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Section 2: How to Prepare for the Exams

This section of the preparation manual provides information to help you prepare to take the TExES exams.

Learn What the Exam Covers

You may have heard that there are several different versions of the same exam. It's true. You may take one version of the exam and your friend may take a different version. Each exam has different questions covering the same subject area, but both versions of the exam measure the same skills and content knowledge.

You'll find specific information on the exam you're taking in the Overview and Exam Framework section of the preparation manual, which outlines the content areas that the exam measures and what percentage of the exam covers each area.

Begin by reviewing the preparation manual for your exam in its entirety, paying particular attention to the content specifications. The content specifications detail the knowledge and skills to be measured on the exam. The Educator Standards section of the prep manual lists the standards necessary for a teacher of that subject.

Once you have reviewed the preparation manual and the standards, you can create your own personalized study plan and schedule based on your individual needs and how much time you have before exam day. Be sure to also seek other resources to strengthen your content knowledge.

Keep in mind that study habits are individual. There are many different ways to successfully prepare for your exam. Some people study better on their own, while others prefer a group setting. You may have more energy early in the day, but another test taker may concentrate better in the evening. Use this guide to develop the approach that works best for you.

Assess How Well You Know the Content

Use your review of the competencies to focus your study time on those areas containing knowledge and skills with which you are less familiar. You should leave yourself time to review the content of all domains and competencies, both the familiar and the less familiar ones, but the focus of your preparation time and priority in your studying should be placed upon those areas about which you are least confident.

Think carefully about how well you know each area; research shows that test takers tend to overestimate their preparedness. People often glance at the specifications, or at the exam questions (with "a peek" at the answers at the same time), and think that they know the content of the exam. This is why some test takers assume they did well and then are surprised to find out they did not pass.

The exams are demanding enough to require serious review. The longer you've been away from the content the more preparation you will most likely need. If it has been longer than a few months since you've studied your content area, make a concerted effort to prepare. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose from such an approach.

Familiarize Yourself with the Different Types of Exam Questions

The TExES exams include several types of exam questions, which can be broken into two categories: selected response (multiple choice) and constructed response (for which you write or record a response of your own that is scored by trained raters based on scoring guidelines). You may be familiar with these question formats from taking other standardized tests. If not, familiarize yourself with them so you don't spend time during the exam figuring out how to answer them.

How to Approach Unfamiliar Question Formats

Some questions include introductory information such as a table, graph, or reading passage (often called a stimulus) that provides the information the question asks for. New formats for presenting information are developed from time to time. Exams may include audio and video stimulus materials, such as a movie clip or some kind of animation, instead of a map or reading passage.

Exams may also include interactive types of questions. These questions take advantage of technology to assess knowledge and skills that go beyond what can be assessed using standard single-selection selected-response questions. If you see a format you are not familiar with, read the directions carefully. The directions always give clear instructions on how you are expected to respond.

For most questions, you will respond by clicking an oval to choose a single answer choice from a list of options. Other questions may ask you to respond by:

Remember that with every question, you will get clear instructions on how to respond.

Approaches to Answering Selected-Response Questions

The information below describes some selected-response question formats that you will typically see on TExES exams and suggests possible ways to approach thinking about and answering them. These approaches are intended to supplement and complement familiar test-taking strategies with which you may already be comfortable and that work for you. Fundamentally, the most important component in ensuring your success is familiarity with the content that is covered on the exam. This content has been carefully selected to align with the knowledge required to begin a career as a teacher in the state of Texas.

The questions on each exam are designed to assess your knowledge of the content described in the competencies of each exam. In most cases, you are expected to demonstrate more than just your ability to recall factual information. You may be asked to think critically about the information, to analyze it, to compare it with other knowledge you have, or to make a judgment about it.

Be sure to read the directions carefully to ensure that you know what is required for each exam question. Leave no questions unanswered. Your score will be determined by the number of questions you answer correctly.

Question Types

You may see the following types of selected-response questions on the exam:

Below you will find descriptions of these commonly used question formats, along with suggested approaches for responding to each type.

Single Questions

The single-question format presents a direct question or an incomplete statement. It can also include a reading passage, movie clip, graphic, table, or a combination of these.

