Praxis 5038 Study Guide

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English Praxis Study Guide

The Praxis English Language Arts: Content Knowledge exam is designed for prospective secondary English teachers to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary for teaching English language arts. This English Praxis study guide discusses the core content of the test, including literary analysis, standard conventions of the English language, and forms of communication such as writing, reading, listening, and speech. The time allotted to complete the exam is two hour and a half hours, during which candidates will answer 130 selected-response questions. Question variations on the exam include:

  • Single-selection
  • Multiple-selection
  • Matching
  • Selection from a passage
  • Video and audio prompts

Praxis English Language Arts: Content Knowledge Study Guide (5038)
Reading38% (~49 questions)
Language Use and Vocabulary25% (~33 questions)
Writing, Speaking, and Listening37% (~48 questions)

This Praxis 2 5038 study guide covers information and topics prospective test-takers need to know to be successful.

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The reading content category of the Praxis English exam focuses on the skills and knowledge a prospective teacher must demonstrate in the areas of literature and rhetorical texts. The body of knowledge in this area reflects the understanding of how to read and analyze literary and informational texts and one's familiarity with the fundamentals of reading instruction.


In order to succeed in this content category, candidates need to be well-versed in a variety of literary genres and have familiarity with texts and authors of the American, British, and world literary canons. This body of knowledge includes a variety of genres such as drama, poetry, novels, and nonfiction literature. In addition to understanding genres and the major works of the literary canon, test-takers should study the following concepts and skills:

  • Literary contexts including cultural and historical factors that influence comprehension
  • Primary attributes of different genres of literature
  • The ability to talk about common literary conventions within genres

For example, candidates should know the difference between a stanza, which is a convention specific to poetry, and a paragraph, which is specific to prose. Within each genre of literature, test-takers should understand the different forms of writing and how those forms differ structurally. For example, within poetry, several forms emerge such as epic poems, sonnets, and haiku. Understanding the defining characteristics of each form will help the candidate be successful in this portion of the exam.

Candidates must also study the different devices of poetry and be able to analyze the ways in which these devices create meaning. Examples of specific poetic devices include:

  • Imagery
  • Rhyme and rhythm
  • Alliteration
  • Juxtaposition

Test-takers should be able to identify the ways in which evidence from the text supports literary interpretations. This area includes understanding the difference between figurative and literal interpretations and how the use of figurative language creates an effect for the reader and enhances the text. Different forms of figurative language include:

  • Hyperbole
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor

Another aspect of literary knowledge successful candidates must master is the ability to identify literary themes within works and understand how themes are developed. In particular, test-takers should be able to identify universal themes in mythical and religious literature. For example, the hero's journey is a theme within mythology.

Candidates must be able to break down the structure of a plot in the following ways:

  • Identifying points of view of literary characters
  • Explaining how literary elements affect tone and mood within a story
  • Demonstrating how character dialogue advances a story
  • Appreciating how characters change over time

Finally, examinees should study common reading strategies that are based in research and be able to align strategies to specific types of reading assignments. Additionally, successful candidates must have the ability to understand existing pedagogical research and use it to assist with the challenges of teaching reading. This body of research includes the following concepts:

  • Reading strategies such as summarizing and making connections
  • Methods of supporting reading actively, such as prediction and drawing personal connection to the text
  • Ways to assess summaries and predictions by ensuring they rely on textual support
  • How literary theory is used to understand and evaluate literature

Examples of common literary theories include historical interpretation, feminist critique, and reader-response techniques.

Informational Texts and Rhetoric

The heart of the informational texts and rhetoric section focuses on the different ways informational texts can be structured to strengthen a central idea. This includes the ways authors develop their core idea and the structure of their main argument. Examples of rhetorical structures include cause and effect and problem-solution.

Successful candidates should understand how to read informational texts for meaning by analyzing word choice (for example denotation vs. connotation), how arguments are strengthened by the use of technical jargon, and how to differentiate inferences from explicit language.

Additionally, this area covers the knowledge of how to assess a writer's argument through the following techniques:

  • Identification of the purpose of an informational text
  • How to analyze a text for logical fallacies such as strawman, ad hominem, and red herring
  • Understanding how evidence in a text is presented and connects to the main idea
  • How features of written work such as footnotes, headers, and images support the main idea
  • Evaluation of a writer's appeal to the audience
  • Identification of how technical and generalized terms are used for a specific audience

Finally, examinees must study methods of influencing an audience through media and digital works, the ways writers can employ rhetorical devices for effect, and how an author supports their own point of view in written work. It is important to also be familiar with the various strategies of rhetoric such as irony, satire, and hyperbole.

