Test-Taking Tip

Posted on February 8, 2010Filed Under CTEL, testing | 3 Comments

As my loyal readers may remember, I passed the dreaded CTEL test last June. Having a CLAD certificate (which passing the CTEL gives you) is the only way to remain employed as a teacher in California, and a lot of teachers are going through a lot of stress these days as the deadline for passing looms.

The pe and math teachers at our site have been particularly stressed about it. Several didn’t pass the first section (the one with all the lingo and language acquisition theory) the first time, and were really worried about the retake in December. Some of them asked for advice on passing.

“You’re an English teacher; you know what a morpheme and a phoneme are, and you’re used to writing essays and stuff (there are three “open ended response” essays over the course of the three sections). No wonder you didn’t have any problem.”

My tips for them came down to four things.

“You can game this test, especially the essays. This is the kind of thing where the test writers have a party line, an ideology. They want to hear their own words back.

“One. Read the book. Focus especially on the vocabulary and the little scenarios that are supposed to illustrate the concepts. A lot of the test is questions like, ‘A teacher with these level of EL kids does this…Is it the right thing to do?’

“Two. Read the example essays on the CTEL web site. They really don’t expect a whole lot out of the essays. Use their buzzwords, use the vocabulary from the book…

“Three. Remember, most tests give away answers to questions in other questions. This one does it a lot. Also there are only four answer choices for each question, none of them is none of the above, AND on almost every question on this test, two answers can immediately be thrown out, and you’re down to a 50/50. You only need 74% to pass; on a fifty question test, you can miss twelve.  Put a little mark next to the ones you don’t know; if there are fewer than twelve marks, you’re gold. Get those down to a 50/50, flip a coin, and move to the essay.

“Four. When you write the essay, if you’re stumped,  steal language from the multiple choice questions. Find a question that covers a concept similar to the essay question, and use their lingo to write the response.”

They laughed about that last one. I think some thought I was joking. But then…

I asked one of the pe teachers if she passed in December.

“Yeah baby. Thanks a lot. I did just what you said on one of the essays.”

“Oh yeah, what did I say?”

“I had no idea what they were talking about, so I looked for a question on the test that looked like it was about the same thing. I don’t think a word of that essay was mine. Everything I put I took from somewhere else on the test. And I got a 4* on that one. ”

“Thanks a lot.”

As they say, that’s what I’m talking about.

(*A 4 means you answered the question mostly correctly. They don’t actually tell you your score, unless you fail, because they don’t want it used for competitive hiring practices.)


3 Responses to “Test-Taking Tip”

  1. Molly on May 28th, 2010 2:36 pm

    Thank you,
    This is reassuring.

  2. nicole on December 2nd, 2010 11:14 am

    this post is reaffirming. i’ve never studied for a test in my life, but the ctel scared me so much i’ve been studying in my sleep. i know the definitions and implications and connections of every term in the book, and yet i’m still terrified of failing! i appreciate your reminders that the ctel is almost like any other standardized test: a regurgitation game. i will remember to remind my own students when they’re testing too.

  3. mrC on December 2nd, 2010 6:28 pm

    @ nicole – I know what you mean about the stress the CTEL test causes. And it’s completely ridiculous. Even in the book that most of the test is based on, they often admit that there is actually research that contradicts their ideology, but they just dismiss it with a sort of, “well we don’t really agree with their conclusions…” And our jobs are on the line! It’s almost like if, back in the day, they made us pass a test to get our “Whole Language Certificate” in order to keep our credentials.

    Like you, I never really studied much or worried about tests, but my wife keeps reminding me what a, ahem… well, you know the word… I was in the days leading up to it. What a way to take all the fun out he last day of school.

    Good Luck.

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