The Praxis II is the subject area exam you will take based on the grade and content area you want to get certified in. If you're confused about the difference between Praxis I and Praxis II, be sure to check out our post comparing the two exams.
There are over 90 different Praxis II exams that range from Agriculture to World Languages and everything in between. For example, the Praxis Elementary Education 5001, Middle School Social Studies, High School Biology, Economics, Art Content Knowledge, are all subject area exams.
If you want to be a middle school math teacher, you are required to take the middle school math subject area exam. Similarly, if you want to be a high school English teacher, you will take the English Language Arts exam. And finally, if you want to be an elementary education teacher, you will take one of the Praxis Elementary Education exams.
The reason people call it the Praxis II is because, traditionally, this was the second test prospective teachers took during their certification journey. Then teachers took their subject area exam, which is sometimes referred to as the Praxis II.
Tips for passing the Praxis II
The most important thing you can do to prepare for any exam is to find the test specifications and blueprint and analyze the structure and content on your test.
ETS calls these study companions, and for every test ETS makes, they provide you with these detailed documents. You can access the study companion for any test ETS makes by going to their website under test preparation.
Inside the study companion, you’ll find the general breakdown of the test, the number of questions, the type of questions, how much time you have to complete the exam, and the content categories assessed on the test.
This is called the blueprint and usually includes a pie chart to show you different percentages of content tested on the exam. Here is what it looks like:
The next part is the test specification. This shows you the specific content and skills assessed on the test. This is the most important part of the document because it allows you to see exactly what is on the test so you can prepare accordingly. The following is a snippet of the test specification.
Notice how detailed this information is. Most people don’t even look at this document, yet it is more important than any study guide you will ever purchase because it is developed by the company that makes the exam.
The test blueprint and specification also help you think like a test maker to understand test administration. Check out the following video where I go over how to use the test blueprint and specifications to become a better test taker. You can use this with your students too.
All of our study guides are aligned to the test blueprint and speciation. This ensures you are studying exactly what is on the exam, nothing more, nothing less.
How hard is the Praxis II?
While these exams are used to test a beginning teacher’s abilities and content knowledge, they are not easy.
The Praxis Elementary Education 5001 has complicated questions for each subtest. These are things we learned long ago and may not recall.
For example do you remember the difference between mechanical waves and electromagnetic waves? What about John Locke’s influence on the Constitution? Or math inequalities? Yes, algebra is on the Elementary Education test.
Also, many of these tests have scenario-based questions that require you to choose the best answer out of four seemingly good answers. These can be difficult for a new teacher who does not have experience in the classroom.
Finally, many of the questions are not rooted in actual classroom approaches and instead pull from what researchers have found rather than reality, so sometimes your common sense is not the correct answer on the test.
What’s the best study guide?
The best study guide is the one that is aligned with the test blueprint and specification. In addition, you should look for a study guide that has detailed answer explanations that include the area from the test the question comes from.
For example, in our study guides, we have the specification for each content category at the beginning of each section of the study guide.
|92||D||Writing, Speaking & Listening||Feedback needs to be positive and specific. Out of all the options, answer D choice is the best. Answer choices A, B and C are not positive.|
|93||B||Writing, Speaking & Listening||While a counterargument is typically used in the augmentative essay, persuasive and argumentative essays are often referred to as the same thing. Out of the four options, the best one is answer choice B. Narrative essay tells a story; descriptive essay employs imagery to "paint a picture" for the reader; expository essay aims to inform the reader.|
|94||C||Writing, Speaking & Listening||The best resources for research papers come from peer-reviewed academic journals|
|95||A||Writing, Speaking & Listening||Interviewing family members is the best answer because it not only brings the activity into the real world, but it also allows students to bring culture into the discussion in an authentic way. All the other answer choices fail to connect the activity to real life. Real-world examples are always a good choice on these exams.|
|96||A||Writing, Speaking & Listening||Highlighting is an effective strategy for outlining structure. This is a visual tool, and it clearly allows students to clearly see and identify how the text is organized. This is application of knowledge. Answer choices B and C are not effective in showing students the essay structure, and answer choice D is not correct because it asks students to write an essay.|
|97||B||Writing, Speaking & Listening||Reading response journals encourages students to write down their thoughts, feelings, and questions concerning a specific literary work. Answer choices A, C and D are activities that rely on sharing information to classmates whereas reading response journals are completed individually.|
Remember, understanding why something is incorrect is sometimes more important than knowing why something is correct.
