How to Study for the Praxis

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How to study for the praxis

So, you’ve decided to become a teacher. You’ve set out to change the lives of children one day at a time and join a noble profession. You may be coming from a teacher education program or lateral entry from another related field. Perhaps you’re already a teacher and you’re looking to add onto your credentials. No matter what led you here, there’s just one thing left to do: take the Praxis.

What is the Praxis?

The Praxis test is a set of exams used to determine readiness for rising or current educators. These exams come in two categories: Core (Praxis I) and Subject Area (Praxis II)

The Praxis Core covers a wide area of testable skills in mathematics, reading, and writing and is taken before entering a teacher education program. This test is meant to cover a semi-basic level of each of the three areas, so don’t expect to be reading soliloquies from Shakespeare or solving hard problems found in Calculus. You will, however, be expected to know roughly the following:

Math: (56 questions: multiple choice and number entry)

  • The slope-intercept form of equations
  • The perimeter, area, and volume of basic shapes
  • Using the Pythagorean Theorem for triangles

Reading: (56 questions: multiple choice)

  • Using text evidence to support a statement
  • Determine the main idea or theme
  • Find out the meaning of unknown words figuratively or literally
  • Examine how a passage is structured and how it relates to the overall argument

Writing: (40 questions: multiple choice; 2 essays)

  • Write two essays: an argumentative essay to back up a claim and an informative essay about a topic
  • Revise incorrect or inconsistent writing by showing knowledge of conventional English grammar

At first glance, it seems rather daunting, but the test format looks very similar to another high-commodity exam: the SAT. The good news is that if you scored high enough on the SAT, you can completely avoid taking this test (Appalachian State University had their minimum score for skipping at 1,170 for math and reading).

The Subject Area Praxis tests are more specific in that they measure your knowledge of your chosen academic field along with questions about how to teach it effectively. Some of these subject area tests may include:

  • Elementary Education: Mathematics
  • Middle School English Language Arts
  • Physical Education
  • Special Education: Pre-school and Early Childhood
  • And more

These tests are about covering various topics in a field rather than going deeply into one topic. For example, the percentage breakdown for my English Language Arts Praxis II was 46% reading; 11% vocabulary; 18% writing, speaking, and listening; and 25% ELA instruction.

After knowing the differences between the Praxis Core and Praxis Subject Area, you might be ready to dive head first. But slow your roll, chief.

You need to learn how to study for the Praxis, and part of this involves developing good study habits.

Study Habits to Develop

How to study for the praxis

Just like when you were a youngster, you need to learn how to study, especially how to study for the Praxis. Consider the following:

Sign up Early

Sign-up well in advance so you can set up a proper study schedule. The Praxis Core test has a continuing sign-up schedule, so there’s no blocked scheduling like the Praxis II.

Divide and Conquer

Divide the three areas into more consumable pieces as you begin to study. There is no use in trying to cover all of the content at once, so you might want to consider alternating days (combine reading and writing together because they are closely related areas) or creating a shift schedule (math in the am, reading/writing in the pm).

Apply What You Have Learned

Try to find opportunities outside of studying to apply the content you have learned. Simply memorizing material only allows for some success, but making it relevant to your life makes it stick more. If you are focused on the vocabulary portion of the reading Praxis, see where you can use your new-found words in conversation or on social media. Find out when you can measure the area or perimeter of an object or a room.

Test-Taking Strategies

Part of knowing how to study for the Praxis I or Praxis II is learning how to take a multiple choice test, as each of the Praxis tests has multiple choice questions. To be more successful at multiple-choice tests, take the following steps as you complete practice tests (more on that later):

Read and Annotate

How to study for the praxis

Read the entire question and annotate (underline key words, phrases, or clues to what the question is asking) as you go along. The test is largely completed online, so you won’t be able to physically annotate the test, but practicing in any of the Praxis workbooks gets you trained to look for those tricky words in your head.

Better Your Odds

Remove wrong answers. You’ve been doing it since grade school, but the fact remains that going from a 25% chance of getting it right to a 50% chance is still favorable. Each of these tests has obvious wrong answers, a misleading answer, and a probable right answer to go along with the correct answer. Eliminate at least one obvious wrong answer and re-read the question or passage to keep narrowing it down.

Move On

If you do not know the correct answer, move on to the next question. As you take practice tests, keep track of how long it takes you to answer the harder, skippable questions and try to reduce the time as you go on (just make sure to return to any questions you didn’t answer).

If All Else Fails…Guess

Make an educated guess if all else fails. Learning how to study for a Praxis means a lot of trial and error, and making an educated guess helps you understand why you made your answer choices and think about your thinking. This is called metacognition, and learning how to reason through your own thoughts will make your educated guesses more accurate.

Study Aids for the 21st Century Test Taker

Learning how to study for the Praxis has never been easier in this day and age. Whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen Xer, or Millennial, you can find aid in the following places:

Books:

There are plenty of affordable and highly effective Praxis books at major book retailers full of realistic practice tests that break the test down into sizeable bits. My personal recommendation is from CliffNotes, which helped me get through all three of my previous Praxis tests with minimal stress.

Flashcards:

Flashcards are quick, easy, and able to be used on the go. Take what you believe might be the most important information on the test and write it down in your own words. If paper/pencil flashcards aren’t your thing, websites such as Quizlet have plenty of generated flash cards (or you can make your own and add to the pile).

Videos:

What better way to study than by doing a deep dive into videos? Educators and test makers are providing content every day on YouTube and make the process more immersive. I have to give a special shout-out to Khan Academy for filling in some of the biology holes I had prior to my second Praxis.

How do you study for the Praxis? It’s as easy as knowing what will be on the test, developing good study habits, learning test-taking skills, and using new and innovative study aids. By using these steps, you’ll be on the way to becoming the teacher you’ve set out to be!