Muddling through the blogosphere

Passing the CTEL Exam…


ctelI won’t know for about 6 weeks if I passed the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) test , which I took yesterday at CSU, Sacramento. Taking the CTEL is an all day affair, if you’re planning to take all three sections. I signed up for all three.

From the parking lot, I joined a few other teachers also on their way to the test. Two were PE teachers, who were questioning the value of having to know the difference between a diphthong and a digraph; the other two were returning to retake the two sections they had previously failed and were fairly frustrated by both the certification requirement and the testing format. I kept my mouth shut.

What I did not share with my fellow CTEL test takers was how deeply interested I am in the topic of English language learners (ELs). Nor did I share my frustration at not being able to find some affordable workshops on the topic.  Our local COE canceled their CTEL workshop series based on low enrollment (with close to 300 of us showing up for Saturday’s event, that seems puzzling). And I also did my best not to get in a huff over the fact that I am permanently out $303 (something, admittedly, I could have avoided had I opted to take the test a few years back), whereas my four walking companions mentioned they will be reimbursed for the exam fee as soon as they have proof of passing.

But I’m not writing this post to complain about the CTEL exam. I’m writing to acknowledge four people who helped me prepare for the test, either in print, online, or face-to-face.  The first three people I’ve not yet met f2f; the 4th person, I know well:

  • Lynne Diaz-Rico – Thank you for your helpful book A Course for Teaching English Learners.  You provided the first step in preparing for the scope and sequence of the exam – and you reminded me, through research and samples, of the importance of promoting and supporting bilingual education.
  • Jeffery Heil – Thank you for your contributions to the CTEL wiki! Your PowerPoints helped prep me for the fact that careful reading of the multiple-choice questions would be critical (and sort of got me over the hump that although it was easy to eliminate two of the choices, for many of the questions, deciding between the two remaining answers, choosing the better of the two would not always be obvious). Lucky SDCOE to have you as a resource!
  • Carol Booth Olsen – Thanks to the Know Els ning (part of the National Writing Project network), I found your Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing: Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School. On Friday, I had hit rock bottom in terms of getting bogged down with CTEL  EL-related acronyms and laws (which were completely missing from Saturday’s test, I might mention).  So, in search of a pre-test jitters/blues antidote, I headed to the Know ELs ning – and found your article. As I read about the Pathways Project, and noted the excellent strategies for building ELs’ language toolkits, my interest and enthusiasm for the topic resurfaced.  I ended my Friday study session feeling prepared  to sit for the test and hoping that the essay sections would provide a venue for showcasing powerful teaching strategies from Writing Project teachers.
  • And one last person I want to thank Lesley McKillop, 4th grade teacher, A3WP TC, and my friend. Through classroom visits, often extended via phone calls during my daily commute, I have watched you engage your elementary students and build EL strategies, much like Carol Booth Olson has done for secondary students. Three out of four of my CTEL essays were based on best practices from your classroom:

If you also spent Saturday taking the CTEL, I hope you passed!

And if you have CTEL stories and/or resources to add to this post, I’ll hope you’ll add a comment.


  1. I have a Pinterest page ( that has some resources I found helpful. I also have five sets of flashcards based on the Diaz Rico test under my name amber_wily_arnold. Happy studying to the next batch of test takers!

  2. HI Amber,
    I would love to meet up with you!!! I am very happy that you passed the tests. I am very interested in Diaz-Rico’s textbook and any other materials. Look forward to meeting you.

  3. I need to take the 3 CTEL exams to complete my CA preliminary credential. I was looking at the KDSI prep course as well as the San Diego county online prep course. Did those of you taking these prep courses feel that they prepared you well and were worth the cost? I see that Lynn thought it was especially good for the essays. I am thinking about taking the KDSI course, get the Lynne Diaz-Rico “A Course for teaching English learners” book and some flashcards I ordered on Amazon. I am hoping to study this summer and take several tests in August and maybe another in November.

    • I took all 3 tests in May and passed, just reading the Course for Teaching English Language Learners book (2nd edition). I highly recommend it and really feel like it was in depth enough to easily pass. I didn’t feel underprepared for the multiple choice or the essays.

    • I thought the prep course was well worth it and interesting. I’m not sure how I would have studied without it – Jimenez really gave me a structure to focus on. Good luck!

  4. I have the updated Diaz Rico book, ctel exam practice book, and another Diaz book for sale, along with all my notes and gathered printed resources. I also have two or three more weeks of the jiminez course login info. All for 150-let me know if you’re interested.

    I just took all three ctel and passed.

  5. I have passed all the three CTEL Test and I have the Diaz-Rico book I used. I’m willing to send it for free to any one who needs it. It is an older edition and I bought it from Please let me know.

    • I have registered to do the subset 1 next month and i am looking for study material i will buy it from you if you want to sell

      Thanks Bimlesh

    • Hi Reshmi. I just wanted to know if I can borrow your study materials if it is possible please do let me know so that I can send you my details. Thanks Ram

  6. Dear CTEL bloggers,
    I have passed all three CTEL exams as well. I have these resources for study:
    1) A brand new Diaz-Rico book-$90
    2) Mometrix Exam (mcqs and essays) questions book-1 set completely left undone. $10
    3) Mometrix flash cards-$ 50
    4) essay notes typed up by CTEL study group I formed through this blog- very useful, handy and thorough

    I wish to ship all of these notes for free. Please email me if interested
    best wishes to all,

  7. If anyone is willing to sale the book “A course for teaching English Learners ” by Lynne Diaz Rico, I would be willing to buy it.

  8. I passed all three exams. thought the kids course was helpful as well as the book below.

  9. Hi Ram,

    Please send me your email address and I”ll contact you to send me a shipping label. I’ll ship to you all the materials I have.

  10. Hello-

    I am registered to take the CTEL 1 in the Bay next month. Is anyone available to pool resources and/or form a study group? I have several of the materials mentioned in the threads above ( Diaz-Rico book, “CTEL Study Secrets,” etc). Thanks!

  11. People, Stay away from purchasing prep materials like: Mometrix (CTEL EXAM Secrets), Teaching Solutions, CTEL practice test booklets, etc. BTW, I DID purchase Teaching Solutions. The info was horrible, too many grammatical errors to count, and just pure nonsense. I cancelled my purchase through my CC company as they continued to charge several times. My CC company took care of it. This info looked like it was put together by a 2nd grader – no offense to 2nd graders.

    Stick to either 1st or 2nd editions of CTEL by Diaz – either one works! Quizlet is great! Figure out how to answer written response by knowing how to solve problems with what you’re studying. Good luck as i’m going to take 1 & 2 in Nov.

  12. I am scheduled to take the CTEL 1 test this November at Cal State Northridge(I was scheduled to take it in August but they canceled it!!). I live in the SCV. Anyone close by want to study together?

    • Susan, I too live in SCV and I’m taking Part 2 of the test in February. Have you taken that part? I have a ton of study materials we could meet up and share.

  13. I’m thankful for this site. I’m taking the test this week. I’m resourcing the flash cards. Thank You!!!!!

  14. I’m thankful for these flash cards.

    I take the test this week.

  15. Is anyone selling the materials for the CTEL tests because i need them desperately.Please do let me know I will buy it from you.

  16. I want to appear for CTEL exam but my dilemma is; I have never appeared for any computer based test before and not so good at key board, I mean very slow as I studied from the place where technology was not introduced in the classroom. Can anybody guide me whether computer based test is right choice for me or should I take course work to pass it? Your timely advice will be highly appreciated.

  17. Hello fellow CTEL takers,
    I am sorry if i did not respond to Ram’s request. I know it is mid jan already. I still have the following with me and would definitely be happy to respond to emails at:
    I have passed all three CTEL exams as well. I have these resources for study:
    1) A brand new Diaz-Rico book-$90
    2) Mometrix Exam (mcqs and essays) questions book-1 set completely left undone. $10
    3) Mometrix flash cards-$ 50
    4) essay notes typed up by CTEL study group I formed through this blog- very useful, handy and thorough

    I wish to ship all of these notes for free. Please email me if interested
    best wishes to all,

  18. Looking for some study materials. Just registered to take all 3 tests next month, so I’m freaking out a little bit! I’m going into the test cold with no background information, so I can take all of the study materials I can!

    Thanks in advance!

  19. Hi everyone! After reading all of these great comments and advice, I feel like I should have decided to take the tests instead of the courses. I am in week 3 of my first CTEL class and it’s been such a hard adjustment for me and my family as well as my students. I went in thinking I wanted to use the credits to advance my teacher pay, but now I’m reconsidering. I have a bit of text anxiety, but I am willing to torture myself for the few tests hours compared to the many tortuous hours so far of writing papers and trying to earn participation points. I think I can still be reimbursed for my first course. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  20. I am taking CTEL subtest #2 in a couple weeks. As a previous poster asked, “Do you need to know the court cases in depth?”. Any tips for the essay questions???? This is the last test I need and I’m freaking out because if I don’t pass I will not be able to teach next year. My emergency credential expires in July and I’m having a baby in May, so I won’t be taking a test that month.