What’s the passing score?
The passing score you need depends on the test you are taking and the state in which you are seeking certification. Remember, every state has its own requirements.
While some states have similar passing scores, it is important to determine exactly what the passing score is for your specific state. ETS provides a chart that details state score requirements. Simply search for your state and test in the chart and you can see the minimum score required.
If you want to learn more about how to calculate your score based on your performance on the practice tests, check out this blog. It also comes with a score calculator you can download and use as you study for your exam.
What’s on the Praxis II exam?
All of the Praxis exams consist of selected-response questions which is a fancy word for multiple choice. This is where you read a question stem and then choose from a list of answers. Some questions will have more than one correct answer, and you will select all that apply.
The types of questions you will see depends on what test you are taking. For example, The Praxis Teaching Reading 5205 test has long scenario-based questions that assess a prospective teacher’s ability to identify and diagnose reading deficiencies in their students.
The high school math exam is straight math problems in the areas of algebra, geometry, precalculus, and trigonometry. The PE exam is loaded with anatomy and physiology questions.
I have been examining these tests for many years and have found that there are three types of questions you will see on the exam.
Straight recall Questions
These questions ask you a straightforward question that requires you to recall the answer. You must know specific concepts to answer these correctly. The following are examples of recall questions taken from my Praxis English Language Arts 5039 study guide.
- Which of the following novels’ themes is about culture and identity?
- Which of the following novels are paired with the correct author? Choose all that apply:
See the following table for the correct answers and answer explanations.
|3||A||Reading||Things Fall Apart is a novel about the intrusion in the 1890s of white missionaries and colonial government into tribal igbo society.|
|4||A, B & D||Reading||Animal Farm was written by George Onwell. The Scarlett Letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible.|
In these questions, you have to have a pretty solid understanding of the literary canon, which is something we expect our English teachers to have.
However, these are simple recall questions in that there is one correct answer and if you know the authors and their work, you can select the correct choice.
Also, notice that for question #4, there is more than one correct answer. You will see this on the Praxis exams as well. These questions are worth more points than the questions that only require you to choose one answer.
These are more complicated questions than recall because they require you to read a long situation and choose from answers that are also lengthy. The following is another example from my Praxis English Language Arts 5039 study guide.
- In a 9th grade English class, a small group of students display numerous grammatical errors in their writing, especially the misuse of parts of speech. For example, some students consistently use adjectives when the context calls for adverbs. What is the most effective technique for remedying these errors?
|1||A||Language Use & Vocabulary||In writing instruction, individual consequences help teachers give specific and meaningful feedback on errors to a few students. When in doubt. choose individual conferences when giving feedback on writing. Also, the questions say that it is only a small group of students, which also makes A the best answer.|
Notice the item is made up of a classroom scenario and then four options to choose from. For new teachers, all four of these are feasible options. But the question asks for the most effective technique.
For these types of questions, you should always work backwards from the answer choices to increase your chances of answering correctly. I go over how to approach scenario questions by working backwards, a strategy that has helped thousands of teachers pass their exams. Check out this video.
While some tests contain nothing but selected-response questions, other Praxis subject-area exams also include constructed-response questions that require you to write an essay or several essays based on a classroom scenario, data set, literature excerpt, and more.
