Teacher certification in the United States is performed on a state-by-state basis and, while there are exams like the Praxis series that are accepted in more than one state, many states have specialized exams of their own, mandated by state law and required for all teachers who want to start their teaching careers in that state. (Most states have reciprocal agreements to accept teaching credentials from other states for those already certified there, but rules for this vary across the U.S.)
So if you’re at the beginning of your career and want to be a teacher in Florida, you’ll have to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exam or FTCE. This is a large test, with portions that will evaluate not only a prospective teacher’s knowledge of how to teach but their knowledge of just about any subject that is taught in Florida schools. Fortunately, you won’t have to take all of it. Although certain sections are required, for other parts you will be able to select only those portions that apply to the subjects you’d like to teach.
There are three parts to the FTCE. The first, the Basic Skills or General Knowledge (GK) Test, assesses your general knowledge of the basics of those three traditional tenets of education: reading, writing and arithmetic/mathematics. The second, the Subject Area Examinations (SAE), is actually a series of tests, each on a different subject taught in Florida schools. (You can choose which to take.) The third, the FTCE Professional Education Test (PEd), tests your abilities to teach, to prove that you have the skills required in the classroom.
To become certified as a teacher in Florida, you must take and pass all three. Let’s look at each test in more detail:
- The FTCE General Knowledge Test (GK) — The GK test is actually four separate tests, three of them containing multiple choice questions and the third involving writing an essay. The subjects of the multiple choice sections are: English language skills, reading and mathematics. The essay portion demonstrates your basic writing skills, which the Florida Department of Education consider essential to the job of any teacher in their school system. The four tests of the GK can be taken separately, on different days, and even registered for separately.
- The Subject Area Examinations (SAE) — While the General Knowledge Test, as the name implies, tests your general knowledge, the Subject Area Examinations test your knowledge of the subject or subjects you intend to teach in Florida schools. There are more than 40 of these tests currently, with still more being developed. You may take as few or as many as you like, though qualifying to teach some subjects may require that you take two tests rather than one.
- The FTCE Professional Education Test (PEd) — The PEd is the only one of the FTCE tests that is a single exam. There aren’t multiple portion, as with the GK, and you don’t have a choice of subjects to test on, as with the SAE. It consists of a set of multiple choice questions that assess your ability to teach.
Registration for the FTCE is performed over the Internet at the FTCE registration page: https://reg3.nesinc.com/FLRegistration/SignOn.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fFLRegistration%2fMyAccount.aspx. The fee for the GK test is $130, for each SAE test is $200, and for the PEd is $150. Note that if you need to retake any of these exams, you will need to pay the fee again with an extra $20 tacked on.
When you register, you will receive an admission ticket that will specify the location, date and time of the test. You should arrive 30 minutes earlier, so that you’ll have time to verify your identification and get ready for the test. If you need to cancel, please do so at least 24 hours before the test or you’ll be unable to receive a refund for your testing fee.
If you are just starting college or even just graduating, you may still be deciding what sort of career you are going to devote the rest of your life to. May we suggest teaching? There are few careers more important than one in which you pass on your knowledge to the nation’s youth, preparing a generation of young people, much like you very recently were yourself, to make their way into the world.
But becoming a teacher requires certification and becoming certified requires not only getting an education but taking an exam. The exam that you take will vary depending on what state you plan to become certified in. Many states accept the Praxis series of exams, but if you want to teach in Florida, they do not. They have their own teacher’s certification exam: the Florida Teacher Certification Exam or FTCE. It consists of many parts, though you may tailor your version so that you take only the ones that are relevant to the subject you plan to teach. The parts of the FTCE are divided into three overall exams: the General Knowledge Test (GK), the Subject Area Examinations (SAE) and the Professional Education test (PEd).
The General Knowledge Test is required of all prospective Florida teachers and tests knowledge at the most fundamental levels, to see if you can read, write and do math. There are four portions to it, three of which consist of multiple choice questions, the fourth of an essay that tests your ability to express your thoughts in writing. The three non-essay portions are on English language skills, reading and mathematics. You may take these portions separately or together, depending on what works best for you.
The Subject Area Examinations (SAE) test your knowledge of the subject you plan to teach. There are more than 40 of these subject area tests with still more on the way and the subjects tested include: Art, Business Education, Computer Science, Drama, French, Journalism, Mathematics, Social Science, Music, Physical Education, Physics, and Speech. This is just a sampling, of course. You may take only one of these exams or as many as you’d like.
