If you live in Massachusetts and have decided to pursue a career in public education, your first step will be to take the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL).
But why do you have to take the MTEL exam? Well, the MTEL is necessary to achieve teaching licensure in Massachusetts. It is a fairly difficult and expensive exam, so you will definitely want to study for it!
Luckily, there are a number of practice tests online, of varying quality--so many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming just deciding where to begin.
Never fear: here is everything you need to know about MTEL practice tests! We’re going to talk about:
- What the MTEL test is
- Who should take the MTEL test
- An overview of the MTEL test
- A discussion of the available MTEL practice tests you can take
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
What Is the MTEL Test and Who Should Take It?
The MTEL is required for all licensure candidates to teach on pre-K-12 levels, unless you already have licensure from another state. If you have achieved licensure in another state, you can apply to have your licensure test scores transferred for exemption from taking the MTEL.
The Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure is a wide-ranging test that assesses your abilities in a number of areas. The Communications and Literacy Skill MTEL test is required for all applicants, but there are also a number of subject-specific subtests, depending upon what you wish to teach. The full list of subtests—along with information about who should take them—is available on the Massachusetts Department of Education website.
But generally speaking, you’ll need to take the MTEL subtest in the field in which you wish to teach. So for example, if you want to teach social studies, you’ll need to take the History/Social Sciences subtest. Likewise, you’ll need to take additional subtests if you want special licensure, like the kind you’d need to be able to teach Academically Advanced (AP/IB) courses.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to figure out which subtests you need to take by yourself. The first step in taking the MTEL exam involves submitting an application on the Department of Education’s website. From there, your application will be evaluated, and the department will determine the tests necessary for you to achieve licensure.
Not so bad, right?
How Much Does the MTEL Cost?
The cost of taking the MTEL can be quite high: each subtest costs $139. Multiply that times the number of subjects you need to be licensed in, plus the required Communication and Literacy Skill subtest, and you have a fairly substantial amount of money. So for example, if you’re going to specialize in history, you’ll have to pay at least $278 for licensure (minus any additional fees).
While this might sound confusing, the MTEL site has a page which breaks down both costs and testing dates for each subject test. Knowing the testing dates and costs will go a long way to helping you get registered for the tests you need.
Knowing how the MTEL is scored is one step to making sure your studying is on target.
How Is the MTEL Test Scored?
Each subtest has a different number of questions, and as a result, each test has different passing criteria. Generally speaking, each subtest grade is converted to a scaled score of between 100-300 points, with 240 points being the consistent passing score for each subtest. (More specific details on each exam’s scoring procedures can be found here.)
You must pass each subtest in order to be granted licensure, but the test scores do not expire, so you can retake the subtests you’ve failed with no rush to meet a deadline. While that’s good news, remember: you’ll have to pay the same fees to retake an exam, which add up really quickly!
Why Should I Take the MTEL Practice Test?
Let’s be honest, you want to pass the MTEL the first time—otherwise you’re wasting your valuable time and money. In order to get a passing score, however, you’re going to have to study.
That’s where practice tests come in. Practice tests give you a chance to review and practice the material covered on the MTEL exam and subject tests, but practice tests also work as a means of generating feedback. You can use practice tests to figure out which areas you’re struggling with, which in turn will help you create a targeted study plan that will have the most impact on your overall score. The added benefit is that it saves you lots of time, too! There’s a lot to be said for the “study smarter, not harder” approach to test taking.
Taking practice tests also gives you the psychological advantage of familiarity with the test. A large amount of test anxiety comes from feeling unprepared. It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about what the test will look like, what types of questions you’ll see, and whether you have the knowledge to answer them correctly.
When you take practice tests, you mitigate a lot of these fears. Not only will you have lots of experience with the exam format, you’ll also get exposure to real-life examples of the types of questions and topics you might see on your own MTEL exam. When you take practice tests, you’re helping your future self feel calm and in control on test day.
The only official practice tests come from the Massachusetts Department of Education.
What MTEL Practice Tests Are Available?
Now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you that practice tests are key to making sure you pass your MTEL exam with flying colors, it’s time to
Official MTEL Practice Tests
The MTEL site itself has free practice tests in every category. (That’s over 60 practice test categories!) So no matter which test you’re taking, there’s at least one official practice test for you.
Accessing these tests is free and easy. Just click on this link, which will take you to the MTEL Practice Test home page. From there, just select your exam from the drop-down menu. Boom! It’s as simple as that!
Keep in mind that these are paper-based MTEL practice tests, meaning they are files you can print out and take as a written exam. That means you’ll have to plan a little ahead--you won’t be able to whip out your smartphone and take them digitally. On the upside, they all come with answer keys (as a separate file to prevent temptation), so you can score your own exam once you’re done. This is an excellent resource—and an official one!—and you should definitely take advantage of it.
The same site has the option of paid practice tests, also, with the option of viewing a sample so you can determine whether or not they’re worth paying for. Our recommendation would be to take the free practice tests first. Use the freebies to determine what you need to work on. Once you’ve got some studying under your belt, you can determine whether you’d like to purchase a few additional practice tests to help you polish your skills.
It’s also worth noting that the official MTEL website also has a number of other resources, such as tutorials and test objectives to help you prepare for the MTEL. There is even a guided virtual tour of the testing facility, so you can familiarize yourself with the environment beforehand! Take some time to explore all the resources the website has to offer—they’re all designed to help you pass your tests with flying colors.
Many unofficial practice tests are available from a company called Mometrix.
Unofficial MTEL Practice Tests
While there are only a few official practice tests available for the MTEL, there are many more unofficial tests you can take. Most, if not all, of the unofficial MTEL practice tests available to you are free, and many give you the opportunity to purchase additional test prep materials as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the best free, unofficial MTEL tests you can take.
