Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to prepare for the Composite Science 8-12 TEXES certification exam

My goodness!  It has been a while since I have written.  It has been a wild few months with some great achievements, a new job, cool training, lots of studying and some awesome experiences.  What I feel to be one of my greatest accomplishments is passing the composite science TEXES exam.  So, I thought I would take the time to blog about how I prepared for it.
I know that when I was getting ready to take the test, I was a bit discouraged with the lack of reliable resources about how I should prepare.
Let me begin with a bit of background.  Everyone will approach this test from difference backgrounds, experience etc.  If you are right out of college with a good understanding of Chemistry and Physics as well as basic Biology concepts you may be able to barely pass the exam--but pass none-the-less.  However, if you are like me--several years removed from any sort of formal education, you are going to have to work for it.  I graduated Baylor in 2003 with a BA in Biology.  I had 17+ course hours of bio, about 12 hours of chemistry and 12 hours of physics.  I had no college training in geology or astronomy. 
After graduation I taught 3 years at a private christian school and taught myself the basics of earth science.  During my 3rd year of teaching, I became pregnant and then spent the next 6 years at home raising my sweet babies.
My girls are now 6 and 4 and it is time for this season of my life to change.  I began looking into returning to the classroom and I knew that this time around I wanted to teach in the public school system. In order to do this you have to be 'highly qualified" in your field of science--basically this means that you have to have 15 or more college hours in any field you desire to teach.  If you have that, you do not have to take the TEXES exam for that content area and you can simply be certified.  While I am considered 'highly qualified' in biology I was not in Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy or Geology so I was required to take the exam.
I began by taking a practice exam at my Alt Teacher Certification program office.  I BOMBED it. I think I scored like a high 50.  The exam is broken down into competencies so from here I knew what I needed to work on.  Chem and Physics were weak--I literally remember thinking to myself "Who is 'Avocado' and why is his number important?", LOL!!!!  It truly had been 6 years since I had thought about ANYTHING chemistry related.
I began my journey at the local library.  Get this--there is this building in your city with thousands and thousands of books.  All you have to do is get a card, pick some books and they let you take them home with you for a while FOR FREE!  Ok. I know this sounds ridiculous--you know what a library is, right!? But the truth of the matter is this--we are so accustomed to thinking about items in a capitalistic society being for sale that my first thought was, "How am I going to afford all the books that I need to study on a single income budget?".  I forgot about libraries.  I forgot about that resource and my first instinct was to buy them...WRONG!!!!
So I went to my library's website and I found high-school level text books in Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Astronomy.  I reserved them and the hubs picked em up for me.  I began by reading these books cover to cover.  I worked all the examples out on scratch paper and made my own formula sheets to study.  I am an active reader and I think this method is a very good one to follow in order to prepare for this test.  TAKE NOTES!  It is a proven fact that you remember more of what you wrote down....I made sure to note all major concepts and methods in my own words as I was reading the texts.  Please, DO NOT simply read without taking notes--you WILL NOT retain all of the material and then when you need to refresh on something you can skim through 20 pgs of notes vs hundreds of pages of text.
After 20+ hours of study time I retook a different practice exam, the one posted online in the TEXES booklet.  I STILL bombed it!  My score was now in the high 60s but you MUST score 80 or above to pass the actual exam.
I began to freak out!  I have always been a strong student.  I thought I had prepared well, and I was still not doing so good.  What now?
Well, I decided to try out a favorite teaching mantra--work smarter not harder.  Youtube and wikipedia became my new best friends.  I went thought the TEXES preparation manual line by line and looked at the TEKS.  If I came across a concept I didn't have a firm grasp on I looked it up.  This worked well for a while.  If I found a problem I couldn't work, I posted it on facebook and asked for help.  My friends were great! A week later (mind you, i studies every evening for a week for 3-4 hours a day) and I returned to MCC (my teacher certification program school) and retook the first practice exam.  I was now in the low to mid 70s.  This is when I found the resource of all resources! Brightstorm2 on youtube.  They changed my whole studying plan.
They have amazing online resources that are simply like a HS class.  There are categories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology.  I quickly changed course.  I watched EVERY video in each of these categories and actively took notes while watching them.  The guy who does the physics videos is really fun to watch!!!
Having taken 3 practice exams I had a firm grasp on what I needed to know:
phases of the moon and its effect on tides
classifications of rocks
rock cycle
interpreting sedimentation
genetics
types of genetic selection
water cycle
types of clouds
weather patterns and formation
atomic structure
radioactivity
decay
ions
how the periodic table is organized
electron shells
stiochiometry
limiting reactions
Mohs hardness
nitrogen cycle
acids and bases
nomenclature
photosynthesis
mitosis
meiosis
sex-linked inheritance
gas laws plus their formulas
...to name just a few.
And I did it!  I passed my next practice exam with an 86.  I was ready.

