Preparing for the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam
Preparing to become a teacher is an intense experience. There are classes, student teaching and even fingerprint checks sent to the FBI. With so much to do, it is easy to forget that an aspiring teacher’s road to the classroom makes a pit stop at one or more teacher certification exams.
For aspiring teachers in 29 states, they must slay the beast known as the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) Exam. In this article you will learn about the Praxis PLT Exam, its format, and most importantly, how to prepare for a successful exam day.
What is the Praxis?
Praxis is a series of teacher certification exams developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Besides the four PLT Exams (Early Childhood, K-6, 5-9, and 7-12), other Praxis Exams focus on specific subject areas. After (or before) you pass the PLT, you can take as many subject area exams as you want. Depending on your state’s policies, passing these exams may automatically qualify you to teach a certain subject.
As of the writing of this article, the majority of PLT Exams are administered on computer. As someone who took his Praxis Exams on paper, I can say from experience that this is a positive development.
What is on the PLT?
Though the four PLT Exams are unique in that they focus on different age groups, the structure of each exam is identical:
- Two hours long
- 70 multiple-choice questions
- Four constructed-response questions
No matter which PLT Exam you take, expect to encounter questions on the following topics. Also included are the approximate number of questions you will answer about each topic.
Multiple-Choice Questions (70 minutes)
- Students as Learners: 21 Questions
- Instructional Process: 21 Questions
- Assessment: 14 Questions
- Professional Development, Leadership and Community: 14 Questions
Constructed-Response Questions (50 minutes)
- Students as Learners: 1-2 Questions
- Instructional Process: 1-2 Questions
- Assessment: 0-1 Question
- Professional Development, Leadership and Community: 0-1 Question
Creating (and Following Through on) a Study Schedule
If you are planning to take the Praxis PLT Exam, it is time to refresh your test-taking skills. The first thing you need to do is take a full-length practice test under timed conditions.
Once you score your test, you need to analyze the results. Even if you think you ‘bombed’ it, start with the subject area where you made the greatest number of mistakes. By doing this, the path towards improving your score will not seem as difficult. Besides, improving your score in just one subject area may push your final score up into the passing range.
There are plenty of PLT Exam guides out there. If you are going to invest some money, I would recommend buying the official study guide published by ETS. If money is tight, used versions are a fine substitute. Just make sure the previous owner did not write all over the inside.
When it comes to any standardized test, improving your time management skills can improve your score. On the PLT, it is important to remember the following:
- Guessing incorrectly will not lower your score.
- If you feel stuck on a question, guess and move on.
The second bullet is truly one of the best pieces of standardized test advice out there. Getting stuck on a question wastes precious seconds. The exam gives you 70 minutes for 70 multiple-choice questions. If you’re stuck after one minute and one second, it’s time to guess and move on.
Praxis exams are held on Saturday mornings, and usually take place at a local high school. If you are taking the PLT Exam, you cannot take any subject test exams that same day. Just like the SATs, it is important to show up to the exam center with the following:
- A government-issued photo ID
When you enter the exam center, you are NOT ALLOWED to have the following:
- Electronic devices
Leave these items in your car. They will not search you for your phone, but if it goes off during the exam, expect that your proctor will ask you to leave. Do not let a ringing phone invalidate your score, along with waste your time and money.
On exam day, reducing test anxiety can go a long way in improving your score. In my experience, one of the best ways to defeat test anxiety is to plan a fun activity right after the exam. As the exam ends at lunchtime, plan to treat yourself to some comfort food.
One last thing: even if taking tests make you feel nervous, be sure to have breakfast the morning of the exam. You will need the energy.
From analyzing practice test results to getting a good sleep the night before the exam, there is a lot you can do to prepare for the Praxis PLT Exam. Though the PLT Exam is a challenge many teachers-in-training must face, it is a far from impossible one.
And if you should not pass the Praxis PLT Exam on the first try, do not feel too bad. You can always retake it.
Thomas Broderick lives in Northern California. After teaching at an alternative high school for four years, he now works full-time as a freelance writer in the educational field.