Welcome to the TExES English Language Arts and Reading 4–8 Practice Test and Prep page. We’ll be introducing you to the core domains and concepts you need to know to pass this exam. This is one of the free resources we provide so you can see the high-level concepts you will find on the TExES English Language Arts and Reading 4–8 test to gauge how much you know.
Quick Links to Help You Navigate This Page
- TExES ELAR 4-8 Test Information
- ELAR 4-8 Domain I: Foundations of Reading
- ELAR 4-8 Domain II: Text Comprehension and Analysis
- ELAR 4-8 Domain III: Oral and Written Communication
- ELAR 4-8 Domain IV: Educating All Learners and Written Practice
- ELAR 4-8 Domain V: Constructed-Response Questions
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ELAR 4-8 Test Information
The TExES ELAR 4-8 (217) exam is designed to assess your knowledge and skills required to teach English Language Arts and Reading to students in fourth through eighth grade. This exam replaced the TExES ELAR (117) exam in January 2022. While several tested concepts remained the same, the 217 exam removed and added various topics and added one constructed response question. The new 217 exam also breaks down the tested competencies into five domains, while the 117 exam was broken down into two domains.
This exam consists of 90 selected-response questions and 1 constructed-response question. There are no subtests, but the exam covers information from the five domains shown below.
|Domain||Percentage of Exam|
|1. Foundations of Reading||27%|
|2. Text Comprehension and Analysis||20%|
|3. Oral and Written Communication||20%|
|4. Education All Learners and Professional Practice||13%|
|5. Constructed Response||20%|
For now, test takers will receive a “pass/fail” designation for this exam. This will continue for an interim period, while a minimum passing score is established. For reference, the majority of TExES exams are scored on a scale of 100-300, with a minimum passing score of 240.
Since the English Language Arts and Reading 4-8 (217) is a new exam, the passing rate is not yet known. For the old version of this exam (117), the 2016-2017 passing rate was 78%. (Source: https://www.tx.nesinc.com/content/docs/summary_statistics_for_total_scores_16-17.pdf)
Study time will vary for each individual test taker, but, a good rule of thumb for any test is to multiply the total test time by three, and then study for a bit more than that. Since the TExES ELAR 4-8 is a 5 hour exam, plan on studying 15 – 20 hours for this test. Make sure you create a study schedule that ensures you will have enough time to cover all of the material. In order to do this, start by taking our free diagnostic test. This will help you determine the areas you need to work on the most. Next, work backwards from your test date and set aside dates and times that you will spend studying specific concepts.
What TExES English Language Arts and Reading 4-8 test takers wish they would’ve known:
- There are no penalties for wrong answers, so it is better to guess than to leave a question unanswered.
- If you are seeking certification as an English Language Arts and Reading teacher in grades 4-8, you will also need to take the TExES Science of Teaching Reading (293) exam.
- The five hour testing time includes a 15 minute tutorial and compliance agreement, so your actual time to take the test is 4 hours and 45 minutes.
- Manage your time wisely to ensure that you have enough time to complete the constructed response question.
- The name on your testing account must match the name on your identification, or you will not be allowed to take the exam. If your last name has changed since creating your account, make sure you update your information.
- Personal items such as purses, wallets, jewelry, and cell phones will be kept in a locker outside of the testing room, so make sure to keep the amount of items you bring to a minimum.
Information and screenshots obtained from the TExES and NES website.
ELAR 4-8 Domain I: Foundations of Reading
Domain I accounts for 27% of the entire exam and covers competencies 1-4:
- Foundations of Teaching Reading
- Foundational Reading Skills
- Word Analysis Skills and Reading Fluency
- Vocabulary Development
Let’s take a look at some specific topics from this domain that are likely to appear on the exam.
Phonological Awareness vs Phonemic Awareness
Phonological and phonemic awareness are two concepts that are frequently confused with one another, but there are important differences between the two.
