Reading comprehension tests are the “bread and butter” of standardized tests, and the Praxis Core is no exception. According to ETS, the Praxis Core Reading test measures “academic skills in reading needed to prepare successfully for a career in education.” That sounds straightforward enough. But success on this test is about more than just reading and comprehending. It’s about reading to answer multiple-choice questions.
There are three basic components of this reading test: the passages, the questions, and the answer choices. Each component can be handled strategically—you can squeeze the test for all it’s worth to get maximum points.
Know What to Expect
The Praxis Core Reading test contains several passages of varying lengths. The lengthier passages are approximately 200 words, followed by four to seven questions. The shorter passages, about 100 words each, are followed by two or three questions. The test will include a set of paired passages on related topics, which total about 200 words, followed by four to seven questions. You will also encounter some brief statements, each followed by a single question. Finally, about three questions will accompany information presented in a chart or graph. Altogether, you will be required to answer 56 multiple-choice questions in 85 minutes. As with all Praxis exams, there is no penalty for incorrect answers, so be sure to answer every question, even if you have to guess.
|Praxis Core Reading|
|Number of Questions: 56|
|Time: 85 minutes|
|Question Types: multiple-choice (called “selected response” by the test maker)—one correct answer; multiple-choice—one or more correct answers. Questions will be based either on statements or passages or on a chart or graph.|
|Test may include pre-test questions that do not count toward your score|
|No penalty for incorrect answers|
|Scratch paper is available during the exam (it will be destroyed before you leave the testing center)|
Regardless of the length of the passage, the multiple-choice questions will be based exclusively on the passage’s content. You may be required to make inferences or identify assumptions on the test, but even the answers to these questions will be based entirely on what is written in the passage and not on any outside knowledge you might have.
The questions in Core Reading fall into one of three basic categories: Key Ideas and Details; Craft, Structure, and Language Skills; and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. According to ETS, each category will comprise about a third of the questions on the Core Reading test, although Craft, Structure, and Language Skills will account for slightly fewer questions.
Key Ideas and Details questions require you to both understand the content of the passage itself and comprehend the implications of the passage’s content. Trick answers on these questions generally distort the meaning of the passage or focus on a scope that is broader or narrower than what appears in the passage.
Craft, Structure, and Language Skills questions test your ability to understand the mechanics of a passage: how an author uses words, organization, and writing techniques to convey the passage’s intended meaning.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas questions require you to pull together information from multiple sources, or multiple ideas from within one passage, and then interpret or apply that integrated information.
Regardless of the nature of the material you encounter on your test, a systematic approach to handling the passages, questions, and answer choices will help you move through the test with confidence, efficiency, and accuracy.
The Kaplan 4-Step Method for Praxis Reading
The Kaplan Four-Step Method for Reading requires you to do most of your work before you actually get around to answering the questions. It’s very tempting to read the questions and immediately jump to the answer choices. Don’t do this. The work you do up front not only saves you time in the long run but increases your chances of avoiding the tempting wrong answers.
Seven Praxis Reading Strategies
1. Look for the Main Idea
The most important thing to pick up is the gist of the passage, i.e., the Main Idea and the paragraph topics. Praxis Reading passages are chosen because they are well organized; this means you will likely find the Main Idea very early in the passage text and the topic of each paragraph within the first one or two sentences of the paragraph. The remainder of a paragraph is likely to be more detail heavy. Remember that you can research the details as you need them later, using your paragraph notes to guide you to them.
2. Take Paragraph Notes
You are provided scratch paper, so use this to your advantage. Do not take a lot of notes, but do jot down a very brief paraphrase of each paragraph. If you do not take any notes, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. These passages can be dull and difficult to remember. Make it easy to find the stuff you’ll need to answer the questions.
3. Don’t Sweat the Details
Don’t waste time reading and re-reading parts you don’t understand. As long as you have a general idea of where the details are, you don’t have to really know what they are. Remember, if you don’t get a question about a detail, you don’t have to know it. Furthermore, as long as you have made a note of the paragraph topic, you should be able to go back and find the details. Details will always be consistent with the paragraph topics.
4. Find Structural Keywords
Within each paragraph, the most important words that reveal what you need to answer questions are ones that you might typically gloss over: Structural Keywords. These are words that indicate the structure and direction of the passage. For instance, keywords such as but, however, and although indicate a contrast is coming. As, and, and moreover signal the continuation of an idea. Keywords such as because and resulting in may indicate a cause-effect relationship. An author may also use keywords to indicate the passage’s organization; these keywords include first, next, or in conclusion. While you might typically skim over these words, they are invaluable for answering Praxis questions because they reveal the structure of a passage and, therefore, the content of the paragraph notes you should take.
5. Locate Opinions
Some questions will require you to understand the author’s viewpoint. Therefore, it is important to note any opinions the author expresses in the passage. The most helpful indicator of the author’s view is, again, keywords. Some Opinion Keywords—such as excellent, remarkable, or horrifying—obviously indicate a positive or negative view. Other Opinion Keywords are subtler, but if you practice looking out for words that signal the author’s viewpoint, you will notice these too. Note that some passages may include the views of others (such as the views of people with whom the author disagrees), so be sure to keep viewpoints straight. Also be on the lookout for Emphasis Keywords, which might not necessarily indicate an opinion but do signal important ideas in the passage.
6. Make it Simple
Sometimes you’ll come across difficult language and technical jargon in the passages. Try not to get bogged down by language you find confusing. The underlying topics are generally pretty straightforward. It can be very helpful to put confusing-sounding language into your own words. You don’t have to understand every word in order to summarize or paraphrase. All you need is a general understanding.
7. Keep Moving
Aim to move quickly through each passage. Remember, just reading the passage doesn’t get you any points.