How to Pass the MTEL

One of the most important steps for anyone considering a teaching career in Massachusetts is passing the licensing exams, also called the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, or the MTELs. Taking one or more of this group of exams, run by the Massachusetts Department of Education, is required for anyone seeking a license to teach elementary school, middle school or high school in the Bay State, as well as those intending to teach in vocational or technical programs, or to instruct in adult basic education. MTEL tests

Because the MTELs is a large group of tests, candidates will need to identify the tests that they require and gear their studying and preparation to those tests. There are many study guides available, and students should seek out sample questions and practice tests to best prepare for the types of questions and test-taking conditions they will be experiencing on the actual exams.

Since there are a number of possible exams, each aspiring teacher will need to choose the right tests for the type of teaching they wish to do.
The Communication and Literacy Skills test is required by any applicant for a license to teach pre-K through 12th grade in the state of Massachusetts. It includes both multiple-choice and essay questions and attempts to judge the test taker’s knowledge and ability in reading comprehension and writing skills, with questions on grammar, punctuation, spelling and other similar topics.

Most people who want to teach in Massachusetts’ schools will also need to take one of the Subject Area tests. There are several dozen tests in this category, covering almost every conceivable subject area, from math and physics to French and German to health and music. Which exams are required will depend on the individual test taker and their teaching plans. Also in this group is the General Curriculum exam, which asks questions about science, math, language arts and other topics.

People interested in teaching vocational or technical school are required to take the Vocational Technical Literary Skills test. Similar to the Communication and Literacy Skills test, this exam has both multiple-choice and essay questions and is geared towards assessing reading comprehension and language and writing skills.

Finally, there is the Adult Basic Education test, which is a more general exam offering questions on a range of topics - language arts, the sciences, math, etc. - for teachers who intend to teach basic education for adults.

To take any of these tests a license candidate will need to register in advance, either online or through the mail, and select a testing site. Some testing sites allow tests to be taken on computer, while others provide the exams on paper to be taken with a pencil. Preliminary results may be available online soon after the test, though formal results will be sent through the mail. Students can sometimes find out if they passed or failed on the same day they took the exam.

If a test taker fails one of the MTELs they are allowed to retake the test. With some of the tests that involve subtests, it can sometimes be possible to just retake one section and not the whole exam.

MTEL tests

The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, or MTEL program, is a group of exams devised and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The purpose of these tests is to assess a the knowledge and abilities of a candidate for a license to teach students in any grade between pre-kindergarten and grade 12, as well as for those individuals who wish to teach vocational, technical, and adult basic education.

To obtain a Massachusetts teaching license a candidate must pass one or more of these tests, depending on the subject areas that he or she wishes to teach.

The tests involve both multiple-choice questions and open response items that require test takers to answer in essay form, or to show the work to solve a problem. However, the specific details of each test vary depending on the area of knowledge it is assessing.

There are four main types of MTEL test. The first is the Communication and Literacy Skills test, which has two main subareas: reading and writing. Most applicants for a license to teach pre-K through grade 12 in Massachusetts will need to take this test.

The Communications and Literacy Skills test includes both multiple-choice and essay questions designed to determine how well a test taker both reads and comprehends information, and how he or she uses the English language to communicate ideas. There are also questions about grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence construction and capitalization. Test takers are expected to read and correct sentences, and write two compositions.

The second group of tests is a large group of exams devoted to different subjects that can be taught to students in Pre-K through grade 12. The subject matter tests includes exams on the sciences; foreign languages; various levels of mathematics; technology and engineering; visual arts; physical education; music; health; business; and others. Which tests an aspiring teacher will need to take will depend on what subjects he or she intends to teach and at what level.

In addition to the subject matter tests, there is also a General Curriculum test. This exam has two subtest areas: the first is the multi-subject subtest, which includes language arts, history and social science, science, technology and engineering questions; the second is the mathematics subtest.

The third category of MTEL tests is the Vocational Technical Literacy Skills Test. The purpose of this exam is to test reading and writing skills for individuals who wish to teach in a vocational or technical program. The reading portion of the test is all multiple-choice questions, while the writing portion involves three areas: written summary, written composition, and grammar and mechanics.

The fourth type of MTEL exam is the Adult Basic Education test, which is designed to test the skills of teachers looking to teach Adult Basic Education. This exam has a variety of multiple-choice and essay questions in areas such as language arts, English as a second language, math, history and social science, and science.

To take any of the MTEL exams students must register online, through the mail or over the phone. The tests can be taken via pencil and paper or on the computer. Test results can be obtained in several ways, including online and via U.S. mail. In most cases, aspiring teachers will need to have the results sent to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in order to obtain their teaching license.

Each test in the MTEL program has its own qualifying score, so passing grades vary. Candidates are able to retake tests if they fail. With the Communications and Literacy Skills test and the Vocational Literacy Skills test they are permitted to just retake the subtest they failed, instead of the whole exam. Students can usually find out if they passed or failed the test online after 5pm on test day.

