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:
- Selecting all that apply. In some questions, you will be asked to choose all the options that answer the question correctly.
- Typing in an entry box. You may be asked to enter a text or numeric answer. Some questions may have more than one place to enter a response.
- Clicking check boxes. You may be asked to click check boxes instead of an oval when more than one choice within a set of answers can be selected.
- Clicking parts of a graphic. In some questions, you will choose your answer by clicking on location(s) on a graphic such as a map or chart, as opposed to choosing from a list.
- Clicking on sentences. In questions with reading passages, you may be asked to choose your answer by clicking on a sentence or sentences within the reading passage.
- Dragging and dropping answer choices into "targets" on the screen. You may be asked to choose an answer from a list and drag it into the appropriate location in a table, paragraph of text, or graphic.
- Selecting options from a drop-down menu. This type of question will ask you to select the appropriate answer or answers by selecting options from a drop-down menu (e.g., to complete a sentence).
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.
You may see the following types of selected-response questions on the exam:
- Single Questions
- Clustered Questions
Below you will find descriptions of these commonly used question formats, along with suggested approaches for responding to each type.
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 Journalism 7–12 Competency 007: The teacher understands methods for developing students’ ability to use journalistic writing and editing to create journalistic products.
Students in a ninth-grade journalism class are drafting editorials that address an issue about which they feel strongly. One student has particular difficulty organizing his thoughts to create a coherent and cohesive editorial. Which of the following teaching strategies would be most effective for helping this student draft a clear and convincing editorial?
- Encourage the student to read a variety of published editorials before he begins to write.
- Advise the student to free-write and then reorganize his ideas in a logical sequence.
- Give the student samples of historically significant persuasive essays that illustrate effective text structures.
- Coach the student in developing an outline or flow chart to organize the main ideas for his editorial.
Read the question carefully and critically. Think about what it is asking and the situation it is describing. Eliminate any obviously wrong answers, select the correct answer choice and mark your answer.
In this item, one student is described as having difficulty organizing his thoughts to write a coherent editorial. The item asks for the most effective teaching strategy for helping the student draft a clear and convincing editorial. Look at the answer choices and consider which of them describes the most effective method for accomplishing this goal.
Option A suggests that the teacher should have the student read a variety of published editorials before he writes his own. This strategy might help the student recognize how other writers express their opinions, but it is unlikely to be effective in helping the student with the current task of organizing and presenting his own thoughts. Option A may be eliminated as the best response to this item.
Option B suggests that the teacher should advise the student to free-write and then reorganize his ideas in a logical sequence. Free-writing, or stream-of-consciousness writing, however, is not a recommended approach for focused writing. This strategy is likely to generate many unrelated ideas, which would exacerbate rather than help resolve the student’s present difficulty. Option B may be eliminated as the best response to this item.
Option C suggests that the student should be provided with historically significant persuasive essays that illustrate effective text structures. While this might be used as a long-term strategy for familiarizing students with organizational techniques and forms used in persuasive writing, it would not be particularly useful for the task at hand, which is to help the student apply organizational skills to his own ideas and draft an editorial. In addition, topics and issues in historical essays may have little relevance to a ninth-grade student in today’s world and so are unlikely to connect or relate to the student. Option C would not be the best response to this item.
Option D suggests that the teacher should coach the student in developing an outline or flowchart to organize the main ideas for his editorial. This indeed is a typical strategy used by writers to collect and organize thoughts and ideas into a coherent plan for a first draft. This strategy also presents a hands-on, individualized approach in which the teacher is actively involved in helping the student express and organize his ideas in writing. Option D identifies the most effective strategy for helping this student draft a clear and convincing editorial, and so option D is the best response to this item.
Of the alternatives offered, only coaching the student in developing an outline or flowchart presents a proactive, efficient strategy for directly addressing the student’s difficulty in the context of the current assignment. Therefore, the correct response is option D.
The following question is also an example of the single-question format, but it has more than one correct response. It tests knowledge of Journalism 7–12 Competency 005: The teacher understands skills for gathering information using journalistic research, interviews and news judgment, and develops students’ ability to use these skills to create various journalistic products.
A middle school is holding a week-long educational session on local authors. The newspaper staff at the middle school has decided to create a special edition of their newspaper in which they will gather various primary sources and present the information to the school. Which of the following is considered a primary source? Select allstart underline all end underline that apply.
