Writing Study Guide for the PRAXIS Test
The PRAXIS® Core Writing test is administered in two parts:
- a 40-minute session to complete 40 selected-response (multiple-choice) questions
- two 30-minute sessions to write one essay each: one argumentative and one informative/explanatory
Both sessions test some of the same material. Answering the questions demonstrates your knowledge of standard English grammar and usage rules, sentence and passage structure, and research-related skills. Writing the essays shows your ability to put these rules and standards into practice. Therefore, the concepts listed here will prepare you for both parts of the PRAXIS Writing Test. To be completely prepared, you must consult the end of this guide for specific information about other things that test-graders look for when assessing your essays. You will earn separate scores for the questions and the essays.
The specific areas tested by the questions are:
- Sentence Correction
- Revision in Context
- Research Skills
When studying for the PRAXIS Writing Test, you will notice that, in many questions, you are not only looking for the correct answer, but the best of the possibly correct answers. You will also find that you use the same knowledge and skill base to answer questions and to write the essays.
To be well-prepared for both the question and essay sections of the test, be sure you are comfortable with each of the following areas of language and understand these standards of written English. .
Writing Texts for Varied Purposes
Strategies for writing essays differ according to the purpose of the piece. You must consider this, not only when writing, but also when evaluating correct answer choices in questions about written material.
Writing Any Essay
There are certain components of a good essay that apply to an essay written for any purpose. Be sure to focus on all of these as you write.
When writing an essay, always consider your audience. On the PRAXIS, you will be writing for a well-educated, adult audience. When writing for adults, you must use a variety of sentence types and vocabulary. Do not write only in simple sentences with the most basic vocabulary. Use descriptive words to captivate your audience.
When writing an essay, gather a sufficient amount of relevant evidence. Evidence should include: reasons, examples, and details. The chosen evidence must further the purpose of the essay. If the purpose of your essay is to inform your audience about the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt, you wouldn’t want to give only your opinion as evidence. You would want information from research studies that back up your claims.
The thesis consists of one or two sentences that state the main idea of the essay and often include the opinion or judgment of the author as well. The thesis must be clear and focused so that the readers know what to expect from the essay. The thesis should be placed in the first paragraph of your paper.
Organization and Development
The organization of your essay must be logical and the ideas must be connected. Decide on the type of organization when quickly planning your essay, then stick to it as you write. For example, if yours will be an essay of a sequential nature, do not switch to another type of organization, like cause and effect, in the middle of the essay. Transition words, such as then and alternatively, are an important aspect of organizing your paper.
When writing, use the most appropriate words for your purpose. If writing for children, for example, don’t use college-level words. But on the PRAXIS, you would not want to use such simple language as you would for children. You should use college-level vocabulary in your writing for this test.
There are four types of sentence structures. You should be familiar with all of them and will be expected to use a variety of them in your essay. The four types and examples of each are as follows:
Simple—one independent clause
Example: “I ran a marathon.”
Compound—two independent clauses joined with words such as and, but, or, so, yet, however
Example: “I ran a marathon and I got second place.”
Complex—one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses
Example: “Because I did so well, my husband was proud of me.”
Compound-Complex—contains at least three clauses, two independent, and one or more dependent clauses
Example: “My husband was proud of me because I did so well and he took me out to dinner to celebrate.”
Standard Written English
Standard written English requirements on the PRAXIS include the use of proper: grammar, word choice, punctuation, and sentence construction. For this purpose, you would not want to use the sort of language that is used in texting or informal conversations with a friend.
Writing an Argument
An essay whose purpose is to convince the reader is often called an argumentative essay. Writing a good one requires the development of a few additional writing skills, including these:
Your evidence must directly and clearly support your claim.
All your evidence should clearly support your claim. You do not want any random facts distracting the purpose of your essay. If you know a great deal about the topic, this may be hard to accomplish. You’ll need to make yourself focus solely on the point you wish to make and discard any irrelevant details during the revision process.
Your evidence should be largely factual.
When writing an argumentative essay, your evidence must be based on facts. Opinions of authoritative sources who have some factual evidence to back up their claim can be included, but should not be the main basis of your argument. Your own opinion should not be placed in the essay, as it can weaken your argument.
Writing an Informative Essay
If the purpose of your essay is to inform, the rules for writing any essay apply. However, you’ll need to especially remember these strategies.
Use varied sources.
You will be given two passages as sources on the PRAXIS for the informative prompt. You must take information from both of the passages and integrate it into your essay. For an essay in real life, you would probably want to use more than two sources to make your essay stronger.
Use informational sources.
On the PRAXIS, your sources will be given to you and so they will be informative. But when writing an essay on your own time, you must be sure to find informative sources that can give you information to strengthen your paper. Always research your sources to be sure they are reliable and authoritative.
Use your own words.
When citing evidence from other sources, you must summarize the information. You should not write what you found word for word. Without a citation, word for word copying is plagiarism. It is best to paraphrase whatever information you find.
Some of the best text is formed and/or finalized during the revision process. The question portion of the PRAXIS Writing Test assesses how well you can look at the writing of another person and make corrections, additions, and deletions that make the piece better. Learn how to edit for these things and know when these aspects of writing are used correctly. The correct answers to some of the questions on this test will be similar to “no revision necessary” or “correct, as written.”
When revising your paper, make sure that its meaning is straightforward. You don’t want the readers to be confused about the purpose of your essay. When reading through your writing, eliminate any information that is not necessary or that may distract the readers from the true purpose (such as random facts and irrelevant information).
Style and Tone
The different styles of writing include: narrative (storytelling), descriptive, persuasive, and expository (facts only). There are many types of tones that an author can choose to write in. The tone reveals the author’s attitude toward the subject. Some choices for tone are serious, comedic, ironic, and condescending. It is important to make sure that the style and tone used in your essay are consistent throughout.
Appropriate context means that anything relevant to the meaning of the text, such as social, cultural, economic, and historical information, is placed in the paper so that no readers will be confused, regardless of their background.
When choosing words to use in your essay, you must think about their precision and what effect you want them to have on the readers. Your words should explicitly communicate your ideas. For example, directly saying that “playing sports is stupid” will likely annoy the reader. You need to choose your words more carefully. A better way could be, “In my opinion, playing sports is something to be avoided at all costs.” It still means that you don’t care for sports, but you aren’t being as forceful with the statement.
All Study Guides for the PRAXIS Test are now available as downloadable PDFs