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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 English as a Second Language Supplemental Competency 002: The ESL teacher understands the processes of first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) acquisition and the interrelatedness of L1 and L2 development.

In most cases, basic communication skills take markedly less time to develop than academic language skills. Which of the following scenarios best illustrates this phenomenon?

  1. A student can use common idioms and slang but is often unable to conjugate verbs correctly
  2. A student can read and understand American short stories but cannot summarize them coherently
  3. A student demonstrates perfect pronunciation but frequently omits articles and prepositions
  4. A student speaks English fluently but is having difficulty understanding content-area lectures
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.

This question relates to an important theory in second-language acquisition that proposes that there is a significant difference between the language skills required for everyday basic communication and those required for academic activities, and that the latter take markedly longer to develop. In this question, each of the four response options describes a difficulty a student is experiencing in some area of language development. You must analyze the response options and determine which scenario is based on this theory.

Option A contrasts a student’s success in using common idioms and slang with the student’s difficulty in conjugating verbs. All these language skills initially emerge during and are part of the development of basic communicative language proficiency. They do not represent a discrepancy between communicative language skills and academic language skills. Thus, option A would not be an appropriate scenario for illustrating the above theory.

Option B contrasts a student’s success in reading and understanding short stories with the student’s difficulty in summarizing the stories coherently. These tasks are all academic tasks requiring facility with cognitive-academic language and specific academic skills. The contrast is not based on a discrepancy between the student’s basic communication skills and academic language skills. Option B can therefore be eliminated as the best response to this item.

Option C contrasts a student’s strong pronunciation skills with the student’s difficulty in using articles and prepositions correctly. As in response A, the knowledge and skills involved in all these tasks relate strongly to basic communicative language proficiency. Therefore, option C is not the best response for this item.

Option D contrasts a student’s ability to speak fluently with the student’s difficulty in understanding content-area lectures. Clearly, this contrast represents a disparity between the student’s proficiency levels in basic communicative language and cognitive-academic language. This response is therefore a good illustration of the theory described above.

Of the alternatives offered, only option D describes a scenario based on a contrast between a student’s basic communicative language skills and academic language skills. 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.


Use the information below to answer the questions that follow.

First read the stimulus (a description of a teacher’s instructional decision).

As one component of her reading program, an ESL teacher helps her students create and participate in literature response groups in which they can talk about the literature they are reading and share and/or enact favorite passages.

The teacher also encourages students to record their reactions and questions to their readings in literature response journals. The students share their response journals with their teacher, peers and families. Students also invite these readers to add their own comments and questions to the journal, creating ongoing written dialogues.

Now you are prepared to respond to the first of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question tests knowledge of English as a Second Language Supplemental Competency 001: The ESL teacher understands fundamental language concepts and knows the structure and conventions of the English language.

1. The teacher’s use of literature response groups and journals demonstrates a strong understanding that

  1. language development is an integrated process.
  2. language instruction should emphasize oral development over written development.
  3. language development is a sequential process.
  4. language instruction should emphasize receptive language skills before expressive language skills.
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus regarding the types of student activities that are involved in the literature response groups. Then read and consider this first question, which requires you to complete the sentence by identifying a fundamental concept underlying the teacher’s use of the literature response groups. Look at the response options to consider which option will correctly complete the sentence.

Option A suggests that a fundamental concept underlying the teacher’s use of literature response groups is that language development is an integrated process. Research in second-language acquisition and current ESL methodologies strongly support the concept that the four language skills or modes (i.e., listening, speaking, reading and writing) develop interdependently, not as discrete skills. In the stimulus, we see that the students participate in a number of activities related to the literature response groups (e.g., engaging in small group discussions about the literature they are reading, sharing and enacting favorite passages, creating interactive journals in which they engage in written dialogues with their teacher, peers and family members regarding their reading). The four language modes are clearly integrated in these activities. Thus, option A represents an accurate completion of the sentence. However, to verify this answer, it is advisable to look at all the response options before marking your answer sheet.

