MTEL Foundations of Reading: Ultimate Guide and Practice Test

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Foundations of Reading Practice Test

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MTEL Foundations of Reading Quick Facts

The Foundations of Reading test is designed to measure a candidate’s knowledge of the reading and language arts required for the Massachusetts Early Childhood, Elementary, and Moderate Disabilities licenses.






Candidates applying for Massachusetts licensure must score 240 or higher to pass the test. Your score is based on the number of items answered correctly across all subareas of the test and is converted to a scale that ranges from 100-300. You will receive a report that details your performance on each subarea section of the test for both open-ended response items, as well as the multiple-choice sections.

Pass rate:

Out of the 4,136 candidates who took the Foundations of Reading exam during the 2016-2017 year, 65.9% passed.

Study time:

To pass the test, there is no set time to study. It depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the participant in relation to the skills covered on the test.

Plan a course of study by focusing on your weaknesses. The best way is to review the 240Tutoring materials.

What test-takers wish they would’ve known:

  • Test-takers tend to overestimate their abilities to perform well. Many students regret not putting more time and effort into preparing. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid this mistake by using test preparation materials.
  • When answering the multiple-choice questions, you should read all possible answers before marking the correct one. You don’t want to miss out on the best answer by not reading all of the responses!
  • Always check your answer before moving to the next question. Many test-takers are surprised by how they’re able to find overlooked errors in their work by using this strategy.

Information and screenshots obtained from the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure website:


Subarea I: Foundations of Reading Development

Subarea I accounts for about 35% of the exam.

This subarea has four objectives:

  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
  • Concepts of Print and the Alphabetic Principle
  • Phonics
  • Word Analysis

So, let’s start with Phonological and Phonemic Awareness.

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

This section tests your knowledge on phonological and phonemic awareness including but not limited to:

  • the difference between phonological and phonemic awareness
  • strategies to support phonological and phonemic awareness skills
  • levels of phonological and phonemic awareness skills

Let’s discuss some concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness can be described as a student’s ability to recognize and work with sounds. It is a vital skill necessary for reading success.

Phonological awareness can be broken into three components:

  • the onset/rime structure of words (the wordhathas an onset of “h” followed by the rime of “at”)
  • how words can be broken into syllables
  • how sentences can be broken into words

Reading begins when students tune into the sounds of spoken language; this is why phonological awareness is so important to a child’s reading success.

During the earliest stages of developing phonological awareness, children can pick out rhyming words and count the number of syllables in a name. Children will also be able to notice when sounds repeat themselves (alliteration). For example:

Sally sold seven savory sandwiches.

In a more developed stage, phonological awareness transitions from

being aware



. For example, rather than just being aware of rhyming words, children can generate rhyming words, as well as break words apart into single sounds (syllables).

Phonological awareness instruction should include:

  • modeling how to say each sound
  • quick error correction
  • individual assessments
  • explicit instructionbeforeand



  • guided practice and review
  • different types of activities
  • use of concrete objects (puppets, counters, cue cards, etc.)

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize, contemplate, and work with individual sounds. Instruction in phonemic awareness should be focused on helping children recognize and work with phonemes.

Take a look at the normal progression of phonemic awareness skills:

  1. develop an awareness of sounds
  2. blend words with a prompt (rain + bow → rainbow)
  3. blend single syllable words with a prompt (/h-a-t/ → hat)
  4. recognize similar sounds (/ch/ in cheese and /ch/ in chair)
  5. break apart one-syllable words (hat → /h-a-t/)
  6. isolate the beginning sound of a word (identify /d/ as the first sound in dog)
  7. change the beginning sound to create new words (change hat → sat, bat, cat)
  8. isolate the final sound of a word (identify /t/ as the ending sound in hat)
  9. change the ending sound to form new words (change had → hat)
  10. isolate the middle vowel sound (identify /o/ as the middle sound in hop)
  11. blend two-syllable words (blend /p-o-c-k-e-t/ → pocket)
  12. rhyme one-syllable words (hat, bat, sat, pat, cat)


Blending is the skill of combining sounds to make a written or spoken word. It’s a specific phonemic awareness skill that needs to be taught early on. Blending is necessary for fluent reading, so words can be decoded effectively.

