March 3, 2015

154 TExES English as a Second Language (ESL) Supplemental Exam

The TExES English as a Second Language Supplemental Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine whether or not an individual has the skills and knowledge necessary to teach English to nonnative English speakers. This exam assesses the individual’s knowledge of the basic concepts of the English language and of the teaching methods necessary to teach English as a second language. This exam is required, usually in addition to a content exam, in order to become certified as an English as a second language teacher. The exam consists of 80 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:

  • Language Concepts and Language Acquisitions (25%)
  • ESL Instruction and Assessment (45%)
  • Foundations of ESL Education, Cultural Awareness, and Family and Community Involvement (30%)

The exam-taker will have five hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The English as a Second Language Supplemental Exam is offered in a computerized format and the registration fee for the exam is $131. However, there may be other exams and fees in addition to this exam that are required in order to become a certified educator in an English as a second language program within the state of Texas.

154 TExES English as a Second Language (ESL) Supplemental Exam Practice Questions

Sample Study Notes

1. Discuss English Language Learners instructional methods using the native language of the student.

There are five main English Language Learner (ELL) programs that use the student’s native language while he is learning English:

  • TRANSITIONAL BILINGUAL uses the native language in core academic subjects. However, the goal is to phase into English-only instruction as quickly as possible.
  • DEVELOPMENTAL BILINGUAL uses the native language in core academic subjects throughout elementary school. Sometimes the program extends into middle and high school even after the student has been classified proficient in English.
  • In TWO-WAY IMMERSION the students are from similar backgrounds, with about half the class speaking the native language and the other half speaking both. Instruction is about evenly split between English and the native language.
  • In some cases, the native language is used in a SUPPORT ROLE ONLY. Instruction is entirely in English with a bilingual paraprofessional available to translate vocabulary, explain lessons and clarify confusing assignments.
  • NEWCOMER programs are usually reserved for recent U.S. arrivals. Instruction is in the native language and students are also helped to acclimate to their new environment.

2. Describe methods used to teach English as a Second Language.

Basic interpersonal communication skills encompass two different and distinct styles of communication. Context-embedded communication uses visual and vocal props to help the student understand what is being said. Pictures and other objects graphically explain and demonstrate. The speaker’s gestures and tone of voice also help. Context-reduced communication doesn’t have visual cues, so the student must rely on competency and fluency to understand. Phone conversations don’t allow the listener to see the speaker, so visual aides are missing. Reading a note without pictorial guides may make it difficult for the student to understand the written words.
The three methods most commonly used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) are grammar-based, communication-based and content-based. Grammar-based teaches students the rules: structure, function and vocabulary. Emphasis is on the why and how. Communication-based teaches how to use English in everyday, realistic situations. It emphasizes practical conversational usage. Content-based teaches grammar and vocabulary, and uses written assignments to practice these skills. It emphasizes an integrated approach to learning English.

3. Discuss the continuum of learning theory as it applies to learning English as a second language.

The Continuum of Learning theory outlines predictable steps when learning a new language. No matter what the characteristics of the person or the subject matter being presented, teachers will encounter these general levels of mastery.

  • The SILENT/RECEPTIVE OR PREPRODUCTION stage can last from a few hours to six months. Students usually don’t say much and communicate using pictures, pointing and gestures.
  • In the EARLY PRODUCTION stage students use one and two word phrases. They indicate understanding with yes/no and who/what/where questions. This stage can last six months.
  • The SPEECH EMERGENCE stage may last a year. Students use short sentences and begin to ask simple questions. Grammatical errors may make communication challenging.
  • In the INTERMEDIATE LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY stage students begin to make complex statements, share thoughts and opinions and speak more often. This may last a year or more.
  • The ADVANCED LEARNING PROFICIENCY stage lasts five to seven years. Students have acquired a substantial vocabulary and are capable of participating fully in classroom activities and discussions.

4. Discuss the key principles of language acquisition for English language learners.

There are four key concepts teachers in mainstream classrooms can use to help English Language Learners (EEL) acquire proficiency in both written and spoken English.

  • INCREASE COMPREHENSIBILITY of the content of lesson plans and activities by using pictures, props, gestures and voice variations to explain and demonstrate the subject. Use short sentences and avoid slang and idioms. Build on the language concepts the student already has.
  • ENCOURAGE INTERACTION by asking questions and assigning group activities (only with students willing and able to respond to the unique requirements). This provides the ELL student with lots of opportunities to practice what he knows and increase his confidence, so he is able to learn more effectively.
  • INCREASE THINKING AND STUDY SKILLS by asking thought-provoking questions and assigning complex topics for research projects. Establish and expect the same high standards from every student.
  • USE THE NATIVE LANGUAGE to increase understanding and comprehension. Translating questions and assignments into the student’s native language clarifies instructions and helps him understand what is expected.

