You will need to be highly capable in navigating complexities in written text to pass the MTEL Communications and Literacy Skills Test. At the heart of every piece of writing is a message, either stated or unstated. Readers who can identify the author’s purpose, point of view, and audience (Objective 3) are best equipped to get at the “real” meaning. On licensure tests, time is also a factor. So now you need to be both speedy and highly competent with textual nuances.
Try these strategies:
• Connect every test question to a test objective.
The MTEL does not set out to disguise the intent of the questions. Look in the question for the specific, targeted vocabulary from one of the stated test objectives. Questions for Objective 3 will likely ask, “the purpose,” “the main purpose,” “the audience of,” or “the point of view.” Be wise to questions that substitute a synonym or derivative such as, “main reason” or “is intended to.”
• Dissect for purpose.
You can safely assume that every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph of the texts is included by design. When a question states, “Information in paragraph 2 is intended to __,” you’ll need to be able to size up quickly what would be missing if that paragraph were omitted. General classification of text “to entertain,” “to persuade,” or “to inform” will be insufficient.
• Think DOK wheel.
Whatever your personal feelings about the usefulness of the DOK (depth of knowledge) wheel, it is a tidy list of verbs that state intent and purpose. It contains words such as classify, illustrate, dispute, and assess. As you read an exam text the first time, make some side notes about the different paragraphs. Be so thoroughly familiar with DOK verbs that the specific intent of a word, statement, or paragraph rolls off your tongue.
• Look for strong feelings.
Point of view on the exam deals almost exclusively with informational text. You’re looking for the writer’s belief system, not identifying a character’s point of view as first person or third person limited. You can find the point of view by analyzing word choice, obvious statements of belief, and omissions. (What is the author not stating?) Background information on the author can be useful in identifying the author’s point of view. Recognizing the text as biased or unbiased also falls under author’s point of view.
• Get beyond the words.
To find the author’s intended meaning, you’ll need to get beyond the stated words on the page and find the “real” meaning. Particularly in satire, words may state the opposite view of the author. (Is Jonathan Swift really suggesting that children be sold and eaten when he states, “no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat”? A Modest Proposal, 1729)
• Know the audience.
Each text on the CLST test is written with an audience in mind. The audience could be that catch-all, “general audience” or it could be an audience that brings specific background knowledge to the text. Everything from the textual appearance to the genre to the sentence structure can give away the author’s intended audience. Why is the audience significant? It plays into the author’s purpose. Know the audience and you have another tool to get at the subtleties of the author’s purpose and meaning.
Your analytical skills will need to be sharp. The exam texts will be difficult. Breathe deep. Know what you’re looking for. Succeed.