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, and have basic mathematics literacy. The Praxis Core is, arguably, one measure of these things.
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.
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.
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 other comparable standardized tests (including but not limited to the SAT, ACT, and GRE), and have scored in the top 50th percentile, then these scores may be able to substitute for all or part of the Praxis Core. It’s the state, not UVEI, that will evaluate these other test scores and determine whether or not they can substitute. But if you start the process early, it has the potential to save you both effort and money. Our registrar can provide you with the paperwork to get you started, and we are always happy to guide you through the process.
General rules for substituting other tests for the Praxis Core:
NH may approve other test scores in place of Praxis Core provided that they are from a comparable standardized test (reading, writing, or math) and that the scores are in the top 50th percentile. (Note: This calculation is not always straightforward and sometimes it can take a month or longer to hear back, so try to get started well in advance of August.) If you would like to know more about how you might apply for this waiver, get in touch with Marie!
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. Resources we recommend include published study guides (available in our lending library and easy to find used on Amazon), the ETS website, and the Khan Academy (online lessons that align with the Praxis Core Mathematics exam topics).
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.
Marie McCormick is the Registrar and Operations Associate and a former math teacher. You can get in touch with her anytime.