NYSTCE CST English Study Guide

What Is the NYSTCE CST English (003) Exam?

The state of New York utilizes the New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) to evaluate the knowledge and skills of aspiring teachers for teacher certification. This helps ensure that future educators are prepared to teach students in the classroom. There are many different NYSTCE tests available, including Content Specialty Tests (CSTs) in a wide range of subject areas, including the NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam. The NYSTCE English Language Arts (003) exam is specifically designed to test the skills and knowledge of aspiring teachers wishing to become certified to teach English Language Arts in public schools throughout the state.

How Is the NYSTCE CST English Exam Formatted?

The NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam is a computer-based test (CBT) that must be completed in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Candidates will also complete a 15-minute tutorial and sign a non-disclosure agreement before their testing time begins. During their testing time, test takers will answer 90 selected-response questions and 1 constructed-response question. These questions are spread across 9 different competencies. The selected-response questions make up about 80% of the total exam score, while the constructed-response question makes up the final 20% of the test score. The table below summarizes the format information for the exam.

NYSTCE English Language Arts CST Overview Format
Delivery Computer-based test
Time Limit 3 hours and 15 minutes
Number and Type of Questions 90 selected-response questions, 1 constructed-response question
Percentage of Exam Score by Question Type 80% selected-response questions, 20% constructed-response question

How To Register for the NYSTCE CST English Exam

To register for the NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam, test takers must create an account on the NYSTCE website. Then, they will be able to select their exam and schedule their test day. The NYSTCE English Language Arts CST test is available at test sites throughout New York and the United States. Test takers can select their test day from available appointments year-round, Monday through Saturday, excluding some holidays. Candidates should schedule their exam at least a few weeks out to allow enough study time. Also, those test takers who need to request alternative testing arrangements will need to allow 1 to 3 weeks for their request to be processed. They will need to submit their request form with any required documentation and wait for an email with instructions for scheduling their test.

During registration, test takers will also need to pay the required $122 test fee. This can be done using a VISA or Mastercard. Registration is valid for 1 year. Candidates can change their test date, test center, or test time through their online account as long as it is at least 24 hours or more before their scheduled exam. On test day, candidates will need to be sure to bring their ID and leave weapons, tobacco products, visitors, and other prohibited items, such as cell phones and calculators, at home. Test takers who do not pass the exam on their first try must wait at least 30 days before retaking the exam. There is no limit to how many times candidates can retake an exam.

Practice tests give you a better idea of the topics you have mastered and those you should keep studying.

What Is On the NYSTCE CST English Exam?

The NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam contains questions spread out over 9 different competencies. These competencies cover the areas of:

  • Reading Literature
  • Reading Informational Text
  • Writing Arguments
  • Writing Informative and Explanatory Texts
  • Writing Narratives
  • Researching to Build and Present Knowledge
  • Speaking and Listening
  • Language
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge

We will discuss each competency in greater detail here.

Reading Literature

The Reading Literature competency includes about 15 selected-response questions to make up about 13% of the test score. This section evaluates candidates' knowledge of various genres and familiarity with different types of literature. They will need to analyze and interpret texts, including making inferences, identifying meanings, and noting the tone and mood of the piece. Test takers may also be required to demonstrate their skills in:

  • Finding central ideas and themes
  • Analyzing various techniques, such as satire or irony
  • Citing textual evidence
  • Understanding different points of view
  • Determining the meaning of words and phrases
  • Analyzing word choice and textual structure

Reading Informational Text

The Reading Informational Text competency also contains about 15 selected-response questions for about 13% of the total exam score. This section examines test takers' abilities to read and analyze pieces of nonfiction, including U.S. documents and informational texts that contain various viewpoints and topics related to other cultures. Candidates must be able to identify meaning of these texts using textual evidence, draw inferences, and summarize the information. Candidates may also be tested on their understanding of word meaning, structure, viewpoint, and style. Finally, test takers will need to analyze various sources of information and evaluate the argument and validity of reasoning.

