After two tries, much disappointment, and several pieces of humble pie, I finally passed the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (BTLPT)!
I want to share with you what I did differently the second time around so that you’ll know how to pass the btlpt, too! (and hopefully the first time!).
For those of you who don’t know, the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test, better known as the BTLPT, is one of the teacher certification tests required for individuals who’d like to teach bilingual education in the state of Texas.
A Little Background About the BTLPT
Prospective bilingual teacher candidates in Texas who wish to teach in an elementary school setting must pass 4 exams (yes, four!) in order to be fully certified as a bilingual teacher:
TExES Core Subjects EC-6 exam- required for ALL elementary teacher candidates; tests knowledge of the main content areas taught in elementary school such as math, science, social studies, literacy, art, etc.
TExES Bilingual Education Supplemental exam– just for those who want to be bilingual certified; tests knowledge of second language pedagogy
TExES Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test for Spanish- This one is a doozy and just for bilingual teacher candidates. It demonstrates one’s knowledge level of the Spanish language within the context of education. This post is about this exam. 🙂
TExES Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, or PPR, EC-12 exam- required for ALL teacher candidates K-12. It assesses knowledge of general teaching practices, educational ethics, and pedagogy.
You get five chances to pass each test, and each one costs about $130. Ouch!
To be a regular elementary classroom teacher, I had already passed (years ago!), the Core Subjects and PPR exams.
While living abroad, I had thought about getting my Texas bilingual certification just in case I ever decided to move back to the U.S one day (I’m back now, so I guess that was a good idea!)
During my nine years teaching overseas, the Texas bilingual certification exam had changed quite a bit, and I kept reading about how much more difficult it had become.
All that reading made me a little anxious, but I thought I could conquer that exam sin problema!
Well, I studied Spanish formally in school for years (I even minored in Spanish in college), studied abroad in Mexico while in college, lived abroad in Central and South America for nine years, married a native Spanish speaker who speaks with me in Spanish all the time, and breathed the Spanish language and culture throughout my life.
I should know how to pass the btlpt, right?
You’d think, but I got a dose of reality real fast!
I’m not a native speaker of Spanish. I’m very much “gringa”, BUT I should still be able to tackle this test!
So I thought.
Writing this blog post is a very humbling experience because my first outcome didn’t happen the way I expected.
I went into that testing center unprepared and with the wrong mindset.
And I crashed and burned.
Don’t make the same mistakes that I did!
This post will arm you with the knowledge and resources you need so that you know how to pass the BTLPT the first time!
How to Pass the BTLPT: Some General Tips First
Before getting into what I did the second time in order to pass the BTLPT, here’s some general information that you need to know.
Be Honest with Yourself About Your Spanish Language Proficiency
Ask yourself, “Do I really have a good command of the Spanish language?”
Speaking Spanish colloquially with family and friends throughout your life may not be enough.
- Are you able to understand spoken Spanish in different dialects?
- Can you orally communicate your thoughts and messages clearly within a variety of contexts?
- Do you understand a wide range of academic text in Spanish, including history and literature?
- How’s your writing? In addition to communicating your message well, do you have good knowledge of grammatical rules, correct use of accents, appropriate register?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, decide if you want to put in the time and energy needed to improve upon your weaknesses.
I knew deep down that I had not only the motivation to pass the exam but also the right skill-set.
I just needed to refocus my energies, realign my mindset, and sharpen some of my linguistic skills.
Make sure to always be realistic about your linguistic strengths and weaknesses.
Learn the Format of the Test.
One of the easiest things you can do as you prep for how to pass the BTLPT is to get acquainted with the format of the test.
There are many books available that can help you with this.
During test day, the test will give you instructions on what to do in each section, but don’t waste your time figuring this stuff out on test day.
Learn the format beforehand.
That way, during test day, you can focus your energies on doing your very best on the content, not on test structure.
Evaluate and Focus on Areas of the Test in Which You are Most Weak.
If after taking a BTLPT practice test you see that you are only weak in one or two areas, focus your energies on those areas.
For me, the oral expression section was a challenge. 🙁
I lived in Spanish-speaking countries for nine freakin’ years for crying aloud, using Spanish for just about EVERYTHING in my daily activities outside of work!
Why in the world then couldn’t I hack the oral expression part!?
Focus, focus, focus!
That’s what I decided to do. I simply spent my study time practicing speaking exercises with time limits and within the context of educational topics!
Practice with Distractions and Time Limits.
Whatever sections you need to work on, do so within time limits and with a few distractions.
One of the tricks of how to pass the BTLPT is to master working within time constraints and with a few distractions.
All parts of the exam are timed and during the actual exam, you’ll be able to hear everyone around you!
The first time I took the test, the distractions totally intimidated me, and I kept eyeing the clock ticking downward.
I let that get into my head TOO much. I was a mental wreck!
So I studied with the TV on, soft music playing in the background, my husband’s annoying tap, tap, tapping of a pen on the table (sorry honeybun!), a timer, etc., and it worked!
During test day the second time around, though the distractions were still present, they were much less intimidating. I was so much more calm and relaxed taking the test.
