, authentic purpose. The students know their purpose and their intended audience to be able to complete the task.

There are 6 steps in the Writing Process that begin with prewriting and end with publishing.


  • Prewriting is the planning stage which involves brainstorming, thinking, and creating a thesis.
  • Drafting involves outlining, organizing, and developing.
  • Revising involves reading the piece of writing and analyzing the content.
    • self-revision
    • peer revision
  • Editing focuses on analyzing the mechanics of the writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation).
  • Publishing is where writers present their work.

You should know how to provide explicit instruction in each step and know some common approaches for teaching the writing process:

  • Modeling — When introducing each stage, the teacher works through it first while students observe.
  • Guided writing — Just like guided reading, the teacher provides small group instruction and feedback on a specific writing stage or skill.
  • Conferencing — Individual students have the opportunity to review and discuss their writing with a classmate or the teacher.

Competency 9, Viewing and Representing, is about all things media. Elementary students need direct instruction on and practice with interpreting media, such as computer, television, magazine, and radio. It is important to teach the different functions and purposes of media.

  • Print (books, newspaper, postcard)
  • Visual (photography, video, graphic design)
  • Electronic (tv, radio, internet)

It is also important to teach students the level of formality by knowing who the intended audience is and what the purpose is for each type of media.

When teaching students about Persuasive media, start by providing students with examples. For example:

  1. Give students examples of Persuasive media, such as political cartoons, magazines, newspapers, TV and computer ads, and signs in stores or on the highway.
  2. Direct students to first look only at the pictures rather than the text to try to determine what the writer or illustrator is trying to say.
  3. Model looking only at the pictures with slides or printed materials.
  4. Ask students to determine the connotative and denotative meanings of the examples.
  5. Discuss how visuals enhance meaning through various colors, styles, pictures, or media.
  6. Have students create their own advertisements.

Competency 10, Assessment of Developing Literacy, which covers the many different types of assessments teachers can use to assess students.

  • Formative assessments are assessment for learning. They are used to guideinstruction, meaning they are administered to assess students’ progress toward meeting a learning objective so teachers can adjust instruction as needed. These assessments help teachers to answer the question, “What do I teach next?”  Examples of formative assessments are:
    • exit slips, running records, or simply observing students
  • Summative assessments are assessments of learning. They are used to gauge instruction by determining whether or not students mastered a learning objective. Teachers use them to answer the question, “What did my students learn?” meaning what do they know now or what are they able to do. Examples of summative assessments are:
    • quizzes, graded work at the end of a unit, or standardized assessments, like the Developmental Reading Assessment or DRA

Assessing students by using a running record will provide you with the information needed to select appropriate materials for individual students and to guide students’ selection of independent reading materials. You will need to know how to determine a student’s independent, instructional, and frustrational reading levels.

  • Independent – 95% correct; students are able to read these texts with little to no support. These kinds of texts are great for fluency building and comprehension.
  • Instructional – 90 – 94% correct; students need instructional support with these texts. These kinds of text are best for small group instruction with the teacher.
  • Frustrational – 89% or lower correct; students need extensive support and instruction with these texts. These types of texts are best used for one-on-one instruction with the teacher.

To calculate a student’s percent accuracy level, you divide the number of words that the student reads correctly by the total word count. For example, if the student reads 140 words correctly and there are 150 words in the text. Then, 140 divided by 150 is 0.93 or 93%. In this scenario, the student’s percent accuracy level would be 93% and would be in their instructional reading level.

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Core Subjects EC-6 Math Key Concepts

TExES 391 Subtest 2: Mathematics

The Mathematics subtest has 40 selected-response questions which accounts for about 19% of the entire exam. You will have 70 minutes to complete this section of the exam. This subject area exam consists of five main competencies. The sixth competency, Mathematical Processes, contains general math processes and involves thinking logically about mathematical situations. This competency has been embedded in competency one and is all about how to make mathematical connections within and outside of mathematics. Let’s look at what competencies we will go over.

  1. Mathematics Instruction and Processes
  2. Number Concepts and Operations
  3. Patterns and Algebra
  4. Geometry and Measurement
  5. Probability and Statistics

Each of these competencies has several descriptive statements that further describe the skills and knowledge needed for teaching. So, let’s take a look at the first competency.

Mathematics Instruction and Processes is the first competency we will dive into. You will see two types of questioning in this competency. The first half of the standards will involve how to incorporate manipulatives and other tools (like calculators) into your lessons.

Mathematics Instruction and Processes

All of the above manipulatives in the chart can be used to enrich students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. You will need to know what they are and when it is appropriate to use them.

For example, if you are asked what manipulative would be best to help students understand that 2 fourths is equal to one half, fraction tiles would be the best choice. When using fraction tiles students are able to visually see that two fourth tiles are the same size as one half tile.

The second half of this standard focuses on pedagogy, which encompasses questions about how to teach math. You will need to understand different forms of assessments that include:

  • pre assessments – used to assess students’ prior knowledge before beginning a unit.
  • formal assessments – are data driven and have well defined grading parameters.
  • informal assessments – are on-going and used to continuously assess knowledge.
  • formative assessments – are used to identify misconceptions and learning gaps. They are used to guide future instruction.
  • summative assessments – assess students’ knowledge at the end of a unit, semester, or school-year. They are formally graded and usually heavily weighted.

One concept Mathematical Processes involves is recognizing the contributions that different cultures have made to the field of mathematics and the impact of mathematics on society and cultures.

Let’s look at a practice problem that might help us with this standard.

Who is credited with creating much of what we consider geometry?

  1. the Greeks
  2. the Americans
  3. the Indians
  4. the Babylonians

The correct answer is the Greeks. Euclid, often referred to as the founder of Geometry, was a Greek mathematician who wrote a book over the formulas of Geometry that are still used today. The Greeks are also responsible for the development of the Pythagorean Theorem.

Competency 2, Number Concepts and Operations, involves knowing how to combine numbers and how numbers relate to one another, also referred to as number sense.

You will need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, use exponents, and parenthesis  using whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Remember PEMDAS? The order of operations, or PEMDAS is simply the process you follow to simplify and work an equation. You have to work the problem according to a specific order, the order of operations.


2(x – 3) + 3(x + 4)2

In this particular example, you would first solve for the parentheses, then you would solve for the exponents. Then going left to right, you do either multiplication or division, then you would add or subtract in the same order (from left to right). So that’s why we group the M and the D and the A and the S together.

Number sense is all about the relationships between numbers and how they relate to one another. These types of number relations includes:

  • factoring – used to simplify and solve many problems; factors are numbers or expressions that can be multiplied together to get another number or expression.
  • magnitude – represented by a real number. It is the size of one number compared to another.
      • positive and negative numbers
      • greater than, less than, and equal to
      • number line comparisons
      • decimal comparisons
  • equivalency – means equal or being interchangeable.
    • different representations of rational numbers and
    • mathematical expressions

Let’s look at a factoring practice question to give you an idea of how a number sense question looks.

Bobby is buying gumballs for 7 of his friends. There are 51 gumballs before Bobby makes his purchase at the store. Bobby wants to give each of his friends the same amount of gumballs and not have any gumballs left. Which of the following approaches can Bobby use to find the greatest number of gumballs he can purchase to give his friends?

