This article is the second in a series of five study tips to get you ready for taking the Praxis Core tests.
Help with Writing and Reading
Some people are good with English, and the Core Reading and Writing test pose no particular challenge. If that’s you, that’s great: you don’t really need this blog article, though you are welcome to keep reading if you like.
This particular article is for all the folks who are dreading either the Reading test or the Writing test—or both! For some intelligent folks, English is not a first language, and others might have devoted years to techy subjects and avoided the wordy things, just as math-phobe avoid math. If, for whatever reason, you struggle with verbal material, and you know that you need to boost your score on the Praxis Core Writing & Reading tests, then I have a magic one-word piece of advice for you:
That’s it. You build an understanding of the English language by reading. You can’t read just anything, though. You have to force yourself to do sophisticated reading. The New York Times can be a good place to start: you will also be well-informed on the news of the day. The book review in the Sunday NYT is an excellent place to explore a variety of ideas. If will also recommend the Economist magazine, a weekly publication: if you have zero interest in the business world, this might be an excellent choice, forcing you to make sense of ideas to which you are not inclined to pay attention. The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly are journals that pride themselves on the sophistication of their writing. If you prefer fiction, then read literature: Melville, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Joyce.
You have to force yourself to read, every day, preferably for as much as an hour a day. You have to force yourself to push through these difficult articles. This will give you the sense of the ways that authors use words to say something things and imply others. This will also give you a sense for basic grammar, which will improve your performance on the Usage and Sentence Correction question on the Writing test.
If you already have a habit of reading, you probably are in much better shape for both the Reading and Writing tests. It’s the folks who most dread reading that are the ones who could most benefit from reading (the same could be said of math, exercise, eating salads, etc.) Growth often comes from walking into the parts of life that make us uncomfortable. This is so important to appreciate and to begin to explore before you are a teacher, because students of almost any age have a knack for finding those places inside a teacher that are uncomfortable. The folks who have the courage and resilience to face themselves as they are make the best teachers. All of these are philosophical benefits, above and beyond the very practical issue of improving performance on the Writing and Reading Core tests.
Keep an eye out for Magoosh lessons on Writing and Reading, coming over the next year, and keep an eye out for the third study guide tip in the next article of this series.