10 Mistakes to Avoid on the Praxis Reading and Writing Exams - dummies

10 Mistakes to Avoid on the Praxis Reading and Writing Exams

By Carla Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

Taking the Praxis Core is an arena where your mind sometimes encourages you to do the wrong thing, and in those situations, you have to learn not to follow your instincts. These tips will help you steer clear of common errors that test-takers make on the writing and reading portions of the Praxis Core.

Don’t look for patterns in the answers

Perhaps the biggest mistake that a test-taker can make on the Praxis is to look for a pattern in the answers. It’s a waste of time and energy, and it won’t help you get any more of the answers correct.

The best method is always to mark the answer you think is correct for each individual question on a case-by-case basis, paying absolutely no attention to how many or how few times you’ve selected the same answer choice previously.

Don’t change answers merely for the sake of changing them

Should you go back and look over your answers? There’s no one right answer to that question. Some test-takers tend to actually catch their careless mistakes when they look back, and others tend to get nervous and change answers that were right the first time.

If you do end up deciding to go back and change an answer, you should be thinking more about whether the first answer you put is wrong than about whether the other answer you’re considering seems right. It’s common for more than one answer choice to seem right. Never change an answer unless you can articulate to yourself a reason why it’s wrong.

Mistakes on the writing test

Now that you’ve heard some general pointers about multiple-choice tests as a whole, turn your attention specifically to the Praxis writing exam.

Don’t equate different with wrong

Just because you can think of a way to phrase something other than the way the question phrases it doesn’t necessarily mean that the phrasing in the question is grammatically incorrect. There’s often more than one correct way to say something.

This is a problem for a lot of test-takers on questions with the “No Error” answer choice. The fact that you can think of another word or phrase that could be substituted for underlined portion (B) doesn’t mean that underlined portion (B) is an error.

Don’t assume something must be correct just because it sounds fancier or more complex

Most people are insecure about their grammar, and grammatically stressful situations can exacerbate that insecurity and cause people to say things in a way they wouldn’t normally say them.

Perhaps no single word in the English language pops up unnecessarily as a result of overcorrection than whom. Nervous students writing essays may slap unneeded m’s onto the end of the interrogative pronoun right and left.

Verb tenses are another area where you’ll want to watch out for overcorrection. If “I drove to the store yesterday” sounds perfectly fine in context, resist the urge to select “I had driven to the store yesterday” just because the past-perfect tense sounds more complex than the regular past tense.

Don’t turn the essay into a thesaurus explosion

Using big words does not make you appear to be smarter if what you’re saying is unclear and muddled.

The graders of the essay look for a sense of ease with written communication. You want to sound thoughtful, personable, persuasive, and, above all, as if you think writing is fun.

Don’t paint yourself into a corner with a rigid thesis

For the essay portion, you want to carve out a clear position and sound like you believe in what you’re saying, of course, but it’s not a good idea to start off by asserting your thesis so stringently that you won’t be able to acknowledge an exception or gray area that occurs to you, for fear of appearing to contradict yourself.

You can state your opinion clearly up-front and add an “on the other hand, I can understand why someone might think … ” later.

Mistakes on the reading test

Reading comprehension is not as rule-based as grammar, but there are still a few definite traps you want to avoid falling into on the Praxis reading exam.

Don’t rule out the “too obvious”

On practice exams, students often begin to circle the right answer, only to change it at the last second. When asked why, they often say that the first (and correct) answer was “too obvious.”

The “too obvious” mistake is really a confidence problem. Just follow your instincts.

Don’t word-match

Inserting a string of matching words from the passage into one of the wrong answer choices as bait for people whose reading comprehension is weak is a common method that test-writers use to compose the wrong answer choices.

Don’t base your answer on anything to do with how many words or phrases from the passage appear in a particular choice.

Don’t ignore your outside knowledge

The Praxis reading exam doesn’t test you on outside knowledge. A passage presents you with some information, and then you answer the question you’re asked based solely on the information in the passage.

You shouldn’t ignore or forget about things that you happen to know from real life. Now, we’re not saying you should try to select right answers based on what you think is true in real life — when the question says “according to the author” or “according to the passage,” it means that you are to identify what the text says, not give your personal opinion.

Don’t try to answer more than the question asks you to

A question following a passage may ask something like “Which of the following claims is explicitly made in the passage?” You may see an answer choice that does indeed paraphrase a claim that was explicitly made in the passage, but then avoid picking it because the claim wasn’t the author’s main point. Huh?!