Option B states that language instruction should emphasize oral development over written development. With respect to the early stages of second-language acquisition, many experts would agree with this statement. However, if you look at the stimulus and consider the types of activities the students engage in as part of the literature response groups, it is clear that the activities emphasize both oral and written language development. Thus, option B can be eliminated as an accurate completion of the sentence.

Option C states that language development is a sequential process. While a person’s language knowledge and language skills certainly build on one another throughout the process of language acquisition, most models of language development are based on the concept that language acquisition is an organic, integrated process rather than a sequential or linear process. Also, the language activities described in the stimulus as part of the literature response groups are very much interdependent in nature, not sequential. Therefore option C may be eliminated.

Option D states that language instruction should emphasize receptive language skills before expressive language skills. Again, as in option B, while many experts may agree with this statement with respect to the early stages of second-language acquisition, the activities in the stimulus emphasize receptive and expressive language skills more or less equally. Option D is therefore not the best response to this item.

Of the four options offered, only option A correctly completes the sentence by accurately reflecting what research suggests about language acquisition as well as accurately corresponding to what is happening in the stimulus.

Now you are ready to answer the next question. The second question measures English as a Second Language Supplemental Competency 005: The ESL teacher understands how to promote students’ literacy development in English.

2. To best support and encourage students’ ongoing interaction with literature, it would be most effective for the teacher to

  1. help students learn how to select books that are likely to be comprehensible and of interest to them.
  2. encourage students occasionally to read literature independently without talking or writing about it.
  3. monitor the reader response groups and journals and correct students’ misconceptions about the books.
  4. make presentations to students about standard guidelines for literary evaluation and criticism.
Suggested Approach

Again, carefully consider the information presented in the stimulus. Then read and consider this second question, which asks you to complete a sentence by selecting the best response option. In this case, the correct response will be the option that describes the most effective way the teacher can support and encourage the students’ ongoing interaction with literature.

Option A suggests that the teacher should help the students learn how to select books that are likely to be comprehensible and of interest to them. As with any skill, a student’s reading skills improve with practice, and students are more likely to practice their reading and engage in ongoing interactions with literature when those interactions are successful and enjoyable. Thus, providing students with strategies for selecting books that they are likely to find comprehensible and of interest to them is a key step in supporting students’ reading and their ongoing interactions with literature. Option A offers a correct completion of the sentence.

Option B suggests that the teacher can best support students’ ongoing interactions with literature by encouraging them to read literature independently, without talking or writing about it. When working with young readers, struggling readers or readers for whom English is not their primary language (as is the case with our scenario), it is important to emphasize activities that will promote the students’ positive attitudes toward reading and the development of their reading skills. Therefore, it is likely to be more beneficial for the teacher in this scenario to emphasize supportive, interactive and fun reading experiences over independent reading experiences. Option B may be eliminated.

Option C suggests that the teacher could best encourage the students’ ongoing interactions with literature by monitoring their work in the literature response groups and correcting their misconceptions about the books. While the monitoring of students’ work should be a component of any instructional activity, in this scenario it is likely to be more beneficial to the students for the teacher to emphasize positive feedback rather than emphasizing student errors or misconceptions. Option C can therefore be eliminated.

Option D suggests that the teacher can best support students’ ongoing interactions with literature by teaching them standard guidelines for literary evaluation and criticism. This is a strategy that would be appropriate for promoting the cognitive-academic language development of students at advanced levels of English language and reading proficiency. However, nothing in the stimulus suggests that the students are advanced-level students. Also, more importantly, the activities in the scenario clearly emphasize social aspects of reading (e.g., discussing and enacting favorite scenes, engaging in written dialogues) rather than formal analytical aspects of reading. Option D therefore is not the best response for this item.

Of the four options offered, only option A provides a strategy that is likely to be effective in promoting the students’ ongoing interactions with literature.

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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