Thursday, August 20, 2015

The CTEL Exam - Smoke and Mirrors

The California Teacher of English Language (CTEL).... a law that was passed in 2004 saying that all teachers in California needed to not only be credentialed, but also be able to teach students where English is not their primary language.  It is a great concept in theory, but not practical in reality.  Here is why.

First off, there are three subtests to this test, and one has the option to take them at three separate times (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), or all three at the same time.  You save a small percentage of money by opting to take all three at the same time and with money the way it is, I chose this option.  Oh, and we're not talking something like $10 a test.  Oh no.  Try $260 for a 6 hour test with only a 45 minute break (if you choose to take all three subtests at the same time.)

Here's the break down of each subtest:

     1. Language and Language Development
     2. Assessment and Instruction
     3. Culture and Inclusion

Each subtest includes between 40-60 multiple choice questions as well as one to two essay questions.  One must obtain a minimum passing score of 220 per subtest (out of 300) in order to pass.  All three subtests must be passed in order to acquire your required CTEL Certification.

I prepared as best as I could.  I researched ways to best study, took practice tests online, used flashcards, and memorized other methodologies among other things.  But here's the thing... my degree is in Music, and I'm a music teacher.  Have I had English Language Learners (ELLs) in my classroom?  Absolutely!  And the amazing thing about music is that it is universal, english syllables easily transfer to rhythm, and music covers all core subject areas.  But have I ever solely taught ELLs in an individualized classroom?  No.  Will I ever?  Probably not.  Yet this certification is required for ALL teachers in order to be a certified, credentialed teacher in the state of California.  Even substitute teachers have to have this certification!  Again, while I think it is great that substitute teachers actually have some knowledge of teaching (as opposed to a grandma who retired from nursing and just wants to give back to the community - yet has no control over high schoolers), the need for them to be certified in this type of extensive test is absurd.

I was prepared like I was for the SAT/ACT back in high school when I got to the testing center.  I had my #2 pencils ready only to be brought into a room full of computer cubicles.  Hmm.  Okay.  I was one of the first to get there, and because this is a neutral testing site, people were taking different tests other than me.  (I'm fairly certain I was the only one taking the CTEL test!)  I put my #2 pencils next to the keyboard wondering when I would need to use them, but it seemed as if they were showing my age more than anything.

The room filled up with 15 total stations, and about 10 of the stations were students with the Fire Department.  "Why can't I be taking that test?" I asked myself.  I settled in for an all day event.

In the top right-hand corner, 6 hours plus a 45 minute lunch break (yup, that's the only break!) is converted into minutes (405 minutes) counting down second by second as the first test begins.

The 1st and 3rd subtest were in the first part of the day (before lunch break), and then the 2nd part was taken after lunch.  As I pushed "End Test," I had one minute and three seconds showing left on the countdown.  This test was nothing like what I had studied for!  I compare it to studying for a science test only be given an algebra test.  I'm not even kidding.  I was dumbfounded after answering/guessing the first several questions.  Everything I had studied and memorized was worthless.  All the practice tests I took only were pointless.  They didn't even simulate what the test format was like.  Questions were asked that were nowhere located on the Study Guide provided by the CTEL testing website.

One example of a question that I clearly remembering thinking "WTH?" was:

     *  What is the second largest minority population in the state of California?
          A.  Vietnamese
          B.  Cuban
          C.  Some tribal language in another country I had never heard of
          D.  Another language I had never heard of

Why does this matter in my life what the second largest minority population is in the state of California, and why was this not prepped for me to know the answer to?  I chose Vietnamese, but I have no clue if that's right or wrong.  An English Learner is an English Learner.... it only matters to a certain extent what their primary language is.  The methods of them learning English are all the same.

For anyone who has to take this test, I don't even know how to direct you on how to study for this test.  I would probably recommend taking one subtest at a time if you are crunched for time (like I was) rather than taking all three on the same day (like I did.)  The study guide is literally what it is... a guide.  There is more information in the study guide than you need to know.  Don't memorize laws or definitions.  Know what the theories (not theorists) are and how to apply them to ELLs.  Application knowledge is huge, and the questions are tricky with convincing answers.  Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA's) are all important to know and know how to apply them.  But because it is on the computer, it's not like the old school way I was taught to glance through the entire test, answer the questions you know and then go back and spend the time on the ones you don't know. Nope.  You have to go one question at a time.  So, there were many questions I spent 5 minutes on because I had no idea what the answer was to the question!

