How to Study for the Praxis II English Exams

I am sorry for the dearth of posts this past month; July was quickly consumed by studying for the Praxis II, applying for jobs, and going to interviews. No official news yet on the job situation, but I have a feeling it will all be wrapped up soon! 😉 

I searched the internet a LOT for supplemental guides for taking the Praxis II English, Language, Literature & Comp.: Content & Analysis and English, Language, Literature & Comp.: Pedagogy tests. The following is a list of ways I started studying that I found most helpful, given the lack of available resources. Please note that I registered well in advance before all this.

1) Find the ETS testing overview for your specific, state-required test. There is a handy page on their website to search for your test and get a study sheet. It gives a quick breakdown of the test, as well as study materials.

2) Find your study book of choice. No, you don’t have to buy one of these, but it’s extremely helpful to practice testing within your allotted amount of time with questions that someone else generates. After much debate and review-reading, I chose this Cliffnotes book because it had practice tests and I used the other English related tests included to study for my test as well.

3) If you are starting this process months in advance, READ UP ON THE CLASSICS! Look at an AP English reading list, as well as suggestions within your study book to fill in the gaps of your knowledge of different genres and major works. 

4) Review literary terms. I know not everyone casually throws around “trochaic tetrameter” or “denouement,” but it’s really helpful to review these for a professional test on your content area. I made flashcards, looked up AP English term stacks on Quizlet, and compared various definitions between those and the ones listed in my study book until I was comfortable with understanding exactly what each term meant. 

5) Practice written response portions. As it turns out, according to a list of state-required scores (very helpful), my current state is one of two states that currently requires the pedagogy test. The test is an hour long, and consists of a series of short answer/mini essay questions. I am so glad I took my own ACT prep. class advice (I taught it for a year), and timed myself while practicing the response. It was very difficult to finish in that time frame. Additionally, I discovered another one of my testing quirks: I blank when questions are too broad. For instance:

“Choose a work that you know well enough to identify and cite examples of its central literary features…”

Suddenly, I can’t think of anything I read in that book, and my answer outlining falls to pieces. What I did to combat this was to brainstorm every literary feature/device I could think of off-hand (before reviewing my term cards), practice writing about every work I knew on the list, and then going back and filling in the blanks with details I had forgotten, or ideas I would have changed. This also helped me in the short answer portion of the content test. Basically, just make sure you can do what the test asks. 

5) Find your areas of weakness and practice, practice, practice. I am terrible at remembering titles and authors. Really, I can remember the basic plots and overall messages of books better than I can recall character and author names. I made a lot of flash cards for this, but I also found a fun matching game that helped me and gave me a break from the books. I did this one, this other one where I wrote in authors to match titles, and this last one to review Shakespeare plays

I also photocopied the pages in my study book that listed major literary movements and works, cut them up into strips to separate date headings and major works, and sorted them out. It helped me remember historical markers I had forgotten as well as helped me to be able to more accurately guess where works belonged in the timeline. 

6) Finally, if you saved any college notes or papers, now is the time to read them. I found it was often more helpful than relearning a period of literature otherwise because notes in my own words carried more contextual meaning I remembered from class. 

Other than that, I can only tell you that the following are immensely helpful for any standardized test:

  1. Wear layers so you will be comfortable in any temperature of testing room (I never work well while freezing).
  2. Bring extra pencils and make sure you bring the kind of pencils you sharpen in case you aren’t allowed mechanical pencils (my Praxis exams did not allow them).
  3. Wear a digital watch with a stopwatch feature so you can pace yourself through the test. Sometimes proctors will write how much time you have on the board, but they are not required to do so, and your cell phone is NOT ALLOWED.
  4. Do a test run to the testing center if you are unfamiliar with it. 
  5. Read the test requirements carefully to make sure you bring what you need. In the case of this test, I needed a state-issued ID, my entrance ticket (printed from online registration), extra pencils, and no phone. I usually avoid bringing my bag/purse inside because many test sites will check your bag or make you set it outside the room. I do bring a snack just in case and leave it in my car 🙂


I am still waiting on my scores, but I really feel that it is the best test I’ve taken. I actually felt good about it (which is saying a lot for a teacher with test anxiety). Have any of you taken the Praxis II? What was it like for you? How did you study?



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