There are also a variety of study guides and practice tests to help teachers prepare for these important exams.

Preparing for the MTEL tests

Passing the MTEL tests, or the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, is a key step for anyone who wishes to become a licensed teacher in Massachusetts. Therefore, preparing adequately for the tests is extremely important.

The first step is determining which test, or tests, is required for the type of license a teacher wishes to obtain. There are a number of types of tests in the MTEL program and not all teachers need to take all of them.

The MTELs are administered by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The purpose is to assess candidates for licenses to teach pre-K through 12th grade, vocational or technical school, or adult basic education. So only candidates for these licenses will need these tests.

There are four main categories of MTEL tests. The first is generally taken by any candidate for a license teaching pre-K through grade 12 and is called the Communication and Literacy Skills test. The purpose of this test is to see how well an aspiring elementary, middle school or high school teacher performs on questions about reading and writing skills, including grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence construction, reading comprehension, and essay writing.

After this test other candidates for a license may be required to take one or more additional subject area tests. The purpose of these tests is to judge the knowledge that a potential teacher has in the subject area, or areas, he or she wishes to teach. There are quite a few tests in this group, encompassing a range of fields of study, such as math, the sciences, history, music, technology, physical education and others. In addition to these subject area tests this group also includes a General Curriculum test with a broader array of questions on subjects such as language arts, history, science, and technology, plus a second subtest devoted just to testing knowledge and skills in mathematics.
The Vocational Technical Literary Skills Test is another MTEL exam. The purpose of this test is to judge the reading and writing skills of people who aspire to a license to teach in a vocational or technical program. The Vocational Technical Literary Skills Test has both multiple-choice and essay questions.

Additionally, the MTEL program provides another test for teachers who want to teach Adult Basic Education. This course of study is designed for adults who are no longer in school but need help in areas such as reading, writing and basic mathematics. People who want to teach these kinds of students will need to take the Adult Basic Education test, which provides a broad array of questions in topics such as language arts, history, math and the sciences.

Students will need to register for these exams either online or through the mail. The tests are offered at a range of locations throughout the state of Massachusetts. In some locations, the tests are taken on a computer, while other students may end up with a pencil and paper exam.

The best way to prepare for these exams is through focused study, with an emphasis on practice tests and sample questions. What constitutes a passing score will depend on the individual test taken.

Early results - including just whether or not the student passed or failed -- can sometimes be obtained online for the MTELs but final results are sent through the mail. Test takers can arrange for their results to also be sent to the appropriate licensing agency. If a test taker fails a test they are generally permitted to retake it, and in some cases, may be allowed to just retake the portion of the test that they failed.

MTEL study guide

The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, or MTELs, are the set of tests that are administered to candidates for a license to teach pre-K through 12th grade, vocational or technical school, or adult basic education in the state of Massachusetts. The tests are administered by the Massachusetts Department of Education, and come in four main categories.

  • The first test was created to test the skills of people looking to teach elementary school, middle school or high school. It is called the Communication and Literacy Skills test. Through multiple-choice and essay questions, test takers are assessed in reading comprehension, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, spelling, composition writing and other related skills.
  • The second group of tests is quite large, and includes a variety of exams in many different subject areas that a teacher might choose to teach. Which of the Subject Area tests an applicant takes will depend on their intended career path in the teaching field. There are tests on almost every possible topic, including mathematics, foreign languages, history, various scientific specialties, music, physical education and more. In this group is also the General Curriculum Test, which asks queries about a broader range of topics, such as science, math and history, for teachers who intend to teach many subjects (such as elementary school or special education teachers).
  • The third test, called the Vocational Technical Literacy Skills test, also has multiple-choice and essay questions designed to assess reading and writing skills. However, this test is for those applicants intending to teach in a vocational or technical program.

Teachers who want to teach Adult Basic Education will need the Adult Basic Education test, which has a broader scope as well. This test has questions on language arts, history, science and math. The purpose of this test is to prepare teachers for teaching adults who are out of school but need help with some of the knowledge and skills that are at the levels more appropriate to grade school students.

The best way to get a good score on the MTEL is to prepare in advance, with study guides and other aids. Looking at sample questions and practice tests will help the test taker better understand the format of the questions and the overall style of the exam.

All aspiring teachers looking to take these tests will need to register in advance. Registration can occur through the mail, online, or over the phone. Depending on the test taking location, teachers may be able to take the test on a computer terminal or with pencil and paper.

Because there are so many MTEL tests and they are all scored differently, each has a different passing grade. In some cases, test takers can see their scores online prior to getting the official score in the mail. The test takers who are seeking a teacher’s license will be able to have their scores sent directly to the Massachusetts Department of Education.

If you fail one of the MTELs you may be able to retake the test right away, or at a later date. With the tests that have multiple sections it is sometimes possible to just retake the failed portion.



Last Updated: 06/09/2014

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