MTEL Test Prep Material: English as a Second Language Test

How to prep and study for the material on the MTEL Test: English as a Second Language

So you are going to take the MTEL Test: the MTEL Subject test for Teaching English As a Second Language. Great! Let’s jump right in and start preparing.

Study Prep Material for the MTEL English as a Second Language Test:

MTEL Teaching English As a Second Language Test

Step By Step

  1. First and foremost, find out the Test Objectives

Make sure you are studying what will actually be on the test. 

Practice Test:

What To Know for the MTEL Teaching English As a Second Language Test

The MTEL subject matter tests are not easy. They are comprehensive and you should be sure to review the Test Objectives to be prepared for this test. The MTEL test will test your knowledge of the field of linguistics, theories of language learning and acquisition, and Sheltered English Immersion test.

MTEL Teaching English As a Second Language Test

What is on the MTEL?

The MTEL asks approximately forty-four questions (35 percent of the entire test) on the foundations of second-language instruction, and fifty-six questions (45 percent of the test) on second-language and content learning

What is a root word?

A root word functions just like the root of a tree: it is a word or word part that can make new words if you add a prefix or suffix to it.

What is an inflectional suffix?

Basically, an inflectional suffix is a grammatical suffix. Remember: inflection = grammar / declension/ conjugation.

Examples of inflectional suffixes:changing singular to plural (chair → chairs), or changing present tense to past tense (skip → skipped)

A suffix can make a new word in one of two ways: inflectional (grammatical) or derivational.

What is the register shift of words? 

Register is a concept in sociolinguistic theory. In sociolinguistics, a register is a variety of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular communicative situation

There are five registers of language:

You must control the use of language registers in order to enjoy success in every aspect and situation you encounter.

  • Static Register.
  • Formal Register.
  • Consultative Register
  • Casual Register
  • Intimate Register

What is the connotative meaning of words?

Connotation and Denotation are two principal methods of describing the meanings of words. 

Connotation refers to the wide array of positive and negative associations that most words naturally carry with them, whereas denotation is the precise, literal definition of a word that might be found in a dictionary.

Though not part of the official dictionary definition, the emotions, and associations connected to a word are known as its connotative meaning. Depending on how a word has been used over time, it may have a positive, negative or neutral connotation.

Here are some examples:

For example, “group” is a neutral term. A “clique” has a negative connotation. 

For Advanced English students, a great lesson would be one to choose the connotative terms:

What is a suffix?

A suffix is a group of letters placed at the end of a word to make a new word. A suffix can make a new word in one of two ways: inflectional or derivational. 

what is an inflectional suffix?

Inflectional suffixes are a group of letters placed at the end of a word that do not change the meaning of the original word. It is just to make it grammatically correct. 

Infection is a change in the form of a word (typically the ending) to express a grammatical function or attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, and gender.

An example of an inflectional suffix:

A suffix can make a new word in one of two ways: inflectional (grammatical): for example, changing singular to plural (dog → dogs)

What is a derivational suffix?

With derivational suffixes, the new word has a new meaning and is usually a different part of speech. But the new meaning is related to the old meaning – it is “derived” from the old meaning.

apply knowledge of the linguistic features of social and academic language (e.g., tiered vocabulary)

What is tiered vocabulary in ESL (what is tiered vocabulary while teaching English as a Second Language)

Tier one words:

What is a tier one word?

Sight words,

Tier 2 words

Tier 3 Words– are for a specific domain. 

technical vocabulary specific to a certain domain or discipline.  They are subject-specific and highly specialized. 

In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences (sentence structure) in a given language, usually including word order.

What is syntax?

Syntax is basically about what word comes before and after another word. In ESL, syntax refers to word order. t is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language

In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences (sentence structure) in a given language, usually including word order.


This sentence has an errors in syntax:

. Every day my brother older eats at home lunch.

What is a verb phrase?

verb phrases express an idea but cannot stand alone as a sentence. A verb phrase is the portion of a sentence that contains both the verb and either a direct or indirect object (the verb’s dependents).


was walking

can’t eat

were spoken.

have woken 

should shake

What is an adverbial clause?

An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. That is, the entire clause modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

When placed at the beginning of a sentence, an adverb clause is followed by a comma, as seen in these examples of adverb clauses:

Whether you like it or not

If you pay your bills on time

Before we go on vacation,

When placed at the end of the sentence, an adverb clause needs no additional punctuation:

until you get it right.

as soon as you put on sunscreen.

as long as the store is open late.

What is a noun phrase?

A noun phrase plays the role of a noun.

a noun with any sort of modifier (including just a number or an article) is a noun phrase. 

Example of noun phrase

The man 

An ideal state

The spotted puppy

Long, windy road

An awful job

Their laughter carryon on the breeze

What is a relative clause?

Relative Clause Example: I’m buying a gift for the neighbor who helped me move. ( Who helped me move is a relative clause.

