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How Difficult is the Praxis II?

For many teachers-in-training, the Praxis II exam feels intimidating, because the information is so specialized. But how difficult is the Praxis II?

How difficult is the Praxis II? That depends on which Praxis II you take!

There are so many Praxis II tests–at least one exam for just about every subject you could possibly teach. The more specialized a Praxis II content area is, the harder a Praxis II exam can be. And on the flip side of that equation, test-takers often find Praxis II tests to be easier if their content is more general.

Let me explain what I mean by specific vs. general on the Praxis II. The Praxis II test for Chemistry: Content Knowledge is highly specialized. Many of the questions focus on specific chemical compounds, facts about chemical reactions, science experimentation methods, important discoveries in the field of chemistry, and so on. This test requires you to recall a long list of concrete facts about the content area. Even if you’re very knowledgeable about chemistry, it’s usually harder to master a highly detailed set set of concrete facts for an exam.

So what would a more general Praxis II test look like? Well, the Praxis II for Teaching Reading provides one example. This exam doesn’t focus on the long list of facts you’d find in a “hard science” discipline like chemistry. Instead, a Praxis II exam like this one tests a teacher’s knowledge  of the art of teaching. Many of the questions can be answered correctly through a combination of common sense and teaching experience. (The latter of which can be gained through student teaching and practicum.)

Of course, the rule that specific factual content = harder and general skills content = easier on the Praxis II is not always true; different test-takers have different abilities. Most test-takers find more specialized content harder and have an easier time preparing for Praxis II tests on the art of teaching. But it’s possible that you could be more comfortable with fact-oriented testing…or you might feel uncomfortable demonstrating your teaching skills through a standardized test. You will need to look at Praxis II sample questions and prep materials to know for sure if a Praxis II exam will be hard for you personally.

The Praxis II can be harder for people in alternative certification programs

The Praxis II is designed to measure years of university-level learning. If you want to take the Praxis II for Biology: Content Knowledge and you have just finished a university degree in biology, the test just might feel like an easy review of content you’ve already learned. If you need to take the Praxis II in Early Childhood Education and you’re almost done with a teaching degree int hat area, your professors probably spent years preparing you for the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer on the test.

In contrast, teachers who are seeking alternative certification usually haven’t taken any teacher education classes, other than some relatively short in-program training. Often, alternative certification candidates also lack a degree in the content area they’re trying to get certified in.

In this situation, the Praxis II takes a lot of careful study and can be quite challenging. If you are taking a Praxis II in an area you didn’t major in, make sure you prepare adequately…and be ready for a real challenge.

Difficult Praxis II -Magoosh

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30 Responses to How Difficult is the Praxis II?

  1. George February 20, 2017 at 1:03 PM #

    I’ve taken this Praxis for Biological Content, 4 times and they have been different versions every time. I’ve bought every book and study guide from ETS. Nothing seems to help! Any Suggestions?

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 21, 2017 at 3:21 AM #

      Sorry to hear that this has happened to you. It definitely sounds frustrating to take the test 4 times and still not be at your target score. That being said, I’m sure you can beat this exam. My advice right now is to think of your performance in terms of question types and content types, rather than specific test versions. There’s a list of all the question types and kinds of information you need to master for this test. It appears on pages 5-11 of the official Study Companion PDF for Praxis II Biology Content Knowledge.

      Look at these kinds of questions and compare this list to the kinds of questions you’re getting worn on your practice tests. This should help you identify specific Biology Content knowledge areas where you’re weak, as well as specific question types you need to improve on. Form there, you can target your future studies so that you really work on your weaknesses. This approach to studies should get your score up to where it needs to be.

    • A. Hall May 1, 2019 at 9:06 PM #

      Also, I was told there were only 4 versions of each Praxis II test…so next time, you’re bound to get a repeat test! There is hope!