Take a look at these examples of blending:

/h-a-t/ → hat

/m-i-t/ → mit

/t-u-b/ → tub

Concepts of Print and the Alphabetic Principle

This section tests your knowledge of the alphabetic principle and concepts of print. This includes but is not limited to:

  • environmental print
  • tracking
  • upper and lowercase letters
  • book handling skills
  • strategies to teach the awareness of the relationship between spoken and written words

Let’s look at some concepts that are guaranteed to come up on the test.

Environmental Print

Environmental print is the print of everyday life. It’s what we call print that appears on signs, labels, and logos. For many children learning to read, environmental print helps form a connection between letters and sounds. For example:

A child who sees the KFC sign recognizes the letters K, F, and C and makes a connection between those letters and the first sounds in Kentucky, Fried, and Chicken.

Alphabetic Principle

The alphabetic principle is the idea that letter patterns and single letters represent sounds of spoken words. Once children understand the relationship between sounds and letters, they are equipped to read with greater fluency. For example:

The word hat is made up of the sounds /hhhh/, /aaaa/, and /tttt/


Tracking is the ability to read and write from left-to-right. Children who track efficiently will look at AND process words and letters in order from left-to-right. This is an essential reading skill because letters and words will not have the correct relationships if students are not tracking properly.


This section tests your knowledge of the role of phonics in promoting reading development. This includes but is not limited to:

  • automaticity
  • decoding vs. encoding
  • fluency
  • common word patterns
  • blending letter sounds

Let’s look at some concepts that are guaranteed to come up on the test.


Automaticity is the ability to




identify words. Automaticity develops more and more as children read. It does not include reading with expression and is not the same thing as reading fluency. Automaticity is necessary for developing fluency so that children can read with better expression and more fluidly.

Decoding versus Encoding

  • Decoding is converting symbols (letters) to sounds in spoken language.
  • Encoding is converting sounds to symbols (letters/words) in written language.

Decoding and encoding rely on a student’s phonological awareness which includes their understanding of sounds, letters, and how both work together to create spoken and written language.


Fluency is the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides the bridge between recognizing a word and understanding the context and meaning of the word.

Here are the components of fluency:

  • prosody– reading sentences/words with the appropriate expression
  • accuracy– reading words correctly
  • automaticity– reading words accurately and quickly

Let’s look at some strategies for effective fluency instruction:

  • pre-teach vocabulary
  • provide a variety of books and materials to read
  • record students reading aloud
  • instruct students to track using a ruler or finger
  • drill sight words
  • provide opportunities for students to reread materials
  • read aloud to students consistently

Common Word Patterns

Word patterns are predictable patterns of sounds (consonants and vowels) that form words.

For example:

CVC- A consonant is followed by a vowel and another consonant to create a syllable, usually with a short vowel sound (

bat, top, kid


CVCe- Same as above, but a silent


is found at the end of the word. This usually makes the vowel of the word long (

hike, tone, make


CVCC- Here you have words that end with two consonants (

cart, best, half


Understanding word patterns strengthens a child’s phonological and phonemic awareness which, in turn, strengthens a child’s reading fluency.

Word Analysis

This section tests your knowledge of word analysis skills and strategies. This includes but is not limited to:

  • context clues
  • syllabication
  • homographs
  • spelling patterns
  • compound words and homographs
  • using context clues to identify multiple meaning words
  • recognizing common prefixes and their meanings

Here are some specific concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.

Context Clues

Context clues are the part of reading comprehension that involves using the other words in a sentence or passage to understand an unknown word or words. Usually, a writer will include hints to help the reader understand the meaning of the word or phrase. When children use context clues to help them identify words, they use pictures or sentence context. For example:

Bob put his jacket on.

This sentence would probably be on the same page with a picture of Bob putting his jacket on. A child may not recognize the word


, but the picture helps with identifying the unknown word.


Syllabication is the division of words into syllables; this makes unfamiliar words easier to read. It is important to remember that a syllable has a vowel sound, so each syllable will contain a vowel. For example, the word


has two vowels (u,e) and can be broken into two syllables:





is a word that has the same spelling as another word but has a different sound and a different meaning.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • lead(to go in front of) and lead(a metal)
  • wind(to follow a course that is not straight) and wind(a gust of air)
  • bass(low, deep sound) and bass(a type of fish)

Students must use context clues when identifying the appropriate use of homographs.

Subarea II: Development of Reading Comprehension

Subarea II accounts for about 27% of the exam.

This subarea has three objectives:

  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension and Imaginative/Literary Texts
  • Comprehension and Informational/Expository Texts

So, let’s start with Vocabulary.


This section tests your knowledge on vocabulary development. This includes but is not limited to:

  • knowing the relationship between oral and written vocabulary development
  • understanding common sayings including idioms and proverbs
  • knowing foreign words and commonly used abbreviations
  • understanding strategies for promoting comprehension across curriculum by expanding knowledge of academic vocabulary

Let’s discuss some concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.

Word Maps

A word map is a way to visually organize vocabulary that specifically promotes vocabulary development. Word maps aid in students’ vocabulary development because they encourage the students to think about vocabulary terms and concepts in several ways. They also help students build on prior knowledge, as well as visually represent new information.

Most word maps require students to:

  • define the word
  • list synonyms and antonyms for the word
  • draw a picture to represent the word or concept

Here is an example of a word map:

Academic Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary refers to words that are commonly used in the classroom. These types of words are used to explain a concept but are not typically used in non-academic conversations.

Here are some examples of academic vocabulary:

  • analyze
  • category
  • cite
  • label
  • summarize
  • contrast
  • conclude
  • contrast
  • structure

Oral Language Development

Oral language refers to the system through which we use spoken words to express what we know, our ideas, and our feelings. It is vital that young readers develop strong oral language skills because listening and speaking skills have a strong connection to writing and reading comprehension.

Here are the components of oral language:

  • morphological skills- understanding the meaning of word forms and parts
  • phonological skills- the awareness of sounds
  • syntax- understanding word order and grammar rules
  • pragmatics- understanding the social norms of spoken and written language
  • semantics (vocabulary)- understanding the meaning of words and phrases

Let’s look at the 5 stages of oral language development:

  • silent/receptive- children are listening to but not using the language
  • early production- children will begin using short phrases with many errors and will acquire up to 1,000 words
  • speech emergence- children will acquire even more words and will begin to use phrases more confidently and with fewer grammatical errors
  • intermediate fluency- children begin to communicate in written form, as well as develop more complex sentences
  • advanced fluency- children will demonstrate mastery of written and spoken language; they need frequent opportunities to express themselves in writing, as well as in spoken language to maintain their language skills

Now, let’s look at some strategies for promoting oral language development:

  • provide direct phonological awareness instruction
  • expose students to language as often as possible
  • provide students with a wide range of print materials; students who are exposed to a variety of materials develop language more quickly
  • encourage conversation; provide students the opportunity to practice the language

Comprehension and Imaginative/Literary Texts

This section tests your knowledge on how to apply reading comprehension skills and strategies to imaginative/literary texts including but not limited to:

  • types of comprehension
  • story elements
  • literary allusions

Take a look at these concepts.

Types of Comprehension

Reading comprehension can be broken into three levels. Each type of reading comprehension is important because a reader needs all three in order to truly comprehend what he/she is reading.

Here are the three types of reading comprehension:

  • literal- understanding text in the most basic sense; understanding the meaning of the words, the context, the main idea, and the sequence of events
  • inferential- understanding the undisclosed meaning of text then using that meaning to make inferences
  • evaluative- understanding to the extent of being able to provide a response based on the reader’s opinion

Story Elements

Here are the five story elements of fictional text:

  • characters- the participants in the story
  • setting- when and where the story takes place
  • plot- the storyline or main events
  • conflict- the problem of the story
  • resolution- how the problem is solved

These elements hook the reader’s attention, keep the story flowing, and allow for a logical sequence of events.

