TExES ESL Supplemental (154) Practice Test and Prep

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TExES ESL Supplemental Practice Test - Certification Texas
Welcome to our TExES ESL Supplemental practice test and prep page. On this page, we outline the domains and key concepts for the TExES English as a Second Language Supplemental exam. It is a free resource we provide so you can see how prepared you are to take the official exam.

While this free guide outlines the competencies and domains found on the exam, our paid study guide covers EVERY concept you need to know and is set up to ensure your success! If you’re looking to get your ESL certification in Texas, the full ESL 154 study guide is the way to go. It provides test-aligned study material using interactive aids, videos, flash cards, quizzes, and practice tests.

Will I pass using this free article? Will I pass using your paid study guide?

If you use this guide and research the key concepts on the TExES ESL Supplemental on your own, it’s possible you will pass, but why take that chance? With our paid study guide, we guarantee you will pass.

Not ready to start studying for your ESL certification yet? That’s OK. Keep reading, and when you’re ready, take our free ESL Supplemental practice test, which includes ESL questions similar to what you will find on the original test.

In this article, we will cover:

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TExES ESL Supplemental Test Information


The TExES ESL Supplemental tests the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively instruct English Language Learners in the classroom. It is not a state-mandated requirement to be ESL certified. However, many school districts require ESL certification in Texas, and with the high population of non-English speakers in the classroom, having this certification makes you a much stronger teaching candidate and often means a higher salary.


It is a Computer-administered test (CAT) made up of 80 selected-response questions, which cover three domains:

DomainApproximate Percentage of Exam
  1. Language Concepts and Language Acquisition 
  1. ESL Instruction and Assessment 
  1. Foundations of ESL Education, Cultural Awareness and Family and Community Involvement

There are 80 selected-response questions on the exam. The exam is a computer administered test (CAT). The five hour appointment session also includes 15 minutes for a CAT tutorial and compliance agreement.

Cost: $116

Time Limit: 5 hours

Scoring: The score range for the TExES 154 is 100-300. A passing score is 240.

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TExES 154 Domain 1: Language Concepts and Language Acquisition

Domain one accounts for about 25% of the entire TExES ESL Supplemental exam.

This domain has two competencies:

  • Fundamental Language Concepts and Structure/Conventions
  • L1 and L2 Acquisition Process and Interrelatedness

This domain is all about language and how people learn it.  L1 stands for language one, meaning someone’s native language, while L2 stands for language two, meaning a second language, which brings us back to the name of the exam, English as a Second Language, or ESL.

For Competency 1 you will need to know the levels of language. Starting with Phonetics, which is the study of basic speech sounds, and building all the way out to Pragmatics, which is the practical use of language.

Levels of Language

Some basic language concepts that are likely to appear on the test include:

  • Phonology, which is a division of linguistics focused on the system of sounds in a language. It is the study of how speech sounds are cognitively organized and used meaningfully through speech.
  • A lexicon is a vocabulary set specific to a person, language, or subject. It is the knowledge a speaker has about words and phrases in a language, including meaning, usage, relationships, and categorical organization.
  • A language register is the degree of formality with which one speaks. People speak in a formal register in academic and professional situations. For example, in job interviews, people use the standard conventions of their language when speaking. People speak in an informal register in social and family situations. For example, at gatherings with close friends, people typically speak more casually with less adherence to the standard conventions of their language.

Word formation is the production of new words. Some common word formations include:

  • Compounding – makes a word out of two or more morphemes. The result is a compound word.
    • rainbow, football, mailbox, something, butterfly
  • Blending – joining parts of two or more words to make a new word. The meaning is usually a combination of the words that were blended together.
    • brunch, motel, smog, skort, carjacking
  • Derivation – the creation of a new word from another word, typically by a base word with an affix.
    • helpful, quickly, speaker, national, happiness
  • Acronym – a word made by pronouncing the first initials of a phrase as its own word.
    • PIN- personal identification number
    • AWOL- absent without leave
  • Calque – an expression that becomes part of a language by translating it word-by-word from another language.
    • “point of view” in English translates from “point de vue” in French
    • “beer garden” in English translates from “biergarten” in German
  • Neologism – a newly used word or phrase that is not yet formally accepted into a language. Neologisms often reflect current cultural trends.
    • staycation, chillax, crowdsourcing
  • Back-formation – the creation of a new word by removing an affix.
    • edit from the original word editor
    • beg from the original word beggar
    • donate from the original word donation


