Beginner’s Guide to the Praxis: Online Test Prep for Education Students

Whether you want to teach kindergartners or high school AP students, taking and passing the Praxis is a must. From breaking down each section of the exam to creating a study plan and interpreting your score, this guide walks future teachers through the basics of the test prep process with valuable resources and expert advice.

Meet the Expert
Mary Stephens
Mary Stephens

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Mary Stephens is the founder of PrepForward, a leading provider of self-paced, online courses for K-12 teacher licensure preparation. PrepForward has helped thousands of teachers pass their certification exams and partners with institutions including MA Department of Education, Teach for America, universities, and school districts. Mary has BS and MEng degrees from MIT and has taught all levels from K-12 to higher education.  

You’ve always dreamed of becoming a teacher, and you’ve passed all your college courses. Now there’s just one obstacle left on your road to licensure: the Praxis. The Praxis Exam is a collection of tests that prospective teachers are required to take and pass in the majority of U.S. states. Although the exam is a common source of stress and anxiety for many, your coursework and experiences have prepared you for this moment, and now it’s up to you.

Whether intense studying has never been your strong suit, or you just need a little extra advice to dial in your process, this guide helps soon-to-be teachers prepare for and pass the Praxis exam. From understanding the basics to creating a study schedule and interpreting your score, keep reading for expert insight, tips, and resources.  

The Praxis Breakdown

The Praxis exam consists of multiple sections. There’s the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educator section (also known as “Core”), which is made up various tests that check an individual’s skills in three primary academic areas: reading, mathematics, and writing. Depending on the state and teaching program, prospective teachers will take the Praxis Core section while they are in college and before entry into the teaching program. Here’s what you can expect in each of the three sections.

Reading Section

Number of Questions: 56

Testing Time: 85 minutes

Description & Details: There are currently two versions of the Praxis Core Reading test, versions 5712 and 5713. Test 5713 is the newer version, but the content of both versions is identical. The Praxis Core Reading test requires test takers to read passages and statements, then answer questions based on what they’ve just read. Between 17 and 22 questions, or 35% of the test, will cover Key Ideas and Details. Between 14 and 19 questions, or 30% of the test, will cover Craft, Structure, and Language Skills. The final section will have between 17 and 22 questions, making up about 35% of the test, and covers Integration of Knowledge and Ideas.

Mathematics Section

Number of Questions:  56

Testing Time: 90 minutes

Description & Details: Until September 2019, the Praxis Core Mathematics test consisted of mathematics test version 5732. This test has four parts. The first and second parts are Number, Quantity, and Algebra Functions. Both parts consist of about 17 questions and make up about 60% of the test. The third and fourth parts are Geometry, Statistics, and Probability. Each of these parts have approximately 11 questions and comprise the remaining 40% of the test.

Starting in September 2019, a new Praxis Core Mathematics test was released by ETS. This is version 5733. This new test will place greater emphasis on probability and statistics as well as data interpretation. From September 2019 to August 2020, both test versions 5732 and 5733 will be available, although states may have their own requirements regarding which test prospective teachers should take.

Writing Section

Number of Questions: 40 questions and two essays

Testing Time: 40 minutes for the 40 questions and 60 minutes for the two essays

Description & Details:  Until August 2020, there are two versions of the Praxis Core Writing tests, versions 5722 and 5723. Test 5723 is the newer version, but the content of both versions is identical. The format of the Praxis Core Writing test is different from the mathematics and reading sections, as there is an essay section. About 60% of the test will cover the subject of Text Types, Purposes, and Production and will consist of two essays and 6 to 12 questions.  The remaining 40% of the test will cover Language and Research Skills for Writing, at between 28 and 34 questions.

Understanding Scoring

Selected-response Tests

Most Praxis tests will be in this format. Selected-response tests are what you’re probably most familiar with, where your answer results in a point, with a computer calculating your score. The more questions you answer correctly, the greater your raw score. This raw score is then converted to a scaled score that takes into account the relative difficulty of that particular test. This makes it possible to compare scores from a single test that was taken at different times or with different versions.

