Teacher is the one occupation that contributes to building every other profession. Without good teachers, how would anyone learn the material and the skills they need for success in any area?
If you’re considering a career as a teacher, there’s a good chance that you – like your future students – will have standardized testing in your future. For years, the Praxis exams have been the best-known teacher certification exams in the United States. The Praxis tests have evolved and changed names in recent years, with the Praxis Core exam now fulfilling the role of the Praxis I and the Praxis Subject Assessments taking the place of the Praxis II test. Despite the changes, the Praxis exam series as a whole remains the most widely used teacher certification test in America.
What to Know About Praxis 1 Tests and Praxis Core Tests
The Praxis 1 test was also known as the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST). Although the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators, usually shortened to simply Praxis Core test, replaced the Praxis 1 in 2013, the tests are not as different as you might expect. Both the previous Praxis 1 test and the newer Praxis Core test measure teaching skills in the areas of math, reading and writing. Probably the biggest difference between the Praxis 1 tests and the Praxis Core Tests that replaced them is the more extensive essay portion found on the new exam, which requires test-takers to write two essays instead of one.
The former Praxis 1 and now Praxis Core tests are required for admission into a teaching degree program at some colleges, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers these and other standardized tests. This requirement is not always specific to individual institutions and may instead be mandated by state law. More than 40 states use Praxis exams in teacher licensure and certification processes, ETS reported.
How hard is the Praxis Core exam? Although the degree of test difficulty is, at least to some degree, in the eye of the beholder, this test doesn’t require you to have advanced knowledge of teaching theories and strategies or specialized subject matter. Instead, it measures your core academic abilities in each of the content areas of mathematics, reading and writing.
The Praxis Core exam is considered easier than graduate-level tests like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), as well as the Praxis II and Praxis Subject Assessment Tests. The math and reading components of the Praxis Core exam are generally considered easier than those of the SAT test used to assess aptitude for college-level study and admissions.
Understanding the Praxis II and Praxis Subject Assessment Exams
If the Praxis I and Praxis Core tests evaluate teaching candidate’s core knowledge of essential academic areas, the Praxis II and Praxis Subject Assessment tests instead look at content knowledge. The Praxis II exam series included more than 100 tests in different content areas, from physical education pedagogy to Braille proficiency, driver education and world languages. Many of these exams were broken down by grade level, such as elementary education and middle school education, or by subject area, like mathematics and English language arts. Likewise, the new Praxis Subject Assessment tests encompass upwards of 100 content areas, many of them equivalent to the subjects formerly tested by the Praxis II.
Students would often begin taking the Praxis II and Praxis Subject Assessment tests near the completion of their college studies. Even if passing this test is not a graduation requirement for you, doing so is a licensing requirement in many states. The Praxis Subject Assessment Exams are considered to be more challenging, and it’s not uncommon for students to need to take one or more of these exams twice. In 2019, Education Week reported that the percentage of test-takers who pass the Praxis elementary education content test on their first attempt is lower than that of lawyers, doctors and nuclear engineers on their respective licensing exams. If you’re preparing to take the Praxis Subject Assessment tests, don’t underestimate the importance of setting an effective study plan for yourself and following through with that plan.
All in all, only 46 percent of first-time test-takers passed the Praxis elementary education content exam, Education Week reported. The much lower pass rates that were found among teaching candidates of color highlight inequities in education systems and hinder efforts to diversify the profession, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Praxis vs Praxis II Tests
Comparing the Praxis I and Praxis II tests – or more accurately, now, the Praxis Core and Praxis Subject Assessment Tests – requires you to look at the purpose and content of these exams. The Praxis Core test more generally assesses your capability for the teaching profession in the context of your core academic knowledge, rather than knowledge of specific topics and content areas. The Praxis Core exam is typically taken earlier than Praxis Subject Assessment exams, as part of the process of getting admitted to a degree program in education, although the ETS reported that this isn’t always the case.
What Is on the Praxis 1 and Praxis Core Tests?
The Praxis Core exam consists of three sections, which can be taken separately in two-hour blocks or in a single five-hour day of testing. As of 2021, the full Praxis Core test consists of 56 questions in the Reading section, 56 questions in the Mathematics section and 40 selected-response questions and two essays in the Writing section.
The Reading section of the Praxis Core exam, test code 5713, consists of questions in the categories of key ideas and details, integration of knowledge and ideas and reading craft, structure and language skills. On the Mathematics section, test code 5733, the number and quantity category contains slightly more questions than the algebra and geometry category and the category of data interpretation and representation, statistics and probability.
The Writing section, test code 5723, is divided into the larger section of text types, purposes and production and the smaller section of language and research skills for writing. The language and research skills for writing category includes more selected-response questions, because the two essays and the remaining 6-12 selected-response questions are part of the text types, purposes and production category.
What Is on the Praxis 2 and Praxis Subject Assessment Tests?
The Praxis Subject Assessment tests that have replaced the Praxis 2 exams encompass the grade-level-specific Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) tests and the actual subject-specific Subject Assessments. Selected-response and constructed-response question types appear on these exams. Naturally, the content that is covered on Praxis Subject Assessment exams is specific to each exam.
Let’s look at examples of both Principles of Learning and Teaching tests and Subject Assessment tests.
Praxis 5624, the Principles of Learning and Teaching test for grades 7-12, is a two-hour exam that consists of 70 selected-response questions and 4 constructed-response questions based on case histories presented to the test-taker. Questions pertain to the content areas of students as learners, the instructional process, assessment and professional development. The largest section of the exam consists of questions on the analysis of instructional scenarios, which includes constructed-response questions in each of the previous four content categories.
This test measures a new teacher’s foundational knowledge of learning and instructional processes, diverse learners and their unique needs, human development, educational psychology and issues in the teaching profession. The questions on this exam and the knowledge test-takers are expected to have are different from those found on the Principles of Learning and Teaching exams for other grade levels, which include early childhood, kindergarten through sixth grade, fifth- through ninth grade and kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Praxis 5039, the English Language Arts: Content and Analysis exam, is an example of a Praxis Subject Assessment exam that emphasizes specialized subject matter knowledge over grade-level-specific teaching principles. This three-hour exam consists of 130 selected-response questions and two constructed-response questions. The content categories on reading and on writing, speaking and listening make up the largest portions of the test, each including one constructed-response (essay) question and 48 and 49 selected-response questions, respectively. A third category that focuses on language use and vocabulary consists of 33 selected-response questions and accounts for 19 percent of the exam.
It’s always a good idea to study diligently for professional certification and licensing exams. However, studying is generally more important for the Praxis Subject Assessment tests, which evaluate your skills and knowledge specific to the content area, than for the Praxis Core test, which assesses core math, reading and writing skills you should have learned in middle school and high school.
How Much Does It Cost to Take the Praxis Exams?
Aspiring teachers spend hundreds of dollars on Praxis exam fees, not counting their test preparation materials and the time they spend studying. That’s a lot of money for broke college kids to spend, even if the investment in these teaching exams will pay off eventually.
First, many prospective students of an education degree program have to take the three-part Praxis Core exam. Individually, each of these three exams costs $90, as of 2021. If you take all three exams on one day, you can save some money by taking advantage of a combined exam fee of $150, but you also have to study for each test simultaneously and commit to a long day of testing across all three subjects. As such, you may not perform as well on the exam as you would have done otherwise.
Praxis Subject Assessment fees are generally charged per test, and teachers are often expected to take multiple exams. The Principles of Learning and Teaching exam is a typical basic requirement for grade-level certification, and teachers may have to take one (or more) content area exam, as well.
For example, elementary school teachers in Connecticut have to pass the Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects bundle of exams. This sequence of tests includes the Reading and Language Arts Subtest (5002), the Mathematics Subtest (5003), the Social Studies Subtest (5004) and the Science Subtest (5005). The fee for each of these four tests is $64, which adds up to $256, although test-takers could register to complete the four-test Multiple Subjects exam (5001) in one day for a lower fee of $180. In New Jersey, high school science teachers are routinely required to complete both the General Science: Content Knowledge (5435) exam and a Subject Assessment course in the discipline(s) of science they are teaching, such as chemistry, biology, physics or Earth and space sciences. The fees for these exams, as of 2021, are $130 apiece.
In addition to the test fees themselves, you may run into fees if you want to register by phone, change your test date or location or receive additional score reports. A separate surcharge applies per Praxis Subject Assessment test in the state of Nevada.
Beyond the Praxis Tests
The Praxis exam series, which includes both the Praxis Core and the Praxis Subject Assessment exams, is the most widely used teaching certification exam series, but teaching licensure requirements aren’t universal. Instead, they vary from state to state. Some states impose numerous Praxis exam requirements on aspiring teachers, while others don’t use the Praxis at all. States may also require teachers to seek licensure through a different, often state-specific standardized test, either in addition to or instead of the Praxis exams. In Massachusetts, for example, aspiring teachers must take the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) state-specific exam except in certain circumstances, while teachers in Arizona are expected to pass the Constitutions of the United States and Arizona exam.
Since the standardized test requirements for teachers are distinct from one state to another, it’s essential that you find out what your state will expect from you. The ETS website lists certification exam requirements by state so prospective students can easily review the state licensing requirements that apply to them. If you are going to school in a state that isn’t where you intend to work after graduation, be aware that you may face different requirements upon relocating.
There are standard admission tests for dental, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, veterinary, armed services, and health professions schools. Teaching joins the ranks of having a test administered to all who want to enter the profession.