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Testing Strategies for Teacher Certification Exams

What is the PRAXIS Series?

The Praxis Series tests assess the knowledge and skills of teacher candidates as part of the teacher certification process. Teacher candidates must demonstrate a foundational understanding of reading, writing, and mathematic skills, subject-knowledge in their content area, and an understanding of the skills and practices of a beginning teacher.

The series is made up of two types of tests:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core): The Core assessment tests candidates’ academic skills in reading, writing and math. Even if a candidate is seeking certification in a subject area outside of these subjects, the candidate must demonstrate a basic level of mastery in reading, writing and math. Some states may allow candidates to substitute proficient SAT or ACT scores in lieu of the Core assessment, but requirements vary by state.
  • Praxis Subject Assessments (formerly Praxis II tests): Subject tests assess a candidate’s understanding of subject-specific content knowledge, as well as the subject-specific teacher skills required for beginner teachers in that subject area.

Who should take the PRAXIS tests?

The Praxis Series tests assess the knowledge and skills of teacher candidates as part of the teacher certification process. Teacher candidates must demonstrate a foundational understanding of reading, writing, and mathematic skills, subject-knowledge in their content area, and an understanding of the skills and practices of a beginning teacher.

The series is made up of two types of tests:

  • Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core): The Core assessment tests candidates’ academic skills in reading, writing and math. Even if a candidate is seeking certification in a subject area outside of these subjects, the candidate must demonstrate a basic level of mastery in reading, writing and math. Some states may allow candidates to substitute proficient SAT or ACT scores in lieu of the Core assessment, but requirements vary by state.

Praxis Subject Assessments (formerly Praxis II tests): Subject tests assess a candidate’s understanding of subject-specific content knowledge, as well as the subject-specific teacher skills required for beginner teachers in that subject area.

Who should take the Praxis Series tests?

While the Praxis Series is used throughout the United States, candidates should determine the specific tests required in their state or in the state where they plan to begin teaching. To determine whether the Praxis Series is required in your state, visit the state requirements page.

When should a candidate take the Praxis?

The testing timeline will vary for candidates depending on their background. Because there are several entry points to becoming a teacher in the United States, candidates will complete certification requirements at different points in the year. For specific guidance, see below.

  • Candidates pursuing an education degree from a college or university should plan to take the exam in the final semester of their degree program or after completing content-related coursework. The testing and scoring process can take up to a month, so candidates should schedule their testing no later than 2-3 months prior to graduation to allow time for retakes, if necessary.
  • Candidates pursuing an alternative certification program should take the exam as early as possible. It is important that alternative certification candidates begin preparing early because most will not have had formal education or subject-area training, which means they may need additional preparation time. Many alternative certification programs begin in the summer or fall or a candidate’s first year of teaching, at which time a candidate must have successfully passed all required tests. Candidates should begin preparing and taking the assessment as soon as they are admitted to their program to ensure they pass their exams in time.

When can a candidate take the Praxis?

All Praxis exams are computer-based, with the exception of the Braille Proficiency (0631) test and the Assessment of Signed Communication – American Sign Language (0632) test. Test dates are offered year-round, but availability varies by testing site.

  • Praxis Core Tests are offered on a continuous testing basis at most testing locations. This means there is no specific testing window in which candidates must complete the test.

Praxis Subject Assessments are offered year-round during twelve-day testing windows. To determine availability, visit the Praxis test centers and dates page to look up specific subject-tests and test centers.

Preparing for the PRAXIS

Structure of the Exam

The structure of the Praxis exam varies by assessment.

  • The Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Test is broken into three sections: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Examinees may take individual subtests or the combined test. The structure of each exam is as follows:
    • Reading: includes sets of questions that require analysis of multiple types of documents (literary, informative etc.). Examinees have 85 minutes to complete 56 multiple-choice questions. The content categories include:
      • Key Ideas and Details (35%)
      • Craft, Structure, and Language Skills (30%)
      • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (35%)
    • Writing: assess both argumentative writing and informative/explanatory writing, and includes a writing task for each area. It also assesses research and revision strategies through multiple-choice questions. Examinees have 100 minutes, divided into a 40-minute multiple choice section and two 30-minute essay sections. Content includes:
      • Text Types, Purposes, and Production (60%: 6-12 multiple-choice, 2 essay)
      • Language and Research Skills for Writing (40%: 28-35 multiple-choice)
    • Mathematics: includes numeric entry and multiple-choice questions that assess mathematical reasoning skills. Examinees have 85 minutes to complete 56 questions including: multiple-choice (select one answer); multiple-choice (select one or more answer choices); and numeric entry questions. The content categories include:
      • Number and Quantity (30%)
      • Algebra and Functions (30%)
      • Geometry (20%)
      • Statistics and Probability (20%)
    • Combined: the combined assessment includes all three test sections. Examinees may take the combined assessment in one day, or may register for individual assessments individually.
  • The Praxis Subject Assessments
    • Subject Assessments are each structured differently. They measure general subject-specific teaching skills and content knowledge. Subject tests feature multiple-choice and constructed response items. For more information about each subject assessment, see 240Tutoring’s subject assessment articles.
    • Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) Tests measure your general pedagogical knowledge at four grade levels: Early Childhood, K-6, 5-9, and 7-12. These tests include constructed-response and selected-response questions.