  • Divide 51 by 7.
  • On a piece of paper draw 51 gumballs, circle groups of 7 gumballs, and then count how many gumballs are left not circled.
  • Create a table where one side of the table represents the number of gumballs and the other side represents the number of friends.
  • Make a list of the multiples of 7 and then purchase the highest multiple of 7 that is less than 51.

If Bobby wants gumballs for each of his 7 friends and none left over, we need to know the multiples of 7, and there are only 51 gumballs in the store, so our number has to be lower than that. So our best option is answer choice D, make a list of the multiples of 7 and then purchase the highest multiple of 7 that is less than 51.

Place Value is the value of a digit in a number. The value depends on the location of the digit within that number. The digits to the left of the decimal point are increasing powers of 10, while the digits to the right of the decimal point are decreasing powers of 10.

place value

You will need to be able to compose and decompose numbers using your knowledge of place value.

Decompose4,9824000 + 900 + 80 + 2
Compose500 + 60 + 3563

Moving on to Competency 3, Patterns and Algebra. This competency covers concepts related to patterns, relations, functions and algebraic reasoning. For example, you will need to be able to simplify an equation to solve for x, understand slope-intercept form, and how to create an equation from a data set.

When given an equation to solve for x, you will first need to simplify the equation as much as possible using PEMDAS, balance the equation, and solve for x.






In the example above, you will first distribute the 3, solve for -12 + 10, add 2 to each side of the equal sign, and then divide 3 from each side to get x equals 5.

Slope-intercept form is used to calculate the equation of a straight line. You will need to know the slope (m) and the y-intercept (b) to solve for the slope-intercept (y).

Slope-intercept form

So if you see the equation y = 3x + 4, you can see that 3 is the slope and 4 is the y-intercept.

You will also need to know how to create equations and expressions. On the exam you will be given a word problem and be asked which equation or expression would be used to solve the word problem. It is important to be able to identify certain keywords in word problems that help you to know which math operation to use.

Addition +Subtraction –Multiplication ×Division ÷

add(ed) to

all together



in all

increase by





more than



how many more

take away



decreased by





fewer than

less than


multiplied by



product of








out of


quotient of





how many of each

Let’s look at an example of a practice question.

Maria baked 6 dozen cookies for her classmates. There are 28 students in her class, each child received 2 cookies and Maria gave 6 cookies each to her teacher and her principal. Which expression best demonstrates the number of cookies she had left over?

  • 6 × 12 – 2 × 28 + 2 × 6
  • 6 × 12 – (2 × 28 – 2 × 6)
  • 6 × 12 – (2 × 28 + 2 × 6)
  • 6 × 12 – 2 × 28 – 6

The correct answer choice is 6 × 12 – (2 × 28 + 2 × 6). The 6 × 12 gives the total number of cookies in 6 dozen; 72 cookies. Then, if each child receives 2 cookies and there are 28 children; 2 × 28 = 56. If the teacher and the principal each receive 6 cookies, that is another 12 cookies. So, you have 72 – 56 – 12 = 4. Maria would have 4 cookies left.

You will need to be able to model and solve problems including those involving proportional reasoning and using ratios and percents with fractions and decimals.

  • Ratio – compares one thing to another. For example, for every $5 you spend you get $2 back. The ratio in this example is 5:2.
  • Proportions – are two sets of ratios that equal one another.

You will need to know how to cross multiply for proportional reasoning problems. To cross multiply you will figure out your fractions and then multiply the number diagonal from one another. In the first fraction you will take the numerator and multiply it by the denominator of the second fraction. In the second fraction you will take the numerator and multiply it by the denominator of the first fraction. Then, you will simplify and balance the equation to find x.

cross multiplication

In this example, you will multiply 6 × 2 = 12. Then you will multiply 4 times x to get 4x. Divide each side by 4 and x = 3.

Competency 4, Geometry and Measurement. The geometry section involves the study of shapes. You will need to know attributes of basic shapes, as well as what formulas to use to solve for the perimeter and area.

Attributes for basic shapes:

  • side(s)
  • corner(s)
  • vertex/vertices
  • angle(s)

Perimeter is the whole distance around the outside of a figure. It is a one-dimensional measurement so it is measured in units that include inches (in), feet (ft), miles (mi), or centimeters (cm).

Area is the amount of surface inside a figure. It is a two-dimensional measurement so it is measured in square units that include inches (in²), square miles (mi²), square centimeters (cm²), or square kilometers (km²).

ShapePerimeter FormulaArea FormulaMetrics
rectangle2 (l + w)l × wl= length w= width
square4aa = the length of a side
trianglea + b + c½ × bh

a, b, and c being the side lengths

bh= base × height

The measurement section in the Mathematics subtest involves estimating different measurements (length, width, height, weight) and choosing which units of measurement to use.

Mass Example
1 milligram1 grain of salt
1 gram1 metal paperclip
1 kilogram1 textbook


Length Example
1 millimeterWidth of a dime
1 centimeterWidth of your pinky finger
1 meterLength of a guitar, a little more than a yard
1 kilometerLength of 10 football fields

It helps to have some real-world equivalents to help estimate different measurements. The charts above can help you to compare. For example, if someone asks you the height of your classroom, you’d likely measure it in meters. Millimeters, centimeters, and kilometers just wouldn’t make sense, because your answer would be either really large or really small.

The coordinate plane is formed by two intersecting axes: the x-axis and the y-axis. Coordinate planes can be used to graph points, lines, and more. For the CORE Subjects EC-6 exam, it’s important that you know the key attributes of the coordinate plane and that you are able to graph an ordered pair.

  • coordinate plane On a coordinate plane, the x-axis is the line that runs horizontally. The y-axis runs vertically.
  • The origin is the point where the x-axis and y-axis intersect. The origin has a coordinate pair of (0,0).
  • The coordinate plane is divided into four quadrants as shown above. These quadrants are useful when referring to the location of various points on the coordinate plane.

An ordered pair is a set of two numbers that represent a point on a coordinate plane. Ordered pairs use the format (x,y). To graph an ordered pair, start at the origin (0,0) and move along the axes according to the numbers in the ordered pair. The first number listed tells how far to move along the x-axis, and the second number tells how far to move along the y-axis. For example, to graph the ordered pair (1,-4), we need to move forward along the x-axis to 1, then move down four points to the -4 on the y-axis, as shown below.

ordered pair

Our last competency to cover is Probability andStatistics. This competency covers topics over central tendency measurements, data analysis and graphs, and determining the probability.

Central tendency is simply four concepts: mean, median, mode, and range.

Mean is the fancy word for average. To find the mean, or average, of a set of numbers, there is a really simple set of steps to follow:

  • Add all of the numbers together.
  • Divide the sum of those numbers by the number of data values in the set.

The median is the middle value in a set of numbers. To find the median of a set of numbers, follow these steps:

  • Order the numbers from least to greatest.
  • Find the number in the middle.

If you have a data set with an odd amount of numbers, finding the middle value is super easy; however, if you have a data set with an even amount of numbers, there will be two values in the middle. In this case, find the mean, or average, of those two numbers. That average is the median.

In a data set, the mode is the number or numbers that appear the most. Unlike the mean and median, the mode can have more than one answer.

