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Prepare for SC Certification Tests

45 minutes
45 minutes

Prepare for SC Certification Tests

Learn about the exams you need to take and how to prepare.

Before you can teach in South Carolina, you’ll need to pass some tests. If testing stresses you out, you’re definitely not alone. We’re here to help you find the right tools to ace your exams. 

For South Carolina teachers, the most relevant tests will be the core skills test, the subject area assessment and the pedagogy assessment. These show that you know three things: Core math and language skills, the subject you want to teach and key teaching methods.

We’ll go over each test in detail—what they cover, who they’re for and what resources can help you prepare. 

If you have any questions about your teaching program applications, reach out to a TeachSC coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you!

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All About the Core Skills Assessment

What is the core skills assessment?

The core skills assessment is an exam you’ll take before you start an undergraduate teaching program. You do not need to take a core skills test if you already have a bachelor’s degree (but your program may require another assessment, such as the GRE).

When you apply to a teaching program as an undergrad, you’ll need to submit scores from an approved test that covers basic skills in reading, writing, math and social studies. You may have already taken this exam—the ACT and SAT count! 

If you haven’t taken the ACT or SAT, or if you need a higher score, you can also take the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators exam. 

What score do I need?

The chart below shows the required scores for each core skills test option. Remember, if you meet the passing score for either the SAT or ACT, you do not need to take the Praxis Core!

Test

Passing Score

ACT

Combined score of 22

For a combined score of less than 22:

  • Score at least 22 on the English section to skip the Praxis Core Reading and Writing subtests.
  • Score at least 22 on the math section to skip the Praxis Core Mathematics subtest.

SAT

Combined score of 1100

For a combined score of less than 1100:

  • Score at least 550 on the Reading and Writing and Language tests to skip the Praxis Core Reading and Writing subtests.
  • Score at least 550 on the Math test to skip the Praxis Core Mathematics subtest.

Praxis Core

Combined score of 464

Passing scores for each subtest:

  • Reading: 156
  • Writing: 158
  • Math: 150


For the combined score (also called composite score), no subtest can fall below four points of the passing score. For example, if you scored 164 on both your Reading and Writing exams, you would still need at least 146 on your Math score.

When do I take the core skills assessment?

Usually, you’ll need to include your core skills scores with your teaching program application—so you’ll need to take the test before you apply. 

Some programs only require you to be scheduled to take the test when you send your application. Check with your program to find out their specific testing rules. 

All About the Subject Area Assessment

What is the subject area assessment?

To get certified to teach in South Carolina, you’ll need to pass an exam in your content area. This is to show that you know your subject matter well enough to teach it.

In South Carolina, the most common subject area assessments are:

  • The Praxis. This exam covers most subject areas. 
  • The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) tests. These exams cover world language certification. You’ll need to pass both an oral and written exam to teach your language of choice.

Which subject area assessment do I take?

Your subject area exam will depend on the subject you plan to teach. Visit the SC Department of Education’s Required Certification Assessments page to see a full list of subject exams and passing scores for each.

Some subject areas require multiple tests, including elementary education and special education. Others, such as certain world languages, offer a choice between two different exam options.

When do I take the subject area assessment? 

The timing of your subject area test will depend on your certification program. If you’re completing a combined bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate, you’ll usually take your exam while you’re enrolled in your program. 

Some graduate-level programs require you to sign up for the test during the application process. 

Check with your program to confirm when you need to take your subject area exam.

All About the Pedagogy Assessment

What is the pedagogy assessment?

The pedagogy assessment is a test to show that you have the teaching skills to lead your own classroom.   

South Carolina has three options for the pedagogy assessment:

  • Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
  • PPAT 
  • edTPA 

In general, your teaching pathway will determine which pedagogy assessment you take and when you take it. If you’re in a standard teaching program, your pedagogy assessment will probably be either the PPAT or edTPA.  

If you’re pursuing an alternative certification pathway, you’ll most likely take the Principles of Learning and Teaching exam, or PLT. (Learn more about the differences between standard and alternative certification programs in our Teaching Certificate Program Eligibility Guide.)

Student support staff, such as school counselors or librarians, don’t need to take a pedagogy assessment.

If you’re pursuing an alternative certification pathway or if you’re an out-of-state educator, you may not need a pedagogy assessment for your first teaching certificate. However, you may need to pass the pedagogy assessment to advance to a Professional certificate.

