October 6, 2015

Who Should Take Illinois Certification Testing System Tests

Offered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in conjunction with National Evaluation Systems (NES), the Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) tests are required in a number of different situations. Teachers must complete one or more ICTS tests in order to gain certification; individuals with limited approvals or endorsements may be required to pass appropriate tests; and students interested in Illinois-approved programs for teachers will need to pass an ICTS test as part of the admissions process.

Certification in Early Childhood, Elementary, Secondary and Special Teaching can be earned by successful completion of the ICTS Test of Academic Proficiency together with the Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT) and the required content area exams. Teachers who need to earn a Transitional Bilingual Certificate can do so by successfully taking an ICTS language proficiency test. Teachers who are seeking a Special Pre- School- to- Age- 21 Certificate are required to take the ICTS Special Education General Curriculum Test offered by ISBE. In addition, all individual who are interested in becoming teachers in the state of Illinois by alternative route programs must, as one requirement, pass the ICTS Test of Academic Proficiency as well as content area tests pertinent to their specific areas of specialization. Upon successful completion, a Provisional Alternative Teaching Certificate will be issued.

Teachers who are ready to take the step from Learning Behavior Specialist (LBS) I approval for teaching to an endorsement are required by the state of Illinois to successfully pass the Illinois Certification Testing System LBS I test. In addition, those who currently have an LBS I Limited endorsement or certificate are given the option of lifting the limitation via ICTS testing. An LBS level 2 certificates can be earned by teachers who currently hold a Special Pre- School- to- Age- 21 Certificate who complete the Test of Academic Proficiency if it they did not do so previously, as well as the LBS II ICTS test appropriate to their areas of specialization.

Passage of the Test of Academic Proficiency is required for any student who is making application to an educator preparation program. In addition, once enrolled in a program, a student must also pass content area tests as a requirement of certification. Some programs require their students to demonstrate competency by passing specific content area tests before they are approved for student teaching. While passing these tests indicates the student has sufficient understanding of content and the skills necessary to deliver it to students, completion of these tests serves another purpose. Passage satisfies the requirement for ‘highly qualified’ educators as described under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Finally, potential school employees who are required to have an Administrative Certificate or a School Service Personnel certification can earn it by passing the Test of Academic Proficiency together with content area exams.
Teachers from other states with comparable certification who are seeking certification in order to teach in Illinois are waived of the requirement of passing the Test of Academic Proficiency; however, they must take and pass the appropriate content area exam or exams. Those who want to teach at the early childhood, elementary or secondary levels, or who are seeking special teaching certification are not exempted from taking the relevant ICTS tests. Similarly, teachers who hold teaching certificates from other states or territories but need Special Pre- School- to- Age- 21 certification must earn the certification by passing the Special Education General Curriculum Test.
Computer Based Options For Illinois Certification Testing System Tests

Computer Based Options For Illinois Certification Testing System TestsOffered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) a limited number of Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) examinations are available as computer based options. Currently, the Test of Academic Proficiency; Early Childhood Education, and Elementary/Middle Grades; Special Education General Curriculum and Learning Behavior Specialist I exams can all be taken at one of the many Pearsons Professional Centers located throughout the United States. These tests are offered for periods of five business days at a time at each test center. Because seating is limited, candidates are urged to register as early as possible.

Computer based testing is a good option for examinees who cannot take a particular test on a date scheduled for paper based testing. Candidates who can accommodate a Saturday or week day test schedule, as well as those who prefer to take their ICTS tests in Peoria, Springfield, Chicago, Marion or Schaumburg might want to look into taking the test or tests on a computer.

As with the paper based ICTS exam, 85% of the Test of Academic Proficiency is based upon the number of correct responses to multiple choice questions. It is imperative that examinees understand that there is no penalty for incorrect answers, but that each correct response contributes to the test score. It is therefore important to answer every multiple choice question. Candidates who run out of time, or who simply don’t know the answer to one or more multiple choice questions should make an educated guess by eliminating unlikely or improbable answers. Even if the candidate cannot make an educated guess, it’s best not to leave the question blank because that is scored as an incorrect answer. By making a guess, regardless of how arbitrary, the examinee increases the likelihood of a correct choice.

The format of paper based and computer based tests are identical; computer based examinees use a touch- screen to choose the correct multiple choice answer. Tests that include a written response to a writing prompt require the candidate to type the answer.

Interested candidates must register online, and will be required to pay fees. Only MasterCard or Visa is acceptable methods of payment.