Because I felt dooped what the test was actually like compared to how and what I studied that was recommended by various sites, I am not confident in what the outcome will be regarding my results.  I will find out in 4-6 weeks if I passed.  Again, I have to pass all three subtests in order to gain my certification which is a requirement for my California teaching credential.  My prediction is that I'll have to go through this hell again to learn a topic that I will never solely teach on my own and need to know to the extent this test takes it.

Needless to say, my #2 pencils stayed sharp, but my brain was extremely dull after 342 minutes of a complete conundrum of a test.

Update:  I did not pass any of the exam parts.  And honestly, I still do not know what to study.

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Blogger Maria Bonilla said...

I suggest to take one at a time. I downloaded questions from the internet. One was the Washington and the other was the Minnesota ctel practice test. My cousin and I went through 180 questions. Although, I didn't see the same questions the format was the same. Also, I read the book called The crosscultural Language and Academic Development by Lynne T. Diaz-Rico and and Weed. Also, I went online and found slide share for CTEl 1,2, 3. This will help with essays as well. I studied for a month for each test CTEL 1,and 2. I am happy to say I passed both. I still need one more which I will take in May 11, 2016.
I wish you all the luck!! I hope these suggestions help.


March 22, 2016 at 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Thanks for your comments. I don't look forward to this at all.

July 22, 2016 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Tim Clarke said...

Took it the first time and failed all three parts. Took it a couple weeks back and passed the second part. Taking the part 3 today only because you can only take one at a time or all three. I had the same question and didn't have a clue. You would really need to be a reading teaching or speech therapists to pass this test as well as having a vast amount of general knowledge for random questions like that one. I got a study guide probably helped in terms of the format of essays, you really just need to make sure you use specific strategies like sdaei portfolios and student logs and be able to tell why they would be helpful in this circumstance. Also all of the other tests offered have much more information to study from. The amount of information around for these tests is scarce to say the least. Good luck to anyone taking them!

August 4, 2016 at 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Emily said...

I am credentialed in IL and have to take this and pass by the end of this year to keep my job. I decided to cram and take the exam because it's cheaper than taking the courses. I have to pass 2 of the 3 exams. This has been helpful. I am not looking forward to taking this exam next month.

January 11, 2017 at 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been teaching Math for over 30 years, but because I stayed home with my kids during the years this law was adopted I didn't know about it. When I went back to teaching I was teaching in the private schools so no one checked up on it. Last year I went back to the public schools and now I have less than a year to pass this test. I've been studying as much as possible, but not confident about the outcome.

January 22, 2017 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Sandi said...

I just took Ctel 1 and 2 and passed. I just took Ctel 2, so I have to wait a few weeks to find out if I passed. If anyone wants information about the tools I used to study, e-mail me.

February 11, 2017 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I studied for this test every night for a month before taking all three subtests a week ago. I used Diaz Rico's Course for Teaching English Learners (the latest edition I bought on Amazon for $99) and another book she wrote about 20 years ago, which I bought used for .99 cents. I filled up two legal pads with notes from those books (it's my own metacognitive strategy; the information absorbs into my brain better this way than highlighting) and spent the last two nights before the test reviewing those notes. I feel pretty good about passing all three tests (crossing my fingers!). The important points to know are: group work is key! Know how and why different groupings would be best for the EL; embracing all cultures and cultural differences is optimal; ELs need to have a solid foundation in their primary language before learning English, although learning content in English while learning their L1 is good (SDAIE). The multiple choice questions are mostly scenarios of classroom lessons and you're to choose the best teaching strategy for each. The test itself wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, although a couple of questions I truly had to guess on. The response questions at the end of each subtest only require 150-300 words to answer each question, but it was easy to go over that limit. I was finished in four hours (I didn't need a long break between the tests, only a quick trip to the restroom). Good luck and I hope this helps!

February 17, 2017 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Holy How said...

Hi all! Thanks for the advice - it answered a lot of questions for me. I just moved to California from Maryland, and did not realize that the CTEL was mandatory. I just received my credential yesterday (took ~6 months, yuck!) and I'm starting to look at jobs on Edjoin. I'm finding most available positions require an English Learner Authorization. Does anyone know if a district will hire me without this? Should I sign up for the test now and attach the test date receipt with my application(s)? I don't want this to hinder any potential job opportunities. Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

September 17, 2017 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Alyson Roth said...

Congratulations to those who have passed the CTEL, and thanks for all the advice!

