Test Information Guide

Test-Taking Strategies

Candidates preparing to take an MTEL test may find the suggestions in this section of the test information guide helpful. This guide:

You may also consult with your program advisor or other program faculty for additional resources.

Know When to Test: Plan Back from the Score Report Date

Determine when you need your test scores to meet your program requirements. Then select your test to review the score report release dates and schedule a test appointment accordingly.

Use the Test Objectives to Identify Test Content

The test objectives are available in the next section of this guide and as a PDF through the Test Objectives page. The content the objectives describe is typically learned through college-level coursework and other experiences at Massachusetts educator preparation programs.

The objectives:

Read the test objectives for your test carefully.

Focus your studies

Once you are familiar with the test objectives, outline their content and identify those on which you need to concentrate. This can help you set study priorities. But keep in mind that you may improve your total test score by improving your performance in any subarea, so plan time to review content of familiar objectives, too.

The Study Outline Chart Word document. may be a good organizational tool for focusing your studies:

  1. In the second column, summarize each objective using a brief phrase (e.g., "Reading Comprehension," "Statistics and Probability").
  2. For this step, you may want to work with others. For each objective and its descriptive statement(s), brainstorm as many ideas as you can about likely test content and possible questions. For ideas, think about your courses and other educator preparation activities. Record your notes in the third column.
  3. In the fourth column, indicate your level of knowledge and preparation for each objective:
  4. Make a study plan, starting with areas marked with an X or ?—but remember to plan study time for more familiar areas, too. In the fifth column, note resources that may be helpful (see the ideas below).

Identify resources

Consult with your advisor. On his or her recommendation, take courses that will help strengthen your content knowledge in identified areas.

Consult materials such as:

You may also want to ask for ideas from other students who have taken courses that address your needs.

Develop Effective Study Techniques

Make a realistic study schedule.

Building up knowledge gradually will be more effective for learning unfamiliar or challenging content. So plan enough time to really learn what you need to, rather than trying to "cram" too much in too fast in the days before the test.

Review a book or reliable website on study skills.

Your school website or an academic assistance office may provide study skills information. Also ask your school library for suggestions.

Consider joining or forming a study group with others taking the test at the same time.

Find out if your school sponsors study groups. (You may gain the most from taking part in a study group focusing on the same test objectives you need to concentrate on.)

Become Familiar with Test Item Formats

Multiple-Choice Item Formats

MTEL multiple-choice items expect you to do more than show you know facts: you may be asked to think critically about information (e.g., by analyzing or applying it, comparing it with other knowledge, or making a judgment about it). (Note that approximately 15 percent of MTEL multiple-choice test items are not scored, but are included to collect data on their possible use as scored items on future tests.)

Each multiple-choice item:

There is no penalty for incorrect multiple-choice answers.

Examples of the two most common multiple-choice item formats are below. Please note:

Multiple-Choice Format: Single Item

In this format, a problem is presented as a direct question or incomplete statement. This example is a sample test item from a General Curriculum test (* indicates the best response choice).


A town planning committee must decide how to use a 110-acre piece of land. The committee sets aside 20 acres of the land for watershed protection and an additional 46 acres for recreation. What percentage of the land is set aside for either watershed protection or recreation?

  1. 19%
  2. 44%
  3. *60%
  4. 66%
Suggested approach

Multiple-Choice Format: Items with Stimulus Material

Some test items are preceded by material such as maps, charts, tables, graphs, reading passages, and descriptions of classroom situations. A single stimulus may relate to one or more items. This example is from an English test (* indicates the best response choice).

Use the excerpt below from a poem by Queen Elizabeth I of England to answer the question that follows.

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

In this work, the poet constructs meaning by using:

  1. understatement to emphasize the speaker's sense of incompleteness.
  2. allusion to elevate the speaker's situation.
  3. onomatopoeia to heighten the dramatic effect.
  4. *antithesis to dramatize the speaker's inner conflict.
Suggested Approach

Open-Response Item Formats

MTEL tests typically include one or more items that require a written response. These open-response items:

In language tests, the open-response items generally assess speaking, writing, listening, reading, and/or cultural understanding.

The following sample item from a Political Science/Political Philosophy (48) test illustrates the components of a typical open-response item:

Read the information below; then complete the exercise that follows.

The U.S. Constitution creates a government of checks and balances in which legislative, executive, and judicial authority reside in separate branches of the government.

Using your knowledge of the U.S. government, write a response in which you:

Scoring of Open-Response Items

Open-response items are scored holistically (judging the overall effectiveness of the response). Scores are based on scoring scales that describe levels of performance and that have been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Two or more qualified educators score each response. Scorers are oriented before the scoring session to ensure all responses are scored according to standard procedures.

The performance characteristics and scoring scale are included in the test information guide with the sample open-response assignment(s).

Try the Sample Items

Try answering the sample items in this guide and in the practice test, if one is available. You may want to try the approaches suggested above.

After you answer the items:

Keep in mind: Sample items are designed to illustrate the nature of the test items; they should not be used as a diagnostic tool to determine your individual strengths and weaknesses.

Review the CBT Tutorials

On this website, you can:

You can also view Pearson VUE's Test taker tips video.

Taking the Test

Well ahead of test day: Review what you need to know and bring.

Select your test for important information about "The Day of the Test."

Tips for testing at your best

Follow directions.

Pay careful attention to all directions, including:

If you do not understand something about the directions, raise your hand and ask a test center administrator.

Pace your work.
Read each multiple-choice item and the response options closely.
Check your accuracy.

Use any remaining time to:

Review the open-response items carefully.

Scorers have to be able to read and follow your response.

Add to Your Knowledge After the Test

The strategies above should help you use your time wisely before and during the test. Afterwards, it may be helpful to identify areas for further study.

Review the list of objectives you used for studying. Note those that represented the most difficult content for you on the test.

Review the information in your score report about your performance on the subareas/skills of the test (see Score Report Explanation for how to read and interpret your score report). This will show you where your performance was weakest.

Make a plan for further study in areas you need to strengthen and for continuing to improve in your stronger areas. Improving both your weaker and stronger areas can help you:

  • do better if you need to retake the test
  • bring more knowledge and skills to your future work as a Massachusetts educator.