Tests for Certification

The day you graduate from your education degree program is a proud day indeed. You've spent a number of years working hard, learning not only the content you'll need to understand inside out to teach particular subjects, but you've also learned a host of instructional styles, teaching techniques, innovative approaches and more. You understand a range of learning styles and how to accommodate your teaching methods to best suit the needs of each child. You've proven yourself through student teaching and lots of testing.

There's one more series of hoops to jump through before you will fully, completely, officially a teacher authorized to assume responsibility for your very own classroom. First, you have to meet the requirements established by the state in which you will be teaching. Every state designs and implements its own standards in accordance with federal laws and regulations; but how they interpret those federal requirements can be different from one state to the next.

Each state must determine to their satisfaction that every new teacher awarded with the authority to teach the children of the state must first demonstrate, once again, their qualifications. If it sounds like more testing, you're right. While these ‘tests' are more often referred to as assessments, evaluations, or reviews, what it comes down to is, you've got to pass them or you will not be certified (or licensed) to teach. Without that all- important authorization, you cannot be hired.

Your next step, then, is determining exactly what it is your state requires of you. You'll need to investigate by visiting the state's Department of Education website, and perhaps make a call or two to be certain you understand what subject or subjects you intend to teach require. You'll need to study for the tests, get registered for them in a timely manner, and treat them with the same respect you treated your coursework when you were earning your education degree. After all, you want to get into the classroom and begin your new life's work as quickly as possible, don't you?

Praxis I

Many education programs require applicants to take the Praxis I Pre- Professional Skills Tests for admission into their programs. In addition, a large number of states also require Praxis I results among the items needed in order to be considered for a teaching license. But what are the Praxis I tests?

The Praxis I Pre- Professional Skills Tests are a set of assessment tests designed to evaluate academic capabilities in order to determine if a particular applicant has the basic skills and knowledge necessary to succeed as a teacher. The tests demonstrate the test- takers competency in three areas; mathematics, reading and writing. The Praxis I tests are composed of both multiple- choice questions and one written essay question. These tests are something that most students who are seeking an education degree will undergo in the first year or two of college.

The Praxis I Reading, Mathematics, and Writing tests can be combined and taken in a single session, or they may be taken as individual tests on different test days. If taken individually, each test is allowed two hours to complete. If you decide to combine the tests into one test session, you will be given 4 ½ hours in total. Because background information and tutorials are given before the applicant undergoes testing, taking all three tests in a single test session is more time efficient.

If you opt for a single session of testing, knowing how the tests are structured will help you practice time management in your studying. The single session combination is divided into four timed testing units; Reading, multiple-choice Writing (multiple choice), Writing (essay), and Mathematics. There will be a 15- minute break midway through the tests. Test takers will receive separate scores for Reading and Mathematics. The two writing sections will be scored as a single unit. In total, there are 46 multiple choice reading questions which must be completed in 75 minutes or less; 46 mathematics questions which are also given 75 minutes; 44 multiple choice writing questions which are allowed 38 minutes; and a 30 minute written essay question. Examinees are not allowed the use of calculators during the mathematics test.

Because the Praxis I tests are required by so many schools, there are options for test takers to consider. These tests can be taken by appointment on a computer, or they can be completed as a paper test that is given by pre- set schedule. Dates are available year around. Test centers are located internationally. Many universities and high schools, in addition to Prometric Testing Centers, offer the Praxis I. These tests are given in English only. In certain cases, examinees for whom English is not the primary language may be given a longer time period in which to complete the tests, although the option is not available for every test date.

In order to know which of the Praxis I tests to take, you'll need to visit your state's Dept. of Education website or call. As with other teaching certification and licensing requirements, each state sets its own rules.

It's best to be prepared for this test, as your score is important not only for admission to the education program of your choice, but later, when you apply for a license to teach. Keep in mind the number of questions you'll be asked in each section, and practice writing brief essays in response to a written prompt, as well. Candidates who are well- prepared and understand the importance of managing time during the tests will be more successful than those to take the test with little or no preparation.

Praxis II

A majority of states require teachers take the Praxis II tests after they've completed their education degree, before they are eligible for certification or licensing. In addition, many professional organizations and groups also require these tests. But what are they? The Praxis II Subject Assessment tests evaluate an examinee's understanding of content materials on the K-12 grade levels. These tests also include questions aimed at demonstrating the examinee's degree of instructional skill in both general and content- specific areas.

Because the Praxis II Subject Assessment tests offer more than 120 content- specific exams on a wide range of topics, your first task will be determining which exam(s) are required by the state in which you are applying to teach. Praxis II Subject Assessment tests are composed of both multiple choice and constructed response questions.

The Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) tests are designed to evaluate examinees' overall academic understanding in Early Childhood; K–6; 5–9 and 7–12 grade levels. There will be both multiple choice questions and constructed response items in these assessments.

