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Passing the LAST/ATS-W
About this Book
This book provides a complete and accurate representation of New York State's LAST/ATS-W (Liberal Arts and Sciences Test/Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written), part of one of the most broadly-based teacher certification programs used in the United States today. We include topical reviews correlating to each of the test sections on the LAST and ATS-W exams, along with a full-length practice test for each exam based on the current format of the New York State Teacher Certification Examinations, or NYSTCE. REA's practice tests contain every type of question that you can expect to encounter on the actual exam. We also present detailed explanations of each answer--as well as sample essays--to help you master the test material.
About the Test
Who Takes the Test and What Is It Used for?
The LAST/ATS-W is taken by individuals seeking certification to teach in any of New York State's 704 public school districts. In most cases, candidates are beginning their teaching career or seeking additional certification.
While you're free to take the LAST or ATS-W at any time during college, most candidates find it best to attempt the former in their sophomore or junior year (after they have most basic liberal arts and sciences coursework behind them) and the latter after having completed pedagogical coursework and fieldwork (and in some cases even student teaching). Senior year is the time to consider taking the Content Specialty Test to help you peg what additional coursework will be required in your area of concentration. To do well on the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Performance, you should have at least two years of classroom experience under your belt.
Who Administers the Test?
The LAST/ATS-W is administered by National Evaluation Systems, Inc. (NES), in conjunction with the New York State Education Department. A comprehensive test development process was designed and implemented specifically to ensure that the content and difficulty level of the exam are appropriate. This process involved hundreds of teachers and teacher educators from across the state.
When and Where Is the Test Given?
The LAST/ATS-W is usually offered five times a year at a number of locations throughout the state of New York. Selective administrations are offered in Puerto Rico as well. To receive information on upcoming test dates and locations, contact either of the following:
New York State Education Department
Office of Teaching
Room 5N Education Building
Albany, NY 12234
National Evaluation Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 660
30 Gatehouse Road
Amherst, MA 01004-9008
Phone: (413) 256-2882 or (800) 309-5225
TTY for Deaf: (413) 256-8032
Registration information, as well as test dates and locations, is provided in the registration bulletin. Information regarding testing accommodations for candidates with special needs is also included.
Is There a Registration Fee?
You must pay a registration fee in order to take the LAST/ATS-W. A complete outline of registration fees is provided in your registration bulletin.
The NYSTCE Program
The NYSTCE Program embraces six tests: the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST), the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written (ATS-W), and the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Performance (ATS-P), along with the Content Specialty Test, English Language Proficiency Assessment, and Target Language Proficiency Assessment. This group of tests is designed to assess your knowledge of subject matter, as well as your ability to convey that knowledge to a student.
Format of the LAST
The Liberal Arts and Sciences Test is composed of roughly 80 multiple- choice questions and one essay. You will have four hours to complete the exam. The five subject areas it covers are as follows:
* Scientific and Mathematical Processes
* Historical and Social Scientific Awareness
* Artistic Expression and the Humanities
* Communication Skills
* Written Analysis and Expression
The exact number of questions in each area will vary, as will the total number of questions on the exam and in each subarea. The test administrators often include a number of so-called pretest, or experimental, questions that do not count toward your score but are used to prepare future exams. In general, be prepared to make broad assessments and pick out underlying assumptions and inferences.
Format of the ATS-W
Like the LAST, the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written is composed of roughly 80 multiple-choice questions and one essay. The test is offered in two versions: Elementary and Secondary. Candidates for K-12 Certification may elect to take either test. The number of questions may vary. The breakdown of the ATS-W subject matter is as follows:
* Knowledge of the Learner
* Instructional Planning, Assessment, and Delivery
* The Professional Environment
Format of the ATS-P
Unlike the LAST and the ATS-W, the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Performance is not a paper-and-pencil test. The ATS-P requires candidates to videotape themselves in the classroom environment. Our ATS-P review outlines the requirements of the 30-minute sample lesson and some suggestions on how to make your video place you in the best possible light.
Scoring the NYSTCE
How Do I Score My Practice Test?
Each of the NYSTCE tests has a score range of 100-300 points. In each case (except, of course, for the ATS-P) you must achieve a minimum of 220 to pass the exam. Achieving a passing score on a particular test means you'll have satisfied that portion of the certification requirement. Your total score will derive from a combination of the number of multiple-choice questions that you answer correctly and your essay scores; the multiple-choice sections, however, account for a larger percentage of your overall score than your essays do.