To answer Holy How's questions, each district is different whether they will hire you or not without a valid Credential, but from my experience most are willing to hire you with a 5 Year Preliminary Credential or an Emergency Credential. Is this what you received? If you feel prepared to take the test, go ahead and sign up to take it! Absolutely attach your test date receipt to your applications on EdJoin. It will show that you're being proactive to becoming certified.
Good luck, and keep us posted!

September 17, 2017 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Holy How said...

Thank you for reaching out, Alyson. I received a Level I Education Specialist Instruction Credential. I'm assuming that is a 5 Year Preliminary Credential? After reading everyone's comments, I am going to sign up for the CTEL 1. Fingers crossed!

September 19, 2017 at 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Spanish Teacher said...

This CTEL testing experience has been a nightmare for me. I attempted all 3 tests after putting in around 20 hours of studying from the Diaz-Rico book, which was helpful, and also practice tests on Amazon, which did NOT help me. DO NOT study laws and years passed- I wasted much time on that. Oh, and thank you to Alyson who started this blog entry- Vietnamese IS the correct answer for the second largest minority population in CA- thanks to you, I saw this blog and looked it up before taking the test, and got that one right. OH, and I am certain that knowing this "significant fact" with over 20 years of teaching foreign language might make me a better Spanish teacher, just in case I have EL's in my classroom. >.< (insert sarcasm here)

I am a SPANISH teacher who missed this "CLAD" by a year when in my credential program college, and then moved to private schools, and am now looking to get back into public- if I ever pass all 3 tests. In any event, the first time around I only passed test 1- and I failed test 2 by 4 points (yes, 220 to pass and got 216!) and test 3 by 6 points. Why I would need an EL certification as a Spanish teacher is beyond me, but my application won't make it past most CA district screenings without it. Oh, and on a sidenote: this EL is not required in CA for world language teachers, but most districts are not aware of this. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, make sure to mention this if it applies to you.

To finish my story, several months after learning that I failed tests 2 and 3 (they only offer these CTEL exams 4 times a year)- I took test 3 separately and passed it after around 8 hours of studying, and hope to pass test 2 within the next few months. I am actually considering taking a University of Phoenix online extension course to get credit for test 2 as oppposed to taking the test- it is around $700 and can be combined with passing test scores. Here is the link- scrool down to 8 week courses and it's course 502:

Best of luck to all!

September 27, 2017 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger Holy How said...

I just bought the Diaz-Rico book - what else is helpful for the CTEL exam? I signed up to take the CTEL 1 in mid-November, any resources for this exam would be great appreciated!

September 29, 2017 at 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seriously appreciate all the information here. I am taking the CTEL all at once two weeks from now. Although I've had quite a bit of experience with ESL in my classroom, I am not a strong test taker, but I can write an essay. After registering for the CTEL, I made an inquiry and found out that every teacher in California is required to be K-12 certified. I have to register for the CBEST. I was first certified in NY and now in OK in secondary English education and would do students a disservice at any level trying to teach math. This is my second career and if I didn't love teaching, jumping through these hoops would make me want to leave the profession. Thanks to all of you for sharing. I will let you know how it goes.

October 18, 2017 at 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have any of you taken the CSET ELD? I recently took all three CSET ELD subtests and failed. There seems to be some overlap between the CTEL content and that of the CSET ELD, so I'd appreciate any tips for reliable test prep material. As of now, there's next to nothing available.

October 29, 2017 at 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all! I just took the CTEL 1 today and it could go either way. I feel strong about the essay, but when I looked over the multiple-choice questions there were about 14 that I wasn't sure about. I used the Mometrix book, flash cards and practice test book to study and I was not impressed! A lot of the information in the books is not on the test! The books cover all 3 subtests but I only focused on the first one. There were questions on the practice tests about the CELDT that are no where on CTEL1. Luckily I assumed that would be in CTEL2 so I didn't waste my time, but it was pretty annoying!! There were several questions on the actual test that was not covered in the study books. Now I have just registered to take the CTEL2 in February and I am trying to decide if I should get another book. I am trying not to spend too much money on this. Good luck to everyone taking these tests!!

November 6, 2017 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger thomas hahn said...

