What Are the Praxis Core Academic Skills Tests?


When it comes time to test for your teacher certification, you may find yourself facing the Praxis Core Academic Skills Tests. Want to know what they are and what they cover? You're in the right place...

Who Takes Core Tests?

The Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) Tests are designed and administered by ETS and were developed to assess the knowledge base of teacher candidates in the three basic subject areas: reading, writing, and mathematics. Many states require passage of some or all of the tests as part of their teacher certification process. You can check here to see which tests your state requires. The battery of tests is also sometimes used by colleges and universities to evaluate teacher program candidates prior to entering a teacher training program.

The Details

All three tests are computer-based and only given in English. Some tests are offered continuously throughout the year, and others are offered in select time windows at varying times of the year. You can find your nearest test location and available test dates here. You can choose to sit for the tests individually or all in one sitting. If you choose to take each test separately, your testing period will last 2 hours. If you choose to take all three in one sitting, your testing period will last 5 hours. These sessions include time to review the tutorials and to collect the necessary background information; you will not have the full session time available to take the exam.

Here's a breakdown of the current test fees (retakes are the same cost):

  • Core Reading Test: $90
  • Core Writing Test (2 parts): $90
  • Core Mathematics Test: $90
  • Core Combined Test (all 3 components at one sitting): $150

Your exams may be considered part of your teacher preparation program fees, so be sure to ask before registering and submitting payment.

Passing scores are set by each state, and you will receive both an unadjusted score (the raw number correct) and a scaled score (one adjusted to allow for varying degrees of difficulty in the different versions of the tests) when you receive your official results.

Computer-based is More Than Multiple Choice

Computer screen with charts

The days of blackening in the oval completely with your trusty yellow number two pencil are about gone. Computer-based testing has opened up a world of test question formats beyond the basic multiple choice and true/false. Today, you'll click to fill that oval, but you can also expect to find the following types of questions on the Core Tests:

  • Click on one or more ovals/boxes to answer
  • Type to enter a numeric response
  • Select and click on part of graphic (like maps or charts)
  • Click to select sentences within a reading passage
  • Drag and drop answers to the correct areas of the screen
  • Choose your answer from a drop-down menu (perhaps to complete a sentence)

These types of questions - except the type-to-enter - are referred to as selected response questions (you ''select'' an answer). The type-to-enter format is considered a constructed response question (you have to ''construct'' your answer).

The Content

The Core Tests are a battery of 3 individual assessments. Here's what you can expect to encounter during each of the exams:

Core Reading Test

Number of Questions: 56
Allotted Time: 85 minutes

An open book

The Core Reading Test questions are all selected response questions in a variety of formats. Questions are often grouped in sets and require the synthesis of multiple documents and resources to successfully answer. Here is the breakdown of the 56 questions:

Core Academic Skills (17-22 questions) assesses your understanding of main and supporting ideas, organization within the text, and vocabulary in context

Craft, Structure, and Language Skills (14-19 questions) evaluates your understanding of arguments and the role the text plays in them, differentiating between fact and opinion, and recognizing relationships within the text

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (17-22 questions) includes understanding and evaluating inferences and generalizing ideas from the text, drawing conclusions, and applying those generalizations to other situations

Core Writing Test

Part One - Number of Questions: 40
Allotted Time: 40 minutes

Part Two - Number of Questions: 2 in essay format
Allotted Time: 60 minutes (30 minutes for each)

Pen and paper

The 40 question selected response section of the Core Writing Test covers two areas:

Text types, Purposes, and Production (6-12 questions) assesses your ability to revise sentence and passages

Language and Research Skills for Writing (28-34 questions) focuses on the language concepts of grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and mechanics as well as the fundamentals of researching including strategies, choosing and evaluating sources, and citations

The essay portion consists of two essay prompts: one argumentative and one informative. They are evaluated on clarity, organization, sources and avoidance of plagiarism, focus, and proper use of standard English grammar and writing conventions.

Core Mathematics Test

Number of Questions: 56
Allotted Time: 85 minutes

Math problems on a board

The Core Mathematics Test includes both numeric entry and selected response questions. An on-screen calculator is available for your use. Here is how the test breaks down:

Number and Quantity (approximately 17 questions) includes integers and whole numbers, place value, ways to represent numbers, equivalent computations, ratios and proportions, and percents

Algebra and Functions (approximately 17 questions) covers algebra topics like equations and inequalities, problem solving strategies, word problems, and graphs; function topics include definitions and the relationship between domain and range

Geometry (approximately 11 questions) focuses on characteristics and properties of shapes, the Pythagorean theorem, transformation, and symmetry

Statistics and Probability (approximately 11 questions) evaluates your ability to analyze visually represented data; identify the relationship between data and the graph; make inferences; calculate mean, median, and mode; and determine the probability of an outcome

As with most standardized testing, there may be questions on the exam that will be unscored (questions that are being field-tested for upcoming exams). The number will vary, and you won't know which ones they are. That is the reason there are ranges given for each of the sections rather than precise numbers, as the total for each section could shift from test to test. However, the total number of questions on each exam will not change.

Scores and Reporting

When you have completed the test, you will be asked whether you would like to report or cancel your score. If choose to report your score, it will be added to your record when the official scores are posted. You also have the option of canceling your test score and it will not be recorded or sent to your designated recipients. Keep in mind, both choices are final. Once a score is reported it cannot be removed, and if it is cancelled, it cannot be added to your record at a later date. Needless to say, canceling your score report does not result in a refund of your fees. However, if you think you have done poorly and would prefer the results not be on your record, it is an option.

Screen that says What

After you make the choice to keep or cancel your results, you may be offered the opportunity to see your unofficial test score. This may not be available for all tests, and don't worry if it isn't offered to you; it doesn't mean there is a problem with your test. These unofficial scores are solely for your benefit and cannot be printed or sent.

Official scores are typically available online 10-16 business days after your test date (for tests that are offered on a continuous basis) and for tests that are given in time windows, 10-16 business days after the test window closes. At that point, your score is sent to your specified agencies or institutions (you can choose up to 4 at the time of registration for free or request them after testing for a nominal fee) and if you tested in one of the 40 states listed here, your report will automatically be sent to that state's teacher certification office.

To learn more about preparing for the exams, understanding your scores, and ordering additional reports visit the ETS website.

By Laurie Smith
October 2016
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