Writing Arguments

The Writing Arguments section includes 10 selected-response questions for about 9% of the total test score. This competency tests candidates' knowledge of techniques for writing effective arguments that support various claims, such as the organization of their writing and their use of evidence. Questions in this section may evaluate test takers' ability to develop a knowledgeable claim, sequencing their claims, and developing counterclaims, all while using evidence to support these claims. Candidates should be able to carefully plan out their arguments and develop a strong conclusion. Test takers will also need to demonstrate their skills in creating a strong argument by editing, revising, rewriting, or trying a new approach to their claim.

Writing Informative and Explanatory Texts

The Writing Informative and Explanatory Texts competency also has about 10 selected-response questions for about 9% of the exam score. This section is similar to the Writing Arguments section, but focuses on the writing techniques used to explore a topic and explain ideas and information. Candidates must understand how to develop an entire piece from introduction to conclusion and use evidence to logically organize the information. This section will examine test takers' ability to develop a topic, use precise language, draw evidence from other literature for support, and maintain a formal style. Questions may also ask about using technology to produce and publish writing.

Writing Narratives

The Writing Narratives competency is about 9% of the total score of the exam, with around 10 selected-response questions. Similar to the other writing competencies, this section focuses on the specific skills needed to write about real or imagined events and experiences. This section tests candidates' skills with sensory language, narrative techniques, and descriptive details. Candidates should also be aware of who the audience is for the piece and be able to change the voice and language as needed. Test takers should be prepared to answer questions about their understanding of:

  • How to engage readers
  • Creating dialogue
  • Sequencing events
  • Incorporating elements of various genres
  • Editing work
  • Developing a strong conclusion

Researching to Build and Present Knowledge

The Researching to Build and Present Knowledge competency has around 10 selected-response questions for about 9% of the exam. This competency aims to test candidates' knowledge of research techniques and how to use these techniques to present knowledge. Test takers should know how to form research questions and understand how to narrow or broaden their inquiry as needed. It is important that test takers understand how to take information from multiple sources and ensure that these sources are authoritative. Test takers need to identify strengths and limitations of sources, as well as choose sources most appropriate for their audience and the task at hand.

Speaking and Listening

The Speaking and Listening section also makes up about 9% of the total exam score, with about 10 selected-response questions. Test takers must demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively with those from various backgrounds and different perspectives. Aspiring teachers will need to know how to use small group and one-on-one discussion techniques with diverse participants to teach students how to build on ideas. Other skills, such as setting deadlines and explaining goals for group work, integrating different sources of information, and presenting different perspectives on a given topic, will also be tested in this competency. This section also tests candidates' ability to use digital media for presenting information orally.


The Language competency is the final selected-response section with about 10 questions for about 9% of the total test score. This section examines test takers' knowledge of the English language, including grammar. Candidates must demonstrate their skills in using the conventions of standard English across reading, listening, writing, and speaking. This section will include questions about punctuation, spelling, capitalization, word meaning, and figurative language. Candidates will need to understand how language changes in various contexts and utilize different techniques for comprehension, such as using context clues. Test takers will also be tested on their vocabulary and must be able identify words and phrases at a college and career readiness level.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

The final section of the exam, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, includes the 1 constructed-response question that makes up 20% of the total exam score. In this competency, test takers will have to demonstrate their pedagogical knowledge by designing instruction that will meet a particular learning goal. In doing so, they must use their skills to evaluate student knowledge and find learning potential and probable difficulties. Based on students' prior understanding, test takers will need to develop strategies for teaching new knowledge of a given topic or text. This section also includes evaluation of the assessment process, including selecting an appropriate assessment that can effectively measure student learning and growth.