Beginning to Prepare

Beginning to prepare for the Praxis exam starts with understanding the test you need to take and the timeline for your preparation and testing dates.

  • Identify which test you need to take prior to beginning your study plan. Check your state requirements to identify the tests you are required to pass in order to gain certification. You may need to take more than one assessment. Depending on the assessments and the available dates, you can choose to take multiple assessments in one day, or you may need to spread them out over several days or weeks.
  • Select a testing date from the test centers and dates page that fits within your timeline and calendar.

Register for the test online or by phone, and see the test and service fees page to determine whether you qualify for or need a test waiver form. Visit the test registration page for more information about how to register. Once you are registered and know your timeline, you can work backward to create a study plan that fits within your preparation window.

Develop a Study Plan

It is important to develop a study plan as part of your preparation for the Praxis series assessments. Each test contains many content areas, skills, and question types with which examinees should be familiar. The amount of time an examinee should spend study will depend on their familiarity with the content and skills assessed.

For example, a candidate pursuing a job teaching high school science may be required to pass both the biology and chemistry subject assessments. Depending on his or her coursework, the candidate may be more familiar with one content area than another and will need to spend different amounts of time preparing for each.  

A general study plan should include the following:

  • Practice or diagnostic test: Decide on a time to take a practice test to determine your current level of familiarity with the content and to see which areas you should prioritize in your study plan. For more information, see this post on the blog!
  • Prioritization of content or skills: Based on the results of your diagnostic test, you will see the content areas or skills in which you are strongest and weakest. Your study plan should prioritize the skills, types of questions, or content areas in which you are weakest.
  • Schedule: Only you can know how much time you should spend studying, but no matter how much time is required, you should create a schedule to help your plan stay on track. You may choose to study one hour a day for five days a week, or five hours a day for one day a week. The most important part of your schedule is consistency. It is easy to fall behind as distractions and other events come up, but maintaining a regular schedule will help you work around unexpected interruptions to your plan.
  • Study materials: Determine which study materials you will use to prepare for the test. In addition to 240Tutoring’s study guides, you can also find sample questions on the Praxis website.
  • Accountability: Determine how you will hold yourself accountable to your plan. You may choose to keep a study log, to mark off study sessions on a calendar, or to set electronic reminders on a phone or device. Another technique that can be helpful when holding yourself accountable to goals is to share your plan with someone else. Consider peers or classmates who may also be preparing for exams, and make time to study together or check in with one another about progress. Consider family or friends with whom you can share your plan so that they can check in with you about your progress. The key is to build multiple levels of accountability into your study plan to ensure success!

Study

After creating your study plan, you need to begin studying! Using 240Tutoring’s preparation guides, you can begin learning more about the content and types of questions on each exam and completing practice questions using testing strategies.

  • Read test overviews and descriptions. Completing practice questions without guidance will not help you improve. Read the introductory information in each tutoring guide, including the overview for each content area. By understanding the content assessed in each section, you will have a more informed understanding of how to approach each question.
  • Learn about question types. Understanding the types of question on each assessment is essential to preparation strategies and time management strategies during the test. Each question type requires a different approach and method of preparation. For add
    • For multiple-choice questions, you will need to understand content very thoroughly in order to answer questions correctly. Your strategies should include eliminating wrong answer choices, skipping over but returning to the most challenging questions, and making educated guesses when possible.
    • For constructed-response questions, you will need to understand content knowledge, be able to analyze documents or problems in the moment, and to explain your thinking in a clear, concise way. Your strategies should include planning, drafting, revising, and using key words.
  • Complete practice questions with a timer. After you understand the content and question types you will face on your exam, you should then begin completing practice questions. When practicing, use a timer. Practicing without a time can be detrimental on test day—if you are not accustomed to the time limits and do not have a sense of how much time to spend on each question, you could easily run out of time on test day. Set a timer for each section of the test that aligns with the allotted amount of time for the official test. Even if you do not finish your within that amount of time at first, you will see whether you are spending too little or too much time on each part.
  • Check your answers and read explanations. After each practice test or section, check your answers against the key. Do not simply mark the number of questions you answered correctly or incorrectly, but analyze your performance by looking for patterns. Ask yourself:
    • Are there content-areas in which I consistently do well?
    • Are there content-areas in which I consistently struggle?
    • Do I answer more questions correctly at the beginning, middle, or end of a test/section?
    • Are there many questions on which I need to guess?

