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10 Praxis Core Writing Tips

Praxis Core Writing has a more complicated structure than the other Praxis Core exams. Unlike Math and Reading, Core Writing has both multiple choice questions and constructed response questions. Not only that, but it has four different types of multiple choice questions (Usage, Sentence Correction, Revision in Context, and Research). And it has two different tasks involving constructed response (Argumentative Essay and Informative/Explanatory Essay).

Fortunately, there are certain tips you can follow that will help you across the many different question types in Praxis Core Writing. Here are 10 tips to guide you through the Core Writing test, both during prep and on test day.

  1. In Usage questions, focus on errors that are easy to make. Multiple choice questions frequently focus on relatively simple errors, such as subject verb agreement, the use of plural and singular forms, punctuation, capitalization, double negatives, and small mistakes in word forms. It’s very easy to make these mistakes. But it’s also very easy to see these mistakes, if you know what to look for. These mistakes appear most frequently in Usage questions, but turn up in other question types as well.
  2. Look for errors in verbs. Mistakes with singular/plural verbs, verb tenses, gerunds (verbs ending in –ing), and the use of infinitives (verbs beginning with the word “to”) are very common in Praxis Core Writing multiple choice questions. Sentence Correction and Revision in Context questions are especially likely to show verbs that modify nouns incorrectly or illogically. (For example, a sentence or passage might say that sunlight requires plants to grow, when in fact it is the other way around—plants require sunlight to grow.)
  3. Watch for parallel structure. Many of the mistakes you’ll be presented with in Usage, Sentence Correction, and Revision in Context involve parallel structure. If you see a change in verb tense or form or a single phrase that is worded much differently than other phrases, double check it. If there’s not a specific reason for this kind of break in pattern, there is a mistake in parallel structure that must be corrected.
  4. If you can’t find a mistake, don’t overthink. You absolutely should know how to detect and correct errors that are present in the Usage, Sentence Correction, and Revision in Context questions. But if you keep looking and can’t seem to find anything wrong, then select the answer that indicates no error or no change. Remember, the absence of error is always possible answer choice.
  5. But do be aware that “no mistake” is not a frequent answer choice. At the same time, if you often feel you are seeing no mistake and no revision needed, you’re probably answering some questions incorrectly. There are always a few instances where no revision is needed on Praxis Core Writing, but these cases are the exception, not the rule. Expect 2-4 “no error” answers in the Usage section of the test. In Sentence Correction and Revision in Context, you may get one or two sentences that need no correction. But on any given exam, it’s just as likely that every sentence in SC and Revision will require changes of some sort.
  6. Look for answer choices that fix errors without creating new It is all too easy to recognize a mistake and then select the very first answer choice you see that corrects the mistake. This is a common way that Praxis Core Writing tricks you, especially with the longer and more complex answer choices in Sentence Correction and Revision in Context. Make sure that you identify all answers that fix the error, and then select the answer that fixes the error without adding new mistakes into the mix.
  7. For research questions, understand the features that all citation styles have in common. There will be a small selection of questions about research writing and methods. Questions about research citation styles are not specific to any one format such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc…. So be able to recognize a citation of a website, magazine, or other type of source in any style, and understand the citation rules that are near-universal.
  8. Know the difference between primary and secondary sources. A primary source is a source that comes directly from the thing that’s being studied. The lab results of a science experiment would be a primary science source, and letters written form a soldier to his family during the US Civil War would be a primary source for a history essay. Secondary sources are scholarly works that report on a subject, such as a science textbook or a website article about the Civil War. You’re likely to answer questions about these source types in the Research section of Core Writing.
  9. Understand content organization in essays. Understand the way content is developed in written discourse. Understand the importance of relevant information, good transitions, introductions, summaries, and so on. Also recognize the difference between smooth wording that “flows” and overly-wordy writing that is awkward. This knowledge will serve you well as you write your two Core essays. Understanding discourse structure also helps you perform well in all of the multiple choice questions, especially Sentence Correction and Revision in Context Questions.
  10. Know what’s expected of you on the essays. Core Writing essays are held to a complex set of criteria by Praxis scorers. There are many subtle differences between a top scoring essay and one that receives a lower score. In its free study companion for Core Writing, the Praxis offers scoring guides and example essays with scorer commentary. Take advantage of these resources and work to create essays that meet Praxis Core standards.

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6 Responses to 10 Praxis Core Writing Tips

  1. Harmony May 11, 2018 at 11:09 AM #

    I ran out of time on my last sentence for one of my essays! Is that going to lose me a lot of points??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 11, 2018 at 12:06 PM #

      Hi Harmony,

      It’s unlikely that this will cost you points, as long as the rest of your essay is well-written! These things happen, and you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it 🙂

  2. Avery July 8, 2018 at 9:35 AM #

    I have taken the writing exam twice and failed by 6 points each time. I need some very good study material before I spend the $90 to retake the exam. I had a hard time focusing on answering the essay questions correctly and the sentence structure questions. Please help me.

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 10, 2018 at 12:18 PM #

      Hi Avery. Sorry to hear about the two-time 6 point shortfall. That certainly sounds frustrating and disappointing! Let’s talk about some good resources to help you pass Core Writing the next time you take it. If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to look through the Magoosh Praxis Blog’s Writing archives. Most of the posts include practice questions, and we also offer a lot of essay advice and examples. And of course, you may also want to consider a subscription to Magoosh Praxis’s practice questions and videos, which can be helpful in boosting your skills and performance in all three parts of the Praxis Core.

      Also make sure you’re using ETS’s own official support for Core Writing. That would be the free Praxis Core Writing Study Companion PDF, and the official Praxis Core Writing practice tests. The latter do cost money, but they come with really excellent answer explanations for the multuple choice questions.

      Hope all of this helps. But feel free to comment with more questions if need be, Avery. 🙂

  3. Scott March 31, 2019 at 10:10 AM #

    I took the ETS Official practice praxis and I got a 28/40 on the multiple choice and two 5/6 on the extended response. Do you know if that is a passing or not?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 3, 2019 at 8:01 PM #

      Hi Scott!

      Here’s a blog post on how you might be able to estimate your Core Writing Scores. 🙂

      The selected response questions are worth 52% of your score, and the essays are worth 24% each.

      Here’s how many you got correct for selected response questions: 28/40 = 70%

      Your selected response percent would be: 0.7 * 52% = 36%

      For the constructed response:

      (5/6)*24 = 20%
      (5/6)*24 = 20%

      Adding these all together, you got 76% on the exam. This would be a 176 on the exam! However, whether or not you passed depends on the state you’re taking the exam in. 🙂 So, you’ll need to figure out the passing score for your state and compare.

      Hope this helps!

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