Praxis Social Studies: Content Knowledge (5081) Study Guide

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Praxis 5081 Study Guide

The Praxis II Social Studies: Content Knowledge exam is frequently required for a candidate to qualify for licensure to teach social studies in the secondary school setting. The computer-delivered exam consists of 130 selected-response questions that will be discussed further in this Praxis 5081 study guide. The test spans a 2-hour period and aligns with the National Standards for Social Studies Teachers. The topics discussed in this Praxis II social studies study guide require approximately 60% memorized knowledge while the other 40% asks that candidates determine the answer using critical thinking and interpretation skills. For this exam, candidates should know about world and U.S. history, including ancient civilizations, government and its policies, geography and demographics, and economical concepts. The following content categories will be explored in this Praxis II 5081 study guide:

Praxis Social Studies Content Knowledge Study Guide (5081)
United States History20% (~26 questions)
World History20% (~26 questions)
Government/Civics/Political Science20% (~26 questions)
Geography15% (~19 questions)
Economics15% (~20 questions)
Behavioral Sciences 10% (~13 questions)
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United State History

As one of thes three main content categories of the Praxis II 5081 exam, this section revolves around a variety of time periods and events that happened in the United States. A test-taker needs to have an understanding of what North America looked like before European settlers arrived in terms of geographic, population, and cultural qualities. Knowledge of the establishment of the first European colonies and how these settlers interacted with native peoples is necessary.

The first major event that must be understood is the American Revolution in conjunction with the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights and how these all led to the founding of the country. Another necessary knowledge area includes the causes and effects of both territorial expansion and nineteenth-century sectionalism and how these led to the Civil War and Reconstruction.

A test-taker must exhibit knowledge of the changes that happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s because of immigration, urbanization, and industrialization. A successful test-taker will know details of national developments during such times as the Progressive Era and the New Deal. It is necessary to know how the United States became involved in World Wars I and II and the Cold War. Candidates must be able to identify the domestic and global impacts of these conflicts.

The Praxis II Social Studies exam explores the changes to American society seen from 1950 up to the 21st century. This content category requires knowledge of how various branches of government interact to create policy and how the United States became a world power. Candidates should understand the current issues that impact the country such as those surrounding gender, race, religion, economics, and immigration. Finally, a test-taker must have knowledge of the key individuals and groups who have fought for civil rights throughout the history of the United States.

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World History

The second major content category of the Praxis 5081 exam covers important events throughout human history. Candidates should understand the time period of 1000 B.C.E. to 500 C.E., during which the focus is on the civilizations of Rome, Greece, Persia, China, and India. This necessary knowledge includes how these societies came to be, their structure, and their effects on other civilizations. A test-taker needs to understand how trade, religion, and invasion changed these civilizations during the time period of 300-1400 C.E.

This knowledge leads into 1200 to 1750 C.E. when global interaction began to increase. Trade, exploration, and colonization are a few of the changes that happened during this time which led to social, political, economic, and biological changes that a test-taker must be aware of. This specifically includes how Europe changed during the time period from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.

The next time period to be covered is from 1750 to 1914 C.E. This era is largely shaped by revolutions and ideologies like nationalism and imperialism. This section will also feature questions regarding both World Wars and the Cold War. Finally, in the post-Cold War world, candidates must understand how economics has globalized while nationalism has risen.

Throughout all these eras, a test-taker should keep in mind some overarching ideas, such as:

  • The changes brought on by trade and technology over the years.
  • The ways in which the major world religions have influenced societies and history.
  • The various influences of changing political ideologies and economic transformations.

There have been major demographic trends over history which have had a variety of effects, including shaping how family structures and gender roles evolve. Finally, it is important to identify the effects of conflict and cooperation on societies.

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Government/Civics/Political Science

The third major section of the Praxis Social Studies: Content Knowledge exam covers a variety of methods for running governments and handling politics. This area requires an understanding of various political concepts and theories. Candidates must possess an understanding of political orientations and what they look like.

This area covers United-States-specific politics and government. This begins with the Constitution and how it shapes the government, including structuring of powers and outlining processes for governing. A test-taker must also know how politics changes over time as things like liberties and rights transform. This content category also requires an understanding of how government is affected by political parties and special interest groups.

Finally, this area of the Praxis 5081 exam demands an understanding of international governments. This starts with the differences in types of governments, such as parliamentary, democracy, autocracy. Test-takers should be able to identify how different countries implement these systems and carry out elections. Lastly, individuals should understand how countries frame their foreign policy and how this affects their international relations.


This content category of the Praxis II Social Studies exam covers maps and spaces. This area requires knowledge of different types of maps and representations of physical areas, various ways to interpret information about areas, such as population, literacy, or mortality and how to locate this data. A successful test-taker will also recognize how location, physical characteristics, climate, and natural hazards influence people who live in these areas.

Another important aspect to study for the Praxis 2 Social Studies exam is environmental factors. This requires knowledge of the Earth's ecosystems and where they are located in the world. A test-taker must acknowledge how humans influence the environment, especially as it relates to natural resources.

Under this content category of the Praxis II 5081 exam, it is also important to understand cultural patterns. This includes patterns of migration as well as settlement. Candidates should understand the methods people use for agriculture in specific areas. Contemporary demographic patterns and changes as well as the effects of continued development, the expansion of industry, and globalization are covered in this section as well. It is also necessary for candidates to have an understanding of modern-day conflicts, the formation of states and borders, and the political landscape of a region.


There are two key concepts included under this content category of the Praxis II 5081 examwhich are microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics looks at how smaller changes can affect economics. This includes concepts such as scarcity and supply and demand which all deal with the availability and need for a product or service. This area also considers the state of the market in relation to a business's products as well as how a company distributes the income they receive from their product. A successful test-taker must be aware of how various aspects of production can affect a company's finances. Finally, it is important to note the way government actions can affect a company.

In this content category, macroeconomics, or the larger picture of an economy, is also covered. This covers financial institutions, a society's monetary value compared to other societies, and overall economic growth of a society. It also deals with the ways in which an economic system is judged to be succeeding or failing such as by its unemployment or inflation. It is also important to understand trade and currency under this content category. Finally, candidates should be able to identify the ways in which an economy either thrives or fails.

Behavioral Sciences

This area of the Praxis II Social Studies exam looks at human behavior as a group, but also as an individual. It covers ideas such as how a society acts as a whole, how it structures itself, and group behavior. Candidates must identify how a society changes its behavior over time because of a variety of potential influences. Another consideration under this content category is how an individual creates their own behavior standards through education, their identity, and how they grow through their life.

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