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate different units of sound in oral language. Language can be broken down into words, syllables, onsets and rimes, and phonemes (the smallest unit of sound in a spoken language). Phonological awareness means that students can identify these different parts of language (such as counting the syllables in a word) and also manipulate them (such as changing the initial sound of a word to form a rhyming word). Phonological awareness is a crucial skill, because it helps students with decoding skills, fluency, spelling, and even sets the foundation for good reading comprehension.
Phonemic awareness is a specific component of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness refers specifically to a student’s ability to identify and manipulate phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest unit of individual sound in a language. When assessing a student’s phonemic awareness, a teacher will often say a word or a set of phonemes aloud and ask the student to identify or manipulate the individual sounds. There are six specific phonemic awareness skills, shown in the table below with examples.
Fluency is a crucial component of reading development and is often measured by teachers to determine a student’s reading level. Reading fluency involves three important components: accuracy, prosody, and speed.
- Accuracy refers to a student’s ability to read words correctly and automatically. Accuracy is typically measured by listening to a student read out loud and tracking how many words they read correctly within a specific time frame. To be a fluent reader, students must accurately read words with automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to read words effortlessly, without having to pause and “sound out” the word.
- Prosody includes a reader’s ability to use appropriate emphasis, tone, and expression. This includes pausing at appropriate punctuation marks and reading with varying tone of voice. Prosody can be difficult to measure using quantitative methods, but should still be noted and considered when evaluating fluency.
- Speed refers to the pace at which a student reads a text. Speed is typically measured using words per minute.
The Alphabetic Principle
The Alphabetic Principle is the idea that letters and groups of letters match the sound of spoken language. Students need to connect a letter (or a series of letters) with the sound that it makes. Learning these predictable patterns help students read with more fluency.
Children gain graphophonemic knowledge by learning that letters and letter sounds are connected to printed letters and words. Graphophonemic knowledge involves matching uppercase and lowercase letters, naming letters, recognizing letters by their sounds, understanding the alphabetic sequence of letters, and being able to list words alphabetically.
Usually (although not always), children follow this sequence of learning: letter names, letter shapes, and finally letter sounds. Educators should begin with high-frequency letters to be most effective when teaching the Alphabetic Principle. This allows students to recognize letters, sounds, and words more quickly as these letters show up more often. There is no set rate of instruction for students, and this often depends as much on the educator’s ability as on the students.
Word identification or recognition skills are integral to learning to read. They allow the reader to recognize individual words without using context clues (words in a list, for example). Initially, students will sound out words using phonics, but by gaining word identification skills, students can recognize a word as a single unit. Students can also use patterns in words to decode the sound of new words.
High Frequency Words
High-frequency words are words that appear frequently in a text. Many high frequency words are phonetically irregular, meaning that they cannot be decoded by following typical phonics patterns. While decodable words can be deciphered by blending or “sounding out” the different parts, irregular high frequency words typically have to be memorized. Instruction for irregular words differs from decodable words. Here are some examples of high-frequency and irregular high-frequency words that students might come across:
|Decodable High Frequency Words||Irregular (Non-decodable) High Frequency Words|
Tiers of Vocabulary
Students encounter a wide variety of vocabulary words in school. This vocabulary is often categorized into three tiers.
- Tier 1 includes common, everyday words that are used in conversation, such as run, happy, or desk. Tier 1 words generally do not require specific vocabulary instruction, as children typically learn them through day-to-day conversation.
- Tier 2 includes words that are often used in academic settings but are less common in daily conversation, such as beneficial, contrast, or necessary. These words typically require explicit vocabulary instruction. Tier 2 words are used in multiple content areas, so it is important that students understand the meaning of these words.
- Tier 3 words are content-specific words, such as oceanographer, isosceles, or decibel. Tier 3 words are used infrequently outside of a certain topic, but should still be taught within the context of a specific subject or lesson.
