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Study Guide

Test-Taking Strategies

Purpose of this Guide

The primary purpose of this guide is to help candidates prepare effectively for the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments® (AEPA®) by becoming familiar with the test structure, format, and content. Faculty and program administrators at educator preparation institutions may also find this information useful as they help candidates prepare for the tests.

How to Prepare for the Tests

Study the Test Objectives

Read through the entire set of test objectives to get an overall picture of what content the test will cover. The test objectives are the only source of test content information. The test objectives are available in the next section of this study guide.

The content a test covers is organized into two or more subareas. Within each subarea, the content is defined by a set of test objectives. Each objective consists of:

  1. the test objective statement, which broadly defines the subject matter an entry-level educator needs to know; and
  2. the descriptive statement, which provides examples of the types of knowledge and skills the objective covers.

Review the subareas. A list of subareas appears at the beginning of the test objectives. In general, subareas with greater numbers of objectives will receive more emphasis on the test.

Review each objective and its descriptive statements carefully. As you do this, ask yourself how strong your knowledge is on that content. You may want to print the test objectives and note next to each objective/descriptive statement how prepared you are on that content—for example:

You can use this review to set study priorities.

Focus Your Studies

Schedule enough time to review the content of each test objective. Keep in mind that you may improve your total test score by improving your performance in any subarea, so plan time to review content of more familiar objectives, too.

Identify Resources

Consider what resources you may use to study each test objective, such as:

You may also want to ask for ideas from your advisor or other students who have taken courses that address your needs.

Develop Study Techniques

Answer the Practice Questions

First, review the sample test directions in the practice question section(s) of the guide. Then try to answer the practice questions. If possible, do this in a room that is relatively quiet but where others are moving around, such as a room in a college library. As you answer the questions, time yourself to get an idea of how long it will take you to complete the actual test.

After you answer the questions:

Note: The practice questions in this guide:

Question Formats and Strategies

Here you will find:

In many cases, you will be expected to do more than show that you know facts. You may be asked to think critically about information (e.g., by analyzing or applying it, comparing it with other knowledge, or making a judgment about it).

Selected-Response-Question Formats

Each test includes a section of selected-response questions. When you are ready to answer a question, you must choose one of four response options labeled A, B, C, and D.

You may see two types of selected-response questions. Not every test will include both formats discussed here, but you should be prepared to answer both types.

Single questions. A problem is presented as a direct question or incomplete statement, and the four response options appear below.


Which of the following was a major factor in the decision of the U.S. government to take a less active role in national economic matters than did most western European governments during the late nineteenth century?

  1. the domination of the U.S. government by southern and western agricultural interests
  2. the weak organization of the two major political parties in the United States
  3. the strength of political traditions such as the separation of powers and federalism in the United States
  4. the relatively small turnout for most national elections in the United States
Suggested approach

Read the question carefully and critically. As you read, think about what the question is asking and about the situation it is describing: In the late nineteenth century, federal policymakers in the United States were influenced to a large degree by an adherence to a traditional view of the role of the federal government, including the separation of powers and federalism. Thus, the U.S. government chose not to become deeply involved in economic matters.

Now look at the response options. Through your analysis of the situation, you should be able to eliminate the incorrect response options and see that option C is correct.

Questions with stimulus material. Some questions are preceded by stimulus material that relates to the question. Examples include maps, charts, tables, graphs, reading passages, and descriptions of classroom situations. In some cases, only one question is related to the stimulus. In other cases, two or more questions are related to a single stimulus. Each stimulus is preceded by a direction line indicating how many questions are related to it.


Read the information below; then answer the two questions that follow.

Mr. Rivera's fourth-grade class has started a health unit that emphasizes the obligations of individuals and societies to protect the environment. In this unit, the class has been discussing their town's landfill crisis. One day the students return from lunch commenting on the amount of waste they saw in the cafeteria that day and noting that all the garbage generated by the school is contributing to the landfill problem. One student, Kahlil, remarks, "If they'd feed us stuff we like better, maybe there'd be less to throw out." Other students join in, talking about how wasteful it is to serve food that nobody likes and wondering what might be done about the waste.

Once the class settles down, the teacher remarks that the students have made some very interesting observations and poses the following questions to the class:

  • Is the amount of food you saw wasted today typical?
  • Kahlil has suggested that if the school served lunches that students like, there would be less waste. Do you agree or disagree with Kahlil's suggestion, and why?
  • What kinds of information could you collect to support your opinions?
  1. Mr. Rivera's rephrasing of Kahlil's hypothesis is likely to be most useful for:
    1. providing a framework for subsequent student discussion.
    2. encouraging student recall of related information.
    3. checking students' understanding of Kahlil's original statement.
    4. providing students with clues about the answer to the preceding question.
  1. The primary role Mr. Rivera has taken in the instructional process so far has been to:
    1. encourage students to generate questions about issues that are meaningful to them.
    2. prompt students to assess their own understanding of instructional content.
    3. facilitate students' use of higher-order thinking in a real-world context.
    4. provide students with information that can serve as a basis for future learning.
Suggested approaches

First, read the stimulus. Note how the information is presented: The information in the stimulus is a description of a classroom situation.