The range is the difference between the highest data value and the lowest data value.

Let’s look at a practice question to see how you might be tested on central tendency measurements on the test.


The circle graph shows the results of a survey of 150 students. How many students chose basketball as their favorite sport?

  1. 8
  2. 12
  3. 16
  4. 20

The correct answer choice is 12. According to the graph, 8% of the total (150) students chose basketball as their favorite sport. In decimal form, 8% is represented by .08 so use 150 x .08 = 12 students.

Probability is the likelihood that a given event is going to happen. To solve a probability problem you take the number of successful outcomes possible and divide it by the total number of outcomes possible.

Let’s look at an example:

Stacey has a bag filled with 3 lemons and 5 limes. She gets one fruit from the bag, then, without putting the first fruit back into the back, gets a second fruit. What is the probability that she first pulled a lemon from the bag, then a lime?

Since there are eight total pieces of fruit in the bag, the probability of her first grabbing a lemon is 3⁄8. However, in this case, the probability of the second event (getting a lime) is dependent on the first event. After she grabs the lemon from the bag, there are now 7 pieces of fruit in the bag. So now, the probability of grabbing a lime is 5⁄7. To find the probability of both events happening, we follow the same method as the previous example and multiply the two probabilities:

3/8 x 5/7 = 15/56

So the probability of the first grabbing a lemon, then grabbing a lime is 15/56 or 15 out of 56.

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Core Subjects EC-6 Science Key Concepts

TExES 391 Subtest 4: Science

The Science subject exam has 45 selected-response questions which account for about 21.5% of the entire exam. You will have 55 minutes to complete this subject exam. There are 18 competencies on the Science subject exam:

  1. Lab Processes, Equipment and Safety
  2. History and Nature of Science
  3. Impact of Science
  4. Concepts and Processes
  5. Students as Learners and Science Instruction
  6. Science Assessment
  7. Forces and Motion
  8. Physical and Chemical Properties
  9. Energy and Interactions
  10. Energy Transformations and Conservation
  11. Structure and Function of Living Things
  12. Reproduction and the Mechanisms of Heredity
  13. Adaptations and Evolution
  14. Organisms and the Environment
  15. Structure and Function of Earth Systems
  16. Cycles in Earth Systems
  17. Energy in Weather and Climate
  18. Solar System and the Universe

Each of these competencies has several descriptive statements that further describe the knowledge and skills needed for teaching, so let’s break down these competencies into categories to help make sense of them.

Competencies 1-6

Lab Processes, Equipment and Safety

History and Nature of Science

Impact of Science

Concepts and Processes

Students as Learners and Science Instruction

Science Assessment

Relates to science instruction and general, overarching science concepts. Let’s group these and call them Domain A: Teaching Science.
Competencies 7-10 

Forces and Motion

Physical and Chemical Properties

Energy and Interactions

Energy Transformations and Conservation

Includes forces and motion, physical and chemical properties, and energy. We’ll call this Domain B: Physical Science.
Competencies 11-14

Structure and Function of Living Things

Reproduction and the Mechanisms of Heredity

Adaptations and Evolution

Organisms and the Environment

Covers information about living organisms. So let’s call these Domain C: Life Science.
Competencies 15-18

Structure and Function of Earth Systems

Cycles in Earth Systems

Energy in Weather and Climate

Solar System and the Universe

Relates to Earth and Space.

So let’s call them Domain D: Earth and Space.

So, our new categories will look like this:

Domain A: Teaching Science

Domain B: Physical Science

Domain C: Life Science

Domain D: Earth and Space

Let’s look at Domain A: Teaching Science first. Remember, this category consists of competencies 1-6. Texas doesn’t officially tell you how many questions are in each competency but it’s about 2 questions each. And since this domain has the most competencies, it has the most questions on the exam.

Competency 1 will cover basic safety questions that pertain to lab safety rules like wearing goggles when working with chemicals and glass or tying loose clothing and hair back when working with an open flame. You might also see questions that relate to specific lab equipment to use. For example, you would use a graduated cylinder to measure the volume of liquids.

The History and Nature of Science in competency 2 will cover:

  • Famous scientists
    • Issac Newton – laws of motion
    • Charles Darwin – theory of natural selection and evolution
    • Gregor Mendel – father of genetics
    • Reginald Punnett – developed the Punnett Square and phenotypes and genotypes
  • The steps of the Scientific Method and how to teach kids while using it.
    1. Identify the problem (What is the issue?)
    2. Make observations (What do I see?)
    3. Form a hypothesis (What could be causing this?)
    4. Design and conduct an experiment (How will I test this?)
    5. Record and communicate data (What happened during the experiment?)
    6. Draw conclusions (What does the data indicate?)
    7. Reform hypothesis (How can this experiment be improved?)

Inquiry-Based Learning which is a great tool to use when teaching the scientific method. It is a process of learning that encourages students to learn by problem solving through exploration. Inquiry-based learning starts with a question.

    1. Critical Thinking is when students are actively problem solving by applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information.
    2. Science Skills which include observing, measuring, sorting, classifying, predicting, inferring, communicating, and experimenting.

The next competency in this domain is competency 3, Impact of Science, which covers topics about how science impacts the daily lives of students and interacts with and influences personal and societal decisions.

Humans use resources from the planet for various purposes, such as raw materials for producing goods or energy to drive machinery. Natural resources can be divided into two primary categories:

Renewable resources which can be replaced as quickly as they can be used.

    • Green energy (water, wind, and solar energy)
    • Commodities (water, crops, and wood)

Nonrenewable resources are gone once used; or replenish too slowly to recharge.

    • Fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas)
    • Minerals (gold, iron ore, and titanium)

Basically, renewable resources re-new, think green energy and crops. Nonrenewable resources do not, think fossil fuels and minerals.

Concepts and processes is concept 4. Think of this area as the unifying framework. Within science, some things are common to all sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.).

For example, systems are units scientists study. That could be the human body or a test tube or an ecosystem. They all have inputs and outputs, boundaries, and feedback loops. Some others are, how form and function always go together, how things change and hit an equilibrium, and how each branch of science uses various models.

Let’s look a little closer at form and function. Form refers to how something is structured or made and function refers to the way it behaves or functions. The form directly relates to its function. For example, a duck has webbed feet so it can swim in the water. The duck, a living thing, is able to survive because of the form of their webbed feet and how they allow it to swim which is the function.

Competencies 5 and 6 are about instruction and assessment. You will need to know best practices for:

  • using digital technology
  • diversity and differentiation
  • increasing engagement
  • removing misconceptions
  • fostering critical thinking

And then after you teach it, you have to assess it. You will need to know the differences between:

  • formal assessments
  • informal assessments
  • formative assessments
  • summative assessments

Let’s look at a practice question to see how these competencies will be tested on your exam.

Which of the following statements best describes a formative assessment?

  1. Formative assessments measure what students know at the end of a unit.
  2. Formative assessments measure what students know along the way.
  3. Formative assessments are given at the end of the grading period.
  4. Formative assessments are given at the end of each year.

The correct answer choice is formative assessments measure what students know along the way. They should be given on a regular basis.

Since your science knowledge will help you answer these questions, we recommend studying for the other competencies first. For example, you may be asked what resource to use to teach a certain topic or which terminology fits in with a particular concept. The more you know about those, the easier it will be to pick out the best choice to teach it.