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ELAR 4-8 Domain II: Foundations of Reading
Domain II accounts for 20% of the entire exam and covers competencies 5-7:
- Reading Comprehension Development
- Reading Literary Texts
- Reading Informational and Argumentative Texts
Let’s explore some topics that you’ll likely encounter from this domain:
Role of Background Knowledge
A student’s background knowledge plays a crucial role in their reading comprehension. For example, a student who recently moved from a small town may not understand certain references used in a story that takes place in a large city. Teachers should take steps to ensure that students have the necessary background knowledge and vocabulary before reading a new text. This can be achieved using a variety of strategies including virtual field trips, direct vocabulary instruction, using photos or videos as examples, and building upon students’ current knowledge and interests.
The major literary genres for fourth through eighth grade include realistic fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, folklore, fantasy, poetry, informational texts, and biographies. Each of these genres can be described or identified based on certain characteristics, as shown in the table below:
A story has five important elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict and theme, as shown in the table below.
Fact vs Opinion
A fact is a statement or piece of information that can be proven. An opinion is an expression of a person’s feelings that cannot be proven. An opinion expresses what someone thinks or how someone feels about a topic and cannot be proven. For example, “It is raining” is a fact. “Rainy days are the best days” is an opinion.
Students should be taught skills and strategies for recognizing facts and opinions. One strategy for distinguishing facts from opinions is using signal words or keywords. Factual statements typically do not include signal words, but opinion statements often do. Examples of common signal words for opinion statements include:
Authors use literary elements to enhance the experience and connection that a reader has with the text. These are also sometimes referred to as literary devices. The following are common literary elements taught and encountered in grades 4-8.
|Imagery||The use of highly descriptive language to create a mental image for the reader.||The sunset painted a purple glow on the lake as the fireflies danced among the trees.|
|Simile||Compares one thing to another, typically by using the words “like” or “as”||Her hair was as golden as the sun.|
|Metaphor||Compares two unlike things stating that one thing is the other.||The snow was a blanket covering the field.|
|Hyperbole||An extreme exaggeration used for effect||The man walked slower than a turtle.|
|Personification||Applies human characteristics to a nonhuman object||The siren screamed into the night.|
|Alliteration||The repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of a series of words to create a lyrical or poetic effect||The happy hippo hopped across the hill.|
Informational Text Features
Informational text features are used to help a reader navigate and understand a nonfiction text. Some of the most common informational text features are described below.
- Bold or italicized text is used to draw attention to specific terms or phrases
- Captions are words placed near a photograph or drawing to provide additional information about the picture.
- Labels are used to point out and identify specific parts of a picture or drawing
- Headings are used to identify the main idea or main topic of a section of a text.
- Subtitles are used within a broader topic or section to identify more specific topics or paragraphs. Subtitles will typically be a smaller font than headings, to signal that they are a component of the topic identified in the heading.
- The table of contents is located at the beginning of the book and tells the order of topics covered in the text, often including the page number where a topic or section begins.
- Glossaries are located at the end of a book and are used to define specific vocabulary from the text.
ELAR 4-8 Domain III: Oral and Written Communication
Domain III accounts for 20% of the entire exam and covers competencies 8-10:
- Inquiry and Research
- Listening and Speaking
Let’s take a closer look at some specific topics from these competencies.
Stages of Writing Development
Children move through common stages of writing development. While most fourth – eighth graders will likely be in the final two stages of development, it is important to know all five stages. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of each stage:
- Preconventional: Also referred to as the scribbling and drawing stage, this stage of writing is characterized by seemingly random lines or marks made by the child. However, this is the first step to writing development, as a child is beginning to understand that letters and words have meaning and that they can convey meaning through marks on a paper. A child at this stage may draw a squiggly line and explain that it says “My dog ran.”
- Emergent: At this stage, children begin to string random letters together and may begin writing these letters from left to right or leave spaces between “words.” For example, instead of a squiggly line, a child may write “N DLBRM” to mean, “My dog ran.”
