NYSTCE ESOL Study Guide & Practice Test

What is the NYSTCE ESOL Exam?

The NYSTCE CST English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) test is a required exam for prospective ESOL teachers in the state of New York. The ESOL (116) exam is considered one of New York's Content Specialty Tests, or CSTs. Content Specialty Tests are designed to assess a prospective teacher's knowledge of both content and pedagogy. All teacher candidates in the state of New York are required to pass the EAS (Educating All Students) test, the edTPA, and the CST in their area of certification. Typically, teacher candidates take this exam at the end of their licensure program, as the licensure programs work to prepare the candidates in terms of both content and pedagogy. Once they have passed the exam, teachers will be able to educate English Language Learners of any grade level P-12 on English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Read below to find the specific topic areas that are covered on this exam.

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

NYSTCE ESOL Test Content

The NYSTCE ESOL test contains a combination of selected-response and constructed-response items. The questions are designed to assess both teaching content and pedagogy. Selected-response questions account for 80% of the exam and contain approximately 90 questions. There are six key competencies that will be assessed in the selected-response portion. These include: Language and Language Learning; Knowledge of English Language Learners; ESOL Instructional Planning, Practices, and Assessment; Instructing English Language Learners in English Language Arts; Instructing English Language Learners in the Content Areas; and Professional Environment. There is one constructed-response question, worