In order to morph from an English/Language Arts teacher into a Humanities teacher, my new boss requested that I take the Praxis certification test in Middle School History/Social Studies over the summer. I did so in late July.
I hate ETS and their sloppily proctored exams, which don't really measure much. If a test is scheduled for two hours it should not start 90 minutes after the scheduled start time because a bunch of grad student proctors are late and disorganized. These exams one of the many hurdles to certification which prevents people from becoming teachers. The entire process needs to be streamlined, IMHO.
The test--100 multiple choice questions and 3 essay questions--proved more challenging than I expected. I choose to take it cold, without studying, figuring there was no way to know what areas to brush up anyway, and that if I had a reasonably broad general knowledge I was likely to pass it on the first go. If not, I'd have a clearer idea of what areas to delve into for round 2.
The selected response questions focused a great deal on Native American/Colonial American/early American history (not a particular strength of mine), and totally avoided areas where I read for pleasure like Greece, Rome, Egypt, Medieval Europe. Asia, South America, and the Middle East were almost entirely absent, though there was one question about Sumeria and one about Israel in the 20th century. I felt reasonably confident about 50% of the questions, I felt certain about 30%, and felt I was making 'educated guesses' the rest of the time.
The essays were challenging but easy to bullshit. A chart of US cities with declining populations over the past 60 years was accompanied by the question "Pick a city from the list and explain three factors which contributed to its population change." I chose Detroit, which seemed easy enough. There was a question about a map of Africa showing levels of European colonization in 1830 versus 1900, and the question asked again for factors explaining its tremendous growth in the 19th century. Finally, I had to explain two factors which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. I thought I did ok on one question, and rather poorly on the second two, but hoped for the best.
I finally got the marks yesterday, and had passed 193 out of 200. I scored 17 out of 18 on the essays, and was above the average range on all categories. This is due, I believe, to good test-taking skills moreso than a deep and abiding knowledge of history/geography/culture, etc. But I'm pleased with the result.
Of course, passing the exam and being certified in a subject doesn't necessarily mean one can teach it. That's the next step!