For Competency 2, you’ll need to be familiar with the Language Acquisition Theories about how people learn language, including:

  • The Stages of Second Language Acquisition
    • Preproduction – silent period
    • Early production – speak in one to two word phrases
    • Speech emergence – simple phrases and sentences when speaking and writing
    • Intermediate fluency – complex sentences when speaking and writing
    • Advanced fluency – speaking and writing is near equivalent of a native speaker
  • Krashen’s 5 Hypotheses focuses on the innate subconscious process instead of conscious processes of language development.
    • Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
    • Monitor Hypothesis
    • Natural Order
    • Comprehensible Input
    • Affective Filter
  • Natural Approach focuses on communication skills in daily conversations instead of focusing on the grammar skills and rules of language.
  • CALLA Approach – Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach is a five-step instructional model used to teach ELLs learning strategies for language and academic content. The five steps include:
    • preparation
    • presentation
    • practice
    • evaluation
    • expansion
  • Nativist Theory supports the theory that humans are born with the innate ability to learn a native language.
  • Social Interactionist Theory is based on the language development between a parent and child. It is inspired by Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory.
  • Total Physical Response is a theory developed by James Asher which uses movement and physical activities to teach speech and language.
  • BICS and CALP – amount of time it takes an ELL to learn conversational and academic language.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two last two terms. BICS stands for the basic interpersonal communication skills; conversational fluency. CALP stands for cognitive academic language proficiency; academic fluency. CULP stands for common underlying language proficiency. Language development professor Jim Cummins theorizes that it takes 1 to 3 years to reach proficiency in BICS, while it takes 5 to 7 years to develop CALP.

Let’s visualize these terms by looking at them as an iceberg.

Cummin's Iceberg Model


You will also need to be familiar with cognitive processes and how they are involved in synthesizing and internalizing language rules for second-language acquisition. Cognitive processes are ways in which individuals mentally process information. Cognitive processes include memorization, categorization, generalization, and metacognition.

  • Memorization is the process of committing information to memory to the point it is easily recalled. For example, students who have the vowels of the alphabet memorized can recite them with automaticity.
  • Categorization is the series of steps taken to identify, differentiate, and classify objects and ideas. For example, sorting words by parts of speech, such as nouns and adjectives, requires these categorization skills.
  • Generalization is the transfer of knowledge or skill from one context to another. For example, one of the purposes of teaching students grammar skills in isolation is so they generalize these skills into their own writing.
  • Metacognition is the process of thinking about your thinking. For example, many high-level reading comprehension skills, such as inferring, require readers to understand the mental process they went through to draw their conclusion.

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TExES 154 Domain 2: ESL Instruction and Assessment

Domain two is made up of 5 competencies and counts for almost half of your score, so you really want to pay attention to these. One important concept in this domain is the ELPS, which shows up six times in Domain 2. The ELPS are the English Language Proficiency Standards used when teaching English Language Learners in Texas. You will also need to know how the TEKS and the ELPS are used together.

The TEKS, which stands for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, are the learning objectives and standards that educators in Texas public schools are required to teach throughout the school year. They are broken down by grade level and content area. The English Language Arts and Reading TEKS include listening, speaking, reading, and writing standards.

ELPS stands for English Language Proficiency Standards, which are second-language acquisition standards used to guide instruction (in addition to the TEKS) for English Language Learners. They support ELLs in acquiring the English language skills necessary for meaningful learning across all subject areas. Teachers should use the ELPS along with the TEKS to plan lessons in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

The ELPS describe student expectations for listening, speaking, reading and writing at the beginning, intermediate, advanced and advanced high levels.


There are 2 main ways you’ll be tested on the ELPS on your exam. You may need to:

  • identify an effective strategy to use based on the ELL’s proficiency level, or
  • you may have to identify the student’s proficiency level based on a work or conversation sample.

Competency 3 talks about knowing how to foster a student’s communicative competence. Communicative competence means students learning English can form phrases and sentences, fix communication breakdowns, put together longer forms of communication and respond appropriately based on the particular situation.

You will also need to be familiar with content-based ESL instruction which is centered around the content students will acquire instead of direct language instruction. Students learn language through learning other academic content as opposed to the other way around. For content-based ESL instruction to be effective, the teacher must be extremely knowledgeable in the content area as well as prepared to assist students with language skills. Appropriate materials and resources must be selected for students with limited English proficiency.

