Worrying About Praxis? Here's Help

Becoming a teacher isn’t as simple as passing a test (and we’re glad it’s not!), but there is one test you simply have to pass: the Praxis Core. People ask us a lot of questions about this infamous standardized test: What is it? Why do I have to take it? What do I do if I don’t pass? Although nothing but studying can help you pass the test, there are a few basics that are good to understand.

What is the Praxis Core?

The Praxis Core (formerly known as simply “ Praxis I”) is a basic skills test all aspiring teachers in New Hampshire and most other states in the U.S., including the territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa (fun fact!), must pass in order to earn certification. There are three components: Reading, writing and math. You must pass all three in order to be fully admitted to UVEI’s teacher certification program.

Why Must I Take This Exam?

Yes, we understand that many people have painful memories of studying for standardized tests, like the SAT, GRE, bar exam, etc. but it's a state certification and admissions requirement. Why, you might ask? Well, that's a tough question to answer. The theory is that the test is an indication of whether or not a potential teacher has the basic content knowledge to educate young people, and the skills needed to enter a teacher training program. This makes some sense if you believe and understand that all teachers should be able to read and write well themselves, let alone be good teachers of literacy for all students, no matter what the grade level or subject matter. But this logic starts to get a little shaky when you take a closer look at the requirements for teacher candidates in specialized subjects. Is it really important for an aspiring art teacher be able to simplify algebraic expressions? That’s a debatable thesis.

But what’s not debatable is that teachers need to be able to read complex text, write clearly, think creatively, tackle challenging problems, a have basic mathematics literacy. The Praxis Core is, arguably, one measure of these things.

Can I Avoid Taking This Test?

Actually, yes, it may be possible. The Praxis Core is not the only measure of these basic skills, and the state of NH recognizes this. If you have taken another standardized test (including but not limited to the SAT, ACT, and GRE), and have scored in the top 50th percentile on that test, then these scores can replace all or part of the Praxis Core. Although the waiver process is between you and the state, we are pretty familiar with it and we encourage our applicants to look into whether or not they may qualify.  We can provide the paperwork to get you started, and are always happy to guide you through the process.

I Have A Learning Disability. What Should I Do?

Many people with learning disabilities pass the Praxis exams without accommodations, and it may be worth at least one try, because although accommodations are available, it’s a lengthy process. First, you must have a recently diagnosed disability. Next, you must apply to ETS for the accommodation (extra time is a helpful one), and wait for the approval before signing up for the test. If your disability (dyslexia, for example) interferes with your performance on standardized tests, you should definitely seek accommodations.

What If I Don’t Pass?

Not passing at least one component of the test is more common than you think. That’s why it’s important to schedule this test early to give yourself plenty of time to retake it if necessary. The nice thing is that if you pass some of the portions of the test, you only need to retake the one(s) you did not pass..

Studying is Giving Me Hives

It’s natural to feel anxiety, especially given the high stakes of this test. One way to help ease anxiety is to sign up well in advance of the start of the UVEI orientation so that if you do not pass a section, you’ll have plenty of time to retake it.

Some people opt to take at least one of the components separately. For example, if you know you want to be fresh and have plenty of mental energy to complete the writing portion, but you’re not worried about the math and the reading, you may sign up to take the writing portion on another day. Many previous teaching interns have reported that this strategy helped ease anxiety and allowed for more focused studying.  

What If You Haven’t Answered My Particular Question?

Luckily the ETS folks have answered quite a few more Frequently Asked Questions.

Furthermore, we are always learning ourselves, and one of the ways we learn about the Praxis Core is by helping applicants like you navigate the process. Please contact us with any additional questions and we’ll do our best to help you find the answers and resources you need.

 

Commentary by Kristen Downey and Marie McCormick

Kristen Downey is UVEI’s Associate Director for Teacher Education.  Her other blogs can be found at:
http://uvei.edu/blog/324-why-we-forget-and-why-it-matters-to-teachers
http://uvei.edu/blog/333-get-that-job
http://uvei.edu/blog/345-inspired-teaching-5-reasons-we-belong-in-the-classroom
http://uvei.edu/blog/346-quit-your-job-start-a-teaching-career-without-fear

You can follow Kristen on Twitter @UVEIconnect

Marie McCormick is UVEI’s Registrar and Librarian.  Her other blogs can be found at:
http://uvei.edu/blog/321-trending-competency-based-education
http://uvei.edu/blog/340-admission-season