What is an example of a relative clause?

What is an inflectional affix?

An inflectional affix is an affix that: expresses a grammatical contrast that is obligatory for its stem’s word class in some given grammatical context. … is typically located farther from its root than a derivational affix. produces a predictable, nonidiosyncratic change of meaning.

What is a derivational affix?

Definition: A derivational affix is an affix by means of which one word is formed (derived) from another. The derived word is often of a different word class from the original.

What is a colloquialism?

a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, typically one used in ordinary or familiar conversation.

What is a synonym?

a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close.

What is a cognate?

(of a word) having the same linguistic derivation as another; from the same original word or root (e.g., English is, German ist, Latin est, from Indo-European esti ).

What is a homonym?

Two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins- ex. tree bark versus a dog’s bark

What is an allomorph?

An allomorph is a morph that has a unique set of grammatical or lexical features. All allomorphs with the same set of features forms a morpheme. … For example, “-en” is a second allomorph that marks plural in nouns (irregular, in only three known nouns: ox/ox+en, child/childr+en, brother/brether+en).

What is the comprehensible input hypothesis?

Comprehensible input is formulating your ideas and presenting them at a linguistically appropriate level will help your ESL students to understand your input and sharpen their English skill

What is an aural selection?

Aural refers to the ear or hearing, and oral to the mouth or speaking,. An aural seelection is playing certain words or sounds for a student to test their listening and hearing.

Aural Discrimination of Confused Sounds

Oral Language Development and ELLs: 5 Challenges and Solutions

What is James Cummins’s theory of common underlying proficiency (CUP)?

You can learn more about Cummins and other theorists in my blogpost about theorists of ESL.

What is positive transfer from the first language?

What is story mapping for beginning-level readers?

What is a cognate?

Cognates are words that have a common origin. A cognate is a word that is similar to another word because they come from the same “parent word” or source. Cognates happen in a language or in a group of languages. For example, ‘composite’, ‘composition’ and ‘compost’ are cognates in the English language. The words are all derived from the same root in Latin ‘componere’ meaning ‘to put together’.

There are three types of Cognates

There are three types of cognates that are relatively easy to recognize:

  • Words that are spelled exactly the same.
  • Words that are spelled slightly differently.
  • Words that are spelled differently but sound similar

In ESL classes, teachers use Cognate Charts.

What is a cognate chart?

Why is it important to teach cognates?

When students understand the roots and affixes, they will be able to build new words and understand new words by recognizing their common roots and affixes. Recognizing cognates also help students link their first language to their new second language.

What is a false cognate?

False cognates:

ESL teachers help students can recognize “false friends” or “false cognates” too. A false cognate is a word that sounds like a word htey know, perhaps from their first language, but it actually has no similar root or meaning. For example, “actually” isn’t “actualmente” is “de hecho”

MTEL Teaching English As a Second Language Test

What is the Natural Approach to second-language instruction?

MTEL Test: Sheltered English Immersion

What is Sheltered English Immersion?

What is an SEI model?

Principles of sheltered English immersion (SEI) are primarily based on the assumption that,as%20native%20English%2Dspeaking%20students.

What is Sheltered English Immersion?

Generally, but not always, ELLs are in the same classrooms as native English-speaking students. 

Sheltered Instruction (SI) is a method of teaching English Language Learners that fits the recommended model of culturally responsive education. The goal of SI is to help ELLs develop content knowledge, language proficiency, and academic skills at the same time.

What is the stance most researchers of sheltered English immersion (SEI) have taken toward the use of students’ first language in the SEI classroom?

What is the primary assumption that Principles of sheltered English immersion (SEI) are based on?

What is Total Physical Response?

Total Physical Response is very important for teaching English, and it is especially important for teaching English online. See this post for some wonderful, engaging TPR examples.

What is the “silent period” in teaching English as a second language

James J. Asher, Ph.D. believed that there is a silent period wherein learners must be able to process and comprehend their acquisition of a new language without having to reproduce it orally. The kids listen and do movements; they tie words to movements. The children repeat and gesture and mime and learn the meaning of the words by linking the movements to the words. This technique is great because it also gets kids up and moving and eliminates boredom.

Theorists of Teaching English as a Second Language

The English as a Second Language licensure exam also requires you to know your theorists. There are many theorists who have developed the field of teaching English as a Second Language. Here is a comprehensive blog post about many of the major theorists.

Every teacher should have some rudimentary knowledge of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and a general sense of different teaching paradigms so they can hone their teaching approach. A strong theoretical underpinning will ensure your work is focused and act as a rudder to your ship, steering your lesson plans in the best direction.

Bottom Line: The MTEL Teaching English as a Second Language Test is a fairly difficult and expensive exam, so you want to study for it. If you review the above information and complete MTEL practice tests, you will succeed and pass the MTEL English as a Second Language test.

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Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.