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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.


The following question is an example of the single-question format. It tests knowledge of School Counselor Competency 006: The school counselor understands how to provide effective counseling services to individuals and small groups.

A school counselor has selected several students for a group counseling session and all the selected students have agreed to participate in the session. Which of the following should be the counselor’s first step at the group’s initial session?

  1. Guiding group members to establish peer agreement about issues of group confidentiality
  2. Discussing the counselor’s goals and expected outcomes for the group
  3. Establishing rules of order and etiquette to be used during the group sessions
  4. Explaining the sequence and purposes of activities the counselor has chosen for the group
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.

In this situation, a school counselor is about to begin counseling sessions with a small group of students. The counselor must decide on the most appropriate first step to take at the initial meeting of the group.

Option A suggests that the counselor’s first step should be to address issues of confidentiality and to obtain agreement by all members with regard to group confidentiality. The nature of group discussions inevitably involves the sharing of students’ personal thoughts and feelings. Therefore, a commitment to the principle of confidentiality must be mutually agreed upon by the group, not only to establish a foundation for trustful and open expression, but also to ensure that no student is put in the position of sharing personal information before privacy is guaranteed. Option A answers the question correctly and appropriately.

Option B suggests that the first step should be to discuss the counselor’s goals and expected outcomes for the group. These are issues that the counselor may well want to address at the beginning of and throughout the counseling process to help focus the group’s interactions. However, they are not as critical to students’ personal well-being as the issue of confidentiality. Option B may therefore be eliminated as the best response to this question.

Option C suggests that establishing rules of order and etiquette should be the counselor’s first step. This would be an important early step, as it would help ensure, for example, that the group’s discussions are sensitive to participants’ feelings and that everyone is given an equal chance for involvement. However, developing procedural rules to ensure group discussions run smoothly is of secondary importance to establishing the basic principle of confidentiality and trust. Option C is therefore not the best response.

Option D suggests that the counselor’s initial step at the first meeting should be to explain the sequence and purposes of the activities the counselor has planned. It may be that the counselor has goals in mind for the series of counseling sessions as a whole and that he or she will want to share these goals with the group early on. However, the sequence and purposes of specific activities are likely to depend largely on issues that arise during the sessions. Option D may thus be eliminated. In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option A as the best response.

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.


First read the stimulus (a sample of a student self-referral form developed by a school counselor).

Use the information below to answer the questions that follow.

Mr. Clements, an elementary school counselor, has developed the form shown below for students to use to make self-referrals.

self referral form

An image depicting a self-referral form displays the following text. Dear Mr. Clements, I would like to talk to you about. The form then shows six lines of text, each with an underlined blank space next to each line in which a student may check whichever line of text is applicable. The six lines are as follows. My class. My school work. A friend. My family. Myself. Something private. Finally, at the end of the form, two additional fill-in-the-blank lines of text are provided, which begin with the following texts. My name is. My teacher is.

Now you are prepared to address the first of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question measures School Counselor Competency 004: The school counselor understands how to plan, implement and evaluate a developmental guidance program, including counseling services, that promotes all students’ success.

1. Of the following, what is the major benefit of the way this form is designed?

  1. It reassures individual children that they are not the only ones who have such concerns
  2. It organizes information in a way that makes it easy to assign individual children to a specific group
  3. It offers children a simple method for requesting assistance from the counselor
  4. It facilitates the identification of the types of problems that are currently most prevalent among students
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the self-referral form presented in the stimulus. Then read the first question, which asks you to identify, out of the four options presented, the major benefit of the way the form is designed. Reflect on a counselor’s primary purpose for creating such a form and consider how the form’s design would serve that purpose. Then look at the response options.

Option A suggests that the major benefit of the form is to reassure children that other students have concerns similar to theirs. However, elementary school children who feel the need to speak with the counselor are primarily focused on their own feelings rather than on the potentially similar feelings of hypothetical peers. Option A is not the best response to this question.

Option B suggests that the major benefit of the form’s design would be to facilitate the organizational task of placing students in counseling groups. However, many students’ concerns do not call for group involvement. Furthermore, the wording of the form is not specific enough to make informed grouping decisions. Even if it were, the nature of a student’s concerns would be only one factor in determining the membership of a particular counseling group. Option B may therefore be eliminated.

Option C suggests that the major benefit of the form’s design is ease of student use. The form is simple and clear, and it provides students with a selection of likely topics that may be indicated with a minimum of effort or confusion. One of a school counselor’s primary goals is to help create an educational environment that promotes students’ well-being and ability to learn. Developing procedures that facilitate children’s ability to ask for help when they need it is an essential means of attaining this goal. Option C answers the question correctly and appropriately.

Option D suggests that the major benefit of the form’s design is that it would facilitate identification of the problems most prevalent among students. The categories listed on the form, however, are too general to provide useful information in this regard. The counselor would need to use a variety of other evaluation procedures to obtain such information. Option D thus does not describe a major benefit of the way the form has been designed.

In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option C as the best response.

Now you are ready to answer the next question. The second question measures School Counselor Competency 004: The school counselor understands how to plan, implement and evaluate a developmental guidance program, including counseling services, that promotes all students’ success.

2. The counselor could best promote children’s use of this form by having it printed in students’ home languages and

  1. mailing several copies of the form to every family at the beginning of the school year.
  2. giving teachers copies of the form to hand out to their classes.
  3. making copies of the form available in a variety of locations throughout the school.
  4. distributing copies of the form at school assemblies.
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus. Then read and reflect on the second question, which asks which other action the counselor should take, in addition to having the form printed in the children’s home languages, to best promote children’s use of the form.

Option A suggests that the best strategy would be to mail several copies of the form to every family at the beginning of the school year. Forms sent through the mail, however, would generally be addressed to the student’s parents or guardians rather than to the student. Furthermore, forms arriving by mail are easily discarded or misplaced. Option A is therefore not the best response to this question.

Option B suggests that the best strategy would be to provide teachers with copies of the form to distribute to their classes. However, students of elementary age would be unlikely to recognize the value of saving their copies unless they felt an immediate need for a counselor’s assistance. Option B would thus not be the best strategy for promoting children’s use of the form.

Option C suggests that the best strategy would be to make the forms available in a variety of locations throughout the school. This option, unlike the other responses, does not limit the distribution of the form to a specific time, place and/or event. When children feel in need of help from a counselor, the form will be readily available in a number of locations in the school. Option C is thus a good response to this question.

Option D suggests that the best strategy would be to distribute the form at school assemblies. This strategy would severely limit the form’s availability. Students who did not feel an immediate need for help would be unlikely to save the form for future use and students who wanted to request help at other times would not have easy access to the form when they needed it. Option D may be eliminated.

In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option C as the best response.

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 some interactive practice exams.

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.


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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