One of the things that stand out the most about my high school teachers was their endless knowledge of the subjects they taught. I remember thinking that my teachers were experts on algebra, biology, government, and history. This is a bit disheartening to think about, because I look at my own knowledge of the social sciences, and realize that I am no expert. How much of the subject matter should a good teacher know?
In 2002, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act. This act specifies that all teachers must be “highly qualified” in both content knowledge and teaching skills. In order to help identify teachers as highly qualified, several assessments have been developed to test teacher-candidates’ knowledge. The McKay School uses the Praxis exam as their assessment.
The Praxis is a national test that divided up into three parts. The first part of the exam, known as Praxis I, is comparable to a typical standardized test with a reading, mathematics, and writing portion. Some universities use the Praxis I as an entry requirement for all prospective teaching majors. My major, teaching social sciences, did not require me to take this exam prior to applying for the major, but I cannot say the same about all secondary education majors. You will need to check with your advisement center to see if you need to take the Praxis I.
The second Praxis exam, known as Praxis II, is the test that all secondary education major must take if they hope to graduate with their teaching degree and credentials. This exam assesses teachers’ content knowledge, and there are different tests for different subjects. Each teacher candidate should be familiar with which test is required for the subject they plan on teaching. The McKay school links all teaching majors and required Praxis II exams in a list that is posted online.
Since the Praxis II tests subject matter, it is important to know that almost anything from your content area could find its way on the test. This makes studying a daunting task, especially for those who finished their content classes many semesters previous. While there are different ways to study for the exam, I found that going through my old classroom notes and textbooks helped me refresh my memory of some of the basic principles that I could be tested on. Others have read books like World History for Dummies, or The Idiot’s Guide to Geography. Books like these are written to cover a broad array of ideas that within any subject.
Students must register for the Praxis II online, and they must pass the exam prior to their student teaching or internship. Since there are specific days that the test is offered, and fees associated with the assessment, it would be wise to start thinking about the exam early. More information can be found on the McKay School’s Praxis II Webpage on the Praxis II as well as the offical Praxis site.
The last exam, the Praxis III, is an exam that teachers must take after their first few years of teaching. The test measures teachers’ ability to teach content area, assess students, teach new concepts. Since the test is taken by teachers, and not university students, it is best to spend your time preparing for the Praxis II now while keeping the Praxis III in mind for the future.
I would like to hear from any teaching majors who have had experience taking the Praxis II. What was your experience like, and how did you study for the exam?