One of the best ways to teach story elements is to point them out while reading to your students. It is important to “think out loud” and model for your students as you identify the different story elements.

You can also ask students to identify each element in the fiction books they are reading; try challenging students to write their own stories with story elements.

Literary Allusions

Literary allusions are used by authors to make an indirect reference to a figure or event. Usually, allusions are made to past events or figures. For example:

You’re acting like such a Scrooge!”

This allusion references Charles Dickens’s

A Christmas Carol

. The line means that the person is being selfish and grumpy, just like the character, Scrooge, from the story.

Here’s another example:

“I didn’t have any money for the bus, but fortunately a good Samaritan helped me out!”

This allusion references the biblical story of the good Samaritan helping someone in need.

Comprehension and Informational/Expository Texts

This section tests your ability to apply reading skills and strategies to informational texts including but not limited to:

  • fact vs opinion
  • text structures
  • text features

Let’s discuss some concepts that may appear on the test.

Fact versus Opinion

A fact can be proven true or false. An opinion is an expression or particular feeling of an individual that can not be proven. Opinion statements typically include signal words like:

  • always/never
  • believe
  • guess
  • should
  • good/bad
  • might

It is important for students to recognize signal words when determining if a statement is a fact or opinion.

Let’s look at both a fact and opinion statement.


The sky was blue on Monday.


The sky was the most beautiful shade of blue on Monday.

Text Features

Text features are all the components of a story or article that are not the main body of text. Features of text include the:

  • Title– tells the topic of the text
  • Table of contents– shows where to find different topics within the text
  • Index– shows where to find specific information, words, or characters
  • Glossary– defines vocabulary
  • Pictures and captions– highlights important ideas from the text
  • Diagrams/charts/graphs– reinforces important information/data from the text
  • Maps

    helps the reader understand the context of the text by understanding the location

Text Structures

Text structure refers to how a piece of text is organized. Teaching students to recognize common text structures helps students to not only monitor their level of comprehension but also understand the main idea and details of a given text.

Here are the common text structures for expository text:

  • description


    a certain topic

  • sequence

    lists events

    in sequential order

  • problem and solution

    poses a problem and suggests a solution

  • cause and effect– presents the


    between a specific event or idea and the events that follow

  • compare and contrast– focuses on the

    similarities and differences

    between two or more people, places, ideas, events, etc.

Subarea III: Reading Assessment and Instruction

Subarea III accounts for about 18% of the exam.

This subarea has two objectives:

  • Assessment Methods
  • Reading Instruction

So, let’s start with Assessment Methods.

Assessment Methods

This section tests your knowledge of using formal and informal methods to assess reading development. This includes but is not limited to:

  • running records
  • assessing reading levels

Here are some concepts that may appear on the test.

Norm-Referenced versus Criterion-Referenced Assessments

A norm-referenced assessment compares a student’s score to that of their peers.  This type of assessment is

typically reported in percentiles

that detail how a student scored in relation to the rest of their peers. The results will not be in pass/fail format.

A criterion-referenced assessment assigns a

specific score

to a student’s performance on a grade-level standard. The goal of this type of assessment is to

determine mastery of a specific skill.

The results will usually be “pass” (met standard) or “fail” (did not meet standard).

Running Record

A running record is a way to assess a student’s reading level. While a student reads aloud, the teacher listens and assesses fluency and identifies error patterns.

There are a few different systems for taking running records. Most require the teacher to provide a student with a specific, leveled passage then listen to the child read aloud for a set amount of time. While the student reads, the teacher keeps a record of mistakes and takes notes. This data provides insight into fluency (accuracy, automaticity, prosody).

