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Everything You Wanted to Know About the MTEL but Were Afraid to Ask

MTEL Exams
Online Education / Teaching Methodology / Testing

Everything You Wanted to Know About the MTEL but Were Afraid to Ask

What are the MTEL Exams?

The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) exams were instituted in 1998 as part of the Education Reform Act of 1993. This is the same piece of legislation that brought us MCAS (also first given in 1998).cThey are a series of exams prospective educators must pass to become licensed (certified) to teach in public schools in Massachusetts. Most educator certifications require two or more exams; some only require one. For anyone seeking licensure to become a teacher in Massachusetts, MTELs prep is vital. 

But I’m already certified in another state. Do I need to take the MTEL Exams?

Yes. Massachusetts does not offer reciprocity with any other state.

Massachusetts doesn’t care. The Mass educational powers-that-be are a bit haughty, maybe even supercilious. If you want teacher licensure in Massachusetts, the MTELs are a must. 

Which MTELs do I need to get certified?

Unless you were grandfathered in and had applied for certification before 1998, all new certifications require passing the Communication and Literacy MTEL (which consists of two separate exams, Writing and Reading). 

Some certifications do not require any other exams. Administrative, guidance, school adjustment counselor candidates, for example, need pass only the Comm & Lit. 

Most certifications require two exams. To become a biology teacher, you would also need to pass the Biology MTEL.

Elementary, early childhood, and special education certification require three exams: Comm & Lit, Foundations of Reading, and either General Curriculum (two separate exams, Multi-subject and Math) or Early Childhood. 

Note: For a special education certification, educators may pass a middle school or high school subject matter exam instead of the General Curriculum. 

We at ETI provide exceptional MTEL prep services for the above exams. 

The best way to ensure you are meeting all the requirements for your teaching certification is to apply for your license on the DESE website. DESE will review your application and tell you exactly what you need to do to earn your license.  

I recommend applying for any potential license you may be interested in now. You pay $100 to apply for one and $25 for each additional but only if you apply for them at the same time. You will need to provide your college transcripts, work experience, etc. 

You begin your certification journey by opening an ELAR (“Educator Licensure and Renewal”) account.

To find out how to become an educator in Massachusetts, click here

You can use this DESE tool to determine what the licensure requirements are for various types of teachers.

You can find information on the types of certifications (temporary, provisional, initial, and professional) here.

Where and When are the MTEL Exams given?

For the first decade or so of the MTEL test’s existence, MTELs were given five Saturdays a year at local high schools.  Hundreds of prospective educators would crowd into classrooms and take the exams on paper and pencil. 

MTELs are now given in Pearson VUE test centers in Massachusetts and surrounding states.  The only restrictions on when the exams are given are the operating hours of the test centers.  Tests are given on weekdays and weekends.  When registering for an MTEL, you will choose where and when you would like to take the exam. 

Popular locations and times (weekends and vacations) fill up quickly, so you may need to register many weeks or months in advance to secure a desired location and time slot.   During the spring of 2020, Massachusetts test centers were unavailable, and many students had to travel to Maine or Rhode Island. 

Times are certainly changing, and for the fall of 2020 DESE is rolling out a plan to allow some MTELs to be taken remotely, from home

You can register here to take an MTEL exam.

Can I get extended time or other accommodations?

Yes. If you need extra time to take the MTEL exam, do not hesitate to ask.

I’ve seen my students get up to double the allotted time after applying for accommodations due to a documented disability. Other accommodations include a reader, paper-based examinations, and even a calculator. 

A recent development is that anyone who is not a native English speaker qualifies for extended time. 

You can apply for alternative testing arrangements here

How much do the MTELs cost?

At the time of this writing (fall of 2020):

Communication and Literacy, Both$112
Comm & Lit, Writing only$85
Comm & Lit, Reading only$76
General Curriculum, Both$139
General Curriculum, Multi-sub only$94
General Curriculum, Math only$94
Early Childhood$139
Foundations of Reading$139
Other subject exams$139

How to pass an MTEL

You are probably expecting me to say: TAKE MY CLASSES! TAKE MY CLASSES!