NYSTCE CST English Scoring

The passing score for the NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam is a 520 or higher. The total score is given in a range of 400 to 600 and includes the multiple-choice question score and constructed-response question score. The total score is a scaled score. On their score report, test takers will be able to see their 'Pass' or 'Did Not Pass' status along with their total score. They will also see a performance index for each competency area on the exam.

NYSTCE CST English Study Guide

In order to properly prepare for the NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam, test takers should first learn about the format and content of the test using an NYSTCE ELA CST study guide. These study guides give information about the number and types of questions, the breakdown across each competency, and the skills and knowledge tested in each competency. These study guides can be used to become familiar with the content test takers will see on exam day and help them focus and review the right information. Many study guides can be found online.

NYSTCE English CST Practice Test

An NYSTCE CST English Language Arts practice test can also be useful for preparing for test day. Candidates can find online practice tests that contain similar practice questions to what they will see during the exam. This can help candidates get comfortable with the content of the NYSTCE English Language Arts CST exam and identify areas of strength and weakness with the material. This can further help candidates focus on trouble areas and individualize their study plan. The more test takers use practice tests, the more familiar they become with the exam, which can give them a better chance of passing the exam more quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the NYSTCE test?

    The New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) are tests that prospective teachers must take in order to get a license from the New York State Education Department (NYSED), to teach in the state of New York. These exams help with the evaluation process to ensure that prospective teachers have the necessary skills to teach students in the classroom.

  • What tests are required for NYS teaching certification?

    The New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) are needed in order to get a license to teach in the state of New York. There are many NYSTCE tests, including the Educating All Students (EAS) test, edTPA, Bilingual Education Assessment (BEA) and the Content Specialty Test(s) (CST). The NYSTCE English Language Arts CST is an example of a content specialty test for teachers who want to teach the English Arts language.


Take a NYSTCE English Language Arts Practice Test Online

Exam Instructions:

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    Use this material to answer question #1

    She took me to her elfin grot,

    And there she wept and sigh'd full sore,

    And there I shut her wild wild eyes

    With kisses four.

    And there she lulled me asleep,

    And there I dream'd--Ah! woe betide!

    The latest dream I ever dream'd

    On the cold hill side.

    I saw pale kings and princes too,

    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

    They cried, 'La Belle Dame sans Merci

    Hath thee in thrall!'

    □ John Keats, 'La Belle Dame sans Merci'

    A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,

    She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

    Till her eyes were darken'd wholly,

    And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,

    Turn'd to tower'd Camelot:

    For ere she reach'd upon the tide

    The first house by the water-side,

    Singing in her song she died,

    The Lady of Shalott.

    Under tower and balcony,

    By garden wall and gallery,

    A pale, pale corpse she floated by,

    Deadcold, between the houses high,

    Dead into tower'd Camelot.

    Knight and burgher, lord and dame,

    To the planked wharfage came:

    Below the stern they read her name,

    The Lady of Shalott.

    □ Alfred Tennyson, 'The Lady of Shalott'

  1. Read the stanzas below from La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats, and The Lady of Shalott by Lord Alfred Tennyson, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passages: NYSTCE English Arts Language Practice Test Passages.docx: Reading Literature 2: page 1?2> Which paragraph best states how these stanzas depict women?
    • Correct Answer
  2. Use this material to answer question #2

    Carl Gustav Jung identifies four 'stages of eroticism' in the late classical period. These are personified as Eve, Helen of Troy, the Virgin Mary, and Sophia.

    Jung claims that the Eve-Helen-Mary-Sophia sequence appears in Goethe's Faust as Gretchen, Helen, Mary, and the 'eternal feminine' respectively.

    At the first stage of eroticism, woman assumes a purely gynecological function; at the second, she is no longer primarily maternal and instinctual, but tantalizingly sexual; at the third, the sexualized woman becomes the spiritualized icon of religious devotion; and at the fourth and final stage of eroticism, the spiritualized woman exceeds the parameters of religion as disembodied wisdom ideal.