Okay . . .
So those are some general tips on how to pass the BTLPT certification exam.
How can you be successful with each section?
How to Pass the BTLPT Section by Section
Let’s dive into each area of the test so that you have the best tips on how to pass the BTLPT section for each one!
How to Pass the BTLPT Listening Comprehension Section
During the listening section, you’ll hear each recording twice. When you listen the first time, listen strictly for comprehension.
Weird tip: I pressed the headphones to my ears to eliminate the sound of others around me. 🙂
After the first hearing, you’ll get a 40-second sneak peek of the questions.
Make shorthand notes (the testing center provides paper and pencil) of the main idea of each question.
That way, when you listen to the recording for a second time, you’ll know exactly what points to listen for.
After the second hearing, you’ll have 20 seconds to answer each question. If you took decent shorthand notes and listened carefully, you should not have much trouble with this section.
As an extra tip, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit of Spanish and “Latino” culture, literature, and history as some of the listening comprehension passages come from those areas.
The other listening passages tend to center around educational settings (e.g. a principal speaking with a teacher or a parent conversing with a teacher).
Tools to Help You Pass the Listening Comprehension Section
- Practice listening to Spanish on this free website. It even gives transcripts so that you can follow along.
- If you have access, BrainPOP Español is another great option to practice Spanish listening comprehension. Each video comes with an online quiz and activities.
- Youtube- listen to music, cartoons, and tv programs in Spanish.
- ‘Check out” audiobooks in Spanish via Hoopla, an online digital library!
How to Pass the BTLPT Oral Expression Section
For the speaking section, know that the timing and quickness of the exercises make it a little more challenging.
Make sure when answering during the simulated conversation and presentations that you give a response that specifically answers the questions and flows with the dialogue appropriately.
You can make the best statement with great points and perfect grammar, but if it doesn’t answer the question or give a logical response, you will be marked down.
For the oral expression parts that involve a presentation, you’ll have from 45 seconds to 2 minutes to prepare your statements before speaking.
Take advantage of this time and take shorthand notes about what you plan to say. It’s almost like a mini brainstorming session.
I made a general outline of what I was to say and then used that to guide me as I spoke. It worked pretty well.
Last but not least, you may be tempted to repeat information, but don’t.
If the prompt asks to share two or three reasons with examples, make sure to give two or three very different responses.
Tools to Help You Pass the Oral Expression Section
- Practice with similar speaking tasks. Barron’s AP Spanish book has great oral expression activities that are similar in nature to the BTLPT.
- Speak! Speak! Speak! If you don’t have Spanish-speaking peers, friends, or acquaintances that you feel comfortable practicing with, consider signing up for StartSpanish. It’s a great online language company that offers quality conversational group and private classes in Spanish! They offer a trial period if you want to test it out first.
- Throughout the oral expression section, speak in the appropriate register.
How to Pass the BTLPT Reading Comprehension Section
Those reading passages are pretty in-depth and cover a wide variety of topics.
Here are my tips on how to pass the BTLPT reading comprehension section:
- Read the question(s) first and then scan the passage to find clues to the correct answer.
- Watch out for tricky words or phrases in each answer choice. One word or phrase could make the entire statement untrue for the corresponding question.
- Eliminate the answer choices that are obviously wrong. There are usually two of them. Then make the best selection from the remaining choices.
As an extra tip, it’s very helpful to have a decent foundation in Spanish and “Latino” culture, literature, and history as some of the reading comprehension passages relate to those areas.
Tools to Help You Pass the Reading Comprehension Section
- This website offers excellent short and long reading comprehension passages. Many of the passages are translated in English and Spanish! Yippee!
- Barron’s AP Spanish Book has a pretty good collection of challenging passages that are great for study. This book helped me out tremendously.
How to Pass the BTLPT Written Expression Section
For this section, you’ll have three tasks: respond to an email, write a lesson plan, and construct an essay.
So, want to know how to pass the BTLPT written expression section?
You must have some “education” background for this part because the email and essay parts will be in the context of education.
- Practice writing a lesson plan in the BTLPT format, and don’t deviate too much from it. Make sure your lesson plan is student-centered, hands-on, and includes a formal/informal assessment.
- Know a wide variety of vocabulary from different content areas. If the essay topic is poetry, you have to know vocabulary words related to that topic, and you’ll be expected to list vocabulary on the lesson plan. So know grade-level terms related to math, science, social studies, literacy, etc.
- For the essay, construct it as you would an essay in English. Have an introduction, two or three main idea paragraphs with supporting details, and a conclusion that sums up the main point.
- Throughout the written expression section, write in the appropriate register.
Tools to Help You Pass the Written Expression Section
- Again, Barron’s AP Spanish book has some good written expression practice exercises.
These are my tips for how to pass the BTLPT Texas certification exam.
I know what it’s like to fail, but with that failure comes greater motivation, determination, and more focused strategies in how to pass that darn BTLPT test!
YOU CAN DO IT!
P.S. If you’re one of those who get easily anxious when it comes to studying, try out a few of these study tactics. These strategies aren’t just for kids!