5. Discuss some factors to consider when determining the reading skills of an English Language Learner.

One of the first things that needs to be determined before an ELL student’s reading skills can be accurately assessed is his cultural identity. His heritage and personal history have a huge impact on his readiness to learn. Some cultures place a great emphasis on learning for everyone, while others restrict access to educational opportunities by gender and/or economic status. Previous exposure to formal schooling plays an important role in the student’s ability to understand the academic environment and what is expected. Religious beliefs, health issues, psychological trauma and time spent as a refugee all impact the type and variety of reading material previously available. A corollary to cultural issues is the stress factor. There may be dramatic changes in family roles and responsibilities; children may be thrust into roles they are unaccustomed to and unfamiliar with. Exposure to values and behavior expected in the adopted country can be confusing and overwhelming. Survivors’ guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder may be present. All these factors affect a student’s ability to concentrate, learn a new language and adjust to different societal expectations.

6. Define fluency and describe ways to determine an English Language Learner’s level.

Fluency is the ability to read and comprehend the written word accurately and quickly. Fluent readers recognize words and expressions and understand their meaning. When reading out loud, their presentation is smooth, expressive and effortless. Fluent readers don’t focus on the words; they concentrate on the meaning. They make connections between knowledge they already have and ideas and concepts discovered in the new information. A student who is a good reader in his native language will be a good reader in English. However, when assessing an English language learner’s level of competency, just because he “sounds” good, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he understands the meaning in the message. It is important to ask open-ended questions about the text to determine his comprehension level. If the student doesn’t understand what he is reading, it doesn’t matter how fast he says the words: it is meaningless gibberish. A word of caution: be careful not to conclude that the student struggling with reading English has a learning disability; it may just be necessary to find other means to test his general knowledge.

7. Discuss the importance of grade placement for an English Language Learner.

It can be a challenge to determine the English Language Learner’s grade level. Birth dates on official documents may not be accurate, or papers may have been lost in refugee camps or during transit. Birthdays may not be important in their culture, and parents may have forgotten the year of birth. Families may have changed the age of the child believing it would help their situation. School attendance may have been primitive, erratic or non-existent. All these factors are real possibilities.
However, placing the student in the correct grade is critical to his success in not only learning English but in assimilating into his new cultural and educational environment. Experts believe it is important to place the student with people as close to his chronological age as possible, because it helps motivate the ELL, encourages social interaction with peers, and hastens acclimation into his new world. Studies have shown that placing an ELL with people much younger inhibits his linguistic and academic development and can lead to alienation, disruptive behavior, and other socialization issues.

8. Define these teaching methods: content-based language instruction, sheltered instruction, and language across the curriculum.


  • CONTENT-BASED LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION combines information, hands-on tasks, and instructional techniques, and uses these tools to develop language skills and learn subject matter. The teacher uses English and the native language to explain and evaluate the student’s verbal, written and group efforts.
  • SHELTERED INSTRUCTION is used in immersion and bilingual programs, and is adopted to help students with limited or non-existent English proficiency. They are taught content in their native language and then moved to instruction in English (grammar, vocabulary, etc.), with the goal being to mainstream them as quickly as possible. Depending upon the size of the school and the number of students who speak the same language, this program may be separate or integrated into grade level classrooms.
  • LANGUAGE ACROSS THE CURRICULUM is content-based teaching that deliberately coordinates English language instruction (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.) in all classes, no matter what the subject matter. Sometimes this program uses an integrated curriculum approach, sometimes it uses a team teaching approach, and sometimes it uses a combination of the two.

9. Describe individual assessments. List the advantages and disadvantages.

Individual assessments focus on the progress a student made during a defined period of time using a variety of activities (e.g., written assignments, oral presentations, class participation). It offers a broad, realistic view of the student’s understanding. Evaluation standards are: self-referenced (based on previous progress); criterion-referenced (based on a defined school or district standard); and norm-referenced (based on the progress of groups of students the same age or grade level).

  • ADVANTAGES: Individual assessments are easily understood by students and parents. Self-referenced standards provide feedback about the student’s strengths and weaknesses. They can help motivate him to take more responsibility for his learning. Students sometimes set personal goals. Individual assessments help them measure their success. They provide teachers insight into special help the student might need.
  • DISADVANTAGES: Individual assessment can create a competitive environment in which some students are unable to compete. It makes it difficult to evaluate students’ ability to work with a team and judge their interaction with others. Individual assessments also require a great deal of time to complete fairly and accurately.

10. Discuss anecdotal records, observation checklists and rating scales.


  • ANECDOTAL RECORDS are written observations of day-to-day activities. To be effective, observations need to be made frequently and incidents need to be described completely and objectively. The analysis should be used as a guide for appropriate responses. Both successful and unsuccessful actions need to be recorded in order to present an accurate picture.
  • An OBSERVATION CHECKLIST is a group of specific skills, behaviors, attitudes, and processes relevant to a student’s development. They can be used to measure the growth of knowledge, change in attitude, or understanding of new skills. To be effective, checklists need to be used frequently, collected over a period of time, and all occurrences of each item on the list need to be recorded.
  • RATING SCALES measure the quality of performance based on specific criteria on a predetermined continuum. It is particularly useful for rating oral presentations and for student use as a self-assessment tool. To increase the scale’s reliability, when developing the criteria, the activity needs to be broken into specific, manageable parts. Each criterion may need its own rating system.

TExES English as a Second Language Exam Practice Questions