Teaching is one of the most fulfilling careers you can choose. But before you can start testing your students on their knowledge, you will have to prove your own.
If you’re planning on pursuing your teaching license, you’ll probably take the Praxis exams at some point. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know to tackle the Praxis I, the first of the teaching certification tests.
The Praxis tests are a series of exams designed to make sure that future teachers have an established base of knowledge before their teaching passion is unleashed in the classroom. The tests don’t predict your future teaching success, or whether you’ll engage young hearts and minds — but they do make sure you won’t stumble on your times tables.
The Praxis I, or the Core Academic Skills for Educators Tests (called Core Tests for short), may be likened to the SAT, as it tests basic knowledge of reading, writing, and math. The Praxis II and III tests measure more in-depth knowledge of specific subjects, like earth science or art.
The Praxis I is comprised by three tests: a Reading test, a Writing test, and a Math test.
The Praxis used to be called the Praxis Pre-Professional Skills Tests (PPST). In 2013, Educational Testing Service (ETS), to align with Common Core State Standards changed the content on the test and the College and Career Readiness Standards. To match these standards, the new version includes integration and analysis of multiple documents on the Reading test, argumentative and informative composition on the Writing test, and numeric-entry questions on the Math test. After this change occurred, the exams were renamed the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Tests.
The Praxis tests are most frequently used to determine qualification for initial teaching licensure. In fact, more than 40 states, in addition to various organizations and associations, use the tests for this reason. The prevalence of the exams makes it easy for a teacher to test in one state and then apply for licensure in another. Many colleges also ask prospective students to take the Praxis Core Tests before beginning a teacher-prep program as a way to weed out unqualified candidates. If students do not take the Praxis before beginning school, then they will need to take the tests before applying for a license.
The content on the Reading, Writing, and Math tests aligns with the Common Core standards. You can register for all three at once for a reduced total test fee of $135, or you can register for one at a time at a rate of $85 per test. (The latter is a nice option if you aren’t happy with a particular score.)
All of the Praxis I sections are administered via computer.
First, you must register for the test. Dates depend on your local testing site, which you can look up on the ETS website. Considering that it takes 10 to 11 business days after the test to get your scores, you may want to give yourself several extra months of leeway, in case a re-test is necessary. In addition, make sure that you know where your scores should go: You will be allowed to send your scores to up to four institutions, with a charge of $40 for each additional reports.
On the big day, you’ll be asked to provide proof of identification as well as your admission ticket. You’ll also have a few minutes to become familiar with the computer program before you begin. Once the clock starts, answer questions as best you can. With multiple-choice questions, you can rule out options that are obviously wrong and make your best guess with what you’ve got left — there’s no penalty for wrong answers, so it doesn’t hurt to take a swing.
Each correct answer awards you one point towards your raw score. Raw scores are then scaled for each section, based on question type and difficulty, to create your final score, which ranges between 100–200. Passing scores are different from one state to another, as they all determine their own standards. Your score report will tell you if you passed or not, as well the average range for that test. If you did not receive a passing score, you can retake the test as many times as you need to.
ETS provides materials for preparation on its website, and many of these are totally free! You can also take practice tests (for a fee) and watch videos to learn more about how to navigate the testing platform prior to your test date.
Many renowned test-prep companies, like The Princeton Review, Barron’s, and Kaplan, also offer test-prep materials for the Praxis Core Tests.
You may find that it’s not as intimidating as you think. Megan Mitchell, an elementary classroom teacher, felt so confident after acing her trial run that she didn’t stress about studying any further.
Becky Nadeau, a middle school English teacher, found her winning strategy in a team approach — as long as the team included Ben and Jerry. Studying with a friend while eating ice cream allowed her to relax and absorb the information more readily because she wasn’t as stressed.
Reading information is one thing, but many find that writing the info down makes it really stick. Grace O'Neil, an earth science teacher in Vermont, studied by writing down key info, erasing it, and writing it again.
Jill McDonald, a fifth-grade teacher, honed her knowledge by playing “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" It’s not exactly ETS-endorsed, but it’s a stress-free way to review a variety of topics.
From personal experience, I felt really comfortable with the Reading and Writing topics, but found it helpful to review Math concepts that I hadn’t seen in a while. I actually bought a test-prep book, but I probably would have been OK with an online practice test just to shake off the algebra dust.