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Prepare for North Carolina Licensure Tests

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1.3 hours

Prepare for North Carolina Licensure Tests

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

Before you can teach in North 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 North Carolina teachers, the most relevant tests will be the core academic skills test, the content exam and the teaching portfolio. 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 TeachNC coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.

Are you certified to teach in another state or country? If you’re an out-of-state educator applying for licensure in North Carolina, you must have your credentials reviewed by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Even if you’ve taken a content exam elsewhere, you may still need to take one or more of the required North Carolina assessments. To learn more, visit the DPI’s Forms & FAQs page, and scroll down to “NC Testing Requirements” and “Out-of-State Educators.” 

Jump to:

All About the Core Academic Skills Test

What is the core academic skills test?

The core academic skills test is an exam that some students take before starting a teaching program. 

You’ll need to take a core academic skills test if you’re applying to a teaching program and have not completed your bachelor’s degree. This test covers basic skills in reading, writing and math. You may already have taken this exam—the SAT counts! 

If you already have a four-year degree, the core academic skills test is not required. 

What counts toward the core academic skills requirement?

The SAT and ACT both count toward the core academic skills requirement. 

If you haven’t taken either of these exams, or if you need a higher score, you can sign up for the Praxis Core through the Educational Testing Service (ETS). 

What score do I need on my core academic skills test?

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

Test Required Score (You only need to meet requirements on one of these tests)
SAT

Combined score of 1100 for the verbal and math sections.

For a combined score of less than 1100:

  • With a 550 score on your verbal section, you are exempt from the Praxis Core reading and writing tests.
  • With a 550 score on your math section, you are exempt from the Praxis Core math test.
ACT

Composite score of 24.

For a composite score of less than 24:

  • With a score of 24 on English, you are exempt from the Praxis Core reading and writing tests.
  • With a score of 24 on math, you are exempt from the Praxis Core math test.
Praxis Core

Composite score of 468.

Required scores for each section:

  • Reading: 156
  • Writing: 162
  • Math: 150

When do I need to take the core academic skills test?

Usually, you’ll need to include your core academic 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 apply.

Check with your program to find out their specific testing requirements.

All About the Content Exam

What is the content exam?

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

In North Carolina, the most common content exams are:

  • The Praxis II. This exam covers most subject areas. 
  • The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) tests. These exams cover world language licensure. You’ll need to pass both an oral and written exam to teach your language of choice. 
  • The Foundations of Reading test. This test is required for elementary and special education licensure.

For some licensure areas, such as American Sign Language, you may need to take exams that are not listed here. 

Which content exam do I take? 

Your content exam will depend on the subject you plan to teach. Visit the North Carolina Licensing Test Requirements page to see a full list of content exams. 

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

When do I take the content exam? 

The timing of your content exam will depend on your licensure program. If you’re completing a combined undergraduate licensure and bachelor’s degree, you’ll usually take your content 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 content exam.

All About the Teaching Portfolio

What is the teaching portfolio?

To get your teaching license, you’ll need to submit a portfolio that shows off your readiness to teach your own classroom. You have two options for this assessment: North Carolina accepts both edTPA and the PPAT.   

edTPA and the PPAT 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.

Which portfolio assessment do I take?

North Carolina accepts scores from both edTPA and the PPAT. However, your teaching program may use one exam or the other. Check with your program to find out if they have a specific requirement for the teaching portfolio.

How is my portfolio scored?

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

Getting licensed to teach grades 7-12? If you don’t submit the teaching portfolio, or if it’s not nationally scored, you may need to take the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam.

Ask your program staff about whether your portfolio will be scored nationally or regionally.

What do the rubrics include? 

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 and strategies, as well as deepening rationale for instructional choices. 

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

You can learn more about North Carolina’s portfolio score requirements at the North Carolina edTPA page, the PPAT Scores page or the NC Board of Education policy manual

When do I create my portfolio?

You won’t begin the portfolio process until you’re student teaching—but it’s good to know about this requirement in advance! 

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

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 specific resources for your particular exam.
  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. Assessments like the core skills test and content exam 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. 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. Step three: Register for your test

    Check with your teaching program to find out when you need to have taken and passed the content 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 North 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 Praxis content exams cost $130.

    World Languages

    For a world language teaching license, you’ll take your exam through Language Testing International (LTI). On the LTI 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 North 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 North Carolina, you’ll take both the Written Proficiency Test and the Oral Proficiency Interview. You can choose to take the spoken test with either an interviewer or through a computer program. If you choose the computer program option, you’ll select “OPIc” for your oral test. 
    8. Choose your testing date and time. 
    9. To continue, you’ll be asked to create an account and pay for your exams. The combined oral and written tests cost $218. 

    Foundations of Reading 

    If you need to take the Foundations of Reading assessment, you’ll do that through the Foundations of Reading and General Curriculum Tests website for North Carolina. 

    Click Register in the top bar. Once you create an account, you can schedule your test, access preparation materials and check your scores.

    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.

    Language tests 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. 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.  

    Learn more about available accommodations and how to request them for each exam: 

    Praxis Testing Accommodations

    World Language Testing Accommodations

    Foundations of Reading Alternative Testing Arrangements

  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 the:
    • 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. 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. 

    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: 
      • Praxis Core and Praxis II: When you register for the Praxis, you’ll automatically receive a free practice test. You can also buy an additional practice test for $19.95 at the ETS store
      • World Languages: 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 Core or Praxis II: 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!)
    • 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 Core and Praxis II 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 access to the Foundations of Reading, Praxis Core and most Praxis content exam study guides. 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 the Praxis Core and Praxis II 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 Praxis subject area 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 Praxis Core and some Praxis II tests. Courses include content review, hundreds of sample questions, full-length practice tests, video instruction and more. 

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

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 or the Foundations of Reading Day of the Test 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.

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.  
  • World Languages: Your score may be available as soon as the same business day, but the exact reporting time varies depending on your exam. 
  • Foundations of Reading: Get your score report date on the Scores page.

How do I report my scores?

When you register for your exam, you can request that your scores get sent to your teaching program when they are available. You may also need to report your scores on your program application itself. (Your application checklist has a step for submitting scores!) 

You can order extra copies of your score report or have copies sent to programs at any time after you take the test and receive your scores.  

When you apply for licensure, you’ll need to upload your score report to North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction portal

Programs may have different deadlines to receive test scores. Make sure to check your program’s deadline, and schedule your test early enough that your scores will be available on time!

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