Example 1

The following question is an example of the single-question format. It tests knowledge of Early Childhood: PK–3 Competency 010: (English Language Arts and Social Studies): Understand the foundational principles, concepts, and methods in English language arts and social studies to provide developmentally appropriate instruction for students in prekindergarten to grade 3.

A prekindergarten teacher would like to integrate opportunities for child-centered vocabulary development to promote clear communication during an exploratory unit on weather. Which of the following practices would best support the teacher's goal?

  1. demonstrating how to spell weather-related words to improve children's sight-word recognition
  2. posting visuals around the classroom that depict common weather conditions for children's reference
  3. incorporating weather-related read-alouds and asking children to illustrate the images from the text
  4. creating a weather station with the children and using it at circle time to identify daily forecasts
Suggested Approach

Read the question carefully and critically. Think about what it is asking and the situation it is describing. Eliminate any obviously wrong answers, select the correct answer choice, and mark your answer.

As you read the question, think about child-centered vocabulary development, specifically as it promotes children's communication in academic areas. The question requires an analysis of how children develop vocabulary, and asks which practice would best support this development as related to a classroom activity, in this case, an exploratory unit on weather. Next, look at the response options and consider which of them describes the best practice for promoting child-centered vocabulary in this situation.

Option A suggests that demonstrating the spelling of weather-related words will improve children's sight-word recognition, and thus will improve children's vocabulary development. Word walls and other use of environmental print are important tools to familiarize children with words and to develop their recognition of sight-words. Sight-words are words that children can read automatically without having to decode them. However, increasing children's recognition of sight-words will not develop their understanding of vocabulary. To develop vocabulary, children must develop an understanding of the meanings of words. Since this is not a component of Option A, it can be eliminated as the best response to this item.

Option B suggests that posting visuals around the classroom depicting common weather conditions for children's reference will improve their vocabulary. Posting these types of visuals around the classroom will support the reinforcement of children's understanding of these terms once they understand which visual is associated with each concept and term. However, posting pictures and other visuals without an associated vocabulary word that the children have already learned does not directly support children's development or understanding of associated concepts, terms, or vocabulary, so Option B can be eliminated as a best response to this item as well.

Option C suggests that incorporating weather-related read-alouds and asking children to illustrate the images from the text will best promote children's vocabulary development. It is important to foster children's connections to text and stories they have heard read aloud, and one way of doing this is to encourage children to represent and apply what they have learned through drawing, writing, or another medium. This activity would provide information about children's understanding and interpretation of the read-aloud, but would not support children's acquisition of content-specific vocabulary. Therefore, Option C would not be the best response for this item.

Option D suggests that creating a weather station with the children and using it at circle time to identify daily forecasts will effectively support child-centered vocabulary development to promote clear communication about weather. Creating a weather station with children illustrates an activity that the teacher would do together with the children. By involving the children in creating a weather station, children would be involved in choosing words that they associate with weather, and would learn new weather-related words and vocabulary from each other and from the teacher through completing this activity. By using the weather station daily at circle time, the teacher would apply and make relevant the practice of describing weather through appropriate vocabulary for children, and daily use would strengthen and reinforce their understanding of this type of vocabulary.

Of the options offered, only creating a weather station with the children and using it at circle time to identify daily forecasts could be considered the best practice to support the teacher's goal of integrating opportunities for child-centered vocabulary development to promote clear communication during an exploratory unit on weather. Therefore, the correct response is option D.

Clustered Questions

Clustered questions are made up of a stimulus and two or more questions relating to the stimulus. The stimulus material can be a reading passage, graphic, table, or any other information necessary to answer the questions that follow.

You can use several different approaches to respond to clustered questions. Some commonly used strategies are listed below.

Strategy 1 Skim the stimulus material to understand its purpose, its arrangement, and/or its content. Then read the questions and refer again to the stimulus material to obtain the specific information you need to answer the questions.
Strategy 2 Read the questions before considering the stimulus material. The theory behind this strategy is that the content of the questions will help you identify the purpose of the stimulus material and locate the information you need to answer the questions.
Strategy 3 Use a combination of both strategies. Apply the "read the stimulus first" strategy with shorter, more familiar stimuli and the "read the questions first" strategy with longer, more complex or less familiar stimuli. You can experiment with the sample questions in the preparation manuals and then use the strategy with which you are most comfortable when you take the actual exam.

Whether you read the stimulus before or after you read the questions, you should read it carefully and critically. You may want to note its important points to help you answer the questions.