    • Jennifer- Talk to someone in your district office (credentialing) about getting an extension. It’s expensive, but possible to get a year extension.

  21. Thank you for the information on this blog – it was very helpful. I passed all parts of the CTEL by studying the Lynne Diaz-Rico book and the sample questions and guide on the CTC website. I just wanted to pass on that I was able to rent the Diaz-Rico book on the Barnes and Noble website for 2 months for $20, which was great.

  22. Hello everyone! I know this post was from 2010 but I’ve recently moved to CA from MN and found out that I need this EL authorization to become a teacher in CA. I already have my CA credential so I just need to take CTEL and pass it. The question is should I use both The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook: A Complete K-12 Reference Guide (5th Edition) and A Course for Teaching English Learners (2nd Edition) to study for this test? I’m so nervous I have no idea what’s going to be in the test. Also, I’m planning on buying CTEL Exam Practice Questions: CTEL Practice Tests & Review for the California Teacher of English Learners Examination from Amazon. Has anyone used that book before? Was it helpful? If anyone can help me out, I’d really appreciate it! Thanks.

  23. I have taken and passed all the CTEL exams. I have study info for free. Just ask.

  24. Hi all out there,
    I need a CLAD certification to clear my credential so I am currently looking into the course work route or the exam route. The CLAD Certification Program at CalState Northridge is a 12-credit 4-course program that costs over $5,000. I am not an English native speaker and I am concerned that I may not be able to pass the tests. But from what I have read on this blog it seems that with some diligence in preparation, the tests are passable. I did a quick glance at the CTC sample test and was somewhat intimidated by the material. Does anyone out there have first hand experience or suggestions?

    • I have material – get in touch with me.

      • Hello DJA,
        I have been teaching full-time and haven’t time to study for the test. I plan to take the test this summer and feel that it would be good time to prepare for it now. Would you kindly let me know what material do you have?

        Many thanks!

  25. Thanks for starting this blog. I see it’s been helpful to many! I work in Oregon, but hope to teach elementary in California next year. Would it be best to test in February and get a clear license? I guess I’m wondering if school districts hire many teachers with preliminary licenses, or only those with the ELL endorsement and clear licenses. (?) any idea? Should I wait to take the tests or take them ASAP? Thanks for any help! I greatly appreciate it.

  26. I know the last post is from 2015 but I was wondering if anyone out there had study material sitting around they would like to share/sell. I am taking all of the tests this may. Thanks

  27. I am taking all 3 parts of CTEL in Aug, 2017 at CSUN. Any tip would be greatly appreciated. Planning to take the online course by KDS Inc. Anyone tried it? Please reply. Thank you! Christine

  28. The blog and scrolling through the comments really helped me find study materials. I’ve been looking for a good study book and all the reviews were not convincing. I’ll be taking all 3 parts in August, so I hope I’ll be well prepared.

  29. I have some of my old study materials if anyone wants to buy them from me and use them. This is what I have.

    1. Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development Handbook by Lynne Diaz-Rico

    2. A Course for Teaching English Learners by Lynne Diaz-Rico

    3. California Teacher Review for the CTEL Exam by Theodore Johnson

    4. How Languages are Learned by Patsy M. Lightbown

    5. Teaching by Principles by H. Douglas Brown

    6. Educating English Learners by James Crawford

    Let me know if you are interested!

  30. I’ll be taking all 3 sections tomorrow. Very nervous and excited.

  31. I just took my final ctel exam – expecting to have passed. I suppose there are two or three things i should emphasize. First, download the KSA’s and familiarize yourself with all the terminology & concepts they contain. I used internet searches & two old Lynne Diaz Rico CTEL books (the cheap older editions) to help inform me. Lynn Diaz Rico’s two books on the test are dull & lacking in many things, so you’ll need to supplement them – particularly for ctel 2; they are however helpful. Second, distinguish between “should understand” requirements, & “should apply/know” requirements on the KSA’s: the second types generate the material for the essay questions. Third, use the practice questions from the mtel website. You’ll find there a similar English language authorization test that is helpful in providing you with many similar questions, giving you a good feel for the subtleties. Mtel’s “foundations of english language” practice test was also of benefit for ctel 2. I also purchased the Pearson practice test. Fourth, download a few good flash cards – cram’s was particularly good for ctel 2. Fifth, when taking the test, make ample use of flags & move on; don’t get bogged down on any one question. Once you return to problematic flagged questions, your mind is often clearer & you notice the careful language that automatically dismisses that other choice. I left all 3 tests confident that i had passed – but ctel 2 was definitely the most difficult for which to prepare because I had a lot of trouble finding clear info that corresponded to the KSA’s. Once you are comfortable with the language of the KSA’s, you are ready for the test. Focus your studies on the KSA’s: there is a ton of extraneous info out there that you don’t need to know for the test. I felt very comfortable before each test.

