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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 Life Science 7–12 Competency 013: The teacher understands that, at all levels of nature, living systems are found within other living systems, each with its own boundaries and limits.

Use the illustrations below to answer the question that follows.

Two diagrams showing lifecyles of a butterfly and a grasshopper.

The left diagram shows a circular shape of the complete metamorphosis of a butterfly's life. It includes 6 phases: phase one is fertilized eggs, phase two is larva, phase three is a caterpillar, phase four is a pupa, phase four is a cocoon, phase five is an adult butterfly. The right diagram shows a circular shape of an incomplete metamorphosis of a grasshopper. It includes 4 stages: phase one is eggs, phase two is a small nymph, phase three is a larger nymph, and phase four is an adult grasshopper.

Compared to incomplete metamorphosis, complete metamorphosis in an insect species most likely contributes to the survival and reproductive success of the species in which of the following ways?

  1. In species with complete metamorphosis, immature members of the species can avoid predators more easily
  2. In species with complete metamorphosis, growth and development occurs more rapidly and the individual reaches sexual maturity at an earlier age
  3. In species with complete metamorphosis, immature members of the species can disperse over a wider area after hatching
  4. In species with complete metamorphosis, immature and adult life stages can utilize different parts of the larger environment
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.

For example, the diagram given with this question illustrates differences between the life cycles of insect species that undergo complete metamorphosis as they grow and those species in which metamorphosis is incomplete. It is clear from the diagram that a major difference between the two types of life cycles is the degree to which immature members of the species resemble adults. In species with complete metamorphosis, immature individuals are very different in appearance from adults. In contrast, in species with incomplete metamorphosis, immature individuals and adults differ in size but are very similar in appearance. Now look at the response options and consider how this difference between the life cycles relates to each of the responses. The correct response is option D.

Option A suggests that in species with complete metamorphosis, immature individuals can avoid predators more easily. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true, because the nymphs in species with incomplete metamorphosis are likely to be much more mobile than the larvae, caterpillars and pupae in species with complete metamorphosis.

Option B suggests that in species with complete metamorphosis, immature individuals grow and develop more rapidly. In fact, the rate of growth in an insect species is not determined by the type of metamorphosis, but by the adaptive strategy of the individual species. Some species with incomplete metamorphosis grow rapidly and reach maturity quickly, while others grow much more slowly. Some species with complete metamorphosis can grow and reach maturity in a single season, while others winter over as cocoons.

Option C suggests that in species with complete metamorphosis, immature individuals can disperse over a wider area after hatching. In fact, the mobile nymphs in species with incomplete metamorphosis are more able to disperse than the larvae, caterpillars and pupae of species with complete metamorphosis.

Option D, which is the correct response, suggests that in species with complete metamorphosis, immature and adult individuals can utilize different parts of the environment. Because immature individuals and adults in species with complete metamorphosis differ strongly in morphology, they can exploit different ecological niches. For example, caterpillars eat leaves and other vegetation, while butterflies primarily eat nectar. In species with incomplete metamorphosis, immature individuals resemble adults and are more likely to exploit similar ecological niches.

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 description of a classroom activity, building a compost heap).

Read the description below of a classroom activity; then answer the two questions that follow.

As part of a unit on recycling, a high school science class builds a compost heap with lawn clippings, garden residue and litter from the cages of guinea pigs and other class pets. After several weeks of turning the heap and keeping it moist, the class produces a quantity of finished compost.

Now you are prepared to respond to the first of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question tests knowledge of Life Science 7–12 Competency 016: The teacher understands the relationships between abiotic and biotic factors of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, habitats and biomes, including the flow of matter and energy.

1. Some of the students wonder why the volume of the finished compost is considerably smaller than that of the plant residues and animal wastes used to form the original heap. Which of the following is the best explanation for this result?

  1. Bacterial digestion shreds the coarse material in the heap into finer particles that can be more closely packed
  2. Bacterial respiration converts some of the carbon in the heap to carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere
  3. Heat produced by spontaneous combustion in the heap converts much of the original mass into energy
  4. Bacterial digestion converts the large molecules of cellulose and other carbon compounds in the heap to smaller and simpler carbon compounds
Suggested Approach

Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus about how the students build and maintain the compost heap. Then read and consider this first question, which asks why the volume of the finished compost is smaller than that of the material used to form the original heap. Consider which of the response options correctly explains the reduction in the size of the heap as composting proceeds. The correct response is option B.

Option A suggests that bacteria shred the materials into finer particles during the composting process. However, bacteria process their food chemically rather than physically and have no mechanisms that allow physical shredding of materials.

Option B, which is the correct response, suggests that the heap decreases in size as bacterial respiration converts some of the carbon in the heap to carbon dioxide gas. According to the stimulus, the students turn the heap, which would keep it aerated. Aerobic decomposition involves respiration, and carbon dioxide is a byproduct of this process. During the decomposition of the compost heap, the solid form of carbon that is bound in tissues of plants and animals is converted to carbon dioxide and lost from the heap to the atmosphere.

Option C suggests that heat produced by spontaneous combustion in the heap converts mass into energy. The conversion of mass into energy is characteristic of nuclear reactions, which are not occurring in the compost heap.

Option D suggests that bacteria convert the large molecules of cellulose and other compounds into smaller and simpler carbon compounds. While this statement is true, this process would not lead to a reduction in the quantity of matter during decomposition. Furthermore, the size of a piece of matter is not necessarily related to the size of its constituent molecules. Conversion of cellulose to simpler compounds does not imply that individual pieces of matter in the heap are reduced in size, allowing them to pack more closely and reduce the volume of the heap.

Now you are ready to answer the next question. The second question measures Life Science 7–12 Competency 019: The teacher understands research-based theoretical and practical knowledge about teaching science, how students learn science and the role of scientific inquiry in science instruction.

2. The classroom activity described previously would most likely help students satisfy which of the following student expectations from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) statements?

  1. The student knows that relationships exist between properties of matter and its components
  2. The student uses scientific methods during field and laboratory investigations
  3. The student knows that interdependence and interactions occur within an ecosystem
  4. The student knows the significance of plants in the environment
Suggested Approach

Again, consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus, especially with regard to identifying instructional goals of the composting activity. Then read and consider this second question, which asks which student expectation from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) statements would most likely be satisfied by this activity. The correct response is option C.

Option A suggests that the activity would help the student know that relationships exist between properties of matter and its components. However, the activity does not involve learning about either the properties of matter or the components of matter.

Option B suggests that the activity teaches students how to use scientific methods during field and laboratory investigations. However, the activity, as it is stated, does not involve application of any scientific methodology involving the development and testing of a hypothesis.

Option C suggests that the activity helps students know that interdependence and interactions occur within an ecosystem. Option C is the correct answer because the composting activity illustrates the role of decomposers in recycling nutrients through an ecosystem so that they can be used by other organisms.

Option D suggests that the activity helps students know the significance of plants in the environment. However, this activity does not involve analysis of plants or their role in the environment.

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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