About a year ago, when I was taking my Art CSET (teacher’s) exam, my good friend Brian, who has a Master’s Degree in English from an Ivy League college, was taking the English CSET. He hadn’t studied for it; he simply wanted to see if he could pass it. He failed all four sections. I was now going to attempt to pass the same exam, and I have only ever had three English courses in College, and none with above a C+ grade.
I guess in a month from now (now that I have completed the exam), I’ll see what only three weeks of studying gets me. This is the least I have studied for any of my previous CSET exams. With six to eight weeks of studying (each), I was able to pass History, Art and Technology on my first try, and in fairly specular fashion. This English CSET has been the hardest for me so far because it’s the furthest away from my areas of competence. Sure, I can write a sentence and I’m fairly well-read (at least in Science Fiction and Religion), but I know NOTHING about grammar and very little about literature as a historical subject. My only prior knowledge in these two areas are my German studies from fifteen years ago, where I was forced to learn some English grammar as a result of learning German grammar, and my Art History degree, which uses the same historical time period names that Literature does.
During my preparation, I took several pre-tests and I consistently got below a 65%. To pass any of the CSET tests, you need a 73.3% or higher. In the final days of my preparation, I used those pretests as a study guide, so hopefully, I’ll get that minimum 73.3% score that I need.
On test day, I was given five hours to complete four tests: two essay tests and two multiple choice tests. I would have to keep a pretty good pace just to complete all four tests within five hours. The first test on Literature was fun and I felt fairly good about it. I had studied Literature more than anything else in preparation for this exam because I knew so little about it and because it was the subject of two of the four tests. Still, about half way through the first test, I got really tired of reading all those literary passages and I could feel my comprehension dropping. I was mentally drained. The second (essay) test was also on Literature. I felt less good about this test because I was already drained, and because it’s simply hard to write two complete essays in such a short period of time. They gave me plenty of scratch paper to create an outline or a draft on, but I went right to the final draft in both cases to cut out a lot of extra writing. I hope that this strategy will work! It took me 3.5 hours to complete these first two tests. When I looked up at the clock and realized that I only had 1.5 hours to complete the second two tests, I panicked a little. The two remaining tests were a multiple choice test on Grammar, which I knew nothing about, and an essay test involving four one paragraph answers on drama, oratory, creative writing, and print media, which I did know. I flew through the Grammar test and finished it in half an hour. I also flew through the short answer test in 40 minutes. Wow, I actually finished all four tests with 20 minutes to spare!
So… how did I do? I may have passed two or three of the four tests. I do not feel that I passed the Grammar test. I also got the feeling that I was going to be awfully close to 73.3% on the three tests I did better on; in other words, I may have passed three tests or I may have passed none. If, by some miracle, I actually do pass the Grammar test, it will only be due to the fact that there were some teacher skills questions and some early childhood development questions included in the test. That stuff I do know.
I really, really hope I passed the two essay tests because I don’t ever want to write that much again in a testing situation. The good thing about the CSET tests in general is that once you’ve passed a test, you don’t have to take it again – even a partial victory is a victory. So long as I pass two or more of the four English tests, I’ll go back to complete the rest. If it turns out that I only passed one or less, I’ll see this as God’s clear direction that I shouldn’t be teaching English.
Oh ya, my wife also took her test on Home Economics. She had passed two of three required tests previously, so she only had one to go this time around. I hope she passed. She said that she bombed one of the essays, but did very well otherwise.