If I could sum this test up into one sentence it would be this:Although there is nothing terribly difficulty on the exam, the sheer breadth of knowledge and content that the exam covers makes it very difficult to know everything that you need to know.  It is simply beginner level chem and physics but you also have to know something about every other doctrine of science as well, and you have no clue as to what area of each doctrine you will be asked about, so you simply have to know it all...
With that said, I found that the score on the practice test was a good indicator for actual test performance.  Although I left the testing center feeling unsure about my score (I always second guess myself) I scored the exact same score as I did on my last practice test--an 86!
Phew--just thinking about that time spent preparing, relearning and studying makes me drool and then my eye starts twitching....but I am so thankful that it is behind me. 

For those of you with this test looming in your near future, I hope that this helped you in some way.  This is not a test you simply walk-in and ace.  Not saying that it isn't possible for someone to do that, just that it isn't likely.  I have a new-found respect for all HS science teachers!!!
I am exhausted from just writing about this test!
Hope this helps and GOOD LUCK!  Feel free to comment with questions!

17 comments:

merthere said...

Thanks so much for the great post! I only graduated last year, but find myself at a 69% each time I take the practice exams :(. I will definitely take all of your advice in! I really wanted to ask though. For how many weeks did you study and how many hours/day for all of those weeks. I'm struggling when to make an appropriate goal date for taking my real exam. THANK YOU!

Stolle Family said...

Hi there! I studied for a month--2-4 hours each evening and then all day on Saturday and 1/2 days on Sunday---I put in near to 80 hours of study time. The MOST benficial resource was the brightstorm2 videos on youtube..focus on those and the TEKS and you could probably cut down on that time. Also try to take a practice exam each week to gauge what you need to refocus your attention on. Good luck! It is a BEAST!!!!--but you CAN do it!

MoussieMoose said...

Great advice ladies. Anyone know where I can get other practice tests of equivalent difficulty? I have taken the practice one from ETS but I have one of those memories and I've unintentionally memorized the answers after taking it one time. I currently teach 8th grade science, last year I taught 6th and 7th in a different state so I have some well rounded knowledge but I'm not sure it's extensive enough. From what I understand, the questions are college level.

Stolle Family said...

I was lucky to be enrolled in a program with access to a practice test. Search out your reagional teacher training program and see if they would let you get your hands on a few practice versions. I think my program had 2. On top of that there is the practice test in the competency packet free online from the state.

Stolle Family said...

and you are correct that some of the chem and physics questions are comparable to freshman and sophomore college level questions...

therealhellkitty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
therealhellkitty said...

Greetings,

I'm a certification/HQ specialist and
after reading your narrative, I feel I must clarify something you have stated regarding HQ.

In order to meet the subject competence requirement of HQ for an assignment at the secondary level, 7-12, you must have
either a:

Bachelor's Degree in the content area you teach
or
Master's in the content area
or
Passing the appropriate TExES or EXcET exam
or
the equivalent of an undergraduate major which is 24 credit hours, 12 of which must be upper division hours.
HOUSE procedures are still allowed for secondary.

It is not X Hours=HQ and, if you teach in a SPED classroom, you must also have the SPED certificate.

If you are curious, you can find HQ determination forms here: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=2147485438

I hope this is of use to you...

Amy Clubb said...

this is really helpful. thanks!

merthere said...

Hi! Thanks so much for your blog, its been helpful! I wanted to ask, what do u mean by interpreting sedimentation. I tried googling, this and am not sure what exactly is meant by this.

I know that sedimentation is when sediments undergo heat and pressure to turn into sedimentary rock, is this all that you meant by it or is there more to it that I must know? Thanks a ton!!

Sincerely,

Meridith

De'Mon Johnson said...

Great Advice! I take my test on Monday and hopefully will pass!

Amanda de los Santos said...

Hello!!
I'm getting ready to start studying for the same exam and I had no clue on where to start until I happened upon your blog.
I do have a question, was there any particular order that you watched the videos in or did you just go down the line?

CoreyJ said...

Do they expect you to know the formulas by memory or are you given a formula sheet for the test?

Nefertiti Clavon said...

Thank you :)

I can't find Brainstorm2 on youtube. Can you please post the link?

Rachel Stolle said...

Oh so sorry. So many of you have commented and I wasnt watching the feed to reply. I will try to go back through and answer you one by one. If you have taken your exam I hope everyting went well for you!

Rachel Stolle said...

I can say that you have to know the formulas from memory, I don't remember having a formula sheet.

Rachel Stolle said...

here is the link for brightstorm:
m.youtube.com/user/brightstorm2

Jayme Grisham said...

I have been trying to research something that you said in your blog. You stated that if you had 15+ hours in a subject then you were considered "highly qualified" and did not have to take the cert test. I am certified to teach 4-12 in two different areas. I am wanting to take the science 7-12 test. If I have 16 biology hours, 10 geology hours, plus others, does this mean I can certify without testing to teach biology? Can you tell me where I can find information on this? I cannot seem to find anything on the TEA website.