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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 English Language Arts and Reading 7–12 Competency 003: The teacher understands the structure and development of the English language and provides students with opportunities to develop related knowledge and skills in meaningful contexts.

As a word identification strategy, structural analysis would be most effective in helping students determine the meaning of which of the following words?

  1. Sartorial
  2. Wisteria
  3. Haberdasher
  4. Bibliophile
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, recall that structural analysis is the technique of dividing an unfamiliar word into parts to help determine its meaning. Now look at the response options and consider how structural analysis might be applied to the word presented in each option.

The word presented in option A is sartorial. The word sartorial refers to men’s clothing and the work of tailors. The word’s root, sartor, derives from a Latin word meaning “to patch” and is not found in many common English words. Dividing the word sartorial into parts is therefore unlikely to provide students with significant clues about the word’s meaning.

The word presented in option B is wisteria, which refers to a type of climbing vine. The word derives from the surname of an eighteenth-century American anatomist, Casper Wistar. Dividing the word wisteria into parts would not provide students with any significant clues about its meaning.

The word presented in option C is haberdasher, which refers to a person who sells items such as hats, shirts and gloves. The word derives from the Middle English word haberdashere, and dividing the word haberdasher into parts provides no significant clues about its meaning.

The word presented in option D is bibliophile. The word bibliophile refers to a person who loves books. One approach to analyzing this word is to divide it into two parts: biblio, derived from the Greek word for “books,” and phile, from the Greek word for “loving.” Students are likely to be familiar with the root biblio through knowledge of the common English word bibliography and may therefore infer that bibliophile relates to books or other reading materials. Students may also have encountered phile in words such as Anglophile, meaning a person who loves English culture. In this way, structural analysis can provide students with significant clues about the meaning of the word bibliophile.

For students, structural analysis would be effective in analyzing only one of the four words presented in the response options, the word bibliophile. The correct response is option D.

Example 2

The following question is also an example of the single-question format, but it has more than one correct response. It tests knowledge of English Language Arts and Reading 7–12 Competency 003: The teacher understands the structure and development of the English language and provides students with opportunities to develop related knowledge and skills in meaningful contexts.

A middle school English teacher projects the following sentence on the board for an editing exercise with the class.

After I fall in the mud my school uniform was the most dirty it has ever been.
The sentence can best be used to demonstrate correction of which of the following errors?

More than one choice is correct. Select ALL choices that apply.

  1. Using commas correctly
  2. Using consistent verb tense
  3. Correcting commonly misspelled words
  4. Correcting subject-verb agreement
  5. Using comparative and superlative forms
Suggested Approach

The question states, "More than one choice is correct. Select ALL choices that apply." Therefore, you should be prepared to make more than one selection. First, read the question carefully. For this particular question, you should focus on the sentence provided by the teacher and make an attempt to identify the errors that are present. While the sentence has several errors that need to be corrected, some of the usage is acceptable.

Option A, Using commas correctly, should be selected. A comma should be added after the introductory clause “After I fall in the mud.”

Option B, Using correct verb tense, should be selected. The sentence incorrectly uses the present tense verb “fall” in the introductory clause. It should be the past tense form, “fell.” The intent of the sentence as well as the other verbs used in the sentence, “was” and “has ever been” both reflect the past tense.

Option C, Correcting commonly misspelled words, should not be selected. All of the words are correctly spelled in the sentence.

Option D, Correcting subject-verb agreement, should not be selected. The singular subject, “my school uniform” is appropriately matched with the singular verb “was.”

Option E, Using comparative and superlative forms, should be selected. “Most dirty” is an attempt at the comparative form of the adjective “dirty.” In this sentence, the correct form would be superlative, because more than two things are being compared (“it has ever been”), and this would be accurately written as “the dirtiest it has ever been.”

The exercise would be good for modeling how to edit for correct comma usage, correct verb tense and correct superlative formation. The correct responses are options A, B and E.

Example 3

The following question is also an example of the single-question format, but it has more than one correct response. It tests knowledge of English Language Arts and Reading 7–12 Competency 006: The teacher understands literary elements, genres and movements and demonstrates knowledge of a substantial body of literature.

Read the name and author of each English literary text in the left column of the chart. For each text and author, mark the box underneath the literary period during which the text was written. You must select a literary period for each text.

The Medieval Period The Renaissance Period The Romantic Period The Modern Period
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Emma by Jane Austen
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Suggested Approach

The question states, “For each text and author, mark the box underneath the literary period during which the text was written.” Therefore, this question has more than one correct answer.

Read the name and author of each of the literary texts in the four boxes in the left-hand column. Then, using your knowledge of British literary periods, select the period that the description best matches and mark that column. The authors in this question are well-known for their writings and these texts are considered important texts of the time period.

The first text is Macbeth by William Shakespeare and the Renaissance Period of England should be selected. During the Renaissance Period, approximately 1500–1660, Queen Elizabeth of England contracted William Shakespeare to write his plays.

The second text, Emma by Jane Austen, should have the Romantic Period selected. The text was officially published in 1815, which falls within the Romantic Period, the late eighteenth century through the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837.

The third text, Ulysses by James Joyce, falls within the Modern Period. The Modern Period, early to mid-twentieth century, is marked by authors who experimented with form and style, such as James Joyce.

The fourth text, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, is the most prominent text to come out of the Medieval Period, estimated to be from around 1100–1500. Chaucer wrote the tales over a period of years, approximately 1387–1400.

The correct response for this question would have the marks shown below.

The Medieval Period The Renaissance Period The Romantic Period The Modern Period
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Emma by Jane Austen
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
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.


Read the information below to answer the questions that follow.

A teacher is planning to use the following excerpt from a tenth-grade student’s personal narrative for a class discussion about effective writing.

