Test Information Guide
Candidates preparing to take an MTEL test may find the suggestions in this section of the test information guide helpful. This guide:
- may address some but not all possible preparation and test-taking strategies you may find helpful;
- is not intended to replace any strategies that work for you.
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.
- are based on Massachusetts licensure regulations and other state policies;
- reflect skills and subject matter knowledge that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has determined to be important for Massachusetts educators;
- are organized into elements (subareas, objectives, and descriptive statements) that can each be helpful in test preparation.
Read the test objectives for your test carefully.
- First read the list of subareas at the beginning of the objectives. For each subarea, note the number of objectives and the approximate test weighting: in general the test will have more multiple-choice questions for subareas with more objectives.
- Then read each objective and its descriptive statement(s) to get a more specific idea of the knowledge you are expected to demonstrate on the test.
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 may be a good organizational tool for focusing your studies:
- In the second column, summarize each objective using a brief phrase (e.g., "Reading Comprehension," "Statistics and Probability").
- 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.
- In the fourth column, indicate your level of knowledge and preparation for each objective:
- ✓—adequate knowledge and preparation;
- X—partial knowledge and preparation (for any you mark this way, in the third column circle or highlight the aspects of the objective you need to study further); or
- ?—little or no knowledge and preparation.
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:
- your textbooks, class notes, and assignments (your instructors may be able to help you identify what will be most helpful);
- textbooks used in Massachusetts public elementary and secondary schools;
- Massachusetts curriculum frameworks;
- publications from local, state, and national professional organizations; and
- the free practice test, if your test has one (check the MTEL practice test page).
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:
- has four response options—A, B, C, and D—one of which is the best choice;
- counts equally toward your total multiple-choice section score.
There is no penalty for incorrect multiple-choice answers.
Examples of the two most common multiple-choice item formats are below. Please note:
- Not every test will include both formats shown here.
- Not all types of items that may appear on an MTEL test are shown here.
- Actual test items are not necessarily identical in wording or format to the sample items in this guide.
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?
- Read the whole item carefully and critically. Think about what it asks and describes.
- Read and evaluate all response options. Do not stop at the first answer that seems reasonable.
- Eliminate any obviously wrong answers, and select the best choice from the others.
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:
- understatement to emphasize the speaker's sense of incompleteness.
- allusion to elevate the speaker's situation.
- onomatopoeia to heighten the dramatic effect.
- *antithesis to dramatize the speaker's inner conflict.
- First, read or review the stimulus carefully. (In this example, the stimulus is a poetic excerpt and must be read carefully and slowly to gain a sense of both the meaning and artistic use of the words.)
- As you read the related item(s) and answer options, look back at the stimulus to determine the best choice. (In this excerpt, the device most clearly used to construct meaning is antithesis, the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, so D is the correct response.)
Open-Response Item Formats
MTEL tests typically include one or more items that require a written response. These open-response items:
- are designed to measure depth and breadth of knowledge, understanding of fundamental concepts, and familiarity with field-specific methodologies;
- may require integrating knowledge from one or more subareas;
- generally include contextual or background information about the item topic;
- generally include instructions about the elements to provide in your response; and
- typically take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
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:
- The first paragraph introduces the assignment topic of the assignment (in this case, U.S. government checks and balances).
- The second paragraph and bulleted instructions describe the writing task and elements to include in your response.
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:
- describe the powers that are given to each of the three branches of the government under the Constitution; and
- discuss how these powers enable each branch of the government to check the activities of each of the other two branches.
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:
- Review the correct responses for the multiple-choice items.
- Review the open-response performance characteristics, scoring scale and any sample responses provided.
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:
- preview the on-screen tutorial you'll see before you start your test and practice navigating through a computer-based test;
- preview a visit to a Pearson Professional Center;
- preview the scanning instructions and watch the hand-draw tutorial video, if your test has an assignment that allows handwriting and scanning a response
- view How to Prepare for Your MTEL Test.
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
Pay careful attention to all directions, including:
- instructions and written directions from test center administrators; and
- directions within the test (the test's general directions and any directions for test sections and individual items).
If you do not understand something about the directions, raise your hand and ask a test center administrator.
Pace your work.
- Each test session is four hours, and is designed to allow enough time for sign-in and communication of directions before the test and for completing the test.
- You may find you need less than four hours, but plan to stay the whole time. Do not make other plans for this time—it could cause you to work faster than you should.
- Do not spend a lot of time on an item you cannot answer promptly. Make your best guess (see below) or skip it, and flag it for review (see the CBT tutorials for how to do this). (Note: If a test doesn't allow going back to certain items, such as in language test listening sections, the test will include directions explaining this.)
Read each multiple-choice item and the response options closely.
- Understand what the item asks. Don't read into it: items are designed to be straightforward, not tricky.
- Do not skim or read too fast. You may misread key words or waste time. For example, overlooking that a math item calls for an approximate answer could mean needlessly doing a long computation.
- If you cannot quickly determine the best answer, try to eliminate as many options as you can. Then guess among the others. Keep in mind there is no penalty for incorrect multiple-choice item answers, so it is better to guess than not respond.
Check your accuracy.
Use any remaining time to:
- go back to any items you flagged;
- double-check your answers on the other items.
Review the open-response items carefully.
- Read and respond to each part.
- Proof your response for typos, grammar, and clarity.
- Write legibly, if the test requires a handwritten response.
- If you will need to scan any hand-written or hand-drawn information, leave enough time.
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: