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How to Pass the Pennsylvania Core Assessment Exam

Instructor: Chelsey Wilt
This article is a guide to understanding the makeup of the Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment and the official resources available to candidates. Get practical tips for utilizing study materials, including example test questions and discussion questions, and find out how to build a study routine to pass the exam.

Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment Overview

To become a Pennsylvania educator in the middle grades 4-8, passing the Pennsylvania core assessment is one of the requirements. The Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment (5152) exam actually consists of three subtests:

  • Pedagogy (5153)
  • English Language Arts and Social Studies (5154)
  • Mathematics and Science (5155)

There are a total of 240 questions. Each subtest contains 80 questions and thus comprises an equal third of the examination.

The Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment is a Praxis exam, created and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). In many states, Praxis exams are often taken as part of a teacher certification program. For Praxis exams, an official study guide is available for free on the ETS website:

Determine Your Strategy

The tests can be taken all together at once or separately. It's a candidate's personal choice, and they should take into account factors like how much time one can dedicate to studying and their study habits. Individuals who take the tests on different dates may be able to organize their study strategy over a longer period of time and focus extensively on certain categories of information.

If one takes the complete test at once, they'll need to remember all the topics that can be included among the test questions. Individuals who are confident or eager to start teaching may opt to take the three subtests on the same day.

In all cases, this is an incredibly comprehensive exam and all examinees must dedicate adequate time to preparation and studying. It's important to consider all of the content included on the exam and to develop and study routine. Consider the materials and information below when creating an individualized study plan.

Utilize The Praxis Study Companion

The first place to go to prepare for the exam is the ETS website. Search for the exam name and download the PDF file, The Praxis Study Companion Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment (5152). Print it out and review it meticulously. It contains all the information examinees need to understand the exam's format and formulate a study plan. This document includes:

  • A test breakdown including the time, number of questions, and question format
  • A comprehensive list of content topics that may be included on the exam
  • Discussion questions regarding each content topic
  • A guide to understanding question types (selected-response, numeric-entry, and constructed response)
  • Sample test questions, which may include passages, graphs, or charts
  • An answer key to the sample test questions and explanations for the correct answers
  • A study plan worksheet that you can customize
  • Test-taking tips
  • Information about scoring

The following sections provide a breakdown of the content categories about the three subtests.


Content Categories Questions Percentage of Exam
Curriculum and Instruction 21-24 30%
Adolescents as Learners 18-20 25%
Professionalism 17-20 25%
Assessment 14-16 20%

English Language Arts and Social Studies

Content Categories Questions Percentage of Exam
English Language Arts 40 50%
Social Studies 40 50%

Mathematics and Science

Content Categories Questions Percentage of Exam
Mathematics 40 50%
Science 40 50%

Gather Study Materials

After carefully poring over The Praxis Study Companion, it's time to collect all the resources you'll use to review these. These can include:

  • Textbooks
  • Notes from academic coursework
  • Books from libraries
  • test prep materials Materials offers a complete test preparation course for two of the subtests on the Pennsylvania Core Assessment. Each of these courses contains over 50 chapters!

The Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment - English Language Arts & Social Studies (5154): Study Guide & Test Prep includes chapters focused on topics such as:

  • Interpreting informational texts, literature, and poetry
  • Literary genres
  • Grammar
  • Writing organization
  • Writing style
  • Literacy development
  • The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII
  • The Constitution
  • Early civilizations and classical civilizations
  • History of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. government
  • Economics
  • Physical, human, and political geography

Some of the main subjects included in the Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment - Mathematics & Science (5155): Study Guide & Test Prep are as follows:

  • Exponents
  • Ratios
  • Linear and nonlinear equations
  • Function graphs
  • Geometry
  • Matter and energy
  • The Periodic Table of Elements
  • Chemical bonding
  • Mechanics
  • Light and sound
  • Biochemistry
  • Ecology
  • The universe

Study Tips

  • Regularly consult the The Praxis Study Companion Pennsylvania Grades 4-8 Core Assessment (5152).
  • Respond to the official sample test questions and examine the answer explanations.
  • Determine your strengths and weaknesses regarding the content topics.
  • Respond to the discussion questions included for each content topic.
  • Seek out additional resources for areas of difficulty.
  • Complete the study plan worksheet and delegate blocks of time for each area of content.
  • Practice explaining the key concepts aloud using your own words.
  • Join a study group and exchange views on the discussion questions.
  • Study at the time of day you feel most concentrated.

Test Day

  • Bring your ID.
  • Know what items you cannot bring with you into the testing site.
  • Make sure to answer every question.
  • Read the questions, then read all of the answer options before choosing a response.
  • First complete all the questions you're confident about, then re-evaluate difficult questions and make your best educated guess.
  • Write on scratch paper to organize your ideas.
  • For constructed-response questions, identify exactly what the question is asking and answer all components.
  • Use specific examples and reasoning in construction-response items.
  • Keep an eye on the time to make sure you answer all questions.
  • Check your answers if time allows.
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