  2. Ratna April 29, 2017 at 4:16 AM #

    I am preparing for Praxis II for computer science .. any sujjestions for preperations?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 1, 2017 at 3:28 AM #

      Hi Ratna,

      A good place to start is with the free prep materials from ETS (the writers of the exam). You can find the study companions for the Computer Science Praxis II here:

      I hope this helps! Best of luck with your prep 🙂

  3. Jamie May 21, 2017 at 1:01 PM #

    I’ve taken the Praxis II 5169 Middle School Mathematics Exam, and most of the questions on there were college level calculus and trigonometry questions. Do I need to know college level calculus and trigonometry in order to teach middle school? Do I also need to teach college level calculus and trigonometry to middle schoolers? Why is that the case? One of my questions was the exact same question found on the High school Mathematics Exam. I strongly believe my test was rigged!

  4. Jamie May 22, 2017 at 6:43 PM #

    A follow-up. I have purchased the practice Middle School Mathematics 5169 exam and the material/concepts were more in line with what should have been on the exam I have taken-what I’ve studying for through other measures. Nothing at all was foreign to me, unlike the exam that I had taken.

    I’ve done some research and I was able to find the exact question that was on my middle school math exam 5169 and guess what? It was a from a High School Mathematics Exam. After much more digging, I could not believe the amount of questions that were High School Mathematics Exam questions that were on the Middle school math exam I had taken.

    No exaggeration here: The questions and concepts were very similar to the middle school math exam 5169 I had taken. Something isn’t right, but I tell you what!?… Something must be done about this. I knew something wasn’t right, especially to have come across a plethora of calculus and trigonometry problems like that.

    I understand that some middle schoolers encounter basic calculus and trigonometry problems but hardcore calculus and trigonometry problems? I don’t think so.

    • Caitlyn Wolf March 10, 2019 at 8:53 PM #

      I agree! The middle school math praxis is a lot harder than actual middle school math. I have failed 4 times and will take it again next month. I am disciplined and study for hours each week while also teaching math. I

  5. Smith December 1, 2017 at 1:54 AM #


    You are not the only one noticing this. My wife graduated with honors for her bachelors degree and will now be taking this Praxis Middle School Math exam for the third time. This is the only test/exam I have ever known her to fail.

    She has come back from her latest attempt extremely distressed. She says that the questions being presented on this exam are not only NOT covered in her many study resources but that they are college level material.

    Has anyone reached out to Praxis for an official response on this?

    • Tia February 24, 2018 at 4:22 AM #

      I graduated with honors as well and, i have my bachelors degree. All throughout my years in school from K-12, I have never failed any standardized test, but I failed the Praxis 2. I’ve followed the study guide that ETS has to the t and viewed videos and read texts on the topics I was rusty on. I’ve even done lits of practice examples. When it was time for me to take the test, I couldn’t believe how foreign it was. Nothing I studied was on that test.

      I have a theory though. Because of Common core, I truly believe that the test is aligned that way. Many people that i know of are failing this test more than three times. I truly believe that most people taking this test were not taught the concepts that are required now back when they were in school. What angers me most is that there is not one single study guide that is aligned to this standardized test. How are people supposed to learn the concepts if they are not taught through books, videos, websites, texts, etc. if none of them are aligned to the tests’ style?

      I’ve mentioned this to ETS and it got nowhere. There was a rebuttal for everything I’ve said. On top of that, I am very wary of sites, including this one that have videos and\or study material that are NOT aligned to the Praxis 2,whatsoever. I wish each state and their individual cities would come up with some sort of Praxis prep classes that are aligned to the Praxis 2 tests, teach people the concepts that they were not previously taught in school. Teacher candidates need something like this in order to pass.

      I just cannot believe the plethora of people taking and failing this exam several times and nothing is being done about it. I suspect they love collecting $120 from each person every single time they fail the test. Our system is so flawed! This is what discourages me from being a teacher. To me, it really isn’t worth the immense pressure to pass a test that is nearly impossible to pass without the proper tools.