Candidates who pass each of the four individual subareas but do not attain a total score of 240 out of 300 will be required to retake the exam. As well, candidates who earn a total score that is over 240 but fail to meet the minimum requirements of one or more of the subareas will also be required to retest.

Examinees will not be permitted to sit for any test without proper government issued identification that contains a photograph and a signature. Anyone with identification that varies from the registration name must also supply some kind of official confirmation, such as a court order, divorce decree or marriage certificate.
It is essential that serious candidates go in to take the test or tests well prepared; unsuccessful candidates are prohibited from sitting for the same exam within 120 days of the first attempt. In addition, it should be noted that candidates are permitted only five attempts at passing any one test.

Illinois Certification Testing System Test of Academic Proficiency

The Illinois Certification Testing System Test’s (ICTS) Test of Academic Proficiency given by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is required for candidates who are also planning to take content area or other ICTS exams. The report includes an evaluation of the test taker’s overall performance, as well as specific assessments in each of the Test of Academic Proficiency’s four subareas. These scores are also submitted to schools or other institutions the test candidate selected when registering to take the exam, as well as to the Illinois State Board of education.

Test takers will be supplied with the official score release date, which is the day scores are mailed. It is possible to see an unofficial score at the ISBE’s website on that date. In addition to the candidate’s score, a pass rate report is also supplied. This includes initial pass rate information, which reports how many first time test takers were present at that exam, and how many earned a passing or better score. Retake pass rate information is also supplied; this indicates the number of examinees who had taken the exam previously, and the percentage who were successful with the retake. Finally, overall pass rate information is also supplied.

There are 125 multiple choice questions as well as one writing prompt that must be answered in a constructed response format. Eighty- five percent of the Test of Academic Proficiency’s weighted grade is based upon the candidate’s number of correct multiple choice questions. The remaining 15% of the exam score comes from the written portion of the test.

The score for the Test of Academic Proficiency as a whole are given as a whole number from 100 to 300. The overall test score must be at or above 240; in addition, successful candidates must also be at or above an allowable percentage of correct answers within each of the four subareas of Reading Comprehension, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Writing.

In the area of Reading Comprehension, at least half of the answers must be correct for the candidate to pass the subarea. Language Arts questions likewise require a minimum of 50% of the answers to be correct. In the subarea of Mathematics, test takers are required to provide 35% of the questions with correct answers. Finally, the constructive response to the writing prompt, which accounts for 15% of the overall test grade, can earn a maximum of 12 points. In order to pass this subarea, a candidate must score a minimum of 5 points.

Candidates who achieve a sufficiently high minimum score in each of the four areas can still fail to earn an overall score of 240; these applicants will not pass the test. As well, examinees who fail to achieve the minimum score in one or more subareas cannot make up for a low score with a significantly higher score in another area. Insufficient scores will be noted in each area. Candidates who have an overall score of at least 240 but fail to meet the scoring requirements in one or more subareas will likewise fail the examination.

As with the test as a whole, each subarea score is described by a whole number between 100 and 300. It is important to note that the overall grade is a scaled score; because the subareas do not ask the same number of questions, they bring different weights to the overall score and their average will not necessarily be the same number as that assigned to the overall exam.

Candidates should be aware that all multiple choice questions should be answered, even if that answer is a guess. Incorrect answers do not tip the total score negatively; only correct answers are counted. Guessing is statistically more likely to result in a correct answer. While it is essential for test hopefuls to be well prepared before taking the Test of Academic Proficiency, when unfamiliar questions are encountered the best strategy is to eliminate unlikely answers and make the best guess possible, making every attempt to answer all multiple choice questions.

Illinois Certification Testing System Retesting

Illinois Certification Testing System RetestingThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) understands that there may be times when a score obtained by a test candidate needs to be reevaluated after taking the Illinois Certification Testing System Tests (ICTS). A candidate might question the validity of a score, feel a question was confusing or inaccurate, or wish to suppress a passing grade in order to make another attempt.

The multiple choice questions in any of the 76 content or assessment- specific tests or the Test of Academic Proficiency are evaluated by a computer program that is generally considered fully accurate. Examinees who question scoring in one or more sections and have taken a paper based test can commission a rescore of the multiple choice questions only.

The greatest degree of standardization is applied to scoring of oral responses and written portions of the ICTS foreign language proficiency and content area tests, as well. Scorers with professional training are overseen by supervisors who review their evaluations. As with other content area tests, multiple reviewers examine the same material to ensure that scores are consistent. Because both oral and written responses are automatically rescored by a range of scoring evaluators, examinees cannot ask these portions of the exam be re- scored.