Principles of Learning and Teaching

The Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) exam is the most common pedagogy assessment in South Carolina. The PLT is a written test that covers topics like human development, teaching diverse learners, lesson planning and classroom management. 

The PLT is different for each grade level, so the specific PLT you take will depend on the age group you plan to teach. 

The Praxis Test Requirements page lists all PLT options, as well as passing scores for each.

PPAT and edTPA  

If you don’t take the PLT, you’ll complete either the PPAT or edTPA. Like we mentioned earlier, these assessments are for teacher candidates in a standard teaching program (not an alternative certification pathway).

These aren’t your typical tests—no multiple choice questions here. Instead, during your student teaching experience, you’ll create a portfolio that summarizes what you’ve learned in your teaching program and how you’ve developed as an educator so far. 

Your portfolio will include “teaching materials and artifacts,” such as:

  • Sample lesson plans, including modified curriculum to meet diverse student needs.
  • Sample student work.
  • Video of you leading a class. 
  • Commentary that shows how you work with diverse students, build your classroom learning environment and develop assignments to produce strong learning outcomes. 

You can learn more about specific requirements at the edTPA and PPAT links above.

How are the PPAT and edTPA scored?

Highly trained educators or portfolio raters will score your portfolio. Raters use detailed rubrics to evaluate your teaching.

Rubric scores represent a continuum from “not quite ready to teach” to “advanced beginning teacher.” Each rubric level shows an expanding repertoire of teaching skills, strategies and rationale. 

Visit the PPAT How Tasks are Scored page or edTPA’s candidate support resource for more information about scoring.

You can learn more about South Carolina’s portfolio score requirements at the South Carolina edTPA page or the PPAT Scores page.

When do I complete the pedagogy assessment?

You won’t complete the pedagogy assessment until the end of your teaching program—but it’s good to know about this requirement in advance!

You don’t have to prepare for the pedagogy assessment before you apply to your teaching program, but you may want to research how your prospective programs will help you prepare for this assessment.

I’m certified to teach outside of South Carolina. Do I need to take a test?

If you’re certified to teach in another state, the South Carolina Department of Education will need to review your credentials. You’ll need to submit transcripts and other documentation, including any previous test score reports. 

If you’ve already taken a subject area and pedagogy assessment in another state, you may not need to take another test.

Visit the SC Department of Education Out-of-State Educators page for more details. You’ll find information about the certification process, as well as checklists to apply for a South Carolina teaching certificate.

Getting test-ready

If you’re not the most confident test-taker, that’s okay. There are a lot of resources and support to prepare! We’ll go over some general test strategies, and we’ll share resources for your specific exam.
  1. 1

    Step one: Remember why you're doing this

    State tests are required—but remember, your scores don’t necessarily reflect the kind of teacher you will be. Tests like the subject area and pedagogy assessment are just one more step on your way to teaching, and you can take them more than once.

    You’re on a mission, and you’ve got this!

  2. 2

    Step two: Make a schedule

    You’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve put together an amazing application, and you’re pretty sure you aced your teaching exam. But just as you’re submitting your materials to your program, you find out that your test scores won’t be available until after the application deadline. 

    Don’t let this happen to you! Making a test schedule can save you application frustration and stress later on. You’ll want to know:

    • Your program’s application deadline.
    • Which tests your program requires.
    • The dates that your test is offered. 
    • How far in advance the test-maker requires you to register before you take your test.
    • How long it takes to get your scores after you’ve taken the test.

    Once you know these important dates, we recommend adding in at least an extra week or two of cushion. That way, if your test is rescheduled or your testing equipment isn’t working, you won’t be scrambling to take the test in time. 

    After you register for your test, you can work backward: Figure out how much time you have between now and your testing date. Then, make yourself a study schedule that maps out how and when you’ll study for your exam (more on that in Step 4!)

  3. 3

    Step three: Register for your test

    Check with your teaching program to find out when you need to have taken and passed the subject area exam, and to verify which tests you’ll take.

    Praxis exams

    If you’re taking a Praxis test, head over to the Praxis registration page. There, you will:

    1. Click Register Now.
    2. Select Create Account.
    3. After you’ve created an account, select Register for a Praxis Test.
    4. To find the test you need, choose South Carolina as the certifying state.
    5. Check the box next to the test you need to take. Then you’ll be able to choose your testing location, date and time. You’ll choose the date and time separately for each test you’ve selected (most people only need to take one test).
    6. Choose where you want your score reports sent. If you know your program’s code, you can use that, or you can look up the program by state. 
    7. Verify your information and pay for your exam. The Praxis Core costs $150. Most other exams cost $130 to $180. Registration for the PPAT is $300.