Let’s move on to Domain B: Physical Science which covers competencies 7-10. This section covers science subject-matter content about simple physics and chemistry.

Competency 7 covers forces and motion. For this section, you will need to know the differences between the terms below:

Displacement– how far out of place an object has traveled in a specific direction. You calculate the displacement of a moving object by measuring from the start to the end of the moving object’s path.

Distance – the total length traveled by a moving object. It is a scalar quantity because the start and end points do not matter.

Speed – the rate at which an object moves in a given amount of time. It is a scalar quantity, meaning you do not need to know the start and ending points to calculate the speed.

speed = distance over time

Velocity – the rate at which an object moves but in a specific direction. velocity = displacement over change in time.

Mass– the amount ofmatter of an object that gives its measurement.

Weight – measured based on the force of gravity on the object.

You will also need to know Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  1. The first law, the law of inertia, says that an object resists changes in its state of motion. “An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an equal or opposite force.” Think about why seatbelts are important.
  2. The second law explains why objects with greater mass require more force to move the object. Force = mass x acceleration.
  3. Newton’s third law explains why objects move in the opposite direction of the greater force. “For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.”

There are 6 types of simple machines, you will need to be familiar with each one and understand the mechanical advantage they provide. The mechanical advantage is the ratio of output force to input force.

  • Pulley – has a wheel and rope that helps to pull objects from a lower position to a higher position and vice versa. When you pull down on the rope the wheel turns and whatever is attached to the end of the rope goes up. Mechanical advantage = radius of inside pulley divided by
  • Lever – is used to lift heavy objects. When you push down on one side of a lever the other side goes up. An example of a lever is a seesaw.
  • Wheel and axle – is used to lift heavy objects, move people quickly, or move parts of a machine. It is made up of two circular objects, one being larger, the wheel, and one being smaller, the axel. The wheel rotates around the axle to create the intended motion.
  • Inclined plane – helps to move heavy objects. An example of a commonly used inclined plane is a ramp.
  • Wedge – is used to split or part objects. The wedge end is small and when placed onto an object and given force it splits an object. An ax is an example of a wedge.
  • Screw – is a cylinder wrapped around an inclined plane. The closer the threads are on a screw the greater the mechanical advantage.

Competency 8, Physical and Chemical Properties, will cover multiple concepts you will need to know but the most important one is knowing the differences between physical and chemical properties and changes of matter.

The physical and chemical properties of substances include:

  • size
  • shape
  • temperature
  • magnetism
  • hardness
  • mass
  • conduction
  • density

The physical properties of matter:

  • Solid – keeps its own shape, molecules are close together in a fixed arrangement.
  • Liquid – takes the form of a container, molecules are close together but are not in a fixed arrangement.
  • Gas – does not have a fixed shape or volume, molecules are far apart and not in a fixed arrangement.

There are two different kinds of changes in matter: physical and chemical. When a physical change occurs, the chemical formula of a substance does not change. The appearance or state of the substance changes, rather than an entirely new substance being created. For example, when ice melts, it simply becomes liquid water; the chemical formula for ice and water is the same (H2O).

Chemical changes occur due to a chemical reaction taking place. When a chemical change happens, a new substance with a new chemical formula is formed. For example, when a nail rusts, iron from the nail and oxygen in the air undergo a chemical reaction to form iron oxide, or rust.

A physical change that comes up a lot on the exam is phase changes, like going from liquid to gas.

phase changes

In the image above, notice that there are specific names for each change (melting, evaporation, condensation, freezing). Also notice at each phase, the molecules behave differently. For example, when the molecules from a liquid evaporate into a gas the molecules go from being close together to further apart.

The descriptive statements in competencies 9 and 10 mention energy eleven times, so it is safe to assume these last two competencies in Domain B are all about energy.

You will want to know the differences between:

  • kinetic and potential energy
  • heat and temperature
  • the three movements of energy (conduction, convection, and radiation)

Kinetic energy is energy created by motion, so anything that moves has kinetic energy. Once an object stops moving there is no more kinetic energy. Potential energy is the energy stored in an object. The amount of potential energy is based on its position. For example, if you were to hold a ball above your head it has more potential energy than if you were to hold the ball at your waist. Once you release the ball it then gains kinetic energy because it is an object in motion.

Heat is a form of energy. It is created when energy transfers from a hot object to a cold object. For example, when you put water in a pot on the stove, the stove creates the hot energy that heats up the cold water to create heat. Heat is the total kinetic and potential energy of molecules in an object. Temperature is how cold or hot something is. So, the temperature of the water could be measured after it is heated up to know how hot it is. Temperature is the average amount of kinetic energy in an object.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed. The same amount of energy the universe began with is the same amount of energy it has today. It can, however, change forms.

There are three main ways thermal energy is transferred.

  1. Conduction – through a solid or between two materials that are touching.
  2. Convection – by a moving fluid.
  3. Radiation – by an electromagnetic wave.

You will also need to know how the transfer of energy applies to the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process used by organisms and plants to convert light energy to chemical energy. In simple terms, a plant uses its leaves (chlorophyll) to take in energy from a light source (sun, heat lamp) to create food (sugar) for it to grow.

Next, we will move on to Domain C: Life Science which covers competencies 11-14.

Competency 11, Structure and Function of Living Things, covers life cycles, requirements of life, parts of a cell, types of cells, human body systems, and plant body systems.

For life cycles you will want to understand and describe the life cycle stages of common plants and animals. You will also need to know the stages of complete and incomplete metamorphosis.

  • Complete metamorphosis is a cycle in which the young look completely different than the adult. An example of such an organism is the butterfly. The four stages include the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larvae of butterflies are caterpillars and require a pupa stage, in which they form a chrysalis, to undergo the dramatic transformation to butterflies. Others, such as frogs have a more gradual change but they still result in an adult that looks very different from the hatchling.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis is a cycle in which the young look very similar to the adults. The dragonfly and grasshopper both go through this type of life cycle. The young are called nymphs and simply grow larger into adults.

The requirements of a living thing include:

  • Movement
  • Breathing
  • Reproduction
  • Growth
  • Needs: food, water, and air

All living things have cells. Cells are sometimes referred to as the “building blocks of life.”

  • Plant cells have:
    • Cell membrane
    • Cell wall
    • Organelles
    • Cytoplasm (chloroplast, vacuole, mitochondria, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, ribosomes)
  • Animal Cells have:
    • Cell membrane
    • Organelles
    • Cytoplasm (vacuole, mitochondria, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, ribosomes)

You will need to be able to identify the human body systems and describe their functions.

Circulatory systemBlood circulation, veins
Nervous systemCommunication and coordination between the brain and nerves
Cardiovascular systemBlood circulation to the heart
Respiratory systemBreathing (exchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide)
Musculoskeletal systemPosture, movement
Lymphatic systemImmune defense against disease
Endocrine systemHormone production
Reproductive systemReproduction
Urinary systemWaste illumination
Digestive systemFood processing

Plant body systems consist of two distinct organ systems; a shoot system and a root system.