Mometrix is a professional test prep review company that sells a wide range of study guides, flashcards, and other materials to assist you in studying for a number of exams.
Their MTEL page has practice questions for eight subtests: Communications & Literacy Skills, Early Childhood Education, English Language Learners, Foundations of Reading, General Curriculum, History, Music, and a general MTEL Test Review. Depending on which exams you need to take, these may (or may not) be useful to you.
Additionally, there are roughly 15 questions per subtest available on this site, whereas the actual MTEL has around 100 questions per subtest. While we don’t recommend these as your only study tool, they are a great way to practice your knowledge after taking the official MTEL practice tests.
Study.com has a number of courses that you can sign up for that provide a number of resources to help you study for the exam. Although there are free practice tests available, which you can take without creating an account, in order to access the full range of materials you’ll have to register with a credit card.
That gives you access to all the materials on the site for free for 30 days. Once you’re past the paywall, you’ll be able to take multiple practice tests in your specific subject area, which is great preparation for the actual MTEL exam. Just remember to cancel your account before the free trial period ends unless you want to keep paying for study materials.
240.com is a fairly pricey service: their study guides require a subscription that costs $39.99 per month. They do have a number of materials specific to each subtest, and several free practice tests available without registering an account. Unfortunately, they’re not conveniently located on the website. You’ll have to go to each individual category page to find them all. Additionally, they only offer free subtests in 12 subject areas, so if you’re not testing in one of those fields, you may not find resources that work for you.
Like the Mometrix site, we recommend the 240.com practice tests as a supplement--not a replacement!--to the official MTEL practice tests that are out there.
This is another resource from Mometrix, but it only covers the Communications and Literacy Skills exam. You can take the practice test for free through the website linked above, which will give you an idea of how you’ll score on the actual exam. This is a great resource for everyone taking the MTEL, since all teachers are required to take and pass the Communications and Literacy exam to receive licensure!
MTEL Test Prep Books
While these aren’t free, don’t overlook the effectiveness of a test prep book! Many of the MTEL study guides out there come with a large number of practice tests, questions, and instruction to help you understand the material on your tests.
When looking for a study guide, be sure to get one from a reputable publisher. Mometrix, which we mentioned above, has quite a few study guides available. We’d recommend starting with this one on the Communication & Literacy Skills exam, then branching out into other subject areas.
3 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Practice Tests
Now that you have a great list of MTEL study resources and practice tests, it’s time to get to work! But before you do, check out our top three tips for getting the most out of your study time.
Tip 1: Rinse & Repeat!
The best way to use the resources in this article is...well, to actually use them.
First, take one or two of the free general MTEL practice tests, and then use the scores from those to see in which areas you need to spend the most time studying in order to build those specific brain muscles. Pro tip: make sure you’re taking these tests under the same constraints you will on test day. That means putting your phone away, setting a timer, and putting your pencil down when time’s up.
Once you tally your overall score, see how it stacks up to the pass/fail benchmark for your particular subtest. Then go through the practice test and figure out which types of questions and topics are giving you the most trouble. For example, if you’re taking a foreign language test, you may find that you missed more questions about grammar.
Once you decide where you’re struggling, you can create a targeted study plan. Building off the previous example, you would focus the majority of your study time brushing up on your grammar.
Once you’ve studied more, it’s time to take more practice tests! Check the results, see if your score has improved, then rinse and repeat. Keep going until you feel confident that the scores you can consistently achieve on your own will reflect the scores you achieve in the actual testing environment.
Tip 2: Start Early and Keep Going!
The key to improving your MTEL performance is to give yourself plenty of time to study and to practice consistently. How much can expect to improve in a few days or a couple of weeks? Not much, probably. How much can you expect to improve over the course of a few months or perhaps a year? Quite a lot!
This comes down to time management. You’re a busy person, and it can be really tough to fit your studying in around your busy schedule. When you start studying months in advance, it’s easier to find the time to squeeze in fifteen to twenty minutes a day. Maybe you study before your kids wake up, or you decide to do question reviews while jogging on your treadmill. Whatever the case, using time management techniques to study early and often is key to raising your score.
Tip 3: Keep a Positive Attitude!
Can you pass the MTEL? Of course you can. Many, many people do. In the 2017-18 academic year, 77% passed the required Communication and Literacy Skills subtest on their first attempt, and 80% passed on their best attempt.
While the pass rate statistics are a little lower for subtests, they’re still pretty high. Looking through the subtest categories, you’ll see that there are only a few subtests in which under 50% fail on their first attempt. That means the majority of test takers pass their subtests on the first try, too.
That’s right, more people pass the MTEL than fail it, and over three-quarters of those who continue to attempt it do eventually succeed. Now, don’t let this make you think it’s an easy test--it isn’t--but passing the MTEL is an achievable goal. If you want to pass it and put in the study time, you can ace the MTEL exam, too.
What’s Next?Like we mentioned earlier, one of the tricks to knocking the MTEL test out of the water is setting aside study time. This list of top time management tips can help you fit studying into your daily routine. Practice makes perfect, after all!
We also have quite a few guides to specific topics that can help you learn more about test topics you’re struggling with. For example, if you’re taking the English subject exam, you’re going to have to analyze literature. Why not read up on the nine literary elements in every text (and the 31 literary terms you must know) to make sure your lingo is up to speed. Once you do that, you can test your analytical skills against our expert guides, including this one on Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
That’s just one example of how the free content on Prepscholar’s blog can help you. We also have resources on everything from political science (like how democracies work) to biology (like the phases of mitosis). And did we mention these articles are written by experts and are completely free?!
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.