As you consider questions set in educational contexts, try to enter into the identified teacher's frame of mind and use that teacher's point of view to answer the questions that accompany the stimulus. Be sure to consider the questions only in terms of the information provided in the stimulus — not in terms of your own experiences or individuals you may have known.

Example

First read the stimulus (statements describing a classroom activity involving two-digit addition).

Use the information below to answer the two questions that follow.

A second-grade class is learning various ways to complete two-digit addition with regrouping. The students have worked with base-ten blocks to develop an understanding of physical regrouping in addition. They most recently have been working on solving two-digit addition problems by drawing dots for ones, lines for tens, and squares for hundreds.

Now you are prepared to respond to the first of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question tests Early Childhood: PK–3 Competency 011: (Mathematics): Understand foundational principles, concepts, and methods in mathematics to provide developmentally appropriate instruction for students in prekindergarten to grade 3.

1. The activities involving two-digit addition problems most directly support students' acquisition of which of the following skills from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics?

  1. communicating mathematical ideas using multiple representations, including symbols
  2. using strategies based on place value to describe the relationship between addition and subtraction
  3. connecting repeated addition to multiplication through situations that equal grouping
  4. representing problems involving addition of whole numbers using visual and tactile models
Suggested Approach

As you read the question, think about second-grade students' development in mathematics, specifically in developing the ability to solve two-digit addition problems. The question requires analyzing mathematics activities and comparing them to skills from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics. After making this comparison, look at the response options and consider which of them describes an activity that would best support students' development of the ability to solve two-digit addition problems.

Option A suggests that communicating mathematical ideas using multiple representations, including symbols, is the skill from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics that is most directly supported by the activities described in the stimulus. To communicate mathematical ideas using multiple representations, the students would need to demonstrate that they understand how to solve one problem in these various ways. For example, to demonstrate this understanding, the students would need to show their understanding of a problem through writing it as an equation, drawing pictures to represent it, and using manipulatives to illustrate the concept. As the focus in this stimulus is on exploring a concept (two-digit addition) and not on representing one problem in a number of ways, Option A (communicating mathematical ideas using multiple representations, including symbols) is not the skill from the TEKS best represented in this item.

Option B suggests that using strategies based on place value to describe the relationship between addition and subtraction is the skill from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics that is most directly supported by the activities described in the stimulus. Although base-ten blocks and dots (ones), lines (tens), and squares (hundreds) can be used for regrouping in subtraction as well as in addition and can also be used to compare the relationship between the two, the focus in this stimulus is solely on two-digit addition using base-ten blocks and dots, lines, and squares. For this reason, Option B (using strategies based on place value to describe the relationship between addition and subtraction) is not the skill from the TEKS best represented in this item.

Option C suggests that connecting repeated addition to multiplication through situations that equal grouping is the skill from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics that is most directly supported by the activities described in the stimulus. Base-ten blocks and dots, lines, and squares could be used to visually and tactilely illustrate repeated addition and its relationship to multiplication. However, in this stimulus, the teacher is specifically focusing on two-digit addition with students. For this reason, Option C (connecting repeated addition to multiplication through situations that equal grouping) is not the skill from the TEKS best represented in this item.

Option D suggests that representing problems involving addition of whole numbers using visual and tactile models is the skill from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics that is most directly supported by the activities described in the stimulus. In this activity, the students are developing an understanding of physical regrouping in two-digit problems in addition using concrete, tactile objects (base-ten blocks) and visual, pictorial models (dots, lines, and squares).

Of the options offered, the activity described in the stimulus involving addition of two-digit addition problems most directly supports students' acquisition of the skill from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Grade 2 Mathematics that includes representing whole numbers using visual and tactile (pictorial and concrete) models. Therefore, the correct response is option D.

Now you are ready to answer the second question. The second question also measures Early Childhood: PK–3 Competency 011: (Mathematics): Understand foundational principles, concepts, and methods in mathematics to provide developmentally appropriate instruction for students in prekindergarten to grade 3.

2. Once students have mastered solving two-digit addition problems by drawing dots for ones, lines for tens, and squares for hundreds, which of the following strategies would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping?

  1. placing interlocking cubes on place-value mats
  2. practicing skip counting by twos, fives, and tens
  3. using algorithms based on knowledge of place value
  4. memorizing number families that total ten
Suggested Approach

Again, consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus.