- Photographs of the authors taken by the staff
- Pages of a diary belonging to one of the authors
- Copies of early drafts of a famous novel by one of the authors
- Clippings from other newspapers of reviews of the authors’ works
- An editorial by the school principal about a novel by one of the authors
The question states, "Select allstart underline all end underline 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 primary sources and attempt to identify all that are presented.
Option A should be selected. Because members of the staff took the photographs, they constitute original work and qualify as primary documents.
Option B should be selected. Because diaries are primary sources, the pages of the diary qualify as primary documents.
Option C should be selected. Drafts of literary works are primary sources.
Option D should not be selected. Although some newspaper articles featuring first-person accounts are considered primary sources, book reviews are secondary sources.
Option E should not be selected. Editorials, like book reviews, are secondary sources.
Understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources is very important for journalism students undertaking research and gathering information. The correct response is A, B and C.
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.
Questions 1–2 refer to the following information.
At the beginning of each week, a yearbook teacher gives her class a specific photography assignment, whether it is taking pictures of a sporting event, taking pictures of a specific club/organization’s event, or taking pictures of designated classrooms. She also asks teachers and parents to submit photographs they have taken throughout the year, and has the class work in groups to select and edit these photos for use in the yearbook. The decisions of the groups are then discussed and evaluated by the class.
Now you are prepared to respond to the first of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The first question tests knowledge of Journalism 7–12 Competency 009: The teacher understands methods for developing students’ ability to create effective images for journalistic products.
1. Which of the following is the most desired outcome of the weekly photography assignment?
- Allowing the students more opportunities to practice their techniques
- Ensuring that the pictures will reflect a diverse school population
- Increasing the number of photographs usable by the staff
- Allowing the teacher a means of assessing students’ work
Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus. Then read and consider this first question, which asks which outcome is the most desired.
Option B is correct. Designating an assignment is an ideal way of diversifying the photography of the yearbook. This approach will ensure that the photographs highlight different sections of the student population that may otherwise be underrepresented. It also will give every student the opportunity to have work featured in the yearbook.
Option A is incorrect. Although this option provides emerging photographers with the opportunity to practice their skills, that is not the most desired outcome of this assignment. This teacher could present other assignments to meet the goal of helping students practice, but by giving the class specific assignments for events or locations the teacher is ensuring that the entire population will be represented in the yearbook.
Option C is incorrect. Although this option increases the number of photographs received for the yearbook, that is not the most desired outcome of this assignment. By directing the students in the direction of events and locations, the teacher is clearly dictating the coverage of the yearbook and not merely the quantity of photographs available.
Option D is incorrect. Although this practice can be used for assessment, that is not the most desired outcome of this approach. A yearbook teacher’s assessments are not solely comprised of photography, so there is clearly another point to this weekly assignment.
In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option B as the best response, because the stimulus reveals that the teacher’s assignment covers the entire school year and focuses on engaging all of the students. Although options B, C and D offer some desired outcome, only option B emerges as the most desired outcome, as it is the goal of every yearbook to fully reflect the school’s diverse population.
Now you are prepared to respond to the second of the two questions associated with this stimulus. The second question measures Journalism 7–12 Competency 014: The teacher understands methods for encouraging students’ development of organizational, collaborative and leadership skills through the creation and distribution of journalistic products.
2. Which of the following is the most desired outcome of the selection and editing component of this assignment?
- Students are required to work together to produce a journalistic product.
- The teacher can use observation to identify leaders for editorial positions.
- This approach focuses on the role of photography in journalistic communication.
- The groups will select only the best pictures so that the teacher does not waste time reviewing poor quality work.
Consider carefully the information presented in the stimulus. Then read and consider this second question, which asks which outcome is the most desired.
Option A is correct. Because one of the main goals of a yearbook is to reflect the school’s diverse population, this assignment creates a smaller forum where all students can participate and provide their opinions. The finished product, and the process of students working together to produce that product, is the most desired outcome of the selection and editing component of the weekly assignment.
Option B, is incorrect. Although this assignment may yield opportunities to identify leaders, the appeal of the assignment based on this condition vanishes once those positions are filled. As such, this option is not the most desired outcome.