  32. Hi all,
    I’d like to share the materials that helped me pass all 3 subsets in one day.
    Like most I used “A Course for Teaching English Learners” by Lynne Diaz-Rico. I also used made my own flashcards from the aforementioned book, and took every practice test I could find- from Mometrix and the CTEL testing site I also found CTEL practice test booklet at my local library). Don’t buy the Mometrix CTEL exam secrets book- waste of $40! I agree with everything ThomasHahn shared above and the Diaz-Rico book is DRY! I had to google lots of the theories in order to fully understand how to effectively apply the techniques from the book ( and I’ve been a bilingual teacher for 4 years.. I can’t imagine how hard this exam might be for a new teacher or a gym teacher etc.) Lastly Stanford University no longer teaches a course to pass the CTEL BUT they released all the materials that they used in the courses. ( I didn’t use the Stanford material b/c I only received it after I took all 3 subsets) I’d like to share the link here- I hope these materials can help someone! good luck. Oh and don’t feel obligated to take all 3 at once, it was hard but doable!

  33. I have material that helped me pass the exams. These are videos that prepare you for all 3 exams. I can email you.

  34. Hey All,
    Love this blog. It is such an help. I’m planning to give my CTEL exams too. I choose to start with CTEL-3 Culture and Inclusion. I will be more than willing to take any suggestion and tips for this particular test. Thanks in advance.
    Once again I’m very grateful for this blog.

  35. Diving in to the ctel exams, any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • Oh, Leslie, I still remember that day, crossing the parking lot with many others and heading into to designated building and room. Will keep my fingers crossed for you.

  36. Preparing for and taking the CTEL exams can be very stressful. In my experience it is better to take the tests separately. Test 1 and 3 can be taking in one day but Test 2 really deserves one day on its own. I took all 3 tests on my first try and boy that was extremely stressful especially since English is not my primary language. I missed passing one of the test by 2 points. That was quite painful and frustrating. I had no problem passing it the second time around with only one test to take. The same thing happened another colleague of mine. Yes, you have to pay a little extra but to take them separately but so much better for your sanity.

    Hope this helps and good luck to you!

  37. Hi there,
    I took and passed the CTEL in the Spring (all three tests). I have two resources that were very useful to me that I would love to pass on to another teacher who is preparing for the test. They are a book, The Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook, by Lynne T. Diaz-Rico & Kathryn Weed, as mentioned in this blog, and a set of flashcards from Mometrix. I found both invaluable. If you are a teacher preparing for the test and would like these materials, I live in Oakland and you can reach out to me directly at my email: (If that doesn’t come through, it’s my first and last names, all lowercase no spaces, and a google mail account). I’m really hoping to pass these on to someone getting ready to take the November tests! ~ Susannah Mackintosh

  38. Hi DJA,

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s so helpful. Do you know how I can get the Participant’s Manual that the instructor keeps referring to? The instructor keeps referring to this in the lectures.

    Kind regards,

  39. I passed CTEL 1,2 and 3 on the first try and this is how I did it. I did CTEL 1 first and then passed. I took CTEL 2 and 3 together which took all day. I would recommend taking each test separately so that you can follow the following study suggestion:

    1. Print out all the KSA’s from the CTEL registration site. The only things on the test are in the KSA’s so you know what to focus on.

    2. Read the posts by DJA and Yaelj. I found those the most helpful in fact I don’t think I would have passed if I didn’t take their suggestions.

    3. Buy the Diaz-Rico book “A Course For Teaching English Learners.” This is the book that the test is based on in fact the first 1-3 chapter are for Ctel 1, 4-6 for Ctel 2, 7-9 Ctel 3. This book’s chapters are directly aligned to the tests. I tried her other book, Cross-cultural Language Handbook and that was not useful to me.

    4. Read the book and watch the videos that DJA posted on April 18. The “Course for Teaching English Learners” book is the book used in the videos so read the book chapters (1-3) for CTEL 1, then watch the CTEL 1 videos so that the instructor of the video breaks down all the somewhat dry content. Do the same for CTEL 2 and CTEL 3.