The Professional Education Test (PEd) — The PEd tests you to see if you can teach. Without the ability to pass on knowledge to students, your skills in the other tests are useless, so this test is important.
If you are already a teacher in another state, it is possible that you will not need to become certified separately in Florida. Contact the Florida Department of Education to find out if your existing certification will be acceptable for teaching in Florida or if you will only have to take a subset of the FTCE exams.
Go to the Florida Department of Education Web site at http://www.fldoe.org/default.asp if you want to learn more about being a teacher in Florida in general and the FTCE in particular. Go to the FTCE registration page at https://reg3.nesinc.com/FLRegistration/SignOn.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fFLRegistration%2fMyAccount.aspx if you want to begin the sign-up process for the FTCE exams.
The FTCE, of course, is not free. There are fees for all portions of the exam. The basic fees are as follows:
- Subject Area Examinations – $200 apiece
- Professional Education Test – $150
- General Knowledge Test (any combination of subtests) – $130
- If you need to retake any of the exams, the fee will be the same plus an additional $20 charge.
You may pay the fees online with a Visa or Mastercharge credit or debit card. If you can’t pay with either, contact Customer Service at (413) 256-2893. If you can’t attend, you must cancel at least 24 hours in advance or lose your refund. For more details, see the Rescheduling/Canceling, Refund, and Absentee/No Show Policies page at http://www.fl.nesinc.com/FL_Policies.asp.
The Day of the FTCE Test
It’s best to be prepared on the day you take the FTCE, not just for the subject matter you’re going to be tested on but for what to expect in the exam room and what you should bring with you when you go. Of course, there isn’t just one day of the FTCE exam. Given the way the exam is broken down into multiple parts, you’ll be showing up for it on at least three different days and probably several more. But for your first visit, at least, we’ll try to give you an idea of what to expect.
When you register for one of the FTCE tests, you’ll receive an admission ticket that will tell you the date, location and time of your test. You are, however, expected to be there at least half an hour early. Your identification will need to be verified, and you’ll need time to be situated at a workstation (the exams are given on computer) and to be briefed on testing procedures. A photograph will be taken of you when you arrive at the site for documentation and identification purposes.
You’ll need to bring that admission ticket with you. You’ll also need to bring proper identification. What constitutes “proper identification”? You’ll need two forms of ID, both current. One form must be a government-issued photo ID. The Florida Department of Education suggests “a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, United States military ID (with visible signature), or passport.” The second form must have a photo and/or a signature. Student IDs and Social Security cards would be acceptable. If the name on the ID is different from the name under which you are registered, you must bring proof of name change, such as a marriage license or a divorce decree.
There are certain things you must not bring into the exam room. The Florida Department of Education supplies this list: Cell phones and electronic communication devices, including any device with an on/off switch; scratch paper or written notes; dictionaries or other books of any kind; audio devices (MP3, CD); calculators, or food and drink, including water, bottled or otherwise. Personal possessions can be stored outside the exam room, as directed by staff. No smoking is allowed in the exam room. You may not bring any visitors with you. And, though it should go without saying, you may not bring weapons.
Once in the testing room, you will be supplied with a notepad and pen, and for some tests you will be provided with a calculator, though as noted above you may not bring your own. The test is given on computer and you will be allowed a set amount of time to complete it, though this time can vary widely depending on which test you are taking. For instance, the English Language Skills portion of the General Knowledge tests takes 40 minutes while the Elementary Education K–6 module of the Subject Area Evaluation (SAE) tests takes four hours and 20 minutes.
You are allowed to take restroom breaks during the tests, though this time will come out of your allotted time for the test, unless the test contains a scheduled break. You may not, however, leave the exam room during the test until you are officially dismissed (restroom breaks aside) or communicate with any other person. There will be no scheduled breaks between the portions of the General Knowledge subtests, even if you choose to take them all in one day.
You will be videotaped during the tests, so any violations of protocol will be on record. The testing session ends when you have been officially dismissed, which will either be when the test time runs out or you complete your test. Once you have been dismissed, you must leave the exam room.