(1) The clouds gathered quickly over the school. (2) They were a heavy blanket pushing in on my emotions. (3) I stared down at my final exam. (4) I knew it was my enemy. (5) I looked out the window in the hope of some reprieve. (6) The Sun could have been my salvation, but it refused to shine.

Now you are prepared to respond to the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question tests knowledge of English Language Arts and Reading 7–12 Competency 009: The teacher understands effective writing and teaches students to write effectively in a variety of forms and for various audiences, purposes and contexts.

1. The teacher could best use the excerpt to model effective inclusion of which of the following types of figurative language?

  1. Simile
  2. Metaphor
  3. Alliteration
  4. Onomatopoeia
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus, including the statement before the paragraph explaining that the sample of student writing will be used by a teacher during a class discussion about effective writing. Then read and consider this first question, which asks which type of figurative language the teacher can best use the student writing to model.

When considering option A, simile, the candidate should look for instances in the paragraph in which the student figuratively compares two seemingly unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” There are no examples of simile present in the paragraph.

When considering option B, metaphor, the candidate should look for instances in the writing in which two seemingly unlike things were compared, without the use of the words “like” or “as.” There are examples of metaphor present in the paragraph.

When considering option C, alliteration, the candidate should look for instances in the writing where words are chained together in phrases that have the same sound repeated in the beginnings of the words. There are no examples of alliteration present in the paragraph.

When considering option D, onomatopoeia, the candidate should look for instances when the author includes words that, when spoken aloud, imitate the actual sounds made by or associated with its referent; for example, “Achoo,” or “Meow.” There are no examples of onomatopoeia present in the paragraph.

In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option B as the best response, because the effectiveness of the student paragraph relies partly on the writer’s use of metaphor but not of the other options of simile, alliteration or onomatopoeia. The writer uses sentences 1 and 2 to draw a comparison between the clouds gathering over the school and a “blanket pushing on my emotions.” Also, in sentences 3 and 4 the writer states that the “final exam” was the “enemy,” comparing a school test to a combat situation, which is a metaphor.

Now you are ready to answer the next question. It tests knowledge of English Language Arts and Reading 7–12 Competency 008: The teacher understands and promotes writing as a recursive, developmental, integrative, and ongoing process and provides students with opportunities to develop competence as writers.

2. Which of the following is the most effective way to demonstrate combining sentences 3 and 4?

  1. I stared down at my final exam; I knew it was my enemy.
  2. I stared down at my final exam, and knew it was surely my enemy.
  3. Knowing it was my enemy I stared down at my final exam.
  4. I knew it was my enemy, therefore, I stared down at my final exam.
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus, including the statement before the paragraph explaining that the sample of student writing will be used by a teacher during a class discussion about effective writing. Then read and consider this second question, which asks the candidate to evaluate the most effective way to demonstrate combining sentences 3 and 4 of the student paragraph. Read through each option and decide which option is the most effective and grammatically correct way to combine the sentences.

Option A presents a grammatically correct way to combine sentences 3 and 4. Sentence 4 builds on the idea presented in sentence 3 using a semi-colon, also known as a “weak period,” effectively and appropriately combining the related sentences.

Option B combines the sentences by adding a comma and the conjunction “and” and dropping the subject in the second sentence to create a compound predicate, as it has the same subject as the first sentence. However, the comma placed before the “and” is grammatically incorrect. The only reason to use a comma is if both the first half and second half of the sentence — the two parts on either side of the conjunction — form independent clauses. In this case, they are predicates that share the same subject and are NOT independent clauses. The comma would only be added if there was an independent clause that was able to stand alone on either side of the conjunction.

Option C reverses the order of the two independent clauses, and changes “I knew it was my enemy” to a participial phrase “knowing it was my enemy.” For this sentence to be grammatically correct, a comma would need to be placed after the participial phrase, after the word “enemy.”

Option D also reverses the order of the two sentences. It then combines the independent clauses using a subordinating conjunction to create a cause and effect relationship with the use of “therefore.” However, for the conjunction to be used correctly, the writer would need to use a semi-colon before the conjunction, not a comma.

In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option A as the best response, as adding a semi-colon between sentences 3 and 4 would be the most effective, and grammatically correct, way to combine the sentences.

Understanding Constructed-Response Questions

Constructed-response questions require you to demonstrate your knowledge in a subject area by providing in-depth explanations on particular topics. Essay, problem-solving, and oral-response are types of constructed-response questions.

For example, an essay or oral-response question might present you with a topic and ask you to discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated. You must support your position with specific reasons and examples from your own experience, observations or reading.

Take a look at a few sample essay topics:

Keep these things in mind when you respond to a constructed-response question:

  1. Answer the question accurately. Analyze what each part of the question is asking you to do. If the question asks you to describe or discuss, you should provide more than just a list.
  2. Answer the question completely. If a question asks you to do three distinct things in your response, you should cover all three things for the best score. No matter how well you respond, you will not be awarded full credit if you do not answer the question completely.
  3. Answer the question that is asked. Do not change the question or challenge the basis of the question. You will receive no credit or a low score if you answer another question or if you state, for example, that there is no possible answer.
  4. Give a thorough and detailed response. You must demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the subject matter. However, your response should be straightforward and not filled with unnecessary information.
  5. If your response is written, reread it. Check that you have written what you thought you wrote. Be sure not to leave sentences unfinished or omit clarifying information.

Understand How Constructed-Response Questions Will be Scored

Information about the scoring of constructed-response exam questions can be found on the Understanding Your Exam Results page on the Texas Educator Certification Examination Program website. Familiarize yourself with the scoring information provided on this page, and be sure your responses take this information into account.

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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