The Teaching Foundations Exams (TFE) were created to evaluate academic understanding in the areas of elementary multi-subject content; English Language Arts; Science; and Mathematics. Like the PLT tests, the TFE examinations also contain both multiple- choice and constructed- response questions.

The Praxis II Subject Assessment tests can be taken either on the computer or on paper, although it should be noted that certain tests may not be available in both formats. These tests are given internationally at Prometric test centers, many universities, colleges and high schools, and other locations. Not all of the Praxis II Subject Assessment tests are given on every available test date; it's important to know which tests you are required to take and schedule accordingly.

Those who register for paper- based tests can take as many as three tests in a single day. Paper- based tests are one, two or four hours in length, depending upon the test.

Those who opt to take their Praxis II tests as paper- based will find that some tests are one hour in length, others must be completed in two hours, and still others are allowed four hours to complete. The maximum number of tests that will be given on a single day is three, over the course of two sessions. Session one permits either a single two- hour test, a single four- hour test, or up to two one- hour tests. Session two permits either a single two- hour test or up to two one- hour tests.

Two computer- delivered tests are given in two hour blocks; they are Elementary Education: Content Knowledge, and Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. The World Language tests, including French, German and Spanish, are allowed two and a half hours to complete. However, the testing sessions for computer- delivered tests add additional time for a computer tutorial and to gather examinees' personal information. This means that the total time required for the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge and Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment exams is three hours in total. The total required time for the three World Language tests is three and a half hours each.

Like the Praxis I tests, the Praxis II tests are only offered in English. Examinees whose language of origin is not English might be granted additional testing time. However, please note that these accommodations must be requested and granted in advance, and are only offered at certain testing centers on certain dates.

Examinees often wonder if they should make reasonable guesses for test questions they aren't certain of. The answer is a qualified yes; it is always best to practice for the exam(s) in order to learn to pace yourself so that you will allow sufficient time for each question. However, in the event you come across a question you don't know the answer to, or find yourself running short of time, the best course of action is to quickly eliminate answers you are certain are incorrect, and simply guess from the remaining questions. There are no negative points given for incorrect answers in the Praxis II.

State Tests for Teacher Certification

Once you've completed your education degree, you might feel like everything else is just protocol. After all, you've studied hard and you've proven yourself by passing exam after exam. You've demonstrated your competency through student teaching; you've been observed and evaluated a number of times and in a number of ways. Surely any additional exams required by your state are just a matter of form, right?

Not so fast! While it's true that a good education program should leave you well- prepared for most situations that could arise in the classroom, and have given you the skills you will require to fashion classroom activities and design effective instruction, assuming that any required state certification or licensing exams are fluff could be a big mistake.

Each state has the responsibility to ensure that every teacher who receives the official stamp of approval is, indeed, really ready for any number of expected and unexpected possibilities ranging from academic delivery to behavior problems.

Regardless of what state you will ultimately teach in, there are some core certifications and endorsements that nearly all states participate in. At some point, you may be required to earn an Initial, Elementary school, Standard, or Masters teaching certificate. Certificate endorsements you may need include Early childhood and Middle level school certificate endorsements. Most states also recognize an Alternative Route to Teacher Education (ARC) endorsement.

You are granted your initial teacher certificate when you complete your education degree and pass your state board exams. A Standard teachers certificate is earned after you've taught full- time for four years and finished a professional development selection by, for example, finishing a mentoring program, undergone a professional development program or pursued a project or class from a state- approved list. The Elementary school teacher certificate means the holder is eligible to teach all content areas through fifth grade; additionally, this certificate indicates the holder can teach certain subjects in a 6th through 8th grade self- contained classroom. A Masters teaching certificate is awarded to those who earn an education master's degree at a school that has been accredited.

Earning a teacher certificate endorsement requires passing selected state exams; the endorsement makes you eligible to teach particular subjects at particular grade levels. The Early childhood teacher certificate endorsement indicates the holder is authorized to teach children up to and including third grade in any state. Earning a Middle level teacher certificate endorsement allows the holder to teach special subjects to students in 5th- 9th grades.

Teachers who have earned certification via the Alternative Route to Teacher Education (ARC) program are authorized to teach particular subjects at the grade level or levels for which they have been qualified. Alternative programs are designed to draw professionals from other areas that hold a bachelor's degree into the field of teaching.

Regardless of the type of exam or exams your state requires, it's always in your best interest to take the preparation seriously, to review appropriate material that you've already studied and, perhaps, to take a face- to- face or online preparation course. It's also important to remember that each state is responsible for designing and implementing its own set of criteria. For educators who imagine they may want to teach in another state at some future point, it's a good idea to keep abreast of that state's requirements, as well.

Last Updated: 09/18/2014