Option A suggests that placing interlocking cubes on place-value mats would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping. Interlocking cubes are an effective concrete, tactile manipulative that can be used to develop an understanding of addition and could be used to reinforce students' existing understanding of the concept. However, they would not build on understanding students have already developed and would therefore not be an effective next step in the students' development of understanding of two-digit addition. Therefore, Option A would not be the best response for this item.

Option B suggests that practicing skip counting by twos, fives, and tens would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping. At the second-grade level, practicing skip counting for equal groups of twos, fives, and tens would be most effective to build a strong foundation for multiplication and division. Regrouping in addition would not effectively be supported by skip counting, so Option B can be eliminated as the best response for this item.

Option C suggests that using algorithms based on knowledge of place value would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping. An algorithm is a widely accepted process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. When supporting students' development of new and unfamiliar mathematical concepts, teachers often use tactile and pictorial models to promote a deeper understanding of the process students are learning. Once students understand the mathematical concepts behind operations, it is then effective to teach them algorithms to support their completion of mathematical equations more efficiently.

Option D suggests that memorizing number families that total ten would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping. Students would have already learned number families that total ten by second grade. Although this practice is helpful for automaticity and accuracy in adding, this practice would not support further understanding of completing two-step addition problems accurately. Therefore, Option D is incorrect.

Of the options offered, using algorithms based on knowledge of place value would be most effective for the teacher to instruct students in to support their learning of two-digit addition with regrouping. Therefore, the correct response is option C.

Preparing for the Constructed-Response Question

When preparing for the examination's constructed-response question, read the sample question and scoring rubric carefully (both are available in Section 5 of this preparation manual). You may wish to draft a response to the sample question by reading the question and planning, writing, and revising your essay.

Please note that, on the actual examination, you will be scored only on the response that you type on the computer. Also, because you may not use any reference materials during the exam, it is recommended that you refrain from using a dictionary, a thesaurus, or textbooks while writing your practice response.

Once you have written your practice response, reread the scoring rubric, and then read the sample responses. Rationales that explain how the responses characterize the score point description are provided for each response. After you have read through these materials, review your own response in light of the score point descriptions. You may also wish to review your response and the score scale with staff in your educator preparation program.

Gather Study Materials

For all content areas, think about where you might be able to obtain materials for review:

Do you know a teacher or professor who can help you organize your study? Would a study group suit you and help you maintain momentum? People have different study methods that work for them — use whatever you know that works for you.

Preparation manuals are available for all Texas educator certification program exams. Each prep manual provides a combination of exam preparation and practice, including sample questions and answers with explanations. You can also find informational tutorials and interactive practice exams for some fields.

Plan and Organize Your Time

You can begin to plan and organize your time while you are still collecting materials. Allow yourself plenty of review time to avoid cramming new material at the end. Here are a few tips:

Develop Your Study Plan

A study plan provides a roadmap to prepare for the exams. It can help you understand what skills and knowledge are covered on the exam and where to focus your attention. A study plan worksheet is available on the Texas Educator Certification Examination Program website. You can use this worksheet to:

  1. Define Content Areas: List the most important content areas for your exam as defined in the preparation manual.
  2. Determine Strengths and Weaknesses: Identify where you have thorough understanding and where you need additional study in each content area.
  3. Identify Resources: Identify the books, courses, and other resources you plan to use to study for each content area.
  4. Study: Create and commit to a schedule that provides for regular study periods.

Practice

Exams with constructed-response questions assess your ability to explain material effectively. As a teacher, you'll need to be able to explain concepts and processes to students in a clear, understandable way. What are the major concepts you will be required to teach? Can you explain them in your own words accurately, completely, and clearly? Practice explaining these concepts to test your ability to effectively explain what you know.

Using Study Materials as Part of a Study Group

People who have a lot of studying to do sometimes find it helpful to form a study group with others who are working toward the same goal. Study groups give members opportunities to ask questions and get detailed answers. In a group, some members usually have a better understanding of certain topics, while others in the group may be better at other topics. As members take turns explaining concepts to each other, everyone builds self-confidence.

If the group encounters a question that none of the members can answer well, the group can go to a teacher or other expert and get answers efficiently. Because study groups schedule regular meetings, members study in a more disciplined fashion. They also gain emotional support. The group should be large enough so that various people can contribute various kinds of knowledge, but small enough so that it stays focused. Often, three to six members is a good size.