In some cases, a candidate might complete an exam and decide, even before scores are reported, that it will not be in her best interest to have the scores distributed to her chosen schools or other institutions. An examinee who found the test to be more difficult than expected or who did not have the time to properly prepare can request a cancellation. This can be done in two ways; a candidate can immediately request a Score Cancellation Form if a paper based test was completed; test sites will have this form on hand. Alternatively, a candidate can cancel a score by submitting a written request that contains the ICTS I.D. number, the last 5 numbers of the candidate’s social, the test date and name, and the candidate’s signature.

Requests for cancellation must be received within one week of the test date for paper based tests. Examinees who took a computer based test are only given two days to fax the request. Cancellation does not mean a return of fees. Candidates cannot access their scores, and once completed, cancellations cannot be reversed.

It is extremely important that candidates understand they are given no more than five attempts to pass any one examination; a cancellation merely erases the documentation of a score; however it still is counted as one of the allowable attempts.

Preparing For The Illinois Certification Testing System Examinations

Candidates who need certification in order to teach in Illinois must pass the appropriate Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE’s) Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) examinations. Because passing the test or tests is a requirement, it’s important for test takers to devote plenty of time in preparation.

There are many ways to go about this. First, it’s helpful to know your personal learning style. Some individuals learn best in an absolutely silent study environment, while others prefer music or the sounds of daily activities in the background. Some people have difficulty retaining information unless they hear it verbally, while others cannot absorb it unless they read it. In addition to a number of learning styles, most people don’t fall neatly into a single category. For example, some learners who find music helps them organize their thoughts are also kinetic learners, and find that moving around the room while memorizing lists or data increases their ability to understand and retain.

Once you’ve determined your learning style, the next step is to consider what type of study environment suits you best. If you find that you enjoy, or even need, the presence of other students and a teacher in a face- to- face environment, you might want to look for an ICTS study prep class. Here, you’ll not only find study buddies, you’ll have instant access to answers to all your questions. Furthermore, when one of your classmates asks a question you hadn’t thought of yet, you’ll learn from the answer, as well.

Perhaps you’ve got a full time job, young children and no time in between to sign up for a class that meets at specific times. In that case, you’ll have to either organize your own study group or plan to work on your own. In either case, you’ll need to take a close look at the wide range of study materials that are available. Bear in mind that not all study guides, flashcards, CDs and other preparatory materials are created equal. The least expensive are probably going to also be the least effective; after all, why would a company practically give away materials that were top notch? Look for companies that have been around for a while, and check the Better Business Bureau ratings, as well. You can find plenty of high quality and very useful study materials available at reasonable prices from an A+ rated company; this isn’t the time to try to save a buck or two by going with an unknown!

When it comes to sitting down and begin to prepare for the ICTS, you need plenty of focus, a good dose of organization and the willingness to work very hard. This is not a test you can afford to fail; doing so will postpone your entering the workforce as a teacher, it can hurt your confidence, and it will be costly as well since each retest requires another registration fee. Consider the particular certification you are testing for; how well do you know the content? Be very honest with yourself. If you have a good grasp of general concepts, then you needn’t spend too much time reviewing them and can jump into the deeper information. If you don’t, though, that’s where you need to start.

Be sure you understand the format of the test or tests you will be taking. Search the Illinois Certification Testing Systems website for the link to test frameworks. Click on your test and download the booklet, and carefully study the standards and objectives; knowing these can help you make a best guess to questions you don’t know the answer to. Take a good look at the subareas, and note what specific information and question types are likely to fall into each subarea. Mark the sections you feel you are weakest in, and focus most of your studying there.
It is important to begin preparation well in advance of the test. Waiting until the last minute and trying to cram just won’t work. You’ll be unlikely to pass the test that way, since this is an examination of true knowledge that you demonstrate through application, not memorization.

Registering For The Illinois Certification Testing System Tests

The Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) examinations are given in testing centers throughout Illinois during a range of testing dates. Administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the exams are offered as paper based or computer based options. The ISBE offers 76 content specific examinations in addition to the Test of Academic Proficiency. Candidates should determine first which content area or areas are required for the type of certification they seek. Next, an internet search will determine the dates in which these specific exams will be offered. It’s a good idea to register early; if a test area fills for a particular exam, it will mean either traveling to a less convenient test center or postponing the test date. Candidates who know which schools or other institutions should receive test scores can select them during the registration process.

