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. Praxis Core is an admissions requirement for New Hampshire educator preparation programs (and in turn for UVEI admissions), while one or more subject-specific Praxis exams are required to actually get a teaching license (and to complete the UVEI program). 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? Whether you’re thinking about becoming a licensed teacher, or already enrolled in UVEI, 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. If you are planning to become a teacher, it is never too early to plan for this test.
What are the Subject Specific Praxis Exams?
Every state, or at least a large majority of states, requires standardized tests for each teaching endorsement. Some states have designed their own tests, but many (including New Hampshire and Vermont, where most of our candidates reside) use the Praxis. Are you planning to get certified in Life Sciences (7-12)? There’s a biology Praxis for that! Want to become an elementary teacher? There is a 4-part Praxis (reading, math, social studies, science) for that! These subject-specific Praxis exams include specialized content knowledge and understanding/application of that content to teaching. You must pass the required subject specific Praxis exam(s) for your endorsement area(s), and if you are a UVEI candidate the Praxis exams are also a requirement of program completion.
Why Must I Take These Exams?
Yes, we understand that many people have painful memories of studying for standardized tests, like the SAT, GRE, bar exam, etc. but the Praxis exams are state requirements. Why, you might ask? The theory is that the tests are indications of whether or not a potential teacher has the content knowledge and skills required to educate young people. Thinking of the tests as a whole, this means that they can read complex text, write clearly, think creatively, tackle challenging problems, have basic mathematics literacy; as well as demonstrate specialized knowledge in their content area. Tests are only one measure of these qualities, and arguably not the best measure, but they are available and widely used and provide data that states, preparation programs, and teaching candidates can use for improvement. As a New Hampshire approved program, we align our Praxis requirements with those of NH, but we also assist candidates in determining the best course of action should they wish to ultimately get licensed in a different state.
How Do I Sign Up?
The ETS Praxis website will let you search for a test and view available dates and test centers. You might need to travel a ways to find the closest test center, however, most exams are also offered through Praxis at home – you’ll just want to review the requirements and rules carefully before signing up for this option AND again before your test date.
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 your tests early to give yourself plenty of time to retake them if necessary. For multi-part exams such as the Praxis Core and the Elementary Subject-Specific Praxis, you only need to retake the part(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. For the Praxis Core, the state of NH recognizes that there are other equally valid measures of basic skills. 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. Furthermore, if you have passed comparable educator exams in another state, these scores might be able to substitute for the Praxis Core or the subject specific Praxis exams. If you plan to apply to UVEI, it’s the state of NH, not UVEI, that will make these determinations. But if you start the process early, it has the potential to save you both effort and money. Our registrar can provide you with information to get you started, and we are always happy to guide you through the process.
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).
For multi-part exams, 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 is by helping future applicants, applicants, and candidates 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.
This guide has been revised from its original version, published on our website as “Worried About the Praxis? Here’s Help.” in September 2019.