Monday, November 21, 2011

Topic of the Week: Teacher Certification Exams

For our first discussion topic, let's talk Teacher Certification exams. As we know, all future educators are required to take a series of exams to become a licensed teacher in New York State: The Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST), the Assessment of Teaching Skills (AST-W), and the Content Specialty Test (CST). Remember, it is essential to begin preparing for the exams as soon as possible and avoid saving them for the last minute. It is wise to complete all exams before you apply for student teaching your senior year!
All freshmen should have already registered for the LAST exam. St. John's offers various preparation courses throughout the semester, which students can sign up for in Sullivan Hall room G-06. Finally, it is important for students to inform the Dean's Office of the status of all exams and report scores as soon as they arrive. 

For more information on the NYSTCE, visit The website even offers practice exam questions and helpful study guides!
Further information can be found on the St. John's website,

Tell us: Which exams have you taken? What did you think? How did you prepare for the exam and what advice do you have for students about to take it? 

*Please remember to keep all posts both positive and professional. Any negative or derogatory posts will be removed promptly.*


  1. So far I only took my LAST. I bought a Review book form Barnes and Noble. The book was good because it let me really see how the text was set up and get into the test taking mode.
    I am taking the ATS-W in February. Any advice?

    - Michael Fallon

  2. Just last week, I took the ATS-W. It was a long and very pedagogical exam. The only advice I would suggest is to do observations and ask the teacher the basic questions: what curriculum does your school follow, What are some strategies to help students learn better. And I would strongly recommend to get familiar with terms: mainstreaming, differentiated learning, multicultural education, and classroom management. The test I took asked many questions about those topics...but it could be different in the following exams to come.

    Good Luck,

  3. November 12th marked date of my final exam, the CST, which I took for English Language Arts. What a relief to finally be finished! Being a transfer student from the University of Delaware, I unfortunately had to take all my NYS exams as quickly as possible; in fact, I completed the LAST, AST-W, and the CST all within the same year! Luckily, I felt that my undergraduate coursework largely prepared me for the exams, and I did not have to do a significant amount of outside studying. As for the LAST, I would definitely recommend studying the review guides on the NYSTCE website and going over a review book, found at most bookstores. Utilizing the review sessions at St. John's would also be a great idea for freshmen who feel a bit nervous about the exam. In general, it was not a difficult test that required a great deal of memorization or hours of studying. A little bit of review each day a few months prior to the exam is sufficient!
    In regards to the AST-W, I found that my education courses really helped me to succeed on the exam. I would definitely recommend that students take at least three education courses before registering for the test. The practice questions on the NYSTCE website also helped along with those in a review book. Again, it was not an overwhelmingly difficult exam.
    Although I am awaiting my CST score, I feel relatively confident about it. Students should definitely wait until they have completed all courses in their content area before taking the exam. This, along with a review of the types of exam questions, will certainly help alleviate any test taking anxiety!

  4. I took all the exams before my student teaching and I was saved the hassle and stress that goes with it. Definitely take them before senior year!

    I prepared by taking the practice exam from the NYSTCE website. Skim through the About part on the preparation guide to get a feel of what questions might be like and take their exam. And I suggest sharpened pencils are not the best to fill Scantron sheets, except for the essay part! Get a pencil that you might have used in Pre-K (my first pencil kind !!)with a dull top for the Scantron part of the test.

    That's all I can remember for now. :D

  5. I took the LAST at the end of my first semester, which was December 2008. I took the ATS-W after I took EDU 1014, which is Methods of Teaching ELA and Social Studies. If you are planning on taking the ATS-W for Secondary Education, you should take 1014 first. I took my CST after I completed most of my content courses.

    For the ATS-W: remember, it is how the state would like you to handle certain situations.
    For the CST: it is about applying content into context. There are no questions such as "Who was the 12th president of the US?" It is more about your critical thinking skills as a future teacher.

    I prepared for the exams by taking what I learned in my college courses and pairing it with what I found in review books. Familiarize yourself with the format of the exams.

    It is important to know what kind of resources there are for preparing. The Dean's Scholars hold LAST prep courses. Students like myself have completed the exams and can also help those taking the exams.

    DO NOT WAIT - take the exams as soon as possible when you feel comfortable. Don't put them off until you are a senior because then you will definitely feel the pressure.

  6. I think everyone has said it pretty well, definitely start taking your tests Freshman year and do not try and squeeze them all in last minute.
    This past month I just took my last test, it was a little nerve wracking, and now the anticipation sets in for the results.
    For the LAST I took a few prep sessions that were offered in the SOE, which I found very beneficial. The actual test reminded me of a simplified version of the SAT's. The ATS-W I reviewed material from previous education classes that I had. To be honest I found the exam easy because a lot of the information was familiar from being a student, what I learned in class, and observed during my high school observations.
    Definitely taking the CST after all my major classes were nearly completed was a beneficial idea because it was majority of the material that I had seen before. This saved the time of having to teach myself new concepts, just review.

    A note for all the exams, Do not second guess yourself! If you think an answer is your then trust yourself.

  7. As a freshmen I completed my LAST with no troubles.I reviewed a sample test a few weeks prior and got myself familiar with the test format (80 questions and 1 essay). The following year I signed up for the ATS-W and studied more in depth. I purchased a review book and researched additional links and resources the book provided. I am eager to finish my last test, the CST. Once this semester is over I will hopefully have time to prepare for it which means reviewing a lot of math!

    As a Dean's Scholar, we host review sessions for freshmen for their first test. They can go to the undergrad office to find out days and times and sign up!

    The tests may seem like a hassel, but as long as you stay on track and don't save them all for the end, there should be little worries.

  8. If you're worried about mastering your CST, take some time out to go to the University Learning Commons! The ULC is St. John's own free tutoring center, located on the first floor of the library across from the Cafe. We offer tutoring in all core subjects ranging from science and math to philosophy and theology, plus everything in between.

    To pick a tutor, stop in the center in person or register at our scheduling website, Make a tutoring appointment with someone who tutors your content area, and bring with you any review materials you have as well as an outline from the NYSTCE website that lists the information that will be covered on your test. Your tutor will be able to help you grasp difficult concepts in your content area so you can feel more confident on your exam. Good luck!