Which Skills Do Teacher Certification Exams Emphasize?


As a prospective teacher, you're probably well aware that certification exams are a major deciding factor when it comes to getting certified and licensed to teach in your state. Keep reading to find out which skills are emphasized on these exams.

Teacher Certification

In addition to earning a bachelor's degree and completing a teacher preparation program, you'll need to take a certification exam (or exams) before you can become certified and licensed as an educator in your specific state. In this post, we'll examine the skills that these certification exams cover so you know exactly what to prepare for. Keep in mind that testing requirements vary from state to state (i.e., certain states require certain tests).


Common Exams & Skills They Cover

Praxis Tests

The Praxis exams are required by many states and cover several different skills, and these greatly depend on which specific test(s) you'll need to take.

Praxis Core

According to the Praxis website, this test is commonly required by colleges and universities before you enter a teacher preparation program to assess your overall academic skills as a teacher candidate, although some state agencies may also require it for licensing purposes. The Praxis Core is made up of three subtests--reading, writing and mathematics--that can be taken all in one sitting or on separate occasions. The reading and mathematics tests each have 56 questions, and the writing test has 40 questions and 2 essays. The tests cover a range of skills in each of these subject areas, including analyzing and interpreting reading passages, numerical problem solving and writing different types of essays.

Praxis Subject Assessments and Content Knowledge for Teaching Tests

On the other hand, the Praxis Subject Assessments and Content Knowledge for Teaching Tests are often required by individual states (after college) as a pre-licensing/certification tool used to evaluate your knowledge and skills in the specific subjects you plan on teaching as well as your overall teaching skills. Since there are multiple academic subjects out there, there are obviously several different Praxis Subject Assessments and Content Knowledge tests as well. The grade level at which you plan to teach may play a large role in determining which test(s) you'll be required to take and which skills may be emphasized on them. The tests include but are not limited to:

  • Agriculture
  • Art
  • Algebra
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Elementary Education
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • Journalism
  • Language Arts
  • Psychology
  • Social Studies

Again, these are just a few of the many available Praxis Subject Assessments and Content Knowledge tests that you may be required to take depending on your state's certification and licensing guidelines. Always be sure to check with your state before registering for or taking any Praxis tests. You certainly don't want to take the wrong one!


National Evaluation Series (NES)

The National Evaluation Series (NES) tests are recently developed certification exams that are currently accepted in a limited number of states. Like the Praxis tests, the NES tests are available in several different subject areas and cover a wide range of skills, respectively. Again, the skills emphasized by each test greatly depend on the grade level and subject area. The NES exams are grouped into the following categories:

  • Essential Academic Skills (includes subtests in reading, writing, mathematics & technology literacy)
  • Professional Knowledge (either elementary- or secondary-level assessments)
  • Elementary Assessments (tests include early childhood education, 2 separate elementary education subtests & essential components of elementary reading)
  • Middle Grades Assessments (tests include language arts, general science, mathematics & social science)
  • Secondary Assessments (more subject-specific tests, including biology, chemistry, history & physics)
  • K-12 Assessments (more subject-specific tests, including art, French, health & music)

Since the NES tests are currently accepted in only a limited number of states for certification purposes, be sure to check with your state regarding test requirements.


State-Specific Tests

Several states require teacher candidates to take state-specific certification exams rather than the nationally recognized exams we've already discussed. These tests are administered by the states themselves and cover many of the same subjects and skillsets as the national examinations. For example, California offers the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), which covers the areas of reading, mathematics and writing, as well as the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), which cover specific academic subjects.


Get Ready to Test!

Now that you have a general overview of the skills that teacher certification exams emphasize, you should be able to prepare yourself for the test(s) much easier. Please remember that your state sets its own rules and guidelines regarding these certification exams, so you must ALWAYS check with your state's education department before registering for any exams. Once you know which tests you have to take, you can prepare yourself by using online test prep resources, such as's huge library of teacher certification courses. Test prep materials can give you a much clearer picture of the types of questions and exact skills that will be covered on the test(s).

By Erin Riskey
November 2016
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