I passed ctel 1 in August. About 20 % of the test was devoted to questions involving the cognitive/academic benefits of extending L1 while learning L2. I just took ctel 3, & would like to say a few things while it's fresh on my mind. I began studying by reading Lynn diaz rico's book: a tedious read & too many times abstract concepts are given superficial presentations, but it gives you a decent direction. I then look at the KSA's and try to make sense of them. The KSA's employs technical language that needs to be located somewhere in order to have them make sense & Diaz Rico's book is a good starting point. What i still don't understand I google on the internet or find on the many flashcards posted. Like ctel 1, ctel 3 contained a lot of questions on a single theme: primarily, the benefits of matching the culture of the classroom to the culture of the home. Know that & you'll get 10 - 20 % right. Like ctel 1, i got the sense that i over studied: that many questions had little to do with the material studied. You still could answer them by using common sense, & eliminating the other 3 possible answers. Read carefully, flag it on the test, & return to read again. Those questions that did pertain to the material studied were very simple and direct. I just had the feeling that i didn't need to study so much. Like ctel 1, i was very confident that i passed afterwards.

November 11, 2017 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger thomas hahn said...

Just took ctel 3 & i'm confident that i passed. Like ctel 1, it had a favorite theme for the test: matching the culture of the classroom to the culture of the home. Perhaps 5 - 10 questions could be successfully answered keeping that in mind. Like ctel 1, i prepared by first reading Lynn Diaz Rico's book: a tedious read, & too many concepts are given superficial descriptions, but a good starting point. I then went over the KSA's and tried to make sense of the technical language contained within. Lynn diaz Rico's book is a good starting point; but what i still did't know i googled. Flashcards found on the web also helped. I once again got the impression that i over studied: the things that i encountered from my studies were very simple ideas, and the things i never encountered could be deduced from using common sense, or through a process of eliminating the obviously wrong answers. Reading carefully the q & a's is very important. What you aren't sure of you can just flag and return to later.

November 11, 2017 at 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What were the essay topics on the November 2017 test?

November 14, 2017 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Gabby J said...

I need to take and pass all three exams by June in order to start teaching in CA next school year. I'm planning on taking two of them in February and one in May. I can hardly find any study materials online, and I don't want my registration money go down the drain...For those who have taken the test, how would you rank the level of difficulties for each test? Would taking the practice tests be sufficient? Thanks in advance!

December 17, 2017 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Paula B. said...

I passed all 3 on each of three first tries, one at a time, over the course of a year. Spent four months studying first ctel1, one month studying second ctel3 and 1 day studying 3rd ctel2. I’d give all my massive and random study materials: books, practice tests, flash cads and random handouts printed from research to any one who wants to pay postage. I also watched hundreds of YouTube videos from interviews with Noam Chomsky’s to teachers using SDAIE.

December 18, 2017 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Paula B. said...

I could not have predicted the exact question nor the essay prompts for ant subtext as the possible info is so vast. I had some concepts and lesson plans in mind to adapt to essay prompts. For example, one could talk about using kids zodiac range pretty much in any context. Or cite Krashen etc. preface a classroom technique with: An excellent way to .... write as if you’ve actually used what you’re saying in exactly the situation prompted. Imbed some buzz words and phrases. Re mult choice, pay attn to words like never and best and least.

December 18, 2017 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger prescottsunshine said...

I am taking all 3 tests in February. I would only have one additional time to retake the tests in May before next school year. It took an act of god to renew my emergency CLAD last year so I know they won’t do it again. If I don’t pass one or more of the tests, would I have to pay the fee again to retake them? Not looking forward to any of this. Also, I am planning on taking the CPACE in June. Glutton for punishment.

December 26, 2017 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger prescottsunshine said...

Paula B.....I would love to get your materials. Am happy to pay postage.

December 31, 2017 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Paula B. said...

I have since discarded most of the handouts but still have practice tests, handbook and flash cards. If you want, post your email here. I will investigate postage.

January 1, 2018 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Thank you to all who are helping us here! I was wondering about essay topics. What were some of them, on any test in the past? I'm taking all three on separate days in February. When I passed the PRAXIS history test 20ish years ago the essay questions rotated. Knowing how to refine my studying saved my bacon! Btw, I'm using (outlining and reviewing) Diaz-Rico's 2008 A Course for Teaching English Learners. Thank you again! This is the most current information I could find. :)

January 2, 2018 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger prescottsunshine said...

Thanks Paula B.

January 7, 2018 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Megan said...

I noticed a bunch of you are taking the February exams like I am. Would any of you like to form a Facebook group study group? Email me-

January 12, 2018 at 6:30 AM  

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