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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, graphic, table or a combination of these. Four answer options appear below the question.

The following question is an example of the single-question format. It tests knowledge of Superintendent Competency 003: The superintendent knows how to communicate and collaborate with families and community members, respond to diverse community interests and needs and mobilize community resources to ensure educational success for all students.


The final expenditures for a major school construction project in a district run over budget by approximately 20 percent. A series of articles on the discrepancy appears in the local newspaper, including some highly critical editorials. Which of the following would be the superintendent’s best strategy for addressing this situation?

  1. Contact the publisher of the local newspaper to explore whether the paper might be willing to moderate its criticism
  2. Appeal to supporters of the project to organize a district-wide letter writing campaign to counter the negative publicity
  3. Initiate a communication plan to account fully for all expenditures, including cost overruns, related to the new facility
  4. Refrain from responding directly to the criticism but issue a series of press releases publicizing the benefits of the new facility
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 this question, consider the situation described. Public criticism is being leveled at the school district for significant cost overruns on a major construction project. Under such circumstances, the superintendent is responsible for ensuring that the public be provided with all relevant information on the issue (option C). Options B and D could both be seen as attempts to avoid accountability, and either response would be contrary to the superintendent’s responsibility to be forthcoming about issues of legitimate public interest. With regard to option A, trying to influence press coverage in the manner described would be an unethical response on the superintendent’s part. Option C is therefore the correct answer.

Decison Sets

Decision sets contain approximately five to nine questions that are all about a particular situation faced by a superintendent in a hypothetical Texas school district. The decision-set format helps to simulate situations that superintendents encounter and in which they must make decisions that affect staff, students and the larger school community. Each decision set begins with stimulus material, which sets the scene and provides information to use in answering the questions that follow. Decision sets also contain additional stimulus material provided at one or more junctures. This stimulus material typically provides additional information or a subsequent development that you will need to answer the questions that follow.

The decision-set stimulus material may include demographic information about the district, a description of the community served by the district or information about district staff in general or one or more particular staff members. Each decision-set stimulus describes a situation that a superintendent is facing.

The beginning and end of each decision set will be clearly marked. The following sample shows the first stimulus for a decision set.

Decision Set: First Stimulus

Part 1

Dr. Julian Smith, the superintendent of Grantwood ISD, is overseeing plans for a new school in the district. The new facility will replace an existing one that is old and in very poor condition. After gaining voter approval of the necessary bond issues, district officials begin planning construction of the new school.

The stimulus material presents essential information for the decision set. This stimulus indicates that a successful bond election has already taken place and that Dr. Smith and Grantwood ISD staff are in the early stages of planning the construction of a new school to replace the existing facility.

In a decision set, the stimulus is an important scene setter. As you consider the test questions that follow, check the stimulus as needed. As you progress through the decision set, additional stimuli may introduce new information. The decision set is often set up as a kind of story line that develops over time. You may find it helpful to skim all of the questions and stimulus materials in a decision set before answering any questions. Such a quick read-through may give you a richer understanding of the context for the questions. However, as you select your answer for each question, be sure to base your choice on only the information that has already been presented about the situation.

Regardless of the strategy you use, keep in mind that every piece of information in each stimulus and question is important. You should base your answers on the particular situation presented, not on similar situations you have encountered or studied. With each question, you should think about the knowledge and skills outlined in the test framework.

Decision Set

The following question is the first example of the decision set Superintendent Competency 009: The superintendent knows how to apply principles of leadership and management to the district’s physical plant and support systems to ensure a safe and effective learning environment.

Example 1

Dr. Smith’s first step in the planning process for building the new school should be to

  1. schedule public forums to discuss instructional needs and space requirements for the new school.
  2. meet with the designated architect to discuss design options for the new school.
  3. work with district and campus representatives to develop educational specifications for the new school.
  4. ask the principal of the new school to prepare a brief report on anticipated space needs.
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 this question, think about what steps must be taken during the process of planning school construction projects and in what order they should take place. All decisions about building and classroom design should be driven by the instructional needs of the student population to be served in the new facility. This must be the primary consideration before any specific plans or designs can be made. Also, districts must ensure that a new facility meets the standards approved by the State Board of Education. To facilitate this process, the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) requires districts to draft educational specifications for new facilities that include descriptions of the new school’s student population and instructional program. These specifications include, among other things, the number of students to be served, the grade-level configuration of the student population, a description of the instructional programs required by this population and a list of specialized classrooms and other support areas that will be needed. Therefore, option C is the correct answer to this question.