FTCE Study Guides
If you have been studying to be a teacher and want to teach in the State of Florida, the day of the Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE) is the moment you have been waiting for, the moment when you will become certified to teach. (Actually, it will be several different moments, since the FTCE consists of several separate exams.) Although you will be allowed to retake any portion of it that you don’t pass the first time, you will have to pay the exam fee all over again with an extra $20 added to it. And having to reschedule the test means that it will be that much longer until you are able to begin your career and actually start teaching students.
So you want to pass this test the first time you try. You may be pretty confident that you can do this. After all, you probably have a degree in education or maybe a degree in the subject that you intend to teach. You have a lot of knowledge under your belt. In the near future, you’ll be giving exams to your own students, so you shouldn’t have any trouble passing an exam yourself, right?
Well, maybe. As you know from your college experience, sometimes exams can surprise you. If you haven’t been prepped in advance by someone who knows what’s on the test, who knows exactly what aspects of the subject are going to be covered, you’re likely to find yourself staring at a question on the computer screen and having no idea what the answer is because it’s something you didn’t study for or take a class in when you were getting your degree.
You don’t want this to happen. So how do you guarantee that it doesn’t?
The State of Florida makes a certain amount of test information available for a price. You can purchase their guides to the FTCE exams at this address: https://reg3.nesinc.com/FLTIG/TIGOrdering.aspx. There are quite a few guides because there are quite a few tests. You can purchase each one for $5.62. If you don’t have a credit/debit card and cannot pay online, you can call the Department of Education at (413) 256-2893 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. eastern time on weekdays (excluding holidays) to make other arrangements.
However, there are other study guides available and many of these will be more comprehensive or in a more useful form than the State of Florida guides will be. Such study guides are available at bookstores or can be ordered on the Internet. They come in a number of forms, including books, flash cards, CDs, DVDs, even software.
Why would you want one of these study guides? Because they can tell you exactly what to expect on the test. Although the actual test questions aren’t available, a good study guide will tell you exactly what parts of a subject will be covered and give you sample questions of the kind that will appear on the test. These sample questions will show you what areas your knowledge is already strong in and where you need to do some more studying. A good study guide may also give you examples of the sorts of essays that you are expected to write for the essay exams or samples of the sort of information that should go in those essays.
Most importantly, a good study guide will give you confidence. There’s nothing worse than walking into an exam room with the pre-test jitters. Nerves and anxiety can affect your score, causing you to perform more poorly on the test that you would otherwise. If you spend enough time in advance with a study guide, however, it will allay your fears and let you know when you can consider yourself prepared for the test. That way you’ll walk into the testing room confidently — and, after you’ve completed all of the FTCE exams, come away with your Florida teaching license.
After You’ve Taken the FTCE Exam
It’s been a long process. You’ve earned a bachelor’s degree or better in education or on a subject that you want to teach, you’ve registered with the State of Florida to take the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE), you taken them and now you’re done. Right? Well, probably. However, there will still be a process that you will want to go through after the FTCE has been taken, with the exact process depending on how well you did on the exams. Let’s look at some of the possibilities:
You’ll want to know your scores. During the sign-up process for the FTCEs, you will have created an account with the State of Florida’s Department of Education Web site (http://www.fldoe.org/default.asp). You will have a log-in name and password, so that you can check your account at any time. If you took a test with only multiple-choice questions, the results will appear online roughly four weeks after you take the test. If there is an essay portion to your test, your results will appear online roughly six weeks after you take the test. Once online, the results will remain available through your account for 60 days. Be sure to check them during that period. If the test that you took was recently revised, this may cause about a one-week delay in the appearance of your scores online, so don’t panic if they’re a little late. Note that scores cannot be obtained by either telephone or fax. If your scores don’t appear or are for some reason incomplete, contact customer service at (413) 256-2893 and you will be issued new scores for free. After 60 days, there will be a $10 service charge.
If for some reason you don’t want your scores reported to you, the Department of Education or the school of your choice, you can fill out a Score Cancellation form before you leave the test site.
If you want to take the test again, you must wait at least 31 days after taking it the first time to retake the test. Taking it sooner will invalidate the score. You must go through the registration process again and pay the registration fee(s) again, except that the fees will now be $20 higher than they were the first time you paid them. For the General Knowledge (GK) test, which consists of four subtests, you only need to retake the subtest that you didn’t pass. The other passing scores will be unaffected. Some of the Subject Area Examination (SAE) tests have two portions. You only have to take the portion you didn’t pass. You keep the passing grade on the other.
