As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are many different kinds of Praxis exams. The exams you need to take can depend a lot on which state you’ll teach in and which subject you’re getting licensed for. However, there are two series of Praxis exams that anyone who has just started their teaching degree (or is just about to start) should pay attention to: the Praxis Core and the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT).
The Core and PLT exams are important because many states require one or the other—or both—for all licensed teachers. Currently, states that offer substitutes or waivers for the Praxis Core seem more likely to also require the Praxis PLT. Moreover, there seems to a growing trend of PLT-requirement by state licensing agencies.
Because states that allow teachers to skip the Core tend to ask for PLT scores, it would be easy to see the Core and PLT exams as interchangeable. However, the two exams are actually quite different. They test different knowledge and skills, and are designed for different groups of teachers.
About the Praxis Core Exam
The Praxis Core tests general academic skills, measuring a teacher’s basic abilities in math, reading and writing. The Core exams are designed for all teachers, because they ensure that teachers have mastered the academic skills required in just about any K-12 class. In other words, the goal of the Core exams is to see if teachers know the math and language skills that their students need to learn between kindergarten and high school.
Because exams like the SAT and ACT also measure competency in K-12 language and math, states often will accept passing college entrance exam scores in lieu of the Praxis Core. When teachers are required to take the Praxis Core, there are three versions of the exam available: Math, Reading, and Writing. All three versions of the exam must be taken—to my knowledge, there are no states that require just one or two of the Core exams for licensure. And as long as all three exams are passed, teachers will not have to take a new Praxis Core exam later in their careers.
About the Praxis PLT
In contrast, the Praxis PLT exams do NOT measure the English and math that’s taught in elementary, middle and high schools. Instead, PLT tests measure pedagogy—the skills needed to manage classrooms. Because different age groups of learners require different teaching approaches, the PLT is divided into four different tests, based on the age groups teachers will be working with. The different PLT exams test pedagogical knowledge related to early childhood, grades K-6, grades 5-9, and grades 7-12. The overlap between the three oldest groups is deliberate, and accounts for the fact that different schools group the grades in different ways.
Needless to say, states that require a PLT exam don’t accept the SAT or ACT as a substitute for these assessments. And of course, if you need to take the PLT, you probably only need to take one version of the exam. However, unlike the Core, which only needs to be taken once, the PLT is a test series teachers may have to revisit at a later point in their careers. Working with a new age group of students often involves taking a new age-appropriate PLT.
One of the greatest parts about working as a licensed teacher is the ability to work just about anywhere in the USA—and in overseas territories and international schools. You never know where your career might bring you. Being prepared for both Core and the PLT is a good way to open as many doors as possible in the future.