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How I Chose The Best CTEL Study Guide And Passed

Here’s my story about how I selected my CTEL study guides. I detail the specific CTEL study methods I used in my prep book that raised my score to passing-level.

The first time I took the California Teacher of English Learners (CTEL), I failed 2 parts. Me. A veteran California credentialed teacher of almost 10 years. I needed my CLAD credential to ensure I have a teaching job next year! What happened?

The CTEL practice tests were just a waste of time. My CTEL book didn’t cover the same information I confronted on my testing day.

Question for You: Do These 3 Common CTEL Test Prep Mistakes That Threaten Your Bright Future As An Educator?…

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After moping awhile, I figured it out:

1. I freaked out about the CTEL. If I didn’t pass I might not have a job.

2. I knew how to teach but never used the terminology. Who talks about theory to students?

3. My teaching strategies worked in class, but I didn’t remember the strategies by name.

4. It’s been a long time since I wrote an essay answer. My essays did NOT help my score!

5. To save money, I bought a cheap CTEL study guide to help, but it was outdated, incomplete, and had so many errors that I wasted my time and money.

Now I know better; and—now—so should you!

Whether you have taught in another state or hope to get into your own classroom for the first time, the CTEL lies ahead.

How Can You Make Sure You Don’t Waste 6 Hours And More Than $200?…

…Know What You’re In For!

I’m not the only one caught off guard by the depth of California Teacher of English Learners questions and the terms found on the exam.

  • When was the last time you took a course in language acquisition? Do YOU remember the theories and terms?
  • Is your list of acronyms current? SEI? DLE? SDAIE? ELA?
  • How well do you recall the state and federal laws that may impact EL students?
  • Do you know current research-based theories and models for language acquisition?

If you are fresh out of college and ace tests, you may be fine taking the CTEL tomorrow without studying. But my test experience showed me that I needed more help to review. Do you?

Links To FREE CTEL Test Prep Tools and Tactics

A 19-page CTEL study guide overview (YES! 19 pages) of all you need to know can be found at the official website:

It’s a good idea to skim through this CTEL exam study guide outline for ONE REASON. The site explains the test and scoring in section 1 of the PDF listed above. Their first tip to pass the CTEL?

“Use a study guide and have a plan to use it.” I’ll add this: “Make it a GOOD study guide.”

As teachers, we give study guides to students to help understand their material. We have been given review guides by our teachers to help us focus on important information. Guess what? Good study guides still work!


Good CTEL study guides provide questions that ask you to recall information. Research shows that if you use a CTEL books as intended, you’ll quickly find out which information you don’t know. Then, you can narrow your CTEL study time to focus on that information.

If you look at reviews of CTEL test study guides, you will find that many test-takers credit their success—or failure—to the use of a prep book.

How To Choose A Good CTEL Study Guide And Avoid Getting A Bad Study Guide?…

We all may be brilliant teachers in the classroom, but unless you are a brilliant test-taker, you are going to need to purchase preparation materials that can help you pass all three parts of the CTEL.

With so many CTEL prep guides out there, which one will help you to pass the first time? Here is a list of Dos and Don’ts for choosing a book:

1. Look for a CTEL study guide that is thorough, even if it is boring! Your #1 goal is to pass the test!

  • It matches the 19-page CTEL PDF document in its terms and explanations.
  • It includes current acronyms.
  • It bold-faces the terms you need to know.

2. Find a CTEL guide that is organized like the test and is easy to use.

  • It should have three parts, one for each of the subtests.
  • Check carefully the Assessment and Instruction section so it reflects current theories and strategies for teaching.
  • A Table of Contents and/or Index lets you find information fast.

Go to: How To Guarantee You Raise Your CTEL Score 3-7% Consistently Each Day…

3. Check out the constructed response section (there better be one!) in the book for tips on the essay portion.

  • Is there a scoring rubric? Is the rubric explained?
  • Is there at least one example of a strong essay?
  • Is there an explanation of WHY the essay is strong?

4. Find a CTEL study guide that allows you to practice taking the test!

  • Is there at least one CTEL practice test for each of the three sections of this exam?
  • Are there easy to understand explanations of correct AND incorrect answers?
  • Are there constructed response/essay practice questions for each section?

**Remember that many test-takers found this to be most helpful when studying!

5. Be picky about typographical or grammatical errors!

  • A typo may be a simple mistake or indicate a poor CTEL study guide that won’t help you pass!
  • If you find typos or grammar errors, can you trust the answers?

1. DON’T: Buy CTEL study materials without looking at reviews on or Barnes and Noble!

  • Save time and money: My old book had poor reviews, but I never read them.
  • Save yourself from “freaking out” when you find typos or wrong answers!

2. DON’T: Be “tricked” into purchasing an outdated CTEL study guide.

  • Look for the copyright date, but check the information as well;
  • The acronyms change; the theories change; the strategies change; and the test changes.

3. DON’T: Think that all study guides for the CTEL were written by people who know this assessment.

  • This ELL exam has been around long enough that CTEL book authors should KNOW the test;
  • Just because the it’s published by a big-name company doesn’t mean it’s a good CTEL guide!

4. DON’T: Expect that it’s going to be a fun read. It may be dull, but it’s not meant to be a thriller!

  • Keep your eye on the prize: passing the test and getting your CLAD or BCLAD credential

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The Best-Way To Use Your CTEL Exam Study Guide…If You Want To Pass…

There’ll always be people who “cram” for the exam. It may work for some, but it didn’t work for me. Many of my colleagues warn that it takes motivation and persistence to study for the CTEL and achieve a passing score. You must put some time in!

I can’t make it painless, but here are some CTEL study hints from real test-takers on how to use your book:

1. Many test-takers say that 4-6 weeks is a good time to begin using a CTEL prep guide.

2. Plan to use your CTEL study guide every day for a set amount of time.

3. Studying 20, 40 or 60 minutes at a time is better than a six-hour cram session.

4. Read through explanations of the answers; many test-takers say this is key to passing!

5. Practice active reading: find a good study space, have a purpose for reading, and use a highlighter as you read.

CTEL Exam Facts

CTEL Testing Fees: $260 for all three taken together; $344 if taken separately

Part I. Language and Language Development

  • 50 multiple choice questions/1 constructed response
  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • $98

Part II. Assessment and Instruction

  • 60 multiple choice questions/2 constructed response
  • 2 hours 45 minutes
  • $147

Part III. Culture and Inclusion

  • 40 multiple choice questions/1 constructed response
  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • $99

You can take all three at the same time. It’s cheaper, but be prepared to spend 6 hours that day!

What’s Your Final Action Step?

There are over 1 million students in California who need teachers to help them with the English language. They need you. Don’t let the CTEL test stand in your way.

Get the best CTEL study guide. Use it well. Pass the test.

Remember: “A good education can change anyone; a good teacher can change EVERYTHING!”
Good luck!

Go to: Do You Have These Symptoms Of CTEL Test Anxiety?

Author: Mark Dahlson