If you feel your test was incorrectly graded, you may file for a score verification and have it rescored. See the PDF document at this address for details: http://www.fl.nesinc.com/PDFs/FL_ScoreVerificationSessionInformation.pdf. If for some reason you fail to print out or otherwise save the PDF version of your test results that will be available on your online account for 60 days, you may request a duplicate score report.
The Duplicate Score Report Request Form is available online as a PDF at this address: http://www.fl.nesinc.com/PDFs/FL_ScrInterGuide_FormOnly.pdf. The request requires paying a $10 processing fee and can only be made by the examinee. The duplicate score reports will be posted to your Internet account. If you include your email address in your online account (updated as necessary), you’ll receive a notification when the duplicate score report becomes available. If you don’t receive the duplicate score report, contact Customer Service at (413) 256-2893.
Note that, at the time you initially register for the test, you can request that a copy of your scores be sent to the school district or college of your choice (and remember that you can cancel this if you do so before you leave the exam room after the FTCE is complete).
FTCE Exam Details
The Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE), which is required for certification of new teachers in Florida not previously certified by other states, consists of many parts, so many that it can be a bit confusing to understand what parts you need to take. However, we’ll give you a breakdown here.
The simplest part is the Professional Education Test (PEd), which evaluates your skills as a teacher. This test consists of a single multiple-choice exam taken on a single day. The entire test takes 2-1/2 hours. The fee for the test is $150, or $170 if you need to take it a second time.
More complex is the General Knowledge Test (GK), which is actually four tests, each of which can be taken separately or all of which can be taken in a single day. You know how people say that education consists of reading and writing and ‘rithmetic? Well, that’s what the GK tests are about. There’s a test for reading comprehension, a test for English language skills, and a test for mathematics. There’s also a test where you write an essay to demonstrate how well you can express yourself in words. You can think of the GK as a single exam or you can think of it as four exams. The English Language Skills and Reading portions of the test take 40 minutes apiece, while the essay takes 50 minutes and the Mathematics portion takes 100 minutes. Calculators are provided at the test site for the Mathematics portion. The fee is $130 for any combination of these tests or $150 if you need to take them a second time.
The biggest section of the FTCE are the Subject Area Examinations (SAE), but you only need to take one of them. (You can take more if you like.) Each of the tests takes 2-1/2 hours to complete, with the exception of the Elementary Education K–6 test, which takes four hours and 20 minutes. The fee for each test is $200 or $220 if you need to take it a second time. Here, from the Florida Department of Education Web site, is a list of the subject area tests that are currently available:
- Agriculture 6–12
- Art K–12
- Biology 6–12
- Business Education 6–12
- Chemistry 6–12
- Computer Science K–12
- Drama 6–12
- Earth/Space Science 6–12
- Educational Media Specialist PK–12
- Elementary Education K–6
- English 6–12
- ESOL K–12
- Exceptional Student Education K–12
- Family and Consumer Science 6–12
- French K–12
- German K–12
- Guidance and Counseling
- Health K–12
- Hearing Impaired K–12
- Humanities K–12
- Journalism 6–12
- Latin K–12
- Mathematics 6–12
- Middle Grades English 5–9
- Middle Grades General Science 5–9
- Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum 5–9
- Middle Grades Mathematics 5–9
- Middle Grades Social Science 5–9
- Music K–12
- Physical Education K–12
- Physics 6–12
- Prekindergarten/Primary PK–3
- Preschool Education Birth–Age 4
- Reading K–12
- School Psychologist PK–12
- Social Science 6–12
- Spanish K–12
- Speech 6–12
- Speech-Language Impaired K–12
- Technology Education 6–12
- Visually Impaired K–12
Calculators are provided at the test site for the chemistry, mathematics, middle-grades integrated curriculum, and physics tests. Most of the tests are multiple choice, but the English 6-12, French K-12, German K-12, Middle Grades English 5-9 and Spanish K-12 tests all include essay components. The German K-12 and Speech 6-12 tests consist of two subtests, which can be taken on separate dates or on the same day.
These tests are available at a number of times and locations throughout the year. For more details on the tests and on becoming a teacher in Florida in general, see the Florida Department of Education Web site at http://www.fldoe.org/.