Sunday, February 8, 2015

ALST, 280 Rigorous and Wonderful Minutes of Reading and Writing

My strenuous, but stimulating experience with the 

infamously laborious,

ALST Teacher Certification Examination

   Yesterday, I boldly took the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) NYSTCE (I don't know what this second acronym stands for and I do not have enough finger strength left over to find out, but my guess...Nauseated and Yawning everSuffering Teacher Candidates ExtremeExperimentationofExaminations) teacher certification exam. 
   This exam was 280 minutes of arduous vocabulary and demanding reading, as well as a rainforest full of frequent urination and a desktop computer screen that caused excessive ocular stress, did I mention my feeble and sluggish Delete button, or my completely unreliable and noncommittal T button? 
   Yes, through the heavy rain of the computer lab's white noise machine and the required pounding of my 11 year old keyboard, I successfully (though this is still up for debate) completed the dreaded ALST. I saved this certification exam for last, and rightfully so, because it would have wiped away any testing confidence I had. I have successfully completed the Educating All Students (EAS) exam and the Content Specialty Test ((CST) for Elementary Teachers) with ease, but I knew this exam would be different. 
   I am here to offer my support and tips for success on the ALST exam that is newly required for all NYS teachers. 

  1. Do the online practice test, Linked here. This practice test will give you a taste of the accelerated reading level and the specificity and difficulty level of the questions. In addition, it will walk you through the writing, which is worth a hefty 60% of your final score.
  2. If your school offers a training/study session, take it! 
    • *You do NOT need to take a prepaid training, like those offered in NYC, because you can NOT study for this exam. 

      • You need to study the exam its self, NOT the content!*
    • Think of your test prep for the ALST as a throwback to your irrelevant days "studying" for the SAT's in high school, when your teachers taught you how to take the test, rather than what was on the test. 

  1. This is NOT an exam you should take with the expectation of having a typically functioning day afterwards. Schedule this exam for your day off. I know, I know, this sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, but you will be glad that you have nothing else to do after you walk out of the lab, that requires brain power, finger strength or proper posture*. 
       *Given the hunchback you will inevitably develop slamming on the keyboard like a test taking maniac!
  1. This exam is 210 minutes, so be sure to schedule your exam time around the time of day you perform best. 
    • I am NOT a night person and I am NOT much of a morning person; I consider myself a 10 to 4 person! So get to know yourself and chose your personal best 4 hours for this exam. 
    •  *Sorry night-owls, midnight to 4 am's time slot usually isn't available*

Funny Friendship Ecard: I'm not a morning person. I'm not a night owl. But I can rock 11:30 a.m. like nobody's business. TOTALLY!

  1. Arrive early. This will give you the necessary time to use the bathroom and find the correct room for the test center. During the exam there is no bathroom break! 
    • *This does however, depend on your testing site. I have been to places with monitor's who will sign you out for a "Scheduled Break" and I have been to others who hit the stop watch and say run! 
  2. To be safe, drink as much caffeine as you can, in as little liquid form as possible. I say you follow this tip regardless if reading and writing are your personal strength or not. This is an exhausting exam for anyone and you will need any mental boost you can get, all legal please!
  3. If you are like me, than you probably try not to over do it on the caffeine. If this is you, I say, take your Vitamins, particularly B-Vitamins. They are a natural way to boost energy and clarity. 
    • Fish oil is great too for brain power, but a fish oil routine takes a few months to take full effect.
  4. Most sites will choose your seat for you, but if your testing center allows you to choose your own throne, be strategic, pick a quiet and cozy corner, AWAY from the door. People will be coming and going often and though they are very quiet, it is a continuous distraction, especially when you are stuck reading fantastic facts about farming or fungus.  
 test taking tips - monitor your time so you don't look like this

  1.  Now that you are sitting, I will get to the important stuff, TIME MANAGEMENT
    • The above linked website tells you how to time manage, but I could have benefited quite a bit from actually following a set schedule based on my personal needs and skills. 
    • There are 40 reading questions to complete first, but you can always skip them and return to them later, if you want to do the writing first. Make this decision before you start the exam.
      • **This is the most important tip I can give you, well second to the potty tips...

    • The test framework provided says you should spend 20 minutes on each of the two constructed responses and 60 minutes on the extended response. I do NOT agree with this and I am going to re-frame the given schedule based on my personal experience. 
      • Allow 30 minutes for each of the two constructed responses. They must be organized, concise and grammatically correct. This will allow you 20 minutes to write your 150 to 250 words, with an additional and critical 10 minutes to fully edit your writing. As the saying goes, "Writing is Rewriting."

      • You SHOULD only need 35 minutes to write your extended response, but you will need a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes to edit. The extended response is a culmination of your first two constructed responses, making the third extended essay slightly easier to write, but requiring more editing than the others.  

4.      The readings will vary, as some passages are less complex than others. The key here is to read the questions carefully and at least twice! 

    • Most importantly, ANSWER the questions accordingly and correctly! The multiple choice answers will be tricky and deceiving; (They are as deceiving as your shady ex boyfriend. He says one thing and means another!) The questions are designed to require multiple readings. If you are unclear of what the question is truly asking you to do, you will pick the first answer you think is right and that is not good test taking, pick the answer that answers the question. I can not stress this enough!

    • Some of the teacher candidates I spoke to finished the ALST early and some didn't even have time to finish!

      • And then there is me, who was editing my final paragraph of the final extended response with 60 seconds left! I successfully placed my very last edit, just as the clock cut me off. 
    • **Now I believe this would not have happened had I done the writing FIRST, like my brilliant 4 out 4 score receiving friend.

    • This however, will ONLY work if you follow a strict time schedule, so that you do not run out of reading time. When writing, time can be slightly fudged and adjusted as needed, but you cannot answer a question about something you have not read, certainly NOT with these high level questions. 

      • All in all, the exam was not terrible, but it was certainly the most difficult, well second to the fantastic edTPA of course! 

- Good luck to all my fellow teacher candidates and please, let me know all about your personal experiences with the teacher certification exams you have taken! 

Keep Cute and Carry On!

- Miss Vikkers

1 comment:

  1. I will deff do the writing first !


    Wish me Luck!