How to Write Top-Scoring Praxis Core Essays

The essay portion of Praxis Core can feel like the most intimidating part of this three-test series. Appearing at the end of the Praxis Core Writing Assessment, the two Praxis Core essays are graded subjectively on a rubric. There is no clearly right or wrong answer, and the usual multiple choice strategies you could apply to other Praxis Core questions won’t work.

However, there definitely are strategies you can follow to get your full six points on each essay. Before we go into specific approaches to getting a top score, let’s take a brief look at the essay formats.


The essay formats

The first of the two essays is the Argumentative Essay. In this essay, you’ll be presented with a brief opinion statement, and then you’ll write an essay saying the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. Often, the statements can be quite controversial, touching on issues that inspire strong opinions and emotions. For instance, you might need to give your thoughts on a statement such as as “It is wrong to give money to beggars and the homeless, because this only discourages them from working. It is better to provide the destitute with employment, education, and training, so that they can get on their feet and start earning money.”

The second essay is a source-based essay. Like the argumentative essay, the source-based essay also deals with a contentious social issue. This time however, test-takers are presented with two longer passages stating opposing positons on an issue. In the official Core Writing study companion, the opposing viewpoints focus on copyright law, with one writer saying that copyright laws are too restrictive and the other saying that strict copyright laws promote creativity and new ideas. Here, your task isn’t to choose a side. Instead, you’ll write an even-handed explanation of the issue covered in the dual passages, using both passages as source materials.


Qualities of good Praxis Core Essays

In both essays, you must demonstrate good academic writing skills. You’ll want to create responses that demonstrate good analytical thinking. In the Argument essay, this means supporting your own opinion with relevant details that provide complete, coherent backing for your thesis. In source-based essay you don’t need to assert and defend an opinion, but good analytical writing is still required. Here, you demonstrate your analytical abilities by identifying the distinct opinions of each passage writer and summarizing the important information from both passages. You’ll need to truly synthesize the information from the dual passages, creating a new summary of a key issue and the controversy surrounding it, and making the summary uniquely your own.

In either case, be sure that you demonstrate fluency and proficiency in the conventions of academic writing. Use good transitions and organize ideas in logical progression throughout each essay. Be sure to demonstrate grammatical variety in your sentences. Show variation in vocabulary and grammar. And of course, avoid mistakes in style, grammar, spelling and mechanics.


A word on essay length

The official Study Companion for Praxis Core Writing doesn’t specify word count or length for essays. But realistically, there is a certain length you’ll want to aim for. In general, it’s very difficult to write a complete, well-constructed Argument essay in less than 400 words. But you also want to avoid an essay that’s too involved and too long, due to exam time constraints. The “sweet spot” for the first Core Writing Essay is 450-500 words. And for the second essay, at least 300 words will probably be needed with most top-scoring essays falling within the 350-400 word range.


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13 Responses to How to Write Top-Scoring Praxis Core Essays

  1. Erin July 22, 2017 at 10:48 AM #

    I just took the writing potion and just realized something that might effect my score. My prompt was “All schools should have a student dress code”. When I read that, I immediately thought wearer talking about uniforms. My whole essay was about why uniforms would be a good idea for all schools. Now after thinking about it, I’m not sure if they were just talking about dress codes where girls can’t wear skirts above their knees, no gang-related clothing, etc. Donyou think if I interpreted the prompt as talking about uniforms, and I wrote a decent essay, that I will be docked a lot of points or will I be okay? I’m really nervous about this now.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 23, 2017 at 9:19 PM #

      Hi Erin,

      It will probably affect you a little bit because you focused on an extreme dress code instead of the idea at large, but if the essay was overall strong, you are likely in good shape! 🙂

      • Rebecca Harper August 11, 2017 at 6:38 PM #

        How did you do on your writing score? I’m still waiting in mine and I’m so scared.

  2. Rebecca H. August 25, 2017 at 4:39 PM #

    I just received my writing scores a few minutes ago. I was very surprised that I got a 180! I received a 16 out of 24 on the essay portion. Is that a good score?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 28, 2017 at 4:19 PM #

      Hi Rebecca,

      “Good” depends on what you need to do what you’re trying to do! Have a look at state requirements you may need to meet to determine if everything is in order, but it looks like you did well. 🙂

  3. Mallory October 24, 2017 at 8:36 AM #

    With your Informative Essay, do they allow you to read the two passages you will be sourcing before your 30 minutes begins? Or is it all included in the 30 minutes? Thank you!

    • David Recine
      David Recine October 24, 2017 at 3:05 PM #

      For the informative essay, everything– reading and writing– must be completed within 30 minutes.

  4. Paula A Valencia June 18, 2018 at 2:38 PM #

    I took my writing test twice, and on both I got 154 and I needed a 158 to pass. On my essay portion it said I got 13 out of 24. Do I need to work more on my essays or the multiple choices questions for my next test?
    Thank you

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 20, 2018 at 10:17 AM #

      Hi Paula,

      As we mention in this blog post, we estimate that the essays are each worth around 24% of your total score. So, you can really improve your overall score by improving on the essays!

  5. Elham Idris July 7, 2019 at 12:49 PM #

    I took my writing portion of the Praxis Core, and I think i did okay. My question is, How much weight they put, when grading the essays, on spelling mistakes?

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 8, 2019 at 6:52 AM #

      Hi Elham,

      The more distracting or unintelligible the spelling mistakes are, the lower the score. So frequent spelling mistakes and spelling mistakes that make a word hard to recognize will have a significant impact on the score. Infrequent spelling mistakes that change words minimally, on the other hand, will have little impact on the score for the Core Writing essay, and may not impact the score at all.

  6. Sal October 26, 2020 at 12:46 PM #

    If I passed just one section of my praxis core exams, I would just need to re-take the 2 I failed, correct, not all 3 again.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 27, 2020 at 4:41 PM #

      Yes that’s correct!

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