  • The shoot system includes parts of the plant that are non-reproductive (leaves, stems) that make up the vegetative part of the system. The reproductive part of the plant (fruit and flowers) make up the other part of the system. This system grows above ground and is able to use light energy to go through photosynthesis.
  • The root system grows below ground and supports the plant. The roots take in water and minerals from the soil.

Competency 12, Reproduction and the Mechanisms of Heredity, has a plethora of terms you need to know to get the questions correct on this portion of the exam.

Let’s look at the differences in some genetic terms to help you prepare for competency 12.

  • Asexual reproduction involves offspring that is genetically identical to a single parent.
    • many plants, bacteria, jellyfish
  • Sexual reproduction produces unique offspring by creating offspring that has genetic contributions from both parents.
    • most mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, insects
  • Somatic cells are found everywhere in the body.
  • Gamete or sex cells are only found in reproductive organs.
  • DNA is a double stranded molecule with nucleotides. It stores and transfers genetic information.
  • RNA is a single strand of molecules with nucleotides. It sends signals between DNA and ribosomes to make proteins.
  • Dominant genes are shown with a capital letter, offspring only need one copy of the dominant gene to show the dominant genotype.
  • Recessive genes are shown with a lowercase letter, offspring need two copies of a recessive gene to show the recessive genotype.
    • Let’s look at an example to help understand how dominant and recessive genes can be passed to offspring. The Punnett square below shows three possible genotypes (BB, Bb, bb) for the color of the flower.

dominant and recessive genes

  • Genes carry the information that make up a living thing’s traits, genes determine traits.
  • Traits are specific characteristics of the make-up of the genes.
    • eye color, hair color, blood group
  • Environmental traits are everything outside of DNA. Habitats and experiences influence environmental traits.
  • Genetic traits are passed down from each parent through DNA. These traits are the specific characteristics of the offspring.
  • Inherited behaviors are passed down from a parent to their offspring through genetics.
  • Learned behaviors are taught and developed after birth. They are behaviors learned from others, not inherited.

Competency 13, Adaptations and Evolution, involves understanding adaptations of organisms and the theory of evolution.

All living things have adaptations that help them thrive in their environment. According to Natural Selection, reproductive success varies. This is the “survival of the fittest” you have probably heard of. Over time, you get more individuals with these favorable traits. And so eventually the species gets adaptations.


Now, artificial selection is when humans interfere and choose specific genetics and traits to enhance. Dog breeding of different dog breeds to create mixed breeds is an example of artificial selection.

Competency 14, Organisms and the Environment, is basically ecology. Let’s look at some of the topics you will see in this section.

  • Homeostasis is the ability to stay in the same condition, to stay stable. Organisms react and do things to balance out the conditions they are in. Your body is a good example of homeostasis. For example, your kidneys are constantly filtering blood to stay in homeostasis.
  • Biomes are areas of land characterized by their climate, wildlife, and plants.
  • Niches are the fundamental roles that organisms play within an ecosystem.
  • Producers make their own food. They provide energy to all of the food chain since they are the first step of a food chain.
  • Consumers feed on producers, either directly or indirectly, depending on if they are a primary or secondary consumer.
    • Primary consumers eat only producers, plants.
    • Secondary consumers are animals that eat other animals.
  • Decomposers get their energy (food) from dead animals and plant materials in the ground.
  • Food Chains follow a single path of energy starting with a producer and ending with a top predator.
  • Ecosystems contain many organisms linked by food and energy relationships. Food webs show these overlapping food chains. Therefore, a food web provides a more complex and detailed picture of how energy flows from producer to other organisms. These can be useful to determine the impact of removing a population.

food web

  • Competition is when two species compete over the same resources for survival. For example, competition results when two species require the same food source (putting that food source in short supply). In the food web above you can see that the snake, hawk, and the bird all depend on the frog as a food source, which negatively affects all of those involved.
  • Photosynthesis is the process plants use to create their own food. Plants transform water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into food (sugars).

The last domain on the Science subtest is Domain D: Earth and Science. We will cover the last four competencies 15-18 in this section.

Competency 15, Structure and Function of Earth Systems, covers the layers of the Earth and the layers of the atmosphere. You will need to know the names and properties of the layers of the Earth and the atmosphere.

Layers of the Earth (Mechanical and Compositional):

  • Crust – the thin outer layer of the Earth, made up of hard, solid rock; where we live.
    • Oceanic crust – thin layer, solid rock.
    • Continental crust – thicker and less dense layer, solid rock.
  • Mantle – thicker than the crust, made up of solid rock but not as hard as the crust.
    • Lithosphere – is solid, brittle rock. The crust and the uppermost mantle are all a part of the lithosphere. Tectonic plates are formed here.
    • ​​Asthenosphere – hot, putty-like texture that can flow. It is below the lithosphere and allows the tectonic plates to move.
    • Mesosphere – rigid, solid rock. A part of the lower mantle.
  • Outer core – made up of hot liquid iron and nickel. Has a magnetic field that protects Earth.
  • Inner core – as hot as the sun’s surface. Made up of solid iron and nickel.

Let’s look more closely at one key layer of the Earth, the lithosphere, which forms tectonic plates. Movement within the lithosphere drives constructive and destructive processes.

  • Divergent boundaries occur when two plates move away from each other. A divergent boundary is constructive because new crust forms.

divergent boundaries

Layers of the Atmosphere:Troposphere – most dense part of the atmosphere, closest to earth. This part of the atmosphere holds the air organisms breathe and weather is formed in this layer.

  • Stratosphere – the next layer after the troposphere, the ozone layer is found in this layer and protects Earth from harmful UV rays.
  • Mesosphere – coldest layer, meteors burn up in this layer. Sounding rockets can go up to this layer.
  • Thermosphere – very hot, aurora and satellites appear in this layer.
  • Exosphere – does not have a definite end, it fades out into outer space. Atoms and molecules escape into space. This layer can be very hot or very cold depending on day and night.
  • Ionosphere – makes radio communication possible, it expands between the stratosphere and the exosphere.

Competency 16, Cycles in Earth Systems, involves change that happens again and again. We call these changes, Earth Cycles. You will need to know the main Earth Cycles for this competency.

  • Rock cycle is the process that changes one rock to another. There are three processes in the rock cycle– crystallization, metamorphism, and erosion and sedimentation.
  • Water cycle is how water goes from the ocean into the atmosphere, turns into rain, falls on land, and then is transferred back to the ocean. Water goes through 4 steps during this process– evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.
  • Carbon cycle is nature’s way of reusing carbon atoms. Carbon atoms continuously pass through the atmosphere to the Earth and back to the atmosphere through rocks and sediment, the ocean, and living organisms.
  • Nitrogen cycle is when nitrogen transforms from one chemical transformation to another through chemical reactions. Nitrogen moves through the atmosphere, soil, water, plants, animals and bacteria.

It is important to understand and describe the properties and uses of Earth’s materials.

  • Minerals are a solid that naturally occur in nature.
  • Rocks are made up of minerals. The three types of rocks are:
    •  Sedimentary
    • Igneous
    • Metamorphic
  • Soil is made up of minerals, decomposed matter, and rocks that have been broken down.
  • Water is a clear, odorless substance that is essential for all living organisms to survive. It is the only substance that exists as a solid, liquid, and gas.

Competency 17, Energy in Weather and Climate, will talk about energy again but with a focus on weather and climate.