Now you are prepared to address the questions. Both of the questions will probably require looking back at the stimulus to determine the correct response. Question 1 asks you to determine the reasoning that is most likely behind one of the teacher's actions in this situation: Mr. Rivera rephrases Kahlil's hypothesis in such a way as to promote and focus further discussion of the subject. Therefore, A is the correct response.

Question 2 asks you to determine the instructional role Mr. Rivera is taking in this situation: Mr. Rivera uses ideas and opinions expressed by the students to generate questions that encourage the use of higher-order thinking skills in a context outside of the students' academic work. Therefore, C is the correct response.

Written Performance Assignment Formats

For tests that include one or more written performance assignments, you will be provided with a written stimulus to which you must respond as indicated in the assignment directions. You will be presented with an issue that is designed to engage your thinking and a task to accomplish in writing (e.g., to analyze an argument, to compare and contrast ideas, to propose a solution). You will be expected to:

Sample Written Performance Assignment for a Hypothetical Social Studies Subject Knowledge Test

Read the information below; then complete the exercise that follows.

The U.S. Constitution creates a government of checks and balances in which legislative, executive, and judicial authority reside in separate branches of the government.

Using your knowledge of the U.S. government, write an essay discussing this system of checks and balances. In your essay:

  • discuss the primary goals of the framers of the Constitution in creating a government with a system of checks and balances;
  • identify the powers that are given to each of the three branches of the government under the Constitution; and
  • describe how these powers enable each branch of the government to check the activities of each of the other two branches.

After reading the assignment directions and stimulus, carefully consider what information to include in your response. You may wish to write a brief outline of your response, and may do so using the erasable sheets that will be provided at the test center and collected after you finish the test. When you are ready to respond to a written performance assignment, you must type it in the on-screen response box in order for it to be scored.

Written performance assignment scoring. Typically, each response will be scored by two or more qualified educators during scoring sessions held after each test administration. Scorers with relevant professional backgrounds are oriented to standardized scoring procedures before the scoring session, and are carefully monitored during the scoring sessions to ensure all assignments are scored according to the standardized procedures.

Written performance assignments for the AEPA are scored using scales that indicate the criteria by which the performance assignment will be scored and describe varying levels of performance. These scales were approved by committees of Arizona educators who reviewed both the performance assignments and scoring scales. The performance characteristics and scoring scale are included in the study guide with the sample written performance assignment(s).

Scores are based on demonstrated ability to prepare an organized, accurate response to the assignment and to instructions regarding content, purpose, and/or audience. Scorers will form an overall impression of the quality of the response based on your ability to:

A response is designated unscorable if it is blank, unrelated to the assigned topic, illegible, primarily in a language other than English, not of sufficient length to score, or merely a repetition of the assignment.

Strategies for Success on the Day of the Test

Preparing to Go

Leave plenty of time to get to the test site. You should plan to arrive at the test center 30 minutes before your test is scheduled to begin.

Dress comfortably. Wear layers so you can adjust to the test site temperature, which may vary and may not be within the control of the test administrators.

At the Test Site

Follow directions. Follow all directions carefully. This includes any oral directions from the test administrators and any directions presented as part of your test.

Pay close attention to the computer-based testing tutorial presented on-screen before taking the actual test. You can also preview this through the Prepare page on the AEPA website.

Pace yourself. The test is designed to allow enough time for you to complete the test. You can spend as much time on any section of the test as you need. If your test includes written performance assignments, remember to leave enough time to complete those.

Do not spend a great deal of time on a question that you cannot answer right away. Flag it for review (explained in the tutorial) and move on.

You may find you need less than the full testing time allotted, but be ready to stay the entire time. Do not make any other commitments that may cause you to rush or leave without answering all of the questions.

Read carefully. Read all directions, questions, and response options carefully.

Guess wisely. If you cannot quickly determine the best answer to a selected-response question, try to eliminate as many options as you can. Then guess among the remaining choices. Your score on each test is based on the number of questions you answered correctly. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so it is better to guess than not answer at all.

Make good use of any remaining time at the end.

For selected-response questions:

If your test has written performance assignments:

For Further Information

Specific test information and general AEPA program information is available on the AEPA website.