In addition to mastering the content for the Foundations of Reading teacher certification test, you can also be wise to some testing strategies. Multiple choice questions are made of a stem and alternatives. One of the listed alternatives will be the best answer while the others will be distractors.
Here is a tip to help you use the question to find the best answer: Compare the information in the stem to the alternatives. You should be able to eliminate some options with information in the stem. Consider the following:
Lily is a sixth grader who reads grade-level narrative with fluency. Despite receiving a superior rating on her science project on coding, she read a passage on a similar topic hesitantly. She stopped frequently and reread words, phrases, and entire sentences. She performed poorly on comprehension questions over the passage. Based on her profile, which of the following approaches is most likely to help her?
A. Introduction of key vocabulary words
B. Direct instruction on comprehension strategies
C. Instruction on understanding academic language structures
D. Provision of a graphic organizer to map story elements
The exam requires critical thinking. Take the information you’ve been given and draw some conclusions.
Is the problem content vocabulary (A)? Probably not. The stem tells you that Lily got a superior rating on her science project. We can assume that research on the project would provide sufficient background knowledge and vocabulary for grade level informational text.
Is the problem her comprehension strategies (B)? Probably not. Again, the stem tells you that she stops and rereads. Rereading is a valid comprehension strategy. Don’t be tempted to bite here because of her poor performance on comprehension questions. Comprehension problems are often more complex than just use of the usual strategies of rereading, visualizing, and paraphrasing.
Is the problem academic language (C)? Maybe. Academic language is a broad term that includes the language that students need to do well in school. It includes vocabulary, grammar, literary devices, signal words, sentence structure, etc. This could be the problem. We know Lily reads narrative fluently and informational text hesitantly. Don’t assume that because she has the vocabulary she also has the skills to pick up on signal words and interpret complex sentences.
Is the problem with analyzing story elements (D)? No. Story elements are a component of narrative text. Lily’s struggle is with reading informational text.
After comparing all the alternatives with the stem, you can definitely rule out A and D. Given that the question indicates that Lily is using comprehension strategies and gives no indication of her ability to process complex academic language, addressing academic language structure weaknesses is the best approach.
You’ll need to be on guard for irrelevant material in the question stem, but more often than not, the stem provides valuable information you can use to dodge the distractors.
Are you looking for additional resources to help you prepare for the Foundations of Reading exam? We have a full-length comprehensive course that provides instruction and practice. Best of luck.