    Information source: Carl Gustav Jung, The Psychology of the Transference (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 10.

  3. Read the passage below, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passage: NYSTCE English Arts Language Practice Test Passages.docx: Reading Informational Text 4: page 7> Based upon this passage, which statement is false?
    • Correct Answer
  4. Use this material to answer question #3

    Ian Almond claims that unlike Byron's orientalism in works such as 'Turkish Tales,' James Joyce's images of the East in Ulysses have no actual geographical referents. Although Joyce never left regions commonly designated as 'Christian Europe,' he included more than a hundred and fifty Middle and Far Eastern cultural references in Ulysses.

    Almond specifies several textual examples to claim that Ulysses is a compendium of arbitrarily arranged orientalist images. Such images, he observes, collectively signify an imaginary East that lies beyond the experiential reach of Europeans.

    Almond, then, begins his discussion of Joyce's 'Araby' story by specifying instances of Romantic orientalism. For example, he quotes from Home at Grasmere to demonstrate the defamiliarizing effect of William Wordsworth's orientalist use of the adjective 'Arabian' to describe the waterfall he stood behind in Grasmere, Cumbria in 1799.

    Information Source: Ian Almond, 'Tales of Buddha, Dreams of Arabia: Joyce and Images of the East.' Orbis Litterarum (57, 2002): 18-19.

  5. Read the passage below, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passage: NYSTCE English Arts Language Practice Test Passages.docx: Reading Informational Text 6: page 8> Which is the best keyword sequence for hyperlinking to enable additional information access?
    • Correct Answer
  6. A high school English language arts teacher will propose to colleagues a solution to the following problem: Parents have objected to the inclusion of a novel on the teacher's reading list. They have petitioned to the school principal for its replacement with other mandatory reading material. Which statement intended for the presentation includes the best solution?
    • Correct Answer
  7. Use this material to answer question #5

    In his Introduction to The Greek Myths, Robert Graves claims that it is absurd to equate mythological creatures, such as sphinxes, gorgons, centaurs, and satyrs, with projections emanating from a collective Jungian unconscious. He attempts to demystify Greek mythology when he compares ancient myths to modern election cartoons, while insisting that the Bronze and Early Iron ages of Greece should not be treated as less-developed stages of European civilization.

    Graves also asserts that Minoan Crete was a comparatively advanced country, as evidenced by its written archives, four-story buildings equipped with hygienic plumbing, doors with locks, registered trademarks, chess, a centralized system of weights and measures, and a calendar based on close astronomic observation.

    Graves claims that the birth of Athena through Zeus's head is not a mere Jungian fancy, but a theological dogma comprised of conflicting accounts. According to one of them, Athena was Metis's parthenogenous daughter, and the youngest member of a goddess triad, headed by Metis, Goddess of Wisdom. According to another, the Achaeans suppressed the cult of Metis, and transferred their devotion to Zeus, as allegorized by Zeus's act of swallowing Metis.

    Information source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, vol. 1 (New York: Penguin, 1960), p. 20-22.

  8. Read the passage below, then answer the question that follows. Based on this passage, which of these statements is true?
    • Correct Answer
  9. Use this material to answer question #6

    Well, God 'ild you! They say the owl was

    a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are

    but know not what we may be. God be at your table!

    I hope all will be well. We must be patient.

    But I cannot choose but weep to think they should

    lay him i' the cold ground. My brother shall

    know of it. And so I thank you for your good counsel.

    Come, my coach! Good night, ladies, good night,

    sweet ladies, good night, good night.

    □ Ophelia (lines 41‒43; 68‒73, Act IV, scene v, Hamlet)

    Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One, two--

    why, then 'tis time to do 't. Hell is murky.

    Fie, my Lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need

    we fear who knows it, when none can call our power

    to account? Yet who would have thought the old

    man to have had so much blood in him?

    To bed, to bed, there's knocking at the

    gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand.

    What's done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed,

    to bed.