- Early phonetic: Also referred to as semiphonic or transitional, this stage of writing includes attempts at phonetic spelling and can typically be understood by a child’s teacher, parent, or someone familiar with early childhood writing. At this stage, “My dog ran” might be written as “Mi dOG Rn.”
- Phonetic: At the phonetic stage of writing, children will use learned phonics patterns, and their writing will increase in complexity. Spelling errors will still be present, but the writing will be understood by most adults. Their writing will begin to exhibit the six traits of writing – convention, organization, ideas, voice, word choice, sentence fluency.The sentence from earlier examples might become, “My wite dog ran owtside.” (“My white dog ran outside.”)
- Conventional: At this stage, a child’s writing will be well-developed and follow most writing conventions, including correct punctuation and capitalization. Spelling errors will be limited to low-frequency words. A child at this stage might write, “My white dog ran outside on our trip to Callorodo.” (“My white dog ran outside on our trip to Colorado.”) This stage is sometimes referred to as the “proficient” stage.
Using Text Organizers
A text organizer is used to help students understand the different structures of texts they read. Some of these structures are cause-and-effect, compare-contrast, and problem-solution. An organizer is a specific graphic tool that helps students see the structure of the text they’re analyzing. Organizers can include sequential maps, tiered maps (like a pyramid), or mind maps.
Here is an example of a sequential text organizer for the book Alice in Wonderland.
Evaluating the Reliability of a Source
It is important to confirm the reliability of a source to make sure the information conveyed is accurate and up-to-date. Educators should take special care to teach their students how to critically examine the sources and information they find, particularly information found online. Educators need to remind students that, in many instances, anyone can post information on the internet.
To help students evaluate the reliability of the source, teachers should encourage their students to ask themselves the following questions:
- Does the site cover the topic in a comprehensive manner?
- Can you locate an author’s name?
- Does it mark the date it was published?
- Was it originally published on the site or did it come from somewhere else?
- Do the links in the site work?
- Does it include a list of research sources?
Active listening means making a conscious effort to hear the words that someone is saying and understand the complete message being communicated. Active listening is an important skill for students to develop. Teachers can promote active listening skills by noting and praising students who are actively listening, modeling what active listening looks like, having students role play active listening, and teaching students specific expectations, such as the ones listed below.
- Pay Attention: make eye contact, give your full attention to the speaker, and avoid environmental distractions
- Show That You’re Listening: Show the speaker you are interested and engaged by nodding, smiling, and maintaining an appropriate posture.
- Provide Feedback: Ask questions, share opinions, and periodically paraphrase the speaker’s statements.
- Respond Appropriately: Answer with relevant statements, be respectful when sharing opinions, and wait until the speaker is finished before sharing your own thoughts.
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ELAR 4-8 Domain IV: Educating All Learners and Professional Practice
Domain IV accounts for 13% of the entire exam and covers competencies 11-13:
- Differentiation Strategies in Planning and Practice
- Culturally Responsive Practices
- Data-Driven Practice and Formal/Informal Assessment
Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a framework for teaching and learning that is based on scientific research on how humans learn. Teachers who follow UDL principles focus on providing flexibility and choice in how students learn and how they demonstrate their knowledge. In a UDL classroom, there is always a clear goal and flexible options. All students rarely do the same task in the same way at the same time. The UDL framework is centered around three guiding principles, each described below.
- Multiple means of engagement: Teachers should engage and motivate students in multiple ways. This can be achieved through strategies such as project-based learning, student choice in activities, or group tasks.
- Multiple means of representation: Information should be presented to students in a variety of different formats based on students’ learning styles.
- Multiple means of action and expressions: UDL classrooms provide students with choices on how to demonstrate their knowledge. For example, students can summarize the sequence of events in a story by using a graphic organizer, writing a paragraph, or by using a computer to record themselves describing the events.
Communication with Families
Communication with students’ families should occur on a regular basis, with the goal of keeping parents informed of their child’s learning. Communication should be done through a variety of channels, depending on specific scenarios.
|Form of Communication||Best Used For:|
|General class updates, reminders, positive comments, minor concerns|
|Written notes||Brief daily communication records, often in a daily folder taken to and from school|
|Newsletters||Sharing information about concepts being taught in class, important dates|
|Phone calls||Brief conversations, time sensitive information, or for conferences when a face-to-face conference is not feasible.|
|Conferences||Discussing a child’s progress and/or specific academic, behavior, or social concerns|
|Electronic portals||Sharing a child’s grades and assessment results|
|Communication apps||General class updates, sharing photos of students, positive communication, reminders|
Response To Intervention
RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It is a process used by educators to identify and support students’ academic and/or behavioral needs. Using the RTI model, students receive varying degrees of academic or behavioral support. This support is referred to in terms of tiers, with tier three being the most intensive.
- Tier 1 includes all regular classroom instruction. All students receive Tier 1 support. Students are regularly assessed or screened to identify those who may need additional interventions. If a student is not making adequate progress with regular classroom instruction, they should be monitored closely to determine if Tier 2 interventions are needed.
- Tier 2: Students who are not making adequate progress with standard Tier 1 instruction may need Tier 2 support. Tier 2 includes frequent small group instruction in addition to regular classroom instruction. The small group instruction can be done by the classroom teacher or by a campus interventionist. Progress monitoring should be done frequently to determine whether the student can return to Tier 1 or whether Tier 3 interventions are needed.
- Tier 3: Students at the Tier 3 level receive intensive, individualized intervention along with regular classroom instruction. This is typically provided by a campus interventionist who specializes in the area that the student needs support in. Tier 3 support should be customized to meet the student’s specific needs. If Tier 3 support is ineffective, further evaluations may need to be considered.
The RTI process should be ongoing and flexible. Teachers should continuously monitor student progress and make adjustments as needed. For example, a student may need Tier 2 support for a time, then successfully return to Tier 1.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally responsive teaching is an approach to teaching that focuses on making teacher-student connections by recognizing the importance of each student’s background. In an English Language Arts and Reading classroom, this includes choosing lessons and texts that acknowledge and respect all students.
When selecting books for the classroom or for lesson plans, it is important that teachers consider diversity, cultural sensitivity, and appropriateness of the text. Books used in the classroom should reflect the various interests and backgrounds of the students and should include characters of different races, nationalities, backgrounds, cultures, and family structures. It is also important that the teacher evaluate the sensitivity and appropriateness of the texts used in their classroom by examining the topics covered in the text and by looking closely at how a group or character is portrayed.
Formal and Informal Assessments
Teachers should use a combination of formal and informal assessment methods when evaluating students’ understanding.
Formal assessments are data-driven, and the results are usually rated against some sort of standard. Scores like percentiles, standard scores, or stanines are given for these assessments. Criterion-referenced state tests and norm-referenced tests are examples of formal assessments.
Informal assessments are content or performance-driven. In other words, graders will evaluate a student’s performance during a learning period. This evaluation can include interviews, observational measures, informal reading inventories, performance-based grades, and curriculum-based reading assessments. Exit tickets, anecdotal records, and short quizzes are all examples of informal assessments.
ELAR 4-8 Domain V: Constructed Response
Domain V consists of 1 constructed response question and accounts for approximately 20% of the entire exam.
For the construction response question, you will be given a specific fictional scenario, presented in the form of various “exhibits.” These exhibits will typically be a combination of learning objectives from a lesson, lesson materials (such as a reading passage), sample assignments, student work samples, assessment results, or excerpts of conversations between a teacher and student.
The constructed response prompt will typically include five specific components that need to be addressed. You will analyze the exhibits and then write a 400-600 word response that addresses all parts of the prompt.
Constructed response questions are graded on a scale of 1 to 4 based the following criteria:
- Completion – how thoroughly you respond to each portion of the prompt
- Application of content – how well your response demonstrates accurate knowledge and skills
- Support – how well you support your claims using examples, explanations, and evidence from the exhibits