Candidates can choose to register by U.S. mail, via the internet or by telephone. In all cases, they will be required to supply information that includes the specific name and number of the exam or exams they want to take; the name of the preferred test center; and the dates and times the exam is given. Anyone registering by mail should be careful to include an alternative test date in the event the first choice has no available seats remaining. Candidates who need special modifications or adjustments to the test due to disability will need to supply required information regarding the nature of the disability, as well as physician documentation as well. Regardless of preferred registration method, no registration will be accepted without payment which can be made by MasterCard, Visa, personal check or money order for registrations sent by mail, or by MasterCard or Visa for registrations completed online or by phone.

Each test is assigned a registration period; candidates who register late will be required to pay a late fee. For candidates who have also missed the late registration period, it may be possible to complete registration during the emergency registration dates. In this case, an additional fee will be added.


Registered candidates who must cancel are required to submit a Withdrawal/Refund Request Form by mail, fax or online. Requests must be received no later than 5 p.m. Central time on the posted registration deadline date. Those send via mail must be postmarked by the registration deadline. Properly submitted requests will receive a complete refund of the test fee, but the registration fee is nonrefundable. Requests that are received by the late registration date will be refunded at 50% of the test fee.

Requests to re- score the Test of Academic Proficiency or APT tests must be accompanied by a fee of $50; Learning Behavior Specialist II rescores are also charged $50. Tests that include only multiple choice questions are charged a $35 rescore fee.

The Illinois Certification Testing System Test Limitations And Exceptions

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regulates certain aspects of the Test of Academic Proficiency section of the Illinois Certification Testing System Tests (ICTS), the assessment tests and the content-specific tests it administers.

No candidate is permitted more than five attempts of any individual test. There is no ‘wait out’ period following five failures; this is the case regardless of how close together or far apart the attempts were made. A candidate who arrives at the test site and signs in, then leaves before actually sitting for test is considered to have made an attempt. This requirement is not waived for examinees that have left, either before or after the test has begun, due to illness or family emergency. Cancelling a score does not cancel the associated attempt. Having a test score voided by the ISBE because they have determined a violation occurred nonetheless counts as a test attempt.

Candidates who do not sign into the test center, however, are not considered to have made a failed attempt at passing the test for which they had registered. The same holds true for examinees that arrive at the center, but do so after the sign- in period and are not allowed to remain for the exam. It should be noted that while these do not count as one of the five allowable attempts at passing a specific exam it does not mean the candidate isn’t responsible for test and registration fees. The candidate can reregister, but a second set of fees will be incurred.

Examinees who take a computer based examination, which are currently limited to the Test of Academic Proficiency; Early Childhood Education, and Elementary/Middle Grades; Special Education General Curriculum and Learning Behavior Specialist I exams, cannot retake an examination sooner than 120 days after the test score release date. However, candidates who took these or other tests in a paper based format are not similarly restricted.

While many candidates fail only a single subarea of a test, the entire test must be retaken. The only exception is with the Test of Academic Proficiency; here it is possible to retake only those areas in which a candidate failed on a previous attempt. All tests must be retaken in all areas, regardless of how high scores may have been prior. Additionally, every retake registration must also include reregistering for the Test of Academic Proficiency as well. Candidates do not, however, need to complete the Test of Academic Proficiency repeatedly if a satisfactory score has been achieved.

The ISBE has determined that examinees who register for the same test on more than one test date in order to increase the likelihood of passing within a particular time period will receive no return of fees for later registrations should an early attempt garner positive results.

While candidates are required to pay registration and test fees prior to sitting for an exam, there may be situations in which an outstanding balance is owed. In that event, scores may be voided at the discretion of National Evaluation Systems. Voided scores will not be reported to the candidate’s selected institutions, nor will they be supplied to the Illinois State Board of Education or to the test taker. Voided scores cannot be reclaimed; should the candidate later pay an outstanding debt, it will not result in a resurrection of the associated scores.
Additionally, candidates with an overdue amount will be charged a $20 fee in addition to the amount due. This money, as well as the amount in dispute, must be paid before the examinee is permitted to register for or take any future exams. Candidates who attempt to circumvent valid credit card charges by disputing charges claimed by National Evaluations Systems will be barred from using that or any credit card for future test fees. Candidates who pay with a check that is returned must, in the future, pay test and registration fees with money order or cashier’s check only.

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