Decision Set: Second Stimulus

The next few questions are part of the same decision set. These questions follow a second stimulus. Each sample question is followed by a suggested approach to answering it. Additional stimulus material is sometimes provided in a decision set to provide more information or to introduce a new development in a situation. In this case, the following stimulus supplies additional information regarding district needs and how Dr. Smith plans to address them.

Part 2

Dr. Smith considers building the campus library as a shared-use public library in collaboration with city officials. In addition, other organizations have voiced to Dr. Smith their interest in using the school facilities during non-school hours. Because Dr. Smith has a small administrative staff with no expertise in facility planning, he wants to hire an outside consultant to assist with the planning process.

Example 2

Which of the following provides the primary advantages of joint use arrangements between schools and other organizations?

  1. Responding to the lack of recreational space in expanding areas and the need to efficiently use limited public resources
  2. Meeting compliance obligations from state and local building codes and responding to a strong research base showing the effectiveness of joint use
  3. Decreasing maintenance requirements for the building and relieving time constraints on custodial staff
  4. Effectively aligning and coordinating multiple agency’s funding sources and authority structures
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 this question, think about the many perspectives a superintendent must consider when making decisions for new construction planning. While school facilities are an integral component of public infrastructure, they largely sit empty after students complete their school day. With state finance budgets so tight around the state and nation, superintendents look for ways to be fiscally responsible and build partnerships with other non-school organizations to reduce costs and better serve the community. There is currently not a large amount of research available to define the effectiveness of this movement, and this initiative is guided largely by local policy and procedures, which invalidates option B. Despite the benefits, this joint arrangement is like a “forced marriage” and because each entity involved has complex decision-making structures, systems and policies and procedures that must be followed, the relationship between the school and non-school group is strained. Utilization often suffers as a result of these complexities, as well as the many competing political agendas. There is usually an increased demand on the building and custodial staff due to increased hours the campus is in use. So, the disadvantages and obstacles of this initiative are shown in options C and D. Therefore, option A is the correct answer to this question.

Example 3

In defining Dr. Smith’s working relationship with the independent contractor he plans to hire, Dr. Smith should ask the contractor to

  1. make decisions on educational matters that relate to the new facility because this is his area of expertise.
  2. administer the facilities planning process so that an efficient and effective system is maintained.
  3. utilize the district’s long-range plans and facility plans to meet the needs of students in the district.
  4. request an architect develop long-range plans for the district to ensure the facility is align with district needs.
Suggested Approach

As the district’s leader, the superintendent is responsible for administering facilities projects and reporting the status to board members, and should not delegate this role to an outside consultant. It is always tempting for educators to rely on the professional judgment of other professionals when they have very limited personnel resources. Only the educator can know the educational programs of the school system now and in the future, so Dr. Smith should provide the advice on educational matters. This includes the development of long-range plans for the district. These rationales invalidate options A, B and D. It is prudent for the superintendent to develop long-range plans and facility plans with the district stakeholders and ask the consultant to use them throughout the building and planning phase. Option C is the correct answer.

Example 4

The independent educational consultant hired by Dr. Smith discusses state regulations and policies describing the general parameters for selecting a builder for the new facility. Which of the following statements accurately describes the legal guidelines Grantwood ISD must follow when awarding construction contracts to build the new school?

  1. The district must use the request for proposal method when awarding contracts for the construction of new schools or other district facilities.
  2. Competitive bidding is one of several methods the district may select, depending on which option provides the best value to the district.
  3. The district must use either the request for proposal method or a design/build contract, depending on which option provides the best value to the district.
  4. Competitive bidding is the only approved method for the district to use when awarding contracts for the construction of new schools or other district facilities.
Suggested Approach

As the district’s leader, the superintendent must use an understanding of legal issues to make sound decisions. The Texas Education Code provides a variety of options to school districts that are awarding construction contracts for the building of new schools or for major renovation projects. The district may use whichever method provides the best value to the district, including but not limited to competitive bidding. Option B is the correct 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.

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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