Keeping a record of students’ reading progress will help you continually evaluate your students’ strengths and weaknesses, so you can provide intentional and targeted reading instruction.

For an example of a running record, as well as how to score a running record, check out this resource: https://www.readinga-z.com/helpful-tools/about-running-records/marking-a-running-record/

Reading Levels

Students will read on one of three levels: independent, instructional, or frustrational. Let’s look at each one:

  • independent- the text is not challenging for the student to read; the student makes few to no errors when reading this text (95-100% accuracy); it is the highest level you would expect a child to read with little to no help
  • instructional- the student will have some background knowledge of the topic and can read the text fluently with minimal support and errors (90-95% accuracy)
  • frustrational- the topic of the text is unfamiliar to the student due to a lack of background knowledge; the student makes multiple errors (less than 90% accuracy) while reading and requires moderate to intensive support

The best way to monitor reading levels is to assess students’ levels often. Teachers do this by:

  • taking running records
  • tracking fluency
  • listening to students read
  • asking specific questions about text to monitor students’ comprehension

Reading Instruction

This section tests your knowledge of the multiple approaches to and components of reading instruction. This includes but is not limited to:

  • flexible grouping
  • text complexity
  • differentiation

Let’s discuss some concepts that may appear on the test.

Flexible Grouping

Flexible grouping is an instructional strategy that divides students into groups based on different factors that are determined by the teacher. Using common sense when grouping is important, and a teacher should always choose the most effective method to deliver instruction.

Flexible groups can be:

  • student or teacher-led
  • organized according to skill level or need
  • varied in size
  • cross-class or cross-grade level

Flexible grouping provides students with the opportunity to work with other students, but it also provides teachers with the opportunity to deliver specific and differentiated instruction to a targeted group of students.

Text Complexity

Text complexity is a system that determines how challenging a text is for a child at their specific reading level.

There are three factors used to determine the complexity of a text:

  • qualitative measures– includes text structure, knowledge demands, language clarity, and levels of meaning
  • quantitative measures– usually measured by Lexile level
  • reader and task-the motivation, interest, and background knowledge of an average reader at a particular grade level

Students will read through a text sequence, and as they do so, they will acquire vocabulary as well as gain a deeper comprehension of more difficult texts in a given set. Sequenced texts are a great tool for teachers to use so that students are able to progress in a way that is clear and beneficial to their overall fluency and reading development.


Differentiation is an effort by a teacher to meet the specific academic needs of each student in his/her class. Students enter classrooms with varying levels of proficiency, so it is critical that teachers meet students where they are at in their learning.

Teachers can differentiate instruction by adjusting the:

  • content- what the student is expected to learn (leveled reading materials, spelling lists, reading buddies, small group instruction, etc.)
  • process- activities that support students acquiring the content (passion projects, leveled activity centers, offering manipulatives, etc.)
  • expected products- the way students demonstrate mastery of the content (create a puppet show, write a poem, allow students to work independently or in a group, etc.)
  • learning environment- the way the classroom is set up (providing spaces for group and independent work, establishing routines, allowing students to sit where they learn best, providing materials that represent various cultures/backgrounds, etc.)

Subarea IV: Integration of Knowledge and Understanding

Subarea IV accounts for about 20% of the exam.

The open-ended response portion of the test contains two written assignments. It is important that you read and respond to each part of the question and record your response as instructed. Also, be sure to read the background information given to you and attempt to use specific terms from the question.

Let’s say you are given a scenario where a third-grade student has read a passage aloud, and his teacher is taking a running record. You are shown an example of the running record and are asked to:

“Use your knowledge of word identification strategies, and identify one of Jonathan’s strengths and one of his weaknesses.”

Be sure to:

  • cite specific evidence from the information you were given
  • demonstrate an understanding of the field
  • demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the subject area (reading instruction)
  • NOT simply recite factual information

Your responses will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Purpose:the extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
  • Subject knowledge:appropriateness and accuracy in the application of subject knowledge
  • Support:quality and relevance of supporting evidence
  • Rationale:soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject area

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