I’m an elementary teacher and I’m thinking of taking the Praxis test to be certified to teach science in middle school. It has been many years since I was in high school and college, and I only took the basic science classes. Could you suggest resources to help me prepare for the test?
I shared your question with a colleague who had been an elementary math department chair, but decided to make the switch to middle school when she was ready for a new challenge. She said preparing for the math test was a good professional development experience. (Her school district awarded her professional development hours for her independent study). She had a few suggestions.
First of all, familiarize yourself with the test. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) website has a section on the middle school science exam with a test blueprint, a list of topics, and sample questions. You can download a PDF so you can add notes as you prepare. Prioritize the list of topics into those you’re most familiar with, those you need to review, and those you’re unfamiliar with.
For this last category, you could go to NSTA’s Learning Center online and look at the list of Science Objects. These are online content modules for elementary, middle, and high school topics (they take about two hours to complete and they’re free). Use the middle or high school ones to review the content on the Praxis list. For example, for the Praxis topic Electricity and Magnetism, there are three Science Objects on Electric Charges, Electrostatics and Current Electricity, and Electromagnetism. NSTA’s SciLinks has collections of webpages on a variety of topics, too.
I personally have never taken a Praxis exam, so I posed your question via social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, the NSTA Listserve, and the Middle School Portal 2). Our colleagues have other suggestions for you:
- “Use the Sciencesaurus Handbook (the green version is for middle school)”—George, who teaches a science methods course, via the NSTA Listserve
- “I used the ETS books as more of a topic guide—I went through the book looking for topics I thought I should brush up on and then studied those topics via online websites.” -—Cheryl via the Middle School Portal 2.
- “I went to the library and reviewed Basic Chemistry for Dummies, Basic Physics for Dummies, and Basic Biology for Dummies for about 10 hours and passed the test.” —Helene via the NSTA Listserve.
- “When I recently took this Praxis, I downloaded the online materials that were available to practice released questions. I practiced these questions often so that I was familiar with the types of questions that may be asked. I also borrowed middle grades science books and thumbed through them to refresh any topics that I felt weak in because my strength was in biology. If time permits, make your own questions to practice modeling the released ones.” —Donna via the NSTA Listserve
- “From the Praxis site you can print practice tests and advice for free. I found it useful to review the written short essay questions where they give you examples of answers that got full credit compared to answers that did not.” —Kathleen from the NSTA Listserve
- “Read ‘Science Matters’ cover-to-cover.” —Scott via the NSTA Listserve
- “What are your long-term goals? If you would ever consider teaching a high school science course, you might want to take that Praxis, assuming that a high school credential would also allow you to teach at the middle school level. That way, you would be credentialed at both levels.” —Jessica via the NSTA Listserve
- “Read all three of the constructed-response (essay) questions first and choose the shortest ones first so you don’t run out of time. Also, the online info suggests 90 minutes for the multiple choice and 30 minutes for the essay questions. I used 60 min for the MC and needed all 60 min for the three essays.” —Anonymous from the NSTA Listserve
From my experiences in graduate school, having a study group can be very helpful. Go online via NSTA’s social media sites or the Middle School Portal 2 to ask if any one else is studying for the test and form an online study group. Or check around to see if any local colleges or other school districts have Praxis prep courses.
Keep a journal of how you prepared. When you pass (notice I said “when” not “if ”), I’d be glad to post your advice on the blog site. Good luck!