Essay writing evokes an immediate reaction from nearly everyone, and prospective teachers are no exception. Generally speaking, you either love to write or you see it as a chore. Either way, the Praxis Core Writing test will require you to do a bit of it.
Keep in mind that even the strongest writers can have problems with the unique nature of the Praxis exam. You must respond directly to the topic, and you have to generate your essay in a short period of time. Overly ambitious or flamboyant essayists can run short on time or run too far afield from the topic at hand.
The test makers require you to perform a highly specialized type of writing. Creativity and improvisation are not the goals of a Praxis essay. Instead, an essay is defined as a short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. That definition can take you a long way toward effective essay writing on the Praxis exam.
First, Praxis essays are meant to be short. For each essay, you have only 30 minutes to read and digest the essay prompt, compose the essay, and proof it for errors and clarity. The test makers are looking for brief, clear essays.
Second, the Praxis essays are meant to be on a single subject. Although tangents, allusions, and digressions make for good fiction, they’ll send you into dangerous territory on the Praxis exam. Be sure that whatever you include in your essays pertains to the subject at hand. If a sentence or idea does not relate directly to the topic of your essay, it should be omitted.
Finally, the Praxis essays assess how well you respond to the prompt provided. One of the essays will ask you to express your views on a topic—you will need to express and support an opinion or argument. Remember, you will have to do more than simply express your views on this exam; you will be expected to provide illustrations, examples, and generalizations that support your view.
The other essay will ask you to evaluate two source texts and identify the main points of the issue as illustrated by the texts. A strong essay of this type addresses both texts with proper in-text citations. It does not take a stance on the issue provided but rather assesses the important points related to the topic.
The topics are selected such that any educated person should be able to draw from experience to answer the question. No specialized knowledge is required.
Keeping all three of the points above in mind as you pull your essay together will put you well on your way to success on the Praxis Core Writing test. Of course, the key to effective preparation is knowing what you’re up against.
Know What to Expect
You have only 30 minutes to write each essay, so effective time management is key. Be sure to complete each essay in the time allotted. Even a well-crafted essay that abruptly ends without a conclusion will lose valuable points.
Speaking of points, the essay section is scored differently than are the other sections of the Praxis exam. Instead of receiving a score based on the number of questions you answered correctly, your essay is scored “holistically” on a scale of 0 to 6. A score of 6 indicates “a high degree of competence in response to the assignment.” A score of 4 or 5 also demonstrates competence, but to a lesser degree. A score of 3 or lower may show some competence but also demonstrates organizational flaws, poor mechanics, or other significant errors.
Your source text essay is graded by two human graders. The argument essay is graded by one human grader and one computer grading program. If your graders’ scores differ by more than one point, a third reader will be brought in to decide where your mark should fall. The third reader will always be a human reader.
How to Approach the Praxis Essays
Even though you have only 30 minutes to complete each essay, you should take time to organize your thoughts before writing about a topic. You should also leave time to proof your essays after writing them.
Writing an essay for the Praxis exam is a two-stage process. First, you decide what you want to say about a topic. Second, you figure out how to say it. If your writing style isn’t clear, your ideas won’t come across no matter how brilliant they are. Good Praxis English is not only grammatical but also clear and concise. By using some basic principles, you’ll be able to express your ideas clearly and effectively in your essays.
Four Principles of Good Essay-Writing
By now, you should know what you’re up against on the essay portion of the Praxis Core Writing test. You need to demonstrate that you can think quickly and organize an essay under time pressure. The essay you write is supposed to be logical in organization and clear and concise in its use of written English. Praxis essay writing is not about bells and whistles; it’s about bread and butter. Nothing fancy—just answer the question in clear language.
The real challenge is to write an effective essay in a short time. With that goal in mind, we’ve developed a proven Five-Step Method that will help you make the most of your 30 minutes.
Step 1: Digest the Issue or Source Text and the Prompt (1-3 minutes)
- Read the prompt and get a sense of the scope of the issue
- Note any ambiguous terms that need defining
- Crystallize the issue
Step 2: Select the Points You Will Make (4 minutes)
- Think of arguments for both sides of the issue and decide which side you will support
- Assess the specifics of the prompt
- Brainstorm about both source texts and select the elements of each that you plan to quote
Step 3: Organize (2 minutes)
- Outline your essay
- Lead with your best arguments
- Think about how the essay will flow as a whole
Step 4: Write (20 minutes)
- Be direct
- Use paragraph breaks to make your essay easy to read
- Make transitions, linking related ideas
- Finish strongly
Step 5: Proofread (1-3 minutes)
- Save enough time for one final read through the entire essay
- Have a sense of the errors you are likely to make and seek to find and correct them