      • David Recine
        David Recine February 24, 2018 at 10:48 AM #

        I’m sorry you’re facing so much frustration, Tia! 🙁 But I appreciate your sharing this. Your story can help other Praxis test takers know that they’re not alone if they face similar challenges.

        I too am a bit frustrated with the support (or lack thereof) that ETS provides for Praxis test-takers. They don’t update their official prep materials as often as they do for other tests, and their customer service email and phone lines provide less information than the ones for TOEFL or GRE.

        As a result, official materials can be a bit hit or miss, especially for the Praxis II exams. Unfortunately, this is the gateway for teaching in many states. I hope that in the future, test requirements for teacher licensing can be more flexible and nuanced. But until then….

      • Mary August 22, 2019 at 10:12 AM #

        I feel for everyone here. I have to pass the Praxis II 5003 math and have had such a hard time. I’ve taken it probably 5 times and can’t seem to pass it! I have written emails complaining to ETS and they seem to have a rebuttal for everything, but none that make sense. I honestly believe it is all about the money. The exams, prep materials, keeping the people who work at test sites employed etc. How sad that in a field that teaches children there is so much dishonesty! It is frustrating beyond words!

  6. Eric Johnson August 7, 2018 at 3:28 PM #

    Does anyone have any comments or suggestions for the Praxis 5001 (elementary education). I’m taking this test in 2 days. I’ve read, reviewed and practiced with the Cirrus study guide and the ETS guide. anything else anyone suggests? Has anyone taken the test and seen how similar the questions are compared to study questions?

  7. Lisa S October 29, 2018 at 6:53 PM #

    I have taken the Praxis 2 secondary math (5161) 8 times. I understand everyones frustration, it is beyond reprehensible that ETS is allowed to function like this. How can anyone improve if they don’t know what they got wrong? I have been 3, 5 and 9 points away from a passing score multiple times. I’ve seen the same questions occasionally. I’ve asked ETS to review my scores and they refuse, they won’t do that for any math tests (even though it says you can request a review on their website). I won’t even add up how much I have paid them, it makes me ill. My job is depending on passing this.

  8. Travis Hubert February 13, 2019 at 1:56 PM #

    Hi! I just took my first Praxis the Middle School Science 5440 Praxis. I know I need a 150 to pass and got a score at the end of my Praxis of 190. Is it safe to assume I passed or will there be a score adjustment? Thank you for the help and calming my nerves.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 14, 2019 at 9:02 AM #

      Hi Travis,

      It sounds like 190 was your unofficial score, so I think it’s safe to say that you passed by a large margin. Congratulations! The official score is often the same as the unofficial score, and only differs by 1-2 points in rare cases 🙂

      • Tonya August 7, 2020 at 1:33 AM #

        What did you use to pass Middle school science praxis

    • Krista February 26, 2019 at 4:39 PM #

      How difficult was the exam? I am taking mine in 3 weeks and very nervous?

    • Amy March 14, 2019 at 7:29 AM #

      What did you do to prepare? I will be taking it soon so I am in the process of preparing for it and could use whatever tips and/or advice you may have. I am in an alternative certification program, so I am on a time crunch to pass before next semester or I will be sitting out until I do pass which stresses me.

    • Lisa March 3, 2020 at 6:28 AM #

      Travis Hubert, please tell me how you studied! I have taken it 4 times….146 every time. I need 151.

  9. Helen May 14, 2019 at 5:44 PM #

    Hi, I have to take the Praxis 2 (5019 – Instructional Practice and Application) in July. What are the best study guides / books out there? I’ve already printed out the material from the official ETS website. I’ve posted on numerous forums but have received no answer. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!!!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 19, 2019 at 12:58 PM #

      Hi Helen,

      Our blog and program mainly focuses on the Praxis Core tests. There are many different Praxis exams, and we don’t have expertise and advice for all of them. Sorry about that! It sounds like you’ve already got the material from the ETS website, which is great. This is the only other book that I see.

      I’m sorry we can’t be of more help! Best of luck. 🙂

  10. Lianne June 13, 2019 at 1:08 PM #

    I just took the Biology: Content Knowledge test for the third time, and did not reach the required scaled score – again! After failing the first two times, I bought a high school biology book, and literally studied it from cover to cover. What I discovered after today is that I could teach high school biology for 10 years and still not pass that Praxis. I am beyond frustrated! I feel like ETS is just taking our money and smiling all the way to the bank!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 14, 2019 at 8:57 PM #

      Hi Lianne,

      I’m so sorry to hear about this experience with the Praxis test! We hear from a lot of students who have similar experiences, and I wish we had resources related to the Biology Content Knowledge test so that I could pass them on to you. We don’t have any programs related to Praxis II tests, but I do encourage you to look over any official materials you can find about the test. It’s important to remember that, like any standardized test, strategy is as important as knowledge. You can set yourself up for a better score by choosing study schedules that help you to learn the strategies needed for success on the exam. I also highly recommend that you look into strategies for dealing with test stress and anxiety–those are both things that can have outsized impacts on your score. I hope this helps a little, and I wish you the best of luck!

  11. Angie September 21, 2019 at 8:24 PM #

    I’m one of the teachers, that’s not a biology major. I’ve been a sped teacher for nearly ten years and have been collaborating in high school biology for almost 8. I many of the things we are required to know in this test is not even covered in high school biology to the degree we are being tested on. I’ve been working hard to study for this test and I’ve failed it 3 times. The last time by two points and I was devastated. I think I’m ready this go round, but the killer for me is thermodynamics. The laws I get, the equations I’m having a tough time remembering and there are so many. I’m not giving up. I am tired of failing and paying. My only question is, someone made the comment that there may be only four versions of the biology test. Is that true?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 1, 2019 at 1:17 PM #

      HI Angie,

      ETS releases a new version of each Praxis test in each 21-day testing window (which is why you need to wait 21 days to retake any Praxis test. This sounds like an unfounded rumor.

  12. Heidi September 23, 2019 at 4:25 PM #

    I am taking the Praxis 2 test (5018). I have been studying for over 6 months. I have test anxiety and we will see how it goes. I only need to get 150. Any advice?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 1, 2019 at 1:14 PM #

      Hi Heidi,

      This may be too late t help you, but I definitely recommend reading our guide to beating test stress. Good luck 🙂

  13. Heather November 25, 2019 at 8:37 AM #

    I have taken the Science (5005) and Social Studies (5004) 8 times each. My score fluctuates so much I never know what I get “wrong” or “right.” even using all of my testing skills. I have multiple books, videos, test prep, and yes even ALL of the ETS prep that is offered. I don’t feel the tests are aligned with what we teach in elementary school! Some of the questions are so off the wall – i didn’t even learn it in college, student teaching, or my masters program! and honestly i would like to know why they can work in “trial questions” that we have no clue as to which ones are graded or trial and we still have to complete the test in the same time frame. We don’t time our kids at school. We teach to mastery. So my other concern is why to become a teacher does a standardized test determine if we are allowed/ qualified to teach?

    And might I add… I am very high in Math and I also had to take the CORE Math 11 times. however I took the Math Praxis 2 and passed it the very 1st time.. hmmm now how does this work?

    These tests are getting expensive, I’m made to feel like a criminal just to get to take the test – as if im not nervous enough and broke at that to do this.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 5, 2020 at 10:10 AM #

      Hi Heather,

      I’m very sorry to hear about your experience with the Praxis, and wish that I could offer more concrete support! We get a lot of comments from people like you who struggle with the Praxis II tests, and unfortunately the only solution is some sort of policy change in your state or district education office. We have a prep program for the Praxis Core test but not for Social Studies. It sounds like you are doing everything ‘right’ in terms of studying–I encourage you to reach out to other teachers for support and perhaps advice on how to pass the exam. Good luck!

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