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How to Pass the Reading Subtest of the Communication and Literacy MTEL

Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL
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How to Pass the Reading Subtest of the Communication and Literacy MTEL

Passing the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills test is required for all types of teaching licenses in Massachusetts. Careful test preparation for these exams are vital if you want to get your teaching license. 

The Reading subtest of the Communication and Literacy MTEL is one half of the Communication and Literacy exam. To earn any new Massachusetts educator certification, both sections of the exam (Reading and Writing) must be passed.  

Each section is independent of the other and they are scored separately.  For example, once the Reading subtest is passed, it does not have to be retaken. Only passing the Writing subtest would be necessary.

Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL Scoring

The MTEL score is scaled. In 1999, a 70 (on a scale of 0-100) was passing.  

The “70” didn’t mean that you got 70%. Your raw score – the actual number of questions or points you earned on the test – is converted into a scaled score. The scaled score depends on how the rest of the people who took the same exam as you did. 

The same raw score can result in a higher or lower scaled score; if people did worse overall, a raw score would convert to a higher scaled score.  Your score is compared to how everyone else did; you do better when others do worse and vice versa.

The Evolution of the Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL

The first iteration of the literacy skills exam consisted of two separate sections. The first was a short-answer vocabulary section which listed 6 words for test takers to define. 

Back then, I recommended that my students define the word, name the part of speech, and write a sentence which clearly shows the definition of the word.  So, if the word had been, for example, “integrate,” ETI students would have written:

“Integrate” is a verb that means to bring things or people together so that they form one thing. To successfully integrate a school, members of all races must feel welcome and comfortable. 

This vocab section was very difficult.  There were dozens of potential words students had to study. 

The reading passages were also more difficult back then. They were more SAT-like – generally more complex. There were six passages with five questions each, a total of 30 reading comprehensions. 

Students who struggled with this section had difficulty with two issues: reading comprehension or understanding how to answer the questions. Students therefore welcomed the changes which took effect in September 2009.

The vocabulary section of the exam was not eliminated but simplified. It was now part of the multiple-choice reading comprehension questions.  A word in each passage is underlined, and students must pick (via multiple-choice) a synonym or antonym of the word.  

In its current format, the Communication and Literacy MTEL consists of 7 reading passages with 6 questions each. The 7 open-response vocabulary items have been eliminated. Instead, a sixth question was added to each reading passage.  

The reading comprehension questions still follow the same fixed, repeating order, but the first question of each passage is now a “Word Meaning” (vocabulary) question, as described above.  The passages’ content and level of difficulty have also been scaled down.

The exam is still not “easy.”  You need to get an average of about 5 out of 6 correct answers on each passage (~83%) correct in order to score a 240 and pass. 

Problems with Test Prep 

Most students have an easier time with the Reading subtest compared to the Writing subtest, but for many, the Reading exam seems an impossible barrier to certification. I’ve had students who’ve taken it 10 or more times before working with us and passing.

What has not changed are the root issues that cause students’ struggles – reading comprehension and understanding multiple-choice questions.

In order to pass this exam, you need to understand what you read, something many of you struggle with and believe you will never be able to do. 

A second critical skill is multiple-choice test-taking, something that is never really taught with traditional preparation materials. Most study guides do not take this into account. 

Most teachers and programs recommend using the “process of elimination” or focusing on certain terms or words.  These are not logical or valid strategies and those who profess them actually teach students how to use these. They simply mention them or point out one or two quick examples. 

The ETI Difference 

It’s normal to struggle with the MTEL tests, and this does not say anything about your qualifications to teach or your intelligence. 

ETI approaches these issues differently than how other test-prep programs do.  As special educators, we design our curriculum from the ground up.

Basic and advanced skills and strategies are infused in everything we do. Understanding the structure of writing and how paragraphs are built is critical to understanding their meaning.  We walk you through paragraphs’ design and development so your reading comprehension will improve after the first session.

We then delve into the mechanics of the questions themselves. 

As mentioned above, the questions follow a specific pattern. Our practice questions will help you. Knowing what each question type wants from you is not easy; some of them are worded almost identically, but they all require different strategies and answers depending on the question type.

We examine each question type in detail.  You will learn which questions you can get right every time without ever reaching the passage.

I know that sounds too good to be true, but I promise you that there are several question types that can be answered correctly – independently of any passage.

By teaching you how to better understand what you read and how to approach questions, we guarantee that you’ll pass.  Most students I’ve tutored over the years passed after only one two-hour session. 

We have been guaranteeing MTEL success since 1999. JoinETI.com and find out how.

Call or text me, Chuck Zucco, directly at 978-332-0624 with any questions the website doesn’t answer.

Get certified. Get a real job. Start your career. 

We can help.

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