Good Thoughts from the World History-U.S. History Praxis II Exam

ETS is a non-profit
testing organization
I just took the Educational Testing Service's Praxis II test "World and U.S. History: Content Knowledge" on Monday. I can't and won't discuss any of the questions, of course, but I wasn't surprised by anything on the test. Going through the sample questions ETS makes available online was more than enough preparation for me; I don't know for sure, but based on the score shown at the end, I think I only answered two questions wrong.

The scope of the test is essentially "the basics" of high school history. It's just that the questions on the test can cover any of the basics—everything from Asian empires to important U.S. legislation of the 1920s. The questions are drawn from a range of knowledge that no single student could ever expect to learn in high school, and that no single teacher could ever expect to teach—at least not in a single year. Some of the questions were on topics I had really only ever learned about during my junior year in A.P. World History—seven years ago. Four years of earning a college degree in history hadn't even brought me around to thinking about those things again.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the test. I don't think standardized multiple-choice tests are great pedagogical tools at all, but I get this weird joy from doing well with them, and adults don't get many chances to take tests on a regular basis. (In contrast, I think American K-12 students take far too many.)

Google's first image result for "multicultural history" (source)
I also appreciated that the world history portion of test clearly reflects the contemporary movement toward more multicultural and multi-centered curricula: There were questions about Asian, African, and indigenous American civilizations and empires; multiple world religions and philosophies; historical examples of cultural exchange that didn't privilege white/European viewpoints, and more. Coming from a college experience where I tried (in vain) to take history classes about anywhere and everywhere besides Europe, the selections worked great for me. I can imagine, though, that someone whose history education fit into a traditional "western civilization" framework would have a much more difficult time.

In the end, I was most happy about my Praxis II "World and U.S. History" because there were several questions on the test that I knew my Tribal Scholars students would have answered easily. I felt vindicated to see that some of the knowledge I've worked to have my students master is also valued by others—even if they're test question writers. No doubt, I've had some bumps in the road teaching world history and government this year, not following all my intended plans or addressing as much content as I wanted to. (It's my first year teaching!) Still, I've led my students to explore the past, and I think we'll keep learning lessons from it together. Two and a half months remain until graduation! Three months remain until the end of the school year!

Comments