Here are some ways to use the preparation manual as part of a study group:

Then plan one or more study sessions based on aspects of the questions on which group members did not perform well. For example, each group member might be responsible for rewriting one paragraph of a response in which someone else did an inadequate job.

Whether you decide to study alone or with a group, remember that the best way to prepare is to have an organized plan. The plan you follow should set goals based on specific topics and skills that you need to learn, and it should commit you to a realistic set of deadlines for meeting these goals. Then you need to discipline yourself to stick with your plan and accomplish your goals on schedule.

Smart Tips for Success

Learn from the experts. Take advantage of these answers to questions you may have and practical tips to help you navigate the exam and make the best use of your time.

Should I guess?

Yes. Your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly, with no penalty or subtraction for an incorrect answer. When you don't know the answer to a question, try to eliminate any obviously wrong answers and then guess at the correct one. Try to pace yourself so that you have enough time to carefully consider every question.

Are there trick questions on the exam?

No. There are no hidden meanings or trick wording. All of the questions on the exam ask about subject matter knowledge in a straightforward manner.

Are there answer patterns on the exam?

No. You might have heard this myth: The answers on selected-response exams follow patterns. Another myth is that there will never be more than two questions with the same lettered answer following each other. Neither myth is true. Select the answer you think is correct based on your knowledge of the subject.

Can I write on the erasable sheet(s) I am given?

Yes. You can work out problems or make notes to yourself on the erasable sheet(s) provided to you by the test administrator. You may use your notes in any way that is useful to you, but be sure to enter your final answers on the computer. No credit is given for anything written on the erasable sheet(s).

Tips for Taking the Exam

  1. Skip the questions you find extremely difficult. Rather than trying to answer these on your first pass through the exam, leave them blank and mark them. Pay attention to the time as you answer the rest of the questions on the exam, and try to finish with 10 or 15 minutes remaining so that you can go back over the questions you left blank. Even if you don't know the answer the second time you read the questions, see if you can narrow down the possible answers and then guess.
  2. Keep track of the time. Keep an eye on the timer, and be aware of how much time you have left to complete your exam. You will probably have plenty of time to answer all of the questions, but if you find yourself becoming stuck on one question, you might decide to move on and return to that question later.
  3. Read all of the possible answers before selecting one. Then, reread the question to be sure the answer you have selected really answers the question. Remember, a question that contains a phrase such as "Which of the following does NOT ..." is asking for the one answer that is NOT a correct statement or conclusion.
  4. Check your answers. If you have extra time left over at the end of the exam, look over each question and make sure that you have answered it as you intended. Many test takers make careless mistakes that they could have corrected if they had checked their answers.
  5. Don't worry about your score when you are taking the exam. No one is expected to answer all of the questions correctly. Your score on this exam is not analogous to your score on other similar-looking (but in fact very different!) exams. It doesn't matter on the exams whether you score very high or barely pass. If you meet the minimum passing scores along with any other requirements for obtaining teaching certification, you will receive a license. In other words, what matters is meeting the minimum passing score.
  6. Use your energy to take the exam, not to get angry at it. Getting angry at the exam only increases stress and decreases the likelihood that you will do your best. Highly qualified educators and exam development professionals, all with backgrounds in teaching and educational leadership, worked diligently to make the exam a fair and valid measure of your knowledge and skills. The best thing to do is concentrate on answering the questions.

Do Your Best on Exam Day

You followed your study plan. You are ready for the exam. Now it's time to prepare for exam day.

Plan to end your review a day or two before the actual exam date so you avoid cramming. Take a dry run to the test center so you're sure of the route, traffic conditions, and parking. Most of all, you want to eliminate any unexpected factors that could distract you from your ultimate goal — passing the exam!

On the day of the exam, you should:

You cannot control the testing situation, but you can control yourself. Stay calm. The supervisors are well trained and make every effort to provide uniform testing conditions. You can think of preparing for this exam as training for an athletic event. Once you have trained, prepared, and rested, give it your best effort...and good luck!

Are You Ready?

Review this list to determine if you're ready to take your exam.

If you answered "yes" to the questions above, your preparation has paid off. Now take the exam, do your best, pass it — and begin your teaching career!


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