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Language Use and Vocabulary

To be successful on the exam, candidates should demonstrate a knowledge of English, including common usage standards such as mechanics, syntax, and parts of speech. Skills test-takers should pay close attention to include:

  • The ability to spot grammatical errors such as run-on sentences, fragments, and incorrect verb tense agreement
  • Explaining grammar and syntax selections; for example, why a colon would be used in lieu of a semicolon
  • Knowledge of structures within sentences such as phrases, objects, and subjects
  • Understanding how to use compound, simple, and complex sentence structures

Additionally, test-takers should study ways of identifying the meaning of an English word by each of the following methods:

  • Using clues in the context of a sentence
  • Recognizing subtleties in the meaning of common words and figures of speech
  • Determining the meaning of a word through knowledge of syntax and affixes

Candidates must also understand the variations of dialect within the English language, both regional and historical. Individuals should be able to explain the use of dialect in writing and when it's appropriate for the audience and purpose of the written work.

Finally, examinees should master methods of coaching others on the acquisition of language and the development of vocabulary consistent with current research-backed data.

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Writing, Speaking, and Listening

When studying for the Praxis 2 5038 exam, test-takers should pay attention to the various types of writing and the characteristics that make each form of writing effective. The skills covered in the writing, speaking, and listening content category include the ability to recognize specific types and techniques of writing and to identify which language conventions create concise and effective writing. Examples of the concepts covered on the exam include:

  • The differences among types of essays such as explanatory, informational, and argumentative
  • The structure of common writing formats such as speeches, blogs, letters, and essays
  • How facts and details can be used to strengthen a central idea
  • Ways of organizing writing for maximum coherence
  • The various types of transitions used to create a cohesive work of writing
  • Choices of style in writing

In addition to the conventions of writing, candidates must understand common research-backed methods of teaching composition, writing development, and improvement techniques as well as evaluating student writing.

The successful candidate must demonstrate the ability to identify credible sources from a variety of media types, including digital and print, and must understand research conventions such as:

  • Broadening or narrowing the research focus
  • Creating a research question
  • Eliminating ineffective sources
  • Citing various types of sources and understanding the parts of a proper citation
  • Incorporating information from various sources into a cohesive argument

Examinees must be able to align specific methods of writing to a particular audience and purpose and effectively assess presentations and speeches. Test-takers should study knowledge of effective speech and presentation conventions, including:

  • Visual aids
  • Tone
  • Use of media to enhance or support an argument

Candidates should also be well versed in the ability to evaluate speeches and to guide students in creating concise and effective presentations. Similarly, test-takers should study various technologies used for delivering written and spoken information and strategies to increase students' understanding of how to communicate effectively.

It is also important that test-takers demonstrate the skills needed to provide a safe space for a diverse classroom and to incorporate their students' individual cultures and identities within classroom instruction. Finally, a successful candidate should comprehend various methods (both formative and summative) of assessing writing, reading, listening, and speaking through use of feedback or a grading rubric.

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Bryan McMahon

Bryan McMahon, M.A. is a high school biology and special education teacher in New Jersey with over 14 years of teaching experience. He has hundreds of hours of experience tutoring aspiring teachers to take the CSET/CBEST exam suite. He has successfully passed the science and special education Praxis exams. Bryan completed a B.S. in Education from Seton Hall University and an M.A. in Teaching from Mangrove College.

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Jeryl-Ann Asaro, M.Ed. is a retired teacher with over 19 years of experience in all levels of education, from the elementary classroom to post-graduate workshops. She has passed the Praxis exam and has extensive experience assisting students and adults prepare for a variety of standardized tests. As an educator and educational leader, she is committed to excellence by empowering collaboration, fostering innovation, and nurturing achievement. Jeryl-Ann completed a B.A. in English Education at Montclair State University and a Masters degree in Education at Marygrove College.

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Kasey Sindel, Ph.D. has worked in education for over 11 years. She began her career as an Education Specialist, developing life science lessons for grades 6-12. She currently works as a middle school science teacher with a focus on the Earth, plant, and chemical sciences. She earned her Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership from Lindenwood University. She also holds a Master's degree in Science Education from Webster University and a Master's degree in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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