What is Praxis II?

Brief History

In the late 1980s, Educational Testing Service (ETS) developed a series of Praxis tests, one of which was the Praxis II. Teachers applying for state licensure had to take the Praxis II exams. There were over 120 examinations divided into three categories: Subject Assessment, Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT), and Teaching Foundations. Teachers could take the exams at any of the numerous testing sites worldwide.

The Praxis II assessments consisted of different subjects, which were selected according to each state’s requirements to obtain certification. These included content knowledge and a pedagogy exam in many states. Subject tests covered the gambit, from Art to World History.

Prospective teachers had to pass these exams before proceeding to the student teaching component of the program. State and District Departments of Education used the Praxis II tests to determine a teacher’s qualifications under the No Child Left Behind Act. The Act became law in 2001 when Congress established measurable standards for Elementary and Secondary School Education.

The Praxis II School Counseling specialty exam was used by some states as a licensure requirement to practice professional school counseling. This area was one of a long list of subjects from Art to World Languages. Several subjects had multiple components, as examples, biology, chemistry, elementary education, English, Special Education, music, physical education, and teaching.

Thirty-six states, as well as Guam, Washington, D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, adopted the Praxis II tests.


The length of the multiple-choice Praxis II exams varied by subject. The shortest test was the Assessment of Signed Communication – American Sign Language), which took only 20 minutes to complete. Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects took the longest to complete, at just over four hours. The average length of each exam was about two hours.

Each state set its passing score, which created a wide variance. The Chemistry: Content Knowledge Exam had a passing score of 139 out of 200 in Alaska and Idaho. Vermont boasted the highest passing grade of 160 on the same exam. Candidates who failed had to wait a minimum of 21 days before retesting. Many states allowed teachers to retake an exam innumerable times. There were study guides, and practice tests offered to help candidates prepare for the tests.

Praxis Subject Assessment

The above term replaced the Praxis II in 2016. The similarity lies in the premise that the new test measures knowledge of specific subjects from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Many states require these tests as part of their teacher licensure and certification.

Over 90 different tests cover a gambit of subjects from Agriculture to World Languages. The required tests and passing scores vary by state. The ETS site provides a drop-down menu to check on your state’s test procedures.

New York, for example, requires teacher candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved educator program, and meet their experience threshold. Teachers who want professional certification in language disorders must take the Praxis test for Speech-Pathology Language. ETS offers an interactive practice test on this subject.

Another example of more expansive requirements is in Indiana. To teach there, you must have:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Complete an approved educator program
  • Pass the state’s CORE Assessments for licensure
  • Complete CPR-Heimlich Maneuver training and earn certification from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association
  • Obtain professional training in suicide from the state

The Praxis Subject Assessment tests have Study Companions, Guides, and Practice Tests. The ETS site has a list of all subjects and their corresponding four-digit number. Algebra I (#5162), for example, has a PDF study companion and a study plan in Word format. They also offer a 90-day subscription for the interactive test. A second source is Teachers Test Prep that offers many practice tests free.

Which Test to Take?

Teachers must check with the Department of Education in the state they plan to work. No point in spending the time taking tests not required or taking the wrong test. Elementary school teachers will need to take a different test, in most cases, then the Secondary school teacher. The subject you teach will also have a bearing on which Assessment test you may need.

Additional Resources:

What is the Praxis I/PPST exam? 

What is the difference between Praxis I and Praxis II?

Are there any preparation courses for the Praxis tests? 

Do Charter schools have different requirements for their teachers?