In order to achieve a passing score on the practice tests, you need to answer at least 60% of the multiple-choice questions correctly and your essay grades can fall no lower than the middle of the scoring range (as set forth in our Detailed Explanations of Answers). It may be helpful to have a friend or colleague score your essays, since you will benefit from his or her ability to be more objective in judging the clarity and organization of your written responses.
When Will I Receive My Score Report?
Your score report should arrive about six weeks after you take the test. No scoring information will be given over the telephone. Remember, your score report will show your scaled score, not the number of questions you answered correctly.
Studying for the LAST/ATS-W
There is no one correct way to study for this exam. You must find the method that works best for you. Some candidates prefer to set aside a few hours every morning to study, while others prefer to study at night before going to sleep. Only you can determine when and where your study time will be most effective, but it is helpful to be consistent. You may retain more information if you study every day at roughly the same time. A study schedule appears at the end of this chapter to help you budget your time.
When taking the practice tests you should try to duplicate the actual testing conditions as closely as possible. A quiet, well-lit room, free from such distractions as the television or radio, is preferable. After you score the practice test, thoroughly review the explanations. Information that is wrong for one item may be correct for another, so it will be helpful for you to absorb as much data as possible.
How to Use this Book
When Should I Start Studying?
We provide a six-week study schedule on page 11 to assist you in preparing for the exam. Our schedule allows for a great deal of flexibility. If your test date is only three weeks away, you can halve the time allotted to each section--keep in mind, however, that this is not the most effective way to study. If you're fortunate enough to have several months before your test date, you may want to extend the time allotted to each section. Remember, the more time you spend studying, the better your chances of achieving a passing score.
About the Review Sections
By using our review material in conjunction with our practice tests, you should be well prepared for the actual exams. At some point in your educational experience, you have probably studied all the material that makes up the test. For most candidates, however, this was most likely some time ago. Our review material, while fact-rich, is not intended to have you memorize dates, names, and places. Rather, it's meant to provide the narrative thread to reinforce contextual memory. Because both the LAST and the ATS-W test sections contain an essay, the Writing Skills review included in the LAST section will be helpful in preparing for either test.
This book includes the best test preparation materials based on the latest information available from test administrators. The number and distribution of questions can vary from test to test. Accordingly, prospective examinees should pay strict attention to their strengths and weaknesses and not depend on specific proportions of any subject areas appearing on the actual exam.
LAST/ATS-W Test-Taking Tips
Although you may have taken standardized tests like these before, it is crucial that you become familiar with the format and content of each section of the exam you'll be taking. This will help to alleviate any anxiety about your performance. Here are several ways to help you become accustomed to the test.
* Become comfortable with the format of the test. The exams cover a great deal of information, and the more comfortable you are with the format, the more confidence you will have when you take the actual exam. If you familiarize yourself with the requirements of each section individually, the whole test will be much less intimidating.
* Read all of the possible answers. Even if you believe you have found the correct answer, read all four options. Often answers that initially look right prove to be "magnet responses" meant to distract you from the correct choice.
* Eliminate obviously incorrect answers. In this way, even if you do not know the correct answer, you can make an educated guess.
* Work quickly and steadily. Remember, the final question on both the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test and the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written is in essay form. You need more time to compose a clear, concise, well-constructed essay than you do to answer a multiple-choice question, so don't spend too much time on any one item. Pace yourself. If you feel that you are spending too much time on any one question, mark the answer choice that you think is most likely the correct one, circle the item number in your test booklet, and return to it if time allows. Timing yourself while you take the practice tests will help you learn to use your time wisely.
* Be sure that the oval you are marking corresponds to the number of the question in the test booklet. Multiple-choice tests like the NYSTCE are graded by a computer, which has no sympathy for clerical errors. One incorrectly placed response can upset your entire score.
The Day of the Test
Try to get a good night's rest, and wake up early on the day of the test. You should have a good breakfast so you will not be distracted by hunger. Dress in layers that can be removed or applied as the conditions of the testing center require. Plan to arrive early. This will allow you to become familiar with your surroundings in the testing center, and minimize the possibility of distraction during the test.
Before you leave for the testing center, make sure you have any admissions material you may need, including photo identification. None of the mathematics items covered on the LAST test requires scientific functions, so a calculator is neither necessary nor permitted. Calculators, however, will be provided for any Content Specialty Tests for which they are required. No eating, drinking, or smoking will be permitted during the test.