    □ Lady Macbeth (lines 38‒45; 73‒75, Act V, scene ii, Macbeth)

  10. Read the passages below from William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passages: NYSTCE English Language Arts Practice Test Passages.docx: Reading Literature 4: page 3> Which paragraph best states how these passages dramatize the utterances of madwomen?
    • Correct Answer
  11. A student will claim in an analytical essay that the use of anaphora quickens narrative pace in poetry. Which of these lines from Byron's poem The Destruction of Sennacherib would best support this claim?
    • Correct Answer
  12. Use this material to answer question #8

    I dropped the berry in a stream / And caught a little silver trout. / When I had laid it on the floor / I went

    to blow the fire a-flame, / but something rustled on the floor, / And someone called me by my name: / It

    had become a glimmering girl / With apple blossoms in her hair

  13. A student will use the following lines from William Butler Yeats poem, The Song of Wandering Aengus, to advance an argument in an analytical essay. Which argument would these lines support most persuasively?
    • Correct Answer
  14. Use this material to answer question #9

    Child psychologists have observed that violent video games increase aggressive behaviors in primary school children. Despite this observation, an increasing number of children play these games for weekend recreation. Violent video games must be banned. While discouraging aggressive behaviors, banning violent video games would generate other positive outcomes for our communities.

    Information Source: Pro.Con.org (accessed 16 March 2020).

  15. Read the introductory paragraph below from a preliminary essay draft, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passage: NYSTCE English Arts Language Practice Test Passages.docx: Writing Arguments 2: page 9> Which paragraph includes statements that would make it the best second paragraph for the essay?
    • Correct Answer
  16. Use this material to answer question #10

    CDC experts recommend social distancing to decelerate the spread of COVID-19. Despite this recommendation, shoppers are crowding supermarkets and drug stores to purchase needless amounts of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Social distancing must be practiced. While flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing would provide numerous benefits for its judicious practitioners.

    Information source: Harry Stevens, 'Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to

    'flatten the curve',' The Washington Post (14 March 2020).

  17. Read the introductory paragraph below from a preliminary essay draft, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passage: NYSTCE English Arts Language Practice Test Passages.docx: Writing Arguments 1: page 9> Which paragraph includes statements that would best develop the writer's main idea?
    • Correct Answer
  18. A teacher is preparing a presentation to propose to colleagues the inclusion of information about the Columbine High School shootings in their high school's social studies curriculum. What is the best opening statement for the teacher's presentation?
    • Correct Answer
  19. Which of these words means the study of humanity or culture?

    • Correct Answer
  20. A twelfth-grade student is seeking information about recent literary criticism on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to include in an English language arts essay. Considering the student's assignment objective, which source would provide the most reliable information?
    • Correct Answer
  21. A student will conclude with a personal reflection a narrative essay about making baklava. Which of the following paragraphs would enable the student to achieve this writing objective?
    • Correct Answer
  22. Use this material to answer question #15

    The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many feet of snow.

    It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice-jams of the freeze-up had formed. North and south, as far as his eye could see, it was unbroken white, save for a dark hair-line that curved and twisted from around the spruce-covered island to the south, and that curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared behind another spruce-covered island.

    This dark hair-line was the trail--the main trail--that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Pass to Dawson, and still on to the north, a thousand miles to Nulato, and finally to St. Michael on Bering Sea, a thousand miles and half a thousand more.

    □ Jack London, 'To Build a Fire'

    A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.

    Yes, the newspapers were right; snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.

    It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

    □ James Joyce, 'The Dead'

  23. Read the passages below from 'To Build a Fire,' a short story by Jack London, and 'The Dead,' a short story by James Joyce, then answer the question that follows. <Include Passages: NYSTCE English Language Arts Practice Test Passages.docx: Reading Literature 3: pages 2?3> Which paragraph best states how these passages present contrasting descriptions of a snowscape?
    • Correct Answer