Competency 4 is all about promoting students’ communicative language development. One effective way to do this is providing feedback to English Language Learners.

Effective feedback can be as simple as restating what the ELL says, minus the errors. For example, if an ELL said, “I put salts on my popcorn,” the teacher could respond with, “Oh, you put salt on your popcorn? I do that too!” This type of feedback corrects the error without directly pointing it out.

Teachers can create rich language environments by meaningfully exposing students to interactive language experiences routinely. Teachers can read aloud daily using engaging, high-quality literature and maintain a classroom library to meet the needs and interests of a variety of learners. They can also post word walls and anchor charts on the wall for students to use as spelling and vocabulary resources. Teachers can also facilitate games that encourage language development and word play, such as games based on rhyming, the alphabet, or word categories. Teachers can also encourage class discussions and engage in conversation with students.

Competency 5, literacy development, tests your knowledge of promoting literacy development for ESL students with attention to strategies specific to English language acquisition and factors unique to second language learners. The ELPS show up a lot on this competency, which makes sense because Competency 5 is all about literacy development, and the ELPS cover reading and writing, along with listening and speaking, which are interrelated to literacy.

You will want to be familiar with common English phonograms. Phonograms are an important literacy skill because they are the building blocks of words.

A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters that produce a certain sound. All consonants have their own sound(s) and vowels have two sounds, a long sound (sounds like the letter name) and a short sound.

Combination phonograms can make consonant sounds.

  • sh, th, ch, wh, ph, wr, kn, gn, qu, ck, dge

Combination phonograms can make vowel sounds.

  • ai, ay, au, aw, igh, ie, ew, ee, ea, oa, oe, oi, oy, ow, ui

Combination phonograms may be a combination of consonants and vowels to create a sound.

  • er, ir, or, ur, ar, ed, augh, ough

Helping ESL students understand that there are more sounds in the English language than the 26 letters that comprise the alphabet can aid in developing their knowledge of phonograms. Students should be directly taught the phonograms and provided with lots of examples of seeing them in written text.

High-frequency words are words that appear often in written language. They may or may not follow standard rules of letter-sound association.

  • the, was, of, to, see, can, like, not, he, she, we, were, they

Since some of these words can be decoded and some cannot, students should be taught to know them by sight. ESL students should be exposed to them in a variety of ways. High-frequency word walls and lists for students to use as a resource can be provided, as well as the words written on flashcards for automaticity practice. Teachers should make sure to point them out during read-alouds and in shared text.

Competency 6 is all about promoting ESL students’ content-area learning. Now, before you can teach the content, you have to be aware of factors that may affect ELLs in each content area. Potential issues include:

  • lack of prior learning experiences
  • lack of familiarity with specialized language and vocabulary
  • lack of familiarity with structure and uses of textbooks and other print resources
  • varying English-language proficiency and content-area knowledge

This competency tests your knowledge of strategies that promote academic achievement for ESL students across the content areas. Make content comprehensible to English Language Learners through scaffolding techniques such as activating and building background knowledge, pre-teaching key vocabulary terms, and using gestures and other visual cues throughout instruction.

Front-loading vocabulary means to pre-teach words and meanings that are key to certain concepts before teaching the concept itself. This is important for ESL instruction because it provides an opportunity for students to comprehend the meaning of a new vocabulary word before being expected to understand it in the context of the new academic concept. For example, before studying the life cycle of a chicken in science class, an ESL teacher can front-load vocabulary words such as “chick,” “adult,” “hatch,” and “egg” to prepare students to learn about the phases of the life cycle.

Realia is the use of real objects in the classroom for instructional purposes. For example, when teaching ESL students common kitchen items vocabulary, a teacher may bring actual dishes and utensils into the classroom instead of just showing pictures of them. Realia is important in ESL instruction so ESL students learn vocabulary in a hands-on, authentic way.

Graphic organizers are visual ways to represent information. They are important to use for ESL instruction because visual representations provide an opportunity for ELLs to comprehend the content while they are in the process of learning key vocabulary.

Competency 7 is the last competency of the second Domain, and it is all about assessment, including the ESL program process in Texas.

Once it has been determined on the Home Language Survey that a language other than English is spoken in the student’s home, an assessment (OLPT or NRT) is given before a meeting (LPAC) is held to determine the student’s placement.

