praxis writing test

What’s Tested on the Praxis Writing Test?

The Praxis Core Writing test consists of two types of sections that test two very different kinds of writing skills. The first section tests your ability to read sentences, locating and correcting grammatical errors. This is followed by two essay sections, which will test your ability to write a clear, coherent essay in a limited amount of time.

Keep in mind that this test is not designed to discover the next Ernest Hemingway or Maya Angelou. Instead, this test assesses your ability to adhere to the basic rules of written English and to avoid common grammatical errors and traps.

Your approach to the Writing test should vary depending on the section. As with all other sections on the Praxis Core Writing test, strategic time management and understanding what the test maker is looking for are the keys to success.

 

Know What to Expect

Test Format
Praxis Core Writing
Format: Computer-delivered
Number of Questions: 40 multiple-choice (called “selected response” by the test maker); 2 essays
Time: 100 minutes (40 minutes for multiple-choice section; 30 minutes each for essays)
Essay Types: argumentative; source-based
Multiple-choice section 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)

Core Writing: Selected-Response Questions

Ironically, the selected-response (multiple-choice) section of the Praxis Core Writing test does not require you to do any writing at all. You won’t be tested on the names of grammatical terms. You won’t need to identify nouns, pronouns, verbs, participles, or gerunds. Whereas a vague sense of how you diagrammed sentences back in the day may help a bit, it’s not an essential skill on these questions.

What the selected-response Writing questions do test is your ability to recognize the elements of good writing, including basic grammar, sentence structure, agreement, and word choice.

As you prepare for the test, read everything—and we mean everything—with an eye toward sentence structure. Look for fragments in advertisements. Find run-on sentences in emails from your friends. Ferret out misplaced modifiers in the newspaper. Develop “proofreader’s eyes” as you read, read, read your way to success.

As you hone your eyes and get ready to spot errors on the Praxis exam, be sure to fine-tune your ears as well. Develop a more critical ear that notes errors and awkward constructions when you hear them. Frequently, you will have to trust your ear to identify errors and avoid trap answers on test day.

Introducing the Question Types

Because these question types may be new to you, you should begin by becoming familiar with the structure of the questions and the directions for each question type you will see on your test. Remember, you have only 40 minutes to answer 40 questions on the selected-response section of the Praxis Core Writing test. Getting familiar with the basics of each question type ahead of time will give you an edge when test day rolls around.

There are four main question types on the Core Writing exam: Usage, Sentence Correction, Revision in Context, and Research Skills. Within these four main categories, you may see some variation in the mode of delivery of the questions. The standard modes of delivery are shown below, but be prepared for some variation. Variations may include interactive questions that require some of the following:

  • Selecting all of the answer choices that apply
  • Constructing a short response in an entry box•Entering more than one response in different places
  • Checking off boxes (usually for all-that-apply questions)
  • Selecting regions on a graph or other visual
  • Choosing sentences in text
  • Moving answer choices onto targets or into positions
  • Choosing an answer from a drop-down menu

Each question type will be accompanied by clear directions for how to answer the question, so please read these carefully if you are not familiar with the question’s mode of delivery. For additional practice and to build familiarity with the various modes of delivery, refer to the online resources available to you.

  • Usage Questions

    Usage questions test a wide range of skills, including redundancy, singular versus plural nouns and verbs, pronoun reference, commas, verb tense, and capitalization. For these questions, you will always have four underlined portions of the sentence to choose from, as well as the option “No error.” Your task is to choose which of the four underlined portions needs a revision, if any. You don’t need to specify what the revision is, just the location of the error. If there is an error in the sentence, it will be in one of the four underlined portions.

    Keep in mind that you only have 40 minutes to answer 40 questions and that there is no penalty for
    incorrect answers. That means you need to move quickly through the Usage questions to allow for the
    more time-consuming questions. Aim to answer between 2 and 3 questions per minute.
  • Sentence Correction Questions

    Sentence Correction questions are similar to Usage questions, except there will be only one underlined portion for you to focus on. In this case, your task is to pick the best version of the underlined portion. Please note that the first answer will always be the same as the underlined portion in the question, so if there is an error, there is no need to consider the first choice.
    You should spend no more than 1 to 1.5 minutes on each Sentence Correction question.
  • Revision in Context Questions

    For Revision in Context questions, the test makers will provide a short essay draft and ask you to choose the best version of a sentence or set of sentences considering the essay’s context. They may also ask you to remove or insert sentences into certain paragraphs or adjust the sequence of the sentences in a given paragraph.

  • Research Skills Questions

    As the name suggests, Research Skills questions will test your basic understanding of acceptable research habits, including assessing the credibility of sources, recognizing different parts of a citation, recognizing different research strategies, and assessing the relevance of information to a research task.