You will need to know the differences between weather versus climate. Weather is short-term, occurring over minutes and hours. While climate is long-term, creating patterns over years.

weather versus climate.

You will also want to make sure you know what causes weather and climate. For example, the Rain Shadow effect makes areas behind mountains drier.

rain shadow

It is important to understand the elements of weather and which tool or instrument to use to measure each element.

Humidityhygrometer, psychrometer
Wind speedanemometer
Wind directionwind vane, wind sock
Air pressurebarometer

Competency 18, Solar System and the Universe, is our last and final competency for Domain D. It covers properties of objects in the sky, systems and interactions between the Earth, moon, and sun, and components of the solar system.

A system you are more than likely to see on your exam is the Lunar Cycle. You will not only need to know the phases of the moon butwhy the moon appears differently over the course of the 28-day cycle. The moon’s phase depends on how much sunlight is reflected on Earth, which changes based on where the moon is in its orbit.

lunar cycle

There are four main phases of the moon:

  • New moon
  • First quarter
  • Full moon
  • Third quarter

There are also four transitional phases between each of the main phases:

  • Waxing crescent
  • Waxing gibbous
  • Waning gibbous
  • Waning crescent

Waxing is when the light we see is growing and waning is when the light we see is shrinking. It takes 28 days for the moon to go through a complete lunar cycle.

When it comes to seasons you will need to know the scientific reason we have four seasons (fall, winter, spring, and summer). The Earth has an axis that rotates and tilts towards or away from the sun. Depending on which direction the axis is tilting determines the season that part of the Earth has. For example, when it is summer in Texas (the Northern Hemisphere) the Earth’s axis is tilted towards the sun.

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Core Subjects EC-6 Social Studies Key Concepts

TExES 391 Subtest 3: Social Studies

The next subtest, Social Studies, has 40 selected-response questions which accounts for about 19% of the entire exam. You will have 50 minutes to complete this section of the exam. There are 5 competencies on the Social Studies subject exam.

  • Social Science Instruction
  • History
  • Geography and Culture
  • Economics
  • Government and Citizenship

Each of these competencies has several descriptive statements that further describe the skills and knowledge needed for teaching.

Let’s look at the first competency, Social Science Instruction. This competency covers three main topics:

  • Charts & Tables
  • Maps
  • Pedagogy

Certain questions on the Social Studies subject exam may ask you to analyze graphics including charts, tables, graphs, timelines, and maps. Let’s take a look at some basic concepts related to each of these.

  • When looking at information presented in a table, it’s important to look at the title of the overall table, as well as the labels of the different rows and columns. Questions with tables will likely ask you to analyze or compare sets of data. To do this, look for trends in the data – are all variables increasing? Does one variable increase while another decreases? This will help you understand the “big picture” of the information presented in the table.
  • Graphs can be used for a wide variety of purposes and can include many different types. For this exam, you will want to be familiar with the following types of graphs:
    • Bar graphs – used to show categories of data
    • Pie charts – used to show categories as a proportion or percentage of a whole
    • Line graphs – typically used to show change over time
    • Scatterplots – used to show trends and correlations in a set of data
    • Population pyramid – shows the distribution of age and sex of a population
  • Timelines are used to show important events over a specified time range. Events on timelines are always placed in chronological order and typically include the date(s) or year(s) in which the event occurred. Questions with timelines may ask you to place a certain event on the correct area of the timeline. Be sure to look closely at the range of dates on the timeline and the surrounding events in order to understand the context of the timeline.

Questions with maps will likely ask you to analyze information shown in a map and then make an inference or generalization based on this information. Look carefully at the title of the map, the location that is shown, and the map key or legend to gain a better understanding of the information presented in the map.

Below are four types of maps to be familiar with:


Pedagogy basically covers how to be a teacher and teach Social Studies. You’ll need to know how to use a pre-assessment to assess prior knowledge, the difference between formal and informal assessments, and formative and summative assessments.

Also, since this is Social Studies, it’s helpful to know about open-ended assessments and project-based learning. It’s also important to know how to align assessments with instruction and what to do with the results, meaning how they can be used to effectively impact your instruction. Data from your assessments should guide your instruction and help you to know what to teach next.

Social sciences are the “sciences” of human interaction. These academic disciplines include:

  • history – study of events.
  • psychology – study of the mind and behaviors.
  • sociology – study of society and their interactions.
  • economics – study of wealth in society.
  • political science – study of politics.

Competency 2, HIstory, is the broadest competency on the Social Studies subtest covering anything from the beginning of history until today.

Let’s look at a few concepts you will most likely see on your exam.

  • The Columbian Exchange was established when Columbus led Europeans to the new world in 1492.
    • Goods introduced to the New World from the Old World (horses, cattle, chickens, rice, wheat)
    • Goods introduced from the Old World to the New World (sugar, tobacco, chocolate, potatoes)
  • The Northwest Passage is the idea that there is a sea-based trade route between North America that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, which would have allowed the European powers to quickly and easily establish a sea trade between themselves and China. Finding this route was the reason for exploration in the 1600s.
  • Manifest Destiny is the idea that it was the United States’ destiny to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and it fueled Western expansion in the 1840s and 1850s.
  • Sectionalism refers to the growing divide between the northern states and the southern states in the United States prior to the Civil War. The key points of sectionalism you should know include:
    • The Missouri Compromise
    • The Compromise of 1850
    • The Mexican-American War
    • The Kansas-Nebraska Act

A boom is when part of the economy is thriving and growing quickly; there are plenty of jobs for people during a boom. A bust is when a part of the economy is shrinking and many people lose their jobs. You will need to be familiar with the various boom and bust cycles of leading Texas industries including:

  • oil and gas production
  • railroads
  • cattle industry
  • cotton
  • real estate
  • banking
  • computer technology

Competency 3, Geography and Culture, is the second broadest competency on this subtest. You will need to be able to understand and apply knowledge of geographic relationships involving people, places and environments in Texas, the United States, and the world. You will also need to understand and apply knowledge of cultural development, adaptation, diversity and interactions among science, technology and society as defined by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

For the Geography section you will be asked, “how does the geography of the earth affect human behavior?” Simply put, humans respond to their environments. They might even move because of it.

For example, before 1900 every city founded was near some source of water. Humans needed fresh water to drink and water was the easiest and most efficient form of transportation to move goods in and out of the city. Water is just one example of how humans adapted their behavior to respond to their environment.

You will also need to know the causes of human migration. Human migration is the movement of people from one location to another. There are four main reasons why humans move:

  1. Food and water
  2. Protection
  3. Freedom from persecution
  4. Better socioeconomic opportunities

You will need to know major geographic features and where they are relative in the world. In addition to where they are, you will also need to know how they impact the people around them.

  • The Sahara Desert was an important part of the economies of Africa because of trade routes that used camels to carry goods.
  • The Himalayan Mountains help to keep cold and dry wind and rain contained.
  • The Rocky Mountains made it difficult for travelers to travel to the West coast.
  • The Appalachian Mountains were a huge geographic barrier during the colonial times that impacted human behavior and migration.
  • The Amazon River supplies water for agriculture, transportation, and food.
  • The Ganges River supplies drinking water and water to irrigate fields. It is considered a sacred river in Asia.
  • The Mississippi River supplied drinking water and fast, efficient transportation.

