Praxis Core Writing has a more complicated structure than the other Praxis Core exams. Unlike Math and Reading, Core Writing has both multiple choice questions and constructed response questions. Not only that, but it has four different types of multiple choice questions (Usage, Sentence Correction, Revision in Context, and Research). And it has two different tasks involving constructed response (Argumentative Essay and Informative/Explanatory Essay).
Fortunately, there are certain tips you can follow that will help you across the many different question types in Praxis Core Writing. Here are 10 tips to guide you through the Core Writing test, both during prep and on test day.
- In Usage questions, focus on errors that are easy to make. Multiple choice questions frequently focus on relatively simple errors, such as subject verb agreement, the use of plural and singular forms, punctuation, capitalization, double negatives, and small mistakes in word forms. It’s very easy to make these mistakes. But it’s also very easy to see these mistakes, if you know what to look for. These mistakes appear most frequently in Usage questions, but turn up in other question types as well.
- Look for errors in verbs. Mistakes with singular/plural verbs, verb tenses, gerunds (verbs ending in –ing), and the use of infinitives (verbs beginning with the word “to”) are very common in Praxis Core Writing multiple choice questions. Sentence Correction and Revision in Context questions are especially likely to show verbs that modify nouns incorrectly or illogically. (For example, a sentence or passage might say that sunlight requires plants to grow, when in fact it is the other way around—plants require sunlight to grow.)
- Watch for parallel structure. Many of the mistakes you’ll be presented with in Usage, Sentence Correction, and Revision in Context involve parallel structure. If you see a change in verb tense or form or a single phrase that is worded much differently than other phrases, double check it. If there’s not a specific reason for this kind of break in pattern, there is a mistake in parallel structure that must be corrected.
- If you can’t find a mistake, don’t overthink. You absolutely should know how to detect and correct errors that are present in the Usage, Sentence Correction, and Revision in Context questions. But if you keep looking and can’t seem to find anything wrong, then select the answer that indicates no error or no change. Remember, the absence of error is always possible answer choice.
- But do be aware that “no mistake” is not a frequent answer choice. At the same time, if you often feel you are seeing no mistake and no revision needed, you’re probably answering some questions incorrectly. There are always a few instances where no revision is needed on Praxis Core Writing, but these cases are the exception, not the rule. Expect 2-4 “no error” answers in the Usage section of the test. In Sentence Correction and Revision in Context, you may get one or two sentences that need no correction. But on any given exam, it’s just as likely that every sentence in SC and Revision will require changes of some sort.
- Look for answer choices that fix errors without creating new It is all too easy to recognize a mistake and then select the very first answer choice you see that corrects the mistake. This is a common way that Praxis Core Writing tricks you, especially with the longer and more complex answer choices in Sentence Correction and Revision in Context. Make sure that you identify all answers that fix the error, and then select the answer that fixes the error without adding new mistakes into the mix.
- For research questions, understand the features that all citation styles have in common. There will be a small selection of questions about research writing and methods. Questions about research citation styles are not specific to any one format such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc…. So be able to recognize a citation of a website, magazine, or other type of source in any style, and understand the citation rules that are near-universal.
- Know the difference between primary and secondary sources. A primary source is a source that comes directly from the thing that’s being studied. The lab results of a science experiment would be a primary science source, and letters written form a soldier to his family during the US Civil War would be a primary source for a history essay. Secondary sources are scholarly works that report on a subject, such as a science textbook or a website article about the Civil War. You’re likely to answer questions about these source types in the Research section of Core Writing.
- Understand content organization in essays. Understand the way content is developed in written discourse. Understand the importance of relevant information, good transitions, introductions, summaries, and so on. Also recognize the difference between smooth wording that “flows” and overly-wordy writing that is awkward. This knowledge will serve you well as you write your two Core essays. Understanding discourse structure also helps you perform well in all of the multiple choice questions, especially Sentence Correction and Revision in Context Questions.
- Know what’s expected of you on the essays. Core Writing essays are held to a complex set of criteria by Praxis scorers. There are many subtle differences between a top scoring essay and one that receives a lower score. In its free study companion for Core Writing, the Praxis offers scoring guides and example essays with scorer commentary. Take advantage of these resources and work to create essays that meet Praxis Core standards.
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