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What is the Praxis for Teachers?
Perhaps you’ve just started your teaching program and have heard something about a “Praxis” exam, but aren’t quite sure how it’s relevant to your career. Simply put, the Praxis exams (yes, there’s more than one!) are a series of tests which need to be taken in many states to earn one’s teaching certification. However, the details of the exam are a little more complicated than that.
No need to worry though, we’re here to help you out! Keep on reading to learn everything you need to know about the Praxis exam.
What are the Praxis exams?
Great question! Simply, the Praxis exams are a series of tests required by most states in order to receive teaching certification. Including a variety of multiple choice and essay questions, the computer-administered exams measure aspiring teachers’ knowledge in the subjects they plan to teach. As a result, there are over 90 different Praxis exams, testing a wide range of subjects all the way from Agriculture to World Languages. The tests and their development are handled by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a nonprofit research organization who also oversees the TOEFL, GRE, and other similar assessments.
The many Praxis exams and their differences
As we briefly mentioned, there are a whopping 90+ Praxis exams available to prospective teachers, all testing different subjects and skills. Despite this large number, each of these tests fall into one of three categories: content knowledge for teaching tests, core academic skills tests, and subject assessments tests. So, before we go on, let’s dive a little into the details of each type.
First off are the content knowledge for teaching tests! These are used to test aspiring elementary school teachers’ (1) understanding of core curriculum and subjects taught in elementary classrooms and (2) the skills needed to effectively teach such content.
Core academic skills tests are typically necessary for all aspiring teachers, no matter what grade or subject they’re looking to teach. These measure individuals’ academic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics to assess the abilities and content knowledge of those looking to start teacher preparation programs.
Last, but certainly not least, subject assessments tests are used to measure the subject-knowledge of teachers in specific areas they plan on teaching. These also assess aspiring teachers’ general and subject-specific teaching abilities.
Before you start to prepare for one or the other based on which of the above descriptions best fits your goals, however, we would highly recommend that aspiring teachers research the testing requirements of the state they plan on teaching in. Considering the great number of Praxis exams there are (and considering that requirements vary by state), this is an essential step that will guide you in the right direction and save you a lot of time and effort down the road. So, check out these state requirements to find out what Praxis exams your state expects you to take, and which it doesn’t.
What’s on the Praxis exams?
Once you’ve figured out what tests you have to take, it’s best to start figuring out what exactly you’re getting yourself into. By that, we mean it’s time to learn what’s on the Praxis exams! However, as it would take too long for us to go over what’s on each of the 90+ exams, we’ll stick to the core exams.
Simply, the Praxis core exams assess one’s reading, writing, and mathematical skills through a variety of (1) single- and multiple-selection selected responses questions, (2) numeric entry questions, and (3) essay questions. Here’s a clearer breakdown of each section:
|Time Allotted (minutes)||Selected-Response Questions||Numeric Entry Questions||Essays|
|Mathematics||90||56 (mix of selected-response and numeric entry)||None|
We hope this breakdown has helped you better envision what’s on the core exams, and made everything seem a little more digestible. If you’re also planning on taking any of the content knowledge for teaching tests or subject assessments, however, we would highly recommend inquiring with your advisor or professor for more information about their structure.
Preparing for the Praxis
Next up: preparing for the Praxis!
As not all of the Praxis exams have section or content breakdowns of their own, a good first step in preparing for your exams would be to check out the official Praxis preparation materials. These should give you an idea of what’s on each exam you have to take, helping you figure out how to best structure your practice time and figure out what skills to focus on.
A few other resources also offer test prep to help you perform your best. Here are just a few of them:
- Khan Academy official Praxis core prep
- Teachers Test Prep free practice tests and study guides
- Mometrix Praxis practice test
Alternatively, if you would prefer a more hands-on (and less virtual) test prep option, Amazon (in addition to many other sites) offers a wide variety of Praxis test books to help you ace your exams and obtain your teaching license.
Registering for the Praxis
Once you feel thoroughly prepared and ready for the exam, it might just be time to register!
You can do so online, through mail, or even by phone (call the ETS at 1-800-772-9476). For further instructions on how to register (no matter which method you choose to register by), check out these instructions on how to register for a Praxis test, straight from the ETS themselves.
While each exam comes with a cost, this cheapest comes in at $50, while the most expensive sits at a whopping $209. So, to find out the costs for your exams, be sure to check out this Praxis test fees page with information on each exam’s length, question types, and cost. Additional services like changing test sites or ordering more score reports come with extra fees, but these are included on the same test fees page linked above.