Constructed-response Tests

Constructed-response Praxis tests require humans to help score the answers. Depending on the specific test, two or more individuals will read a given answer and assign it a score.There are two types of constructed-response tests.

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The first type uses two people to score an answer. Both scorers will factor into the final score as long as both scorers agree with each other within certain limits. If the two scorers disagree by a pre-determined amount, a third scorer gets called in to break the tie, so to speak.

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The second type also uses multiple scorers, but they work independently to create a score for a particular answer.

Depending on the test, each scorer’s rating are simply added together to create a raw score. In other tests, the rating from each scorer gets multiplied by a particular number before creating a raw score.

Combination Scores

As the name implies, this scoring method uses both the select-response and constructed-response scoring methods. As with the other tests, a raw score is created, which is then converted into a scaled score.

Putting Your Praxis Score into Perspective

Your scores will arrive in a report, and this report will provide a host of information, including:

  • Your score  
  • If you passed
  • The range of possible scores
  • The range of scores that constitute the middle 50% of test takers (also known as your “Average Performance Range”)
  • Your raw score for each content category of questions

This last piece of information is very helpful if you have taken a particular test multiple times or if you plan on retaking a test. You can get a more accurate picture of what sections you are doing well in and what subject areas might need additional work.

One thing to keep in mind is that your score will be a scaled score. This is different from your raw score in that it takes into account how “easy” or “hard” the particular test you took was in a given year. Scaled scores exist to allow the comparison of scores across different time periods but scaling only works when comparing scores from different editions of the same test.

Because many Praxis tests take place on a computer, it’s possible for some to get a score before they leave the test center. However, this is an unofficial score. The official score does not arrive until a few weeks after taking the test.

Finally, each state will have its own criteria as to what constitutes a passing score. Therefore, the scoring report indicating if you passed the test is based on which state you’ve chosen to report your scores to.

5 Steps to Preparing for the Praxis

Now that you have a solid understanding of the Praxis tests and what they consist of, it’s time to begin the process of preparing for it. For the vast majority of prospective teachers, this will be a long-term process that consists of several steps and a bit of research. To help you through this process, we’ve outlined five steps you will need to complete.

Step 1: Register & Pay Test Fees

Registering for Praxis

You can register for the Praxis test using three methods: online, telephone, or mail. When registering online, you’ll need a debit card, credit card, or a PayPal account. After registering, you will need to print out an admission ticket, which you should take to the test center just in case a test center official asks you for it.

If registering by mail, you will need to print out and complete the Test Authorization Voucher Request Form and mail it to ETS. After your application is processed, you will get a voucher number and be able to print out your admission ticket.

Registration by telephone is only allowed if you already have an online Praxis account and are planning on taking your test at a U.S. testing center. You will call 1-800-772-9476 and pay an additional $35 surcharge to register by telephone. You must complete your telephone registration at least four days before your chosen test date.

Paying for Praxis

The cost of taking a complete Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators assessment, which combines the mathematics, writing, and reading tests, is $150. If you want to take each test separately, it will cost $90 per test.

The costs for the Praxis Subject Assessments vary, and range from $50 to $199, although most of these subject tests cost between $120 and $160. There are also additional surcharges for certain test takers:

  • $5 fee for taking the Praxis test at a Nevada test center
  • $50 for an additional score report
  • $40 to change a test center or test date
  • $35 to register by telephone
  • $65 for a score review

Step 2: Apply for Disability Accommodations

If you need disability accommodations when taking the Praxis test, you must make arrangements before registering. You will need to make arrangements with ETS Disability Services by making a formal request. Potential accommodations include using an alternative testing format, use of special equipment during the test, extra breaks, and having snacks or beverages with you while you take the exam.

Future Praxis test takers may request accommodations by telephone, mail, courier services, email, or online. Each method will require you to provide information that both details the nature of your disability and the accommodations you seek. You will also need to certify a history of receiving accommodations in the past, whether at school or in the workplace. When necessary, additional documentation substantiating the need for an accommodation may be required.

When requesting an accommodation, do so as early as possible. It can take up to six weeks for ETS Disability Services to review your request and make a decision. Once a decision is made, they will send an email outlining the Praxis test registration process.

Step 3: Determine Which Test You Need to Take

There are literally dozens of different Praxis tests to choose from, so it’s not surprising if there’s a little confusion on what you need to take. There are three major factors to help you decide.

  • Where you plan to teach: This is the most important variable, so whatever the education authority of your future state requires for licensure or certification will determine what you take.
  • Your academic setting: For instance, do you want to teach kindergarten or juniors in high school? There’s also question of what subject you want to teach.
  • What your particular program requires: To make your education and certification process as efficient as possible, you will want to attend a school or program that has Praxis requirements that parallels what the relevant state education authority requires.

The sooner you figure out which test you must take, the sooner you can begin practicing and becoming familiar with the subject matter and test format.

Step 4: Gather Your Study Materials

When it comes to choosing study materials, you will want tools that have two important characteristics. The first is that they will contain genuine Praxis questions. Part of practicing is not just learning the material, but becoming familiar with everything about the test, including how questions are worded, instructions for each section, and the difficulty of each question. The more exposure you have to actual Praxis questions, the more comfortable you will be on test day and the more effective studying will be.

The second characteristic is that the study materials will not only help you anticipate what your real score will be when you actually take the Praxis test, but allow you to assess what your strengths and weaknesses are. This will make your study time more efficient and allow you to create an effective study plan.

As long as your study materials have both of the above characteristics, you’ll want to find a presentation method that fits into your style of study. However, a combination of both study guides and practice tests should be very effective and time efficient.

Step 5: Create Your Study Plan

A good study plan will help you identify your weakest areas so you can focus on improving them. It will also help you create accountability by providing you with a schedule and specific benchmarks to track your progress.

The first part of your study plan should aim to familiarize you with the specific test you’re taking. Depending on your learning style and available study time, this could include a practice run through the entire test, part of the test, or reading a study guide.

Next, you’ll want to figure out where you need to focus your study. You can accomplish this multiple ways, including taking a practice test or answering some diagnostic questions. This prevents wasting time on studying content questions you understand well and not spending enough time on questions you consistently struggle with.

Finally, you’ll want to create a schedule and list of goals. Both of these should be realistic. This will give you the opportunity to push yourself and achieve what you’re capable of by getting as much practice as possible, but can help to prevent burnout and discouragement.

10 Top Study Tips for the Praxis

Now it’s time to get down to study prep. These strategies, resources, and tips can help you get down to business. Let’s get started.

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Eisenhower Box: When there is not enough time to get everything done, the Eisenhower Box serves as a system for prioritizing specific tasks. By organizing tasks into four boxes (urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important) you can more easily get the important things done quickly while scheduling future time for other crucial tasks.

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ETS Praxis Webinars: ETS offers online seminars, broadcast live, which explain to prospective test takers how to most effectively study for the tests. There are two types of webinars, with one discussing overall test strategies, including resources available and the other focusing more on the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators assessments.

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Khan Academy Official Praxis Core Prep: This free resource allows users to improve their Praxis scores by using a multi-pronged approach. Specifically, this plan helps identify areas of weakness, develop a customized study plan, and practice with genuine Praxis questions.

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Pomodoro Technique: The Pomodoro technique makes use of the idea that it’s easier to work more efficiently by taking frequent breaks. Specifically, users study or work for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break. Then after four 25-minute study or work sessions, there is a 15 to 30-minute break.

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Praxis Study Companions: These are free study guides distributed by the ETS. They are detailed and comprehensive, with information about the test format, test-taking strategies, sample questions, and how to develop your own study plan. ETS has a Study Companion for each most of the Praxis tests they offer.