A prep course might be what’s best for you (and I will tell you that ours are the best), but there are plenty of other forms of test preparation. 

You can do some research and follow some basic tips that could save you some money and time by not having to invest in a prep class.

TIP #1: Take one test at a time.

This tip applies to the Communication & Literacy and General Curriculum MTELs. 

Most people cannot work quickly enough to perform well on both parts of these exams in the allotted time. It costs more to do them separately, but most often – when trying to finish both in 4 hours – people fail both sections, which ends up costing more. 

Figure out which test you’re most likely to pass (using the tips below) and take that one first.  Pass it, prepare for the second, and then pass that one. 

Tip #2: Check the official MTEL materials before you take an MTEL

If you want test prep materials, please visit this link. It takes you to the resources available from Pearson and DESE for each MTEL.  

The test information guides explain the format and content for each exam. Most often, the “test-objectives,” a list of the content the exam covers, is too vague and broad to be very helpful, but they give you an idea of what you need to know. The guides also have a few realistic sample questions.

The official MTEL practice tests are a great way to see if you are ready to take an MTEL. I find the online practice exams a very good approximation of what the real exams are like. Many of the questions actually show up on real MTELs, too. 

Do not use or buy random practice tests off the internet. While ETI’s practice tests are specifically designed to mirror test content, any other materials (practice exams, books, online programs) that I’ve seen my students use have been too loosely based on MTEL – to the point they’re not helpful or have nothing to do with what is really on the exams.  

These internet companies are only good at marketing; investing in their test-prep is a waste of time and money.  They will market the same materials for every state’s exams.  They are not specifically designed for the MTELs. 

TIP #3: Try An MTEL Prep Course

Sign up for a good MTEL prep course. Taking the exam “just to see” will cost you money.  Save that money and invest in your future by taking a class. 

Do not choose a program solely based on cost

Know your learning style and needs. Ask the following questions of yourself and of the programs you are considering:

  1. Does the program have a strong track record?

ETI has been in business since 1999 and has successfully trained thousands of prospective educators who are now teaching in public schools.  Check our Facebook page and website and view our social media ads to see our students’ amazing feedback.

  1. Is the program designed specifically for the MTEL exams?

As noted above, most Internet resources are designed for generic teacher certification exams, not the MTELs. Do not invest any of your money or time on any program that is not very specifically designed for the MTELs.

  1. Do you work best one-on-one or in a group?   

ETI has tutoring and group classes available with MTEL experts who have professional teaching and special education experience. 

  1. Do you have a disability or any kind or are you a non-native English speaker?

ETI’s programs have been developed by a special educator, so they work for everyone.

  1. Would you do well in a large group of 100-200 or more?

ETI’s class sizes are capped, so classes are manageable for both instructors and students. Your success is more important to us than profits. We want you to pass and refer your friends to us.

  1. Do you do better with synchronous (live instruction) or asynchronous (“at-your-own-pace”) instruction?

ETI classes are available via Zoom for synchronous instruction and “at your-own-pace” video-based programs are being developed; some are already available.

  1. Do you need help with confidence or test-taking skills and strategies?

ETI’s programs were designed by a test-prep expert. You will learn logic-based strategies and test-taking skills along with the necessary (and only the necessary) content you need to pass. You don’t need a content teacher for these exams, you need a test-prep expert who can teach the content. 

  1. Do you need access to your instructors to ask questions in and out of class?

ETI’s programs are built with time for review and questions. You will have your instructor’s contact information, so you can ask questions and get feedback on your work.

  1. Is the program guaranteed?  Can you repeat for free? 

ETI’s programs have always been guaranteed, so repeating any group class is free.  There is so much to learn, and people come from such different places that it is not fair to expect everyone to be able to absorb and apply so much information in just a few weeks. Come back, review, ask questions, and pass. 

These kinds of programs might cost more in the short-term than programs that pack 200 students in a hotel conference room or programs that post a PowerPoint without live support. However, they are economical in the long run—you will not have to pay for multiple programs or for taking the test more times than necessary.  

Find a program that meets your needs

You will pass, get a public school job, double your salary, and enjoy the benefits of being a public school employee.

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