Basically, the continuous cycle of how humans interact with their environment and how the environment shapes human behavior is what you will need to know.

Each culture is composed of cultural traits that include:

  • Daily routines
  • Practices
  • Food
  • Language
  • Art
  • Religion

You will come across questions that require you to demonstrate an understanding of basic concepts of culture.

Cultural adaptation is the time it takes for a person to acclimate to their new culture. There are four stages to cultural adaptation:

Honeymoon stage

  • Culture shock stage
  • Adjustment stage
  • Recovery stage

Cultural diffusion is the process by which cultural traits spread from one group to another. For example, food is an obvious example of cultural diffusion. In America, you can find Italian, Chinese, or even Indian food all within a 5 mile radius.

Cultural diffusion

Culture is continuously changing as societies encounter new challenges and influences.

Economics is the fourth competency that we will go over. The standards in this competency are much more targeted in what it covers than the previous competencies. Let’s look at some terms you will need to know.

  • Scarcity is the basic problem of the gap between our wants and needs and the available resources. Because of this, people must make choices. This means that they make trade-offs and decisions as to best allocate their resources, this is called opportunity cost. Time is the most important resource to consider when talking about opportunity cost. For example, if a student decides to go to the movies instead of studying for their exam the opportunity cost is the time spent studying.
  • Supply is how much of something is available and demand is how much of something people want. There are a lot of factors that affect supply and demand. Generally, when demand goes up, price goes up, so the supply of that good will go up. When demand goes down, price dips, and the supply of that good goes down. When economists say “supply,” they mean the amount that is supplied, as in the amount made. So when demand goes up, people make more of what’s in demand. Price, demand and supply all impact each other.
  • Comparative advantage is when people, businesses or nations are better at producing a certain good. Since they can produce it more easily, cheaply or just plain >better than other countries it becomes a comparative advantage.
  • A monopoly is when a firm or business has complete control over a market and can set any price they want for their product or service because the consumer does not have another choice. An oligopoly is when a few businesses or firms compete against one another. Sometimes they collude or work together to set prices artificially high.
  • Mercantilism says that a country’s power is measured in how much gold it has. Mercantilism was the prevailing economic philosophy for almost 300 years, between 1500 and 1800. This philosophy drove a lot of decisions during the Age of Exploration  that included the search for the Northwest Passage, the Columbian Exchange, and the exploration of North America.

Let’s look at a practice question with some of these terms to see how you will be tested in the economics section.

Mr. Scott begins a project among his fourth-grade class. He gives the class $20 to purchase pencils and has his students sell them to students who have forgotten their pencils at home. Which of the following economic principles can Mr. Scott’s students learn from this project?

  1. opportunity cost
  2. supply and demand
  3. comparative advantage
  4. impact of imports and tariffs

The correct answer choice is B, supply and demand. Mr. Scott is introducing his students to the concept of supply and demand because his students would supply pencils to students that forgot them at home and needed them or to those who had a demand for the pencils.

Economic interdependence is when two or more economies depend on one another. For the exam, you will need to be able to analyze the interdependence of the Texas economy with the United States and other countries in the world.

Competency 5, Government and Citizenship, covers concepts of government, democracy and citizenship, including ways that individuals and groups achieve their goals through political systems.

Let’s look at a few concepts in the Government section that will most likely show up on your exam.

  • The Articles of Confederation was the first governing document that bound the United States together. The Articles created a weak federal government that couldn’t respond to the challenges of the new nation, so they were eventually replaced by the constitution of 1787.
  • Common Sense was a pamphlet that encouraged and rallied support for the American Revolution. It was written in 1776 by Thomas Paine, it helped sway American opinion in favor of independence. 
  • The Magna Carta was an agreement between the King of England and the nobles of England. The document limited the power of the King and granted important powers to the nobles. It is important because it was the first document in history to limit the power of the government.
  • The New Deal is a series of economic programs passed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help stimulate the American economy during the Great Depression.
  • Constitutional Amendmentsare additions or alterations made to the US constitution. You will need to be familiar with:
    • The 13th amendment which was ratified after the Civil War and abolished slavery, it also outlawed the practice of servitude and peonage, which is someone being coerced to work to pay off their debts.
    • The 14th amendment was ratified in 1868 granting citizenship to all born in the United States, regardless of race or ethnicity, including formerly enslaved people.
    • The 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote.
    • The 19th amendment allowed women the right to vote. It states that no one should be denied constitutional rights based on sex.
  • Court Cases to be familiar with include:

court cases

There are a few common types of government that you’ll likely need to be familiar with for the exam. Let’s take a look at each of these:

  • Democracy: In a democracy, the citizens choose who is in leadership positions through elections. These elected leaders make decisions regarding laws and regulations. The United States is an example of a democratic country.
  • Monarchy: In a monarchy, one person (the monarch) is the leader, or head of state, throughout their life. The head of state position is then inherited by the next in line in the family. Today, many monarchies are constitutional monarchies, meaning that the monarch’s powers are restricted and mostly symbolic. However, a few absolute monarchies remain. In absolute monarchies, the monarch holds authority that is not restricted by laws or customs. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, while Saudi Arabia is an example of an absolute monarchy.
  • Oligarchy: In an oligarchy, a small group of people hold power. Typically, this group of people is made up of privileged individuals who make decisions that benefit their own class, rather than for the benefit of society as a whole.
  • Communism: In a communist society, the state owns and controls all property and wealth, in an attempt to create a classless society.
  • Socialism: In a socialist society, property and economic resources are allocated by the government and shared equally among citizens. This differs from communism, where economic resources are owned and controlled by the state.
  • Totalitarian: In a totalitarian government all opposing parties are prohibited. No individual freedoms are permitted. Central rule attempts to control all individual life through coercion.

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Core Subjects EC-6 Fine Arts, Health and PE Key Concepts

TExES 391 Subtest 5: Fine Arts, Health and Physical Education

The EC-6 Fine Arts subject exam has 40 selected-response questions which account for about 19% of the entire exam. You will have 35 minutes to complete this subject exam.

There are 5 competencies on the Fine Arts subject exam:

  1. Visual Arts
  2. Music
  3. Health
  4. Physical Education
  5. Theatre

Each of these competencies has several descriptive statements that further describe the skills and knowledge needed for teaching.

Competency 1, Visual Arts, covers concepts, processes, and skills involved in the creation, appreciation, and evaluation of art. You will need to be able to use that knowledge to plan and implement effective and engaging visual arts instruction.

Let’s look at some of the terms you will need to know for your exam.

Elements of Art:

  • Color
    • primary colors (red, yellow, blue)
    • secondary colors are the combinations of 2 primary colors mixed (orange, purple, green)
  • Texture – how something feels (smooth, rough) or the look of how something should feel.
  • Shape – having a boundary or an outline. Can be geometric or free form.
  • Form – provides shape to a piece of art. (two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or free flowing).
  • Line – a moving point, or a series of dots. The points or dots form a line.
  • Space – the area around components in a piece of artwork. It can be shallow or deep, positive or negative, open or closed.
  • Value – adding black or white to a color to make it darker or lighter.