    5. Take the practice test from the test website. Buy the CTEL practice tests book on Amazon. It has 2 different practice test for each Subset. Take all the tests and use all the incorrect answers and make a study guide using all those questions you got wrong. When you watch the videos posted by DJA, the instructor goes through the questions on the practice tests so you know how the test tries to confuse or trick you and what to look for.

    5. Also, watch the Stanford CLAD videos that yaelj posted about. It was good to see lessons in the video so you can see the teaching strategies in action. It was good info for any questions about scenarios specific to interventions and teaching strategies.

    Let me know if you have any questions. I would definitely suggest taking it all separately so that you have enough time to study so you don’t have to take it over and over. I studied and took all the tests within a two month period. The video modules alone are 10-15 hours for each test, but well worth watching because the teacher is excellent.

    • Hi Leona,
      Thank you for sharing your strategies. Wanted to check if you still have your books with you. And if yes, will you be willing to share them.
      I’m looking for the – ” Course for teaching English Learners.”
      Once again a hearty congratulations!

  40. Hi,
    I’ve passed on my materials to another teacher, so I don’t have them anymore. But I recommend both of those, they helped me do very well on all three exams!
    Good luck!

  41. The key is to read the Diaz Rico book cover to cover, highlight and take notes, and learn to recognize answers. You don´t have to wrote memorize things.

  42. Hello. I just received my results. I took all 3 sub tests in one test setting and passed on the first try. To prepare, it took me two months.

    First, I went to the CTC website and printed out the KSA’s ( Knowledge, Skills, and Applications).

    Then, I purchased Diaz-Rico’s book, a Course for Teaching English Learners.

    After that, I typed out all of the KSA domains, and used Diaz-Rico’s book for the examples. I found that her book contained resources for about 85% of the domains in the CTC website. I then Googled the other 15% of the information not found in the book.

    Then, I differentiated between what I needed to know, demonstrate and apply. This is very important. The tests are all about the domains from the CTC website. It will take time to learn them. You simply cannot cram for a test line this.

    Also, if you plan to take the test separately, be sure to understand that some questions will contain information from domains from the other CTEL subtests. You should study for all the tests at once even if you plan to take only one test at a time.

    Finally, if you are a classroom teacher, you should demonstrate the strategies in Diaz-Rico’s book ( Scaffolding, differentiation, cooperative learning, etc.) with your students as they will help you when describing the strategies for the constructive response portion of the test. Know the different language learners levels (beginning, early intermediate, intermediate, etc.) and be able to differentiate strategies according to their levels.

    Good luck to those who plan to take the CTEL.

  43. I would like to watch the videos but cannot find them. Can you send me the info please?

  44. Hi-

    I have a copy of A Course for Teaching English Learners (3e) and a book of CTEL exam questions that I’d be happy to pass along. I’d just ask whoever wants them to cover the shipping and I’ll send them to you!

    Just respond below, of course, and good luck. These two books are the only resources I used, and I was able to pass all three tests my first time.

  45. Hi,
    I just moved from Washington State and planning to give CTEL exams soon. Please recommend any books/websites to prepare for the exam. College courses are too expensive to enroll for, so planning to prepare from books and other sources.

  46. Has anyone purchased A Course for Teaching English Learners 3rd edition?
    It is the newest edition and the cheapest to buy. I’m wondering if it is the same as the 1st and 2nd with updates?

    I’m from the Bay Area

    Taking the test August 2020 – if it’s available due to COVID
    Anyone take it February or May 2020?

  47. I have a copy of the 3rd edition of the Diaz-Rico book as well as a book of sample test questions from Mometrix. I would be happy to give them to anyone who can pick up in the Los Angeles area.

  48. I have taken and passed 1 and 2, but did not pass three. Please, if anyone has videos or information that would be helpful, I would greatly appreciate it. If I don’t pass these tests, I won’t have a job next year. Thank you!

  49. Good evening all! 🙂 I am currently preparing to take all 3 CTEL tests in May. Thank you so much to everyone for posting valuable information. If anyone else is taking their tests soon, I would like to join a study group if possible. I purchased A Course for Teaching English Learners and I am going to use all the information that everyone provided. Hopefully I will knock out all 3 tests the first time around because I still have to take the RICA. I am starting my internship in mod/severe SPED this fall so I am hoping to knock out all my testing before teaching in the fall. Good luck to everyone who is taking their CTELs soon

  50. Does anyone happen to know — If you fail one of the CTEL subtests, will it be the same essay question the next time you take the test?

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