Option C is incorrect. Although the assignment does focus attention on the role of photography, this is not the most desired outcome. This option is too narrow in scope and does not take into account the collaborative nature of the assignment or other pedagogical factors at work.
Option D is incorrect. Assignments should be created for the purpose of educating the students and not with the goal of sparing the teacher work. This option is certainly not the most desired outcome.
In this way, analysis of the four options should lead you to select option A as the best response, because the stimulus reveals that the teacher’s assignment is driven by the work accomplished by the groups. The assignment provides a number of desired outcomes, as evidenced mainly by options B and C, but only option A emerges as the most desired outcome.
Gather Study Materials
For all content areas, think about where you might be able to obtain materials for review:
- Did you have a course in which the area was covered?
- Do you still have your book or your notes?
- Does your college library have a good introductory college-level text in this area?
- Does your local library have a high school-level text?
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:
- Choose a testing date far enough in the future to leave you plenty of preparation time. For exam date information, refer to the exam's information page on the Texas Educator Certification Examination Program website.
- Work backward from the exam date to figure out how much time you will need for review.
- Set a realistic schedule — and stick to it.
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:
- Define Content Areas: List the most important content areas for your exam as defined in the preparation manual.
- Determine Strengths and Weaknesses: Identify where you have thorough understanding and where you need additional study in each content area.
- Identify Resources: Identify the books, courses, and other resources you plan to use to study for each content area.
- 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:
- Plan the group's study program. Parts of the study plan template can help to structure your group's study program. By filling out the first five columns and sharing the worksheets, everyone will learn more about your group's mix of abilities and about the resources, such as textbooks, that members can share with the group. In the sixth column ("Dates planned for study of content"), you can create an overall schedule for your group's study program.
- Plan individual group sessions. At the end of each session, the group should decide what specific topics will be covered at the next meeting and who will present each topic. Use the content domains and competencies in the preparation manual to select topics, and then select practice questions.
- Prepare your presentation for the group. When it's your turn to present, prepare something that is more than a lecture. Write two or three original questions to pose to the group. Practicing writing actual questions can help you better understand the topics covered on the exam as well as the types of questions you will encounter on the exam. It will also give other members of the group extra practice at answering questions.
- Take a practice exam together. The idea of a practice exam is to simulate an actual administration of the exam, so scheduling an exam session with the group will add to the realism and may also help boost everyone's confidence. Remember, if you take a practice exam, allow only the time that will be allotted for that exam on your administration day. You can use the questions in the preparation manual for your practice exam. Interactive practice exams are available for some fields.
- Learn from the results of the practice exam. Check each other's answers. Answers for the selected-response questions with explanations for the answers are included
in the prep manual. If your exam includes constructed-response questions, look at
the constructed-response sample questions, which contain sample responses to those
types of questions and shows how they were scored. Then try to follow the same guidelines
that the test raters use.
- Be as critical as you can. You're not doing your study partner a favor by letting him or her get away with an answer that does not cover all parts of the question adequately.
- Be specific. Write comments that are as detailed as the comments about the sample responses. Indicate where and how your study partner is doing an inadequate job of answering the question. Writing notes for your study partner may also help.
- Be supportive. Include comments that point out what your study partner got right and that therefore earned points.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Be well-rested.
- Bring two pieces of original (no photocopies or digital ID) and valid (unexpired) identification, printed in English in the name in which you registered. Your identification must contain your name, a recent recognizable photograph, and your signature. For more information, refer to the ID Policy page on the Texas Educator Certification Examination Program website.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled reporting time.
- Eat before you take the exam to keep your energy level up.
- Wear comfortable clothes and dress in layers.
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.
- Do you know the Texas testing requirements for your teaching field?
- Have you followed all of the exam registration procedures?
- Do you know the topics that will be covered in each exam you plan to take?
- Have you reviewed any textbooks, class notes, and course readings that relate to the topics covered?
- Do you know how long the exam will take and the number of questions it contains?
- Have you considered how you will pace your work?
- Are you familiar with the types of questions that you may encounter during your exam?
- Are you familiar with the recommended test-taking strategies?
- Have you practiced by working through the practice questions in the preparation manual?
- If constructed-response questions are part of your exam, do you understand the scoring criteria for these items?
- If you are repeating an exam, have you analyzed your previous score report to determine areas where additional study and exam preparation could be useful?
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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