Principles of Art:

  • Emphasis occurs when an artist makes a certain part of the artwork more visually dominant (or emphasizes a certain part of the artwork). Emphasis can be achieved in various ways, but is often done by using contrast.
  • Contrast refers to a visual difference between art elements. As mentioned previously, contrast is often used to emphasize certain portions of a piece of art.
  • Pattern is achieved through the repetition of various elements of art, such as repeated colors, lines, or shapes.
  • Rhythm refers to the creation of “movement” through the use of various elements such as lines, shapes, color, light, and space. Although most pieces of art do not actually “move,” movement means that the viewer’s attention will move about the artwork in an intentional way.
  • Balance means that the different elements are used in a way to make the artwork as a whole feel stable and, well, balanced. Balance can be achieved through symmetry, asymmetry, and radial symmetry.
  • Proportion refers to the relative size of one element or part of an object compared with another within the same piece of art. For example, when drawing a person, their legs should typically be in the correct proportion to the rest of their body. Occasionally, artists will intentionally use incorrect proportions in order to draw attention to a certain aspect of an object or piece of art.
  • Unity means that all of the collective elements in a piece of art feel balanced, pleasing, and whole.

Let’s look at a few of these in more depth.

As an element of art, line refers to a moving point on the surface of a canvas (or other media). It has width as well as length. The functions of line are to direct our eyes around and through a composition and to express moods or feelings.

line art

As an element of art, a shape is a 2-dimensional area defined by a boundary. Geometric shapes are mathematical in proportion such as a circle, square, rectangle, or triangle. Organic shapes are irregular and/or curved, usually derived from nature. We see examples of both types of shape in this piece of art.

shape art

Let’s look at a practice question to see how a Visual Arts question will look on the exam.

Prior to asking a class of 4th graders to paint a picture of the sky, the teacher shows them a model and discusses how the intensity of color changes within the painting, with colors near the sun being brighter than colors further away. The teacher is using this activity to introduce which of the following elements of art?

  1. value
  2. form
  3. texture
  4. space

The correct answer is A, value. The teacher is asking students to explain the intensity of the change of colors near the sun. Value is the amount of lightness or darkness a color has, so explaining the intensity of the change of colors close to and far away from the sun would be asking students to use value.

You will need to be able to select techniques to create art forms using different medias including:

  • Drawing
    • pencil, crayons, markers
  • Painting
    • acrylics, watercolors
  • Printmaking
    • ink and roller
  • Construction
    • scissors, glue, tape
  • Ceramics
    • clay and oven
  • Fiber art
    • handloom, basket weaving
  • Electronic media
    • computer, computer software

Competency 2, Music, covers information you will need to know to answer questions about the concepts and skills related to the creation and appreciation of music.

There are several music terms that you’ll need to be familiar with for the music competency on the CORE EC-6 exam. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these:

  • Rhythm in music is the duration of different notes over a consistent beat.
  • Melody occurs when a series of musical notes are strung together to make a tune. Think of a melody as the part of a song that you would hum along to.
  • Pitch refers to how high or low the sound of a musical note is. Pitch is determined by the frequency of the sound waves that are producing a particular sound.
  • Dynamics refers to the volume of a piece of music, or even a single musical note. Music can be loud or soft, or change throughout a piece of music.
  • Form is the organization or order of the parts of music.
  • Timbre is the characteristic that enables one to distinguish between each instrument by hearing the sound quality or tone color.
  • Tempo refers to the speed of the beat, how fast or how slow.
  • Meter is a pattern of rhythm consisting of strong and weak beats.
  • Intonation refers to the accuracy of the pitch of the music. It can be flat, sharp, or a combination of both.
  • Intervals refer to the differences in the pitch between two sounds.
TexasUnited States of America
Texas, Our Texas (State song)The Star Spangled Banner (National anthem)
Yellow Rose of TexasAmerica, the Beautiful
The Old Chisholm TrailAmerica (My Country, ‘tis of thee)

Competency 3, Health, covers a wide array of topics, ranging from human body systems to growth and development to family behaviors, and lots in between.

A topic that you will see on your exam, ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle consists of many factors including:

  • nutrition
  • fitness
  • exercise
  • relaxation
  • stress-management
  • disease prevention

Let’s look at disease prevention a little bit closer. There are several effective ways to take a proactive approach to disease prevention including:

  • Practicing moderation for consuming foods and beverages high in sugar, which can elevate blood sugar and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Getting enough sleep is also important for disease prevention and overall health. Lack of sleep is associated with reduced cognitive function and a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Let’s look at a practice question to see how a Health question will look on your exam.

Children are more susceptible to asthma than adults because:

  1. they are more physically active.
  2. they spend more time outside in the presence of asthma-inducing substances.
  3. they haven’t yet developed immunity.
  4. their airways are smaller.

The correct answer choice, their airways are smaller. The bronchial tubes, or passageways that allow air to enter and leave the lungs, in infants and toddlers are small and narrow making them more susceptible to asthma than adults.

It will also be important to know and understand the stages of human growth and development, including physical and emotional changes that occur during adolescence.

  • Infancy – up to 1 year
  • Toddler years – 2 to 3 years old
  • Childhood – 3 to 11 years old
  • Adolescence – 12 to 17 years old
    • Physical changes (growth spurt, puberty)
    • Emotional changes (mood swings, peer pressure, love/dating, fear, identity)
  • Adult – 18 years and older

Competency 4, Physical Education, is all about physical activity, including strategies for promoting a positive environment for all students to learn about and work on their fitness. You will also need to be familiar with Physical Education terminology.

Locomotor skills involve moving the body from one location to another. Most locomotor movements involve the feet, but they may also include the hands. Some examples are:

  • walking
  • running
  • jumping
  • hopping
  • galloping
  • skipping

Non-locomotor skills involve moving the body while remaining stationary. Examples include:

  • bending
  • stretching
  • twisting
  • swaying
  • wiggling
  • shaking
  • balancing

Two concepts that will likely come up on the physical education portion of this subject exam are movement patterns and manipulation skills. Movement patterns involve the controlled movement of various parts of the body. These patterns progress in difficulty as children get older. Manipulation skills combine movement patterns with an object, such as a ball.

movement patterns

Competency 5, Theatre, uses the knowledge of the concepts and skills of theatre to plan and implement effective and engaging theatre instruction.

One important descriptive statement involves integrating instruction in theatre with instruction in other subject areas.

For example, there are characters in plays just like there are characters in stories (ELAR). Studying both theatre and fiction can help students understand characterization.

Also, Reader’s Theater is a popular tool for teachers to use to help students develop reading fluency. While students are practicing reading with expression, they are also learning about following directions on scripts. You can also use theatre to integrate social studies. There are many theatrical productions that align with historical events covered in the TEKS.

The elements of drama can vary slightly based on the source, but the six traditional Aristotelian elements of drama are:

  • Plot– the storyline, or what happens in a piece of drama.
  • Character – the “who” of a story and their relationships to one another.
  • Thought – the reasoning or philosophical meaning behind a character’s actions.
  • Diction – refers to the words used in a piece of drama or the dialogue between the characters.
  • Melody – refers to any music included in a piece, or the rhythm or “sound” of any spoken dialogue.
  • Spectacle – refers to the visual elements of a piece of drama or production. This can include the costumes, set design, special effects, etc.

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