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Quizlet: This is one of the most well-known study resources, especially for its flashcards on numerous academic subjects and tests, including the Praxis tests.

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Practice self-care: This might sound obvious, but getting enough sleep, managing stress, and staying healthy can drastically improve your Praxis test scores. Not only will you be less distracted by not feeling well, but it allows you to study more effectively and perform your best on test day.

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Take Interactive Practice Tests: One of the best ways to get better at taking the Praxis is to practice the process. Interactive Practice Tests serve as opportunities to figure out what sections you excel at and where you might need extra help.

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Timeboxing: This popular time management technique works by drawing boxes on a day planner or calendar to designate specific blocks of time to complete a certain task, like studying for the Praxis.

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Udemy: This online learning company offers various Praxis learning and study tools and resources.

Expert Q&A

Mary Stephens

Mary Stephens is the founder of PrepForward, a leading provider of self-paced, online courses for K-12 teacher licensure preparation. PrepForward has helped thousands of teachers pass their certification exams and partners with institutions including MA Department of Education, Teach for America, universities, and school districts. Mary has BS and MEng degrees from MIT and has taught all levels from K-12 to higher education.  

Q. There are several different sections on the Praxis. Which ones do test-takers seem to struggle with the most? Why do you think that is?

A: The Praxis Core consists of reading, writing, and mathematics tests.  NCTQ reported last year that about ¾ of the undergraduate teaching programs in the US do not cover the amount of mathematical knowledge required for elementary teachers, so it’s no surprise that prospective teachers struggle on the Praxis math test.

One thing to note is that the passing score for the math section is lower than the other sections. For example, the passing score in most states for the Praxis core math section is 150 while the writing test has a passing score of 162.

Q. What are some must-have study materials to help someone prepare for their Praxis? Any must-do study tips?

A: Know the test: ETS has a free study companion for each Praxis test, which includes test objectives and sample questions. This should be the starting point for all teacher candidates to assess their knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses. Being fully informed will also ease emotional distress. Know the standards and objectives. Understand the types of questions and test features. Make use of all of the information that is provided.

Make a study plan: Consider your level of preparedness. Are you ready to take the test? Can you get ready with resources you have available? Do you need additional instruction through a prep course or a content course? Spread your studying out over time, as cramming is not wise.

Direct your preparation: Figure out way to fill in knowledge gaps and determine what test prep resources you will use. It could involve books, in-person workshops, or online classes. For example, PrepForward offers self-paced, online courses with expert instructor support for comprehensive preparation for your reading, writing, and math exams.

Assess your anxiety level: A measure of anxiety is to be expected and may even provide a boost while you’re testing and preparing. Don’t underestimate the gravity of the task ahead of you, but don’t let too much anxiety paralyze you. As you prepare, take time to think through the root cause of your anxiety. Do you lack confidence in your critical knowledge of the test objectives? Does the multiple-choice or the open response seem more foreboding? Identify your stressors, and set about to resolve them.

Develop mental stamina: Teacher licensing exams require that you sustain mental focus on one task while sitting in one chair staring at one screen for up to five hours. When did you last sit for five hours, much less sit and focus on one demanding task?

Q. What’s the biggest mistake test-takers make when studying or taking the Praxis?

A: The biggest mistake test-takers make is not managing their time during the exam. Be time sensitive. Before your test, figure out how long you should be spending on each problem. Then, stick to it. During your preparations, check to see how well you are sticking to that timing.

Work on developing an inner awareness of the passage of time so that you can avoid frequently checking the clock to make sure you’re on track. However, you should have a few checkpoints for yourself.  For example, on the math section, you will have 90 minutes. Know what problem you should be on at 30 minutes and 60 minutes.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add about the test?

A: You need to stay sharp for the entire testing window and the best way to accomplish this is to be well rested. Give your brain a break and get a good night’s rest.