    ACTFL

    If you’re taking an ACTFL test, you’ll register for your exam through Language Testing International. On the registration page, you will:

    1. Select your language and click Get Certified.
    2. Scroll down until you see “WL & Bilingual Teacher Certification.” Click Choose Test
    3. Select South Carolina on the list of states. 
    4. Select your teaching program. 
    5. Select the age group that you plan to teach. 
    6. Read the information about finding a testing site or proctor. Then click Continue.
    7. Select the tests you plan to take. In South Carolina, you’ll need both the Written Proficiency Test and the Oral Proficiency Interview.  
    8. Choose your testing date and time. 
    9. Create an account and pay for your exams. The combined oral and written tests cost $218

    edTPA

    If you’re completing edTPA for your pedagogy assessment, you’ll do that through the edTPA website. edTPA’s Registration Overview resource has full instructions to register and complete your portfolio. The edTPA fee is $300. (edTPA is an option for teacher candidates in a standard teaching program, rather than alternative certification.)

    At-home testing

    Due to Covid-19, most test-makers now offer a “test from home” option. This lets you take your exam online through a secure portal or proctoring service.

    Praxis online: You can register to take your Praxis at home through your Praxis account. Visit the Praxis At Home Testing page to see which Praxis exams are available for at home testing and what equipment you’ll need.

    ACTFL online: You can choose a remote proctoring service when you register for your exam. When you get to the test scheduling page, click the web-based proctoring option. 

    Alternative testing arrangements

    All exams have options to request special accommodations, such as alternative testing locations or extra time. Learn more about available accommodations and how to request them for each exam:

    Praxis Test Accommodations

    ACTFL Test Accommodations

    Make sure you schedule your exam far enough out so that your accommodations request can get processed. Depending on the exam, this extra processing time can be anywhere from ten days to six weeks.

  4. 4

    Step four: Plan your study time

    Once you’ve registered, make a list of everything you need to do between now and your test day.

    Make a study schedule that includes time to: 

    • Get a general test overview. The Praxis test prep center has familiarization videos that highlight the exam structure and types of questions, so you’ll know what to expect when the time comes. Not taking the Praxis? You can also check out these ACTFL familiarization guides:
    • Plan your approach. ETS (the Praxis test-maker) offers a sample study plan to help you figure out where you need to focus and get the right resources. This study plan is designed for the Praxis, but you can adapt it for whichever test you’re planning to take! 
    • Research test prep resources. Figure out what study materials you want to use, and give yourself plenty of time to order the right books, manuals or other resources (see our resource list below).
    • Study your subject matter. This is where you’ll spend most of your time. Plan regular time to look over study guides, revisit textbooks or old class assignments, review flashcards, work with a study group… There are lots of ways to get the material down! The most important thing is to pace yourself so you’re not cramming at the last minute.
    • Take practice tests. Even if you know all the information, you’ll want to get used to the test-maker’s phrasing and test structure. Practice tests can help you know what to expect on test day and learn how to approach questions you’re unsure of.
  5. 5

    Step five: Gather your study materials

    Whichever test you’re taking, there are study guides to help you prepare. Some come directly from test-makers, while others come from other educational organizations and universities.

    We’ll share a few resources here. 

    Before you purchase any test prep materials, check with your program to see if any discount codes are available for your test prep option of choice.

    Study materials from test-makers

    • Test prep materials: Most tests come with free preparation materials from the test-maker. These materials cover everything from study tips to sample questions to strategies for answering multiple-choice questions. Find the free prep materials for your test: 
    • Practice tests: 
      • ACT: You can create an ACT account to get a free online practice test.
      • SAT: You can get free practice tests and other preparation through College Board and Khan Academy. 
      • Praxis: When you register for a Praxis exam, you’ll automatically receive a free practice test. You can also buy an additional practice test for $19.95 at the Praxis store
      • ACTFL: Take a demo test for the written portion of your exam.

    Third-party study materials

    You also have numerous test prep options from third-party companies. Here are a few suggestions to get started. While we have not personally vetted all of these resources, you may find them useful in your test preparation.

    Free test prep options

    • Praxis: Head to your local library and check out Praxis prep books from test prep gurus like Kaplan or CliffsNotes. (If you’re planning to mark up your book, you should probably buy the book instead!)
    • ACTFL Spanish Oral Exam: The University of Texas offers free practice modules for each language proficiency level. You can watch and analyze videos of interviews with Spanish speakers, then create and analyze your own interview video to practice. 