Once you order your test, you should be good to go! Simply show up to your test site on the right day and time (and with the necessary materials, but we’ll get into that next), and you’ll be able to sit for your tests. However, if you require accommodations for a disability or other health condition, you have one more step to go: requesting accommodations. To learn how to obtain accommodations for your condition, check out accommodations for test-takers with disabilities or health-related needs.
After that, it’s time to ace your test! Let’s find out what you should expect on test day, and what materials you should bring to your test site.
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What to expect on test day
So, what should you expect on test day, and how can you best prepare yourself? Let’s find out.
Well, it’s first important to know what you should (and shouldn’t) bring. So, before you head out to take your Praxis exams on test day, there are a few things you should have with you:
- A printed admissions ticket (you should have the option to print this when you register for your exams)
- A valid photo ID
- A calculator (if your exams allow and recommend it)
Besides these, you should make sure to keep any unnecessary personal items at home. This does not mean that you can’t bring a little “lucky charm” of sorts – simply make sure it’s not jewelry or electronics (wedding rings and medical devices excluded). Besides these, food and drinks are also not allowed in the testing room(s) – unless you have prior accommodations.
When you arrive at your testing site you’ll have a few things to do. First, find your room and sign your confidentiality agreement. To make sure you do this before your test starts, it’s probably best to arrive a little early. To best ensure that you arrive with plenty of time left, we would recommend arriving 30 minutes early. If this means it might benefit you to sleep a little earlier the night before, too, we definitely recommend doing so. As the saying goes, the early bird receives a passing Praxis score!
As for during your exam, you only get one unscheduled break (unless you have prior accommodations). So, be prepared to sit and think for a pretty long time. If you need extra time due to accommodations, however, that can also be granted (just make sure to submit the necessary forms beforehand). Additional time can also be granted if English is not your primary language.
Once you’ve finished, though, you’ll be free to go!
Scoring the Praxis
By now, you’re hopefully completed your Praxis exams and are just waiting for results. If so, congratulations! When can you expect to get your results back, though?
Great question. While some testing centers will immediately show you an unofficial score upon completing your tests, others will not. As for official scores, you should receive your reading and math scores within 21 calendar days of your exam, and your writing score within 20 calendar days of it. Along with your scores will come some additional information to help you best interpret them, including:
- Your score and the range of possible scores
- Whether you passed or not
- The range of the middle 50% of scores on the test
- The highest score you’ve earned on that test if you’ve taken it another time within the past 10 years
While the way tests are scored depend on the specific exam and question type, this is generally how it works:
- One point per correct selected-response question
- Essays and other free-response questions are scored by comparing two different assessors’ scores
- Tests that combine question types are given a weighted score or the sum of your score from each type of question
- Pre-test questions are not included in your final score
We hope this helps give you an idea of why you might have received the score you did. Alternatively, if you haven’t quite taken the test yet, just know that you can elect to cancel your test before you’ve completed it if you feel as if it’s not going well. This is perfectly fine and normal to do, so don’t let it discourage you! The Praxis exams can always be taken again, once every 21 days.
With that said, though, do your specific Praxis scores even matter?
Do Praxis scores matter?
Arguably, more important than your specific scores on your Praxis exams is whether you passed or not. So, what’s the minimum threshold to pass?
Well, there isn’t really one. If you’ve been wondering why we haven’t given you a concrete “passing” score for the exams, it’s simply because passing scores differ by both (1) the specific exam and (2) the state you’re in! However, generally, these are the passing scores for the core exam:
- Reading: 156
- Writing: 162
- Mathematics: 150
If you want to find out the passing score for a specific test within your state, be sure to check out this helpful Praxis minimum/maximum score requirements tool.
So, if you have passed, we’d like to wish you congratulations! If not, we urge you not to worry – the test can always be taken again. Further, you can even use your score report to figure out what areas you might want to focus on for next time.
With that, we’ll send you off. Good luck, and happy testing!
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Frequently asked questions
Can you teach without passing the Praxis?
In most states, no. While the majority of states and a few U.S. territories accept the Praxis and require individuals to have passed it to receive a teacher certification, some do not accept it. In such states, individuals can receive teacher certification without having taken or passed the Praxis. However, this does not mean you’re exempt from taking any sort of teacher certification exam. States that do not accept the Praxis typically use a different teacher certification exam, which you will be required to pass instead. To find out whether Praxis is accepted in your state, check out these state requirements.
How many times can you take the Praxis?
According to the ETS (Educational Testing Service), as many times as you want! However, it’s important to note that while the ETS does not put limits on how many times one can take the exam, some schools and states do. So, before you consider retaking the exam, we’d recommend checking with your school and state teaching certification agency to see whether they have any retake limits. If it turns out that you can retake it, just remember that you can only take it once every 21 days. Good luck!