By identifying patterns in your performance, you can adapt your study plan to hone in on the areas in which you need to improve most.

For incorrect answers, be sure to read the answer explanation. You will see why each answer choice is correct or incorrect, and may notice details about the questions and answer choices that you did not notice in your first attempt. Reading explanations of incorrect answers ensures that you learn from your mistakes as you progress.

Test Day

What to Expect on Test Day

Your preparation plan does not end with studying—you should also have a test-day plan. This includes strategies such as taking a few days off from studying before the exam, taking care of yourself physically leading up to the exam, and looking up maps and directions in advance to ensure you arrive early to your site. You should also consider strategies to reduce test anxiety to be sure that your hard work and preparation are not overshadowed by nerves on test day.

Taking the Test

By now, you should be familiar with what to expect on the exam. All that is left to do is complete it, but that may not be as simple as it sounds once the test is in front of you.

If you feel anxious, remember 7 Reasons People Fail Their Certification Exam. If you have prepared using these tips and 240Tutoring’s study guide, you will have:

  • Learned the content
  • Reviewed testing strategies
  • Learned how to break down questions and answer choices
  • Learned how to write a constructed response
  • Developed strategies for reducing test anxiety.

Throughout the test, remember what you have learned, maintain a steady pace, and keep calm!

Test Scores

Some Praxis tests allow examinees to view unofficial scores at the end of the testing session. This score should be displayed on the screen at the conclusion of the exam. If an unofficial score is not provided, it means that the exam requires additional analysis before scoring is complete. This is true of exams that involve constructed-response questions, which cannot be scored by a computer.

Prior to viewing an unofficial score report, you have the option at the end of your exam to report or cancel your score. If you choose to report your scores to a certification institution, you will not be able to cancel them at any point. If you choose to cancel your scores, you will not be able to report your score and it will never be reinstated to your testing record. Cancellation does not result in a refund.

Except for extreme circumstances, such as severe physical illness or overwhelming anxiety, it is not recommended that you cancel your scores.

Official Score Reports

For the Core assessments, which are offered regularly, official score reports become available 10-16 business days after your test date. For tests offered during testing windows (Subject Assessments and the PLT), official scores become available 10-16 days after the testing window closes, regardless of the date on which you completed the exam. For more information in score reporting dates, see the Praxis score report site.

Sending Score Reports

When registering for the exam, you may identify up to four institutions or licensing agencies to receive your scores for free. The institutions you choose to send reports to will vary according by state and certification program. Learn more about ordering score reports.

Understand Your Scores

You will receive an official score report after your testing date or window closes. Your score report explains your score and whether you passed or failed, the range of possible scores, raw points available in each category, and the middle 50 percent of scores on that test.

Many of the tests are grouped by content categories. Your score report displays the number of raw points earned in each category. You can compare your raw points to the number of possible raw points to see the opportunity to improve. You can use this information to improve your future study plans.

You can view a sample score report here.

Passing Scores

Passing score requirements vary by state. Check your state requirements to determine the passing score for your state and subject area.

Retaking the Exam

In the event that you do not earn a passing score, you may retake the test to attempt it again. Like passing scores, retake policies vary by state. Check your state requirements to determine how long you must wait between exam attempts. In order to retake the exam, you need to reregister for the exam, so do so as quickly as possible. Take action immediately to be sure you meet your certification deadlines!

State Reciprocity

If you complete the exam in one state and would like to teach in another state, you must consider state reciprocity rules, which vary by state. Some states allow candidates to substitute different certification exams for the in-state test, while others do not. Additionally, some states may accept older versions of an exam or a slightly different content exam from another state. Check your state requirements to learn more about reciprocity in each state.

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