For the Praxis English Language Arts 5039, prospective teachers are required to analyze a piece of poetry or other work, evaluate it, and write a response. In the PE 5095, prospective teachers are required to evaluate a PE classroom situation and identify the best activity for the situation.
On the Praxis Teaching Reading 5205 test, prospective teachers are required to analyze student reading data, diagnose the student’s reading deficit, and communicate a plan for interventions.
The following is an example of a constructed-response question on my Praxis PE 5095 study guide.
DIRECTIONS: Carefully read and follow the specific directions for the question.
Describe THREE learning stations based on the following skill theme:
The stations you describe should be appropriate for 5th grade students. Include in your description the activities and equipment to be used at each station.
In this constructed-response question, you have to come up with three learning stations and describe them. To get the score you need on this constructed-response question, you will also have to give details as to why you chose the stations and how they will increase students’ dribbling skills.
Here is a constructed-response question example from my Praxis Teaching Reading 5205 study guide.
Ms. Jackson is a sixth-grade civics teacher who is helping students with a research project on the presidential election process. During the research process, Ms. Jackson has students use a variety of print
and electronic resources to find information. In addition, Ms. Jackson will have the students present their research to the class.
Task 1: Describe THREE strategies Ms. Jackson can use with students to help them conduct scholarly research. Include in your response the importance of each strategy in regard to inquiry-based projects.
Task 2: Identify TWO ways in which students can present their material and relate those two methods to project-based assessments.
Notice that both examples of the constructed-response questions require that you have content knowledge in what you are teaching and the ability to apply that knowledge to a classroom scenario.
I have a whole playlist on how to approach constructed response questions. The approaches outlined in these videos can be applied to most exams with constructed-response questions. Watch it here.
Where can I find sample questions?
Most people preparing for the exams want lots of practice questions that mirror the exam. However, you will never see the exact questions from the exam in any study guide.
Practice questions are an effective way to assess your skills, but should not be the only mode of preparation for these exams.
People often ask, does your study guide have the same questions as the actual test? The answer is no. There is no way to tell what questions you will get on the exam.
ETS has item banks that are filled with hundreds of questions for each test and each content category.
In addition, ETS administers different forms of the exam for each test taker. This ensures test security. Just like you would not give your students the exact questions to study from before an exam, you will not receive exact questions from your exam to study with. I talk more about that in this blog.
The best way to study is to examine the study companion, work through a comprehensive study guide, understand the concepts and skills on the exam, and practice with sample questions.
The ETS study companions have sample questions with answer explanations and most study guides have sample questions to practice with. My study guides have hundreds of sample items organized by content category and skill.
If you are looking for even more sample questions, you can google your type of test and see if there is a Pearson exam similar. Pearson is another testing company that makes teacher certification exams.
You can locate their test blueprints and specifications and find additional questions related to your exam there.
For example, ETS makes the Praxis Elementary Education 5001 and Pearson makes a similar test for Texas called the EC-6 test. If you look at both blueprints of these two exams, you will see they are similar. Therefore, you can use both for sample tests.
But again, taking practice tests over and over and hoping for a passing score is an exercise in futility. You will never be able to memorize enough test questions to pass just by this method, and you will never know which questions you will get on the exam.
How long should you study for the exam?
Everyone has different skill levels when it comes to these tests. Therefore, it is difficult to recommend an exact number of hours or days you should prepare. In addition, each test is different and requires different skills.
I always recommend people study incrementally rather than cramming everything in over one or two weekends. Give yourself some time so you can stretch your studies out over a 1-2 week period for shorter exams, and 3-5 weeks for longer exams with multiple subtests.
Also, 20-30 minutes a day is very effective and easy to do when studying for the tests. Set time aside on your calendar when you will do this. Maybe it is early in the morning before anyone else in the house is up. Perhaps it’s at night when everyone has already gone to bed. Whatever you choose, be sure to commit to 20-30 min of uninterrupted study time. You do not need more than that.
Using incremental practice over an extended period of time will help you retain information better and keep your head in the test.