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Book Review: McGraw-Hill’s Praxis Guide

This book, McGraw-Hill’s Praxis I & II, 3rd edition, was published in 2010, around the same time as the out-of-date Praxis Official Guide, and it shares some of the same oversights of that Guide.  It refers to the test by the old name, the PPST, rather than by the new name, the Core.  This is just where the problems begin.

 

Part 1: Introductory chapters

In this volume, Chapter 1 gives some generally helpful study plan tips: nothing earthshattering, but nothing particularly bad.  Chapter 2 attempts to give nitty gritty details about an overview of the test and registering for the test, but of course, they are talking about the five-years-ago test, so it’s hard to say how much of this is still relevant.  Chapter 3 is an anemic two-page section on dealing with nerves.  After these three chapters, the meat of the book begins—three “Diagnostic Tests” in Part 2, then parts that give detailed treatments of the three core areas: Reading (Part 3), Writing (Part 4), and Math (Part 5).  After this is a short section on the Praxis II, also not totally up-to-date, and then, at the end, three practice exams for each of the core areas.  I will discuss all the content by core area.

 

McGraw-Hill on Reading

Frist of all, because this book is 5 years old, like the Praxis Official Guide, all the questions are in multiple choice format: there’s no mention of the occasional multiple answer questions that can appear on the Core Reading.   The advice for reading is helpful at a general level, but this is not the stuff of mastery.  The reading questions—on the Diagnostic, in the discussion of Part 3, and on the practice tests at the end—have several flaws.  These are not the logically tight Reading questions of ETS.  Some questions depend on tricky wording, and many answers are more than a little debatable.  A couple passages about historical periods contained factual errors.  The questions are somewhat formulaic in format, and don’t prepare you for the creative and diversity of ETS’s questions.  I flat-out would not recommend the Reading material in this volume.

 

McGraw-Hill on Writing

Again, because this book is 5 years old, it knows about the Usage questions and the Sentence Correction questions and the Argument Essay, but it doesn’t know at all about Revision in Context questions and the Research Skills questions and the Informative/Explanatory Essay.  In other words, it has the same blind spots as does the Praxis Official guide.

The questions are not high quality.  For many of the Usage questions, the underlining scheme used here was completely ambiguous: by contrast, ETS questions are exemplary in their logical precision.   It is not clear to me that the content priorities evident among these questions is close to the priorities of ETS.

To give credit where it is due, the discussion of very basic grammar points is good, so if you are just starting from scratch in learning English grammar, and need something that starts at Square One, this section could be a good place to start.  Of course, once you learn the basics, you would need another source that actually would prepare you for the test.

 

McGraw-Hill on Mathematics

Once again, because the book is five years old, this book doesn’t know about the multiple answer or numeric entry question formats, and it doesn’t know about certain subsets of the math content.  Some of the practice questions are logically sloppy: not all the conditions that should be specified have been.  Some of the practice questions are solid and quite test-like, but the quality is inconsistent.  You can get some good math practice here, but you can’t rely on everything here, and you certainly can’t use this as your only source.

The one place where McGraw-Hill really shines in is the review of basic math.  If you have not looked at math for a while and you find the Core Mathematics daunting, then this could be a very helpful introduction.  Part 5 goes through each and every area of elementary math, with practice questions immediately following each section.  While mixed practice is more valuable once you advance in your studies, this sort of focused practice, right after you learn about something, can be very helpful when you are getting your bearings.  This is by far the most valuable part of this book: elementary math review for folks who really want to start from Square One.

 

Summary

It would be a BIG mistake to use this book as your only means of preparation for any of the Praxis Core exams.  Here’s the breakdown.

PRO

  • solid review of grammar basics, for folks who want to start from scratch
  • good review of math basics, for folks who want to start from scratch

CON

  • not helpful on Reading
  • questions don’t mirror the priorities and logical precision of ETC
  • does not include any of the changes to the Praxis over the past five years

 

Grade = C

I’ll give a solid C, only because the book has redeeming value, for folks who want to practice math or grammar basics.  For that much, the book is useful.  As an overall preparation for the Praxis, this book falls well short of adequate.

 

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