David Recine

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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