    Paid test prep options

    Before you purchase any test prep materials, check with your program to see if any discount codes are available for your test prep option of choice.

    • $24.99: Kaplan offers Praxis test prep books that have practice tests, detailed explanations of answers, question banks and content review.
    • $26.99: CliffsNotes offers a study book for the Praxis Core. The book includes content review and sample exams.
    • $39.99/month: For a monthly subscription fee, 240Tutoring offers study guides for the Praxis Core, the PLT and most subject area exams. If you score 90% on their practice test but fail your exam, you’ll get a full refund for up to two months of your subscription. 
    • $39.99-$49.99: Test Prep Review offers free Praxis example questions and study tips, plus flashcards and study guide books in both printed and ebook formats.
    • $59.99/month: Study.com offers study materials for most Praxis exams. You can get a free 30-day trial, followed by a monthly fee. Test prep materials include a free practice test, plus study guides, practice questions and video lessons.
    • Free-$225: Teachers Test Prep offers support for the Praxis Core and some subject area and PLT tests. You can get free study guides and practice tests, plus paid test prep courses, one-on-one tutoring, video instruction and more. 
    • $299-$499: Kaplan offers test prep courses for the Praxis Core and some subject area and PLT exams. Courses include content review, hundreds of sample questions, full-length practice tests, video instruction and more.

    TeachSC offers $100 in reimbursement for any fees that are required for you to apply and enroll in a teaching program. That could include test registration fees and prep materials for the Praxis Core or your subject area exam! (Reimbursements do not include tests that you take after you’ve enrolled.) Visit the TeachSC Fee Reimbursements page to learn more.

On Test Day

You’ve registered, studied and taken practice tests—and you’re ready for your exam! 

How should I prepare for test day?

Remember to take care of yourself before your test:

  • Verify your test location. Even if you think you know where your exam is being held, double-check that the test center schedule hasn’t changed.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before.  
  • Eat a decent breakfast the day of the test.
  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Show up early. If you’re late for your test, you won’t be allowed in. Hanging outside the testing center for 20 extra minutes is better than stressing yourself out minutes before you have to think critically for an exam.
  • Dress in layers. Test centers can be chilly, and you’d rather be able to remove a jacket than be uncomfortable for the duration of your exam. 
  • Bring required materials. You’ll need identification when you arrive for your test. Depending on your specific exam, you may also need other materials, like a calculator. Check out the Praxis On Test Day page for more details.

Testing from home? 

Some of the suggestions above, such as getting enough sleep and eating a good breakfast, are important for at-home testing as well. You can also consider these at-home testing tips:

  • Check your equipment. If you’re testing through your home computer, the testing company may require you to download specific software or other computer equipment. Make sure everything is running smoothly before test day, to save yourself a headache the day of the exam. Check your equipment at different times of day to ensure that you’ll have enough bandwidth to take your exam without interruptions.
  • Set up your examination space ahead of time. The test-maker may have specific requirements about how your computer or desk needs to be set up and what your testing room should look like. Make sure you understand these requirements ahead of time so you can start testing with confidence. 
  • Find a quiet space. You may not be allowed to wear earbuds or headphones for your test—so make sure you’re in a place where you’ll be able to focus without distractions. 
  • Log on early. Just like an exam at a test center, you’ll need to start your at-home test on time. Log on with plenty of time to spare, to make sure your computer won’t suddenly freeze or restart right when you need to start testing. 

If you’re testing from home, try setting up your exam space the way it will look on test day, and use it to take practice tests! If you’re studying in your test environment, it can help you recall information when it’s time to take the test for real.

Getting Your Scores

When can I see my scores? 

Score availability will depend on which exam you take and when you take it. 

  • Praxis: You can find your exact score report date on the Getting Your Praxis Scores page.  
  • ACTFL: Your score may be available as soon as the same business day, but the exact reporting time varies depending on your exam. 
  • edTPA: Visit the edTPA Scores page to see when you can expect your score report.

How do I report my scores?

When you register for your exam, you can request that your scores get sent to your teaching program and the SC Department of Education. The Department of Education will need your test scores to evaluate you for certification.

Visit the Department of Education’s Certification Assessments page to find links to submit official score reports for each exam.

You may also need to report your scores on your program application itself. (Your application checklist has a step for submitting scores!) 

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