All students who are placed in a bilingual or ESL program in Texas also participate in TELPAS, which stands for the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System. TELPAS is an assessment system used to monitor the progress of students learning the English language. ELLs are rated annually until the LPAC determines the student has met exit criteria by demonstrating proficiency in the English language.

TELPAS raters holistically rate kindergarten and first-grade students in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing through observation. Students in grades 2-12 take multiple-choice reading tests, listening and speaking tests, and submit writing samples. Each of the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing are reported as beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high based on PLDs (proficiency level descriptors).

An LPAC, Language Proficiency Assessment Committee, is a school committee with the shared responsibility of making decisions to support an ESL student’s educational future through review of the progress made throughout the school year. LPACs are generally comprised of a campus administrator, ESL teacher, and parent of the student. LPACs make decisions about ESL students’ participation in assessments such as STAAR, ratings in the TELPAS domains, and need for continuation in different programs or services.

Informal assessments monitor the ongoing progress of students throughout the school year. They allow teachers to track students’ learning regularly so appropriate adjustments can be made to instruction. Teachers can use informal assessments such as story retelling, role play, class discussion, and participation in games and group activities to assess ELLs.

Diagnostic assessments pre-assess students’ skills and knowledge in a particular area before instruction begins. They are used to analyze strengths and weaknesses to guide lesson design and instruction.

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TExES 154 Domain 3: Foundations of ESL Education, Cultural Awareness and Family and Community Involvement

Domain three accounts for about 30% of the entire TExES ESL Supplemental exam. This domain has three competencies:

  • Foundations of ESL Education and ESL Programs
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Family and Community Involvement

Competency 8 is all about the foundations of ESL education. It may surprise you to know that court cases come up on the ESL Supplemental exam, but they do. Here are a couple of important ones to know:

  • Lau v. Nichols is considered the cornerstone for providing equitable access to education for ELLs whose home language is something other than English. The children of concern were Chinese-American students in the San Francisco Unified School District who were receiving instruction in English, which they could not understand. The court ruled that children needed scaffolding and other strategies to make the instructional input comprehensible.
  • Castañeda v. Pickard set the criteria to ensure districts take actions to meet the needs of ELLs, including implementing research-based resources and effective programs.

You will need to be familiar with various ESL programs, their characteristics, goals, and research findings of their effectiveness. Some of these programs include:

  • Self-contained classrooms, which contain only ELLs. The teacher provides all academic instruction within the classroom. The goal is for students to receive the support and instruction they need to succeed in an English-speaking general education classroom.
  • Pull-out programs which is when ESL teachers pull students from their general education classrooms to provide individualized instruction to ELL students in a small group setting. The goal is for students to learn tools to use in their general education classroom, so that they can be successful.
  • Newcomer centers which are generally for newly arriving immigrants. Students receive specific educational interventions with the goal of transitioning to a more traditional ESL program.
  • Dual language classrooms are taught 50% in English and 50% in another language. Half of the students are native English speakers and the other half are native speakers of the other language. The goal is for students to develop language proficiency in both languages.
  • Immersion is the teaching of English through content as opposed to direct ESL instruction. Its goal is to immerse students in the English language so they acquire it quickly and authentically.

Competency 9 is all about promoting an effective learning environment for students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Two main ideas that come up in questions from this competency include:

  • Sharing culture – students should be given the opportunity to share information about their culture with the class.
  • Discussing differences – teachers should engage the class in lessons about cultural differences, both proactively and when conflict arises due to students behaving in ways not considered to be the “norm” to their peers.

It is important to know factors that contribute to cultural bias and how to create a culturally responsive learning environment. For example, ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s culture is superior to another or all others. Ethnocentric people don’t just appreciate and enjoy their own cultural beliefs and practices, they think others’ are wrong and have a negative mentality about them.

Competency 10 is the last competency in Domain three and it covers family and community involvement. Here are some important things to consider that will help you when these questions pop up on your exam:

  • Families from other countries have had different educational experiences and may be unfamiliar with American school and all that it entails.
  • Empower families from other countries with information, and present it in a way that is comprehensible to them.
  • It is not effective to share assessment data with parents if they are not sure what they are looking at. Make sure they understand what was assessed and what the results indicate.

Community members can positively affect student learning in the ESL program by facilitating programs and events that make it clear these students are valued members of the community. Helpful resources can be available for ESL students and their families, such as appropriately leveled English language texts and technology in a library.

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