Praxis Essay Strategies

 

Reading and Interpreting the Topic

 

The first step in writing a timed essay is to carefully read and interpret the topic.  It is helpful if you are familiar with the sample topics that the Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides at http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/PRAXIS/pdf/0720.pdf.  These topics ask you to discuss the degree to which you agree with a particular statement.  This means that you may totally agree or totally disagree with a statement, but you may also take a middle-ground approach if you wish.  The key is to provide logical, well-explained reasons to support your stance.  You will not be judged on your opinion; you will be judged on how well you explain and support your opinion.

 

 Planning the Essay—8 Minutes Pay Off Big!

 

ETS allows only 30 minutes to write the essay, so most students are tempted to plunge right into drafting the essay once they’re certain of the stance they want to take.  Resist this temptation!  Instead, invest a few minutes—no more than 8—in planning the essay.  This planning time will improve the quality of your essay and actually save you time once you begin drafting.

 

Here are good tips for making your planning time pay off:

 

Writing the Essay—A Fast and Furious 15 Minutes!

 

If you’ve used your planning time productively, you should be able to quickly draft the essay.  Aim for completing your draft in 15 minutes so that you’ll have a few minutes to glance back over the essay.

 

Try these tips to increase your efficiency:

 

Revision—A 7-Minute Scan

 

If you’ve kept to the recommended timings of the planning and writing phases, you should have about 7 minutes at the end to review your essay. 

 

Use your time for a thorough reading of your essay.  This will reveal any omitted words (common when writing quickly), awkward wordings, problems in transitions, etc.  Look carefully for errors in sentence structure (like fragments and run-ons) as well as subject-verb agreement errors.  These two types of errors suggest that a student’s writing skills need serious work, so essays containing them usually score quite low, even if the content ideas are good.

 

Another common mistake that results in an immature-sounding essay is the use of second-person pronouns (“you”).  It is common to use “you” informally to refer not to the reader personally, but to just any general person.  However, this is a very informal use of the word, and it should be avoided in a formal essay.  It is easy to correct, however; just substitute a more general reference word for “you.”  Example:

 

Original:            You might underestimate the value of taking a foreign language in college, but you’d be surprised how often your knowledge may help you in the classroom once you begin teaching.

 

Revised:            Many students underestimate the value of taking a foreign language in college, but this knowledge can help them in many ways in the classroom once they begin teaching.

 

Other General Advice

 

·         Write neatly if taking the paper-based version of the Praxis.  You are graded on the content of your essay, but graders may be unconsciously ill-disposed toward a sloppily written piece.

 

·         Follow instructions carefully.  On the paper-based version, you should write the essay on the lined section; the blank section is reserved for planning space.

 

·         If you are a slow writer, the 30-minute time limit for the Praxis essay may make you nervous.  The computerized version has an on-screen timer that counts down, and some students have reported that they find this timer paralyzing!  Be aware that you DO have the option to turn this timer OFF so that you don’t see the minutes ticking down.

 

·         Unsure whether you should take the paper version or the computerized version?  Consider these factors in deciding:

 

1.      If you type as fast or faster than you write and your general comfort level with writing at the computer is average or above, you’re a good candidate for computer testing.

2.      If you tend to make major changes in organization or add many more details to a paper when you revise, computerized testing may be the best option for you.  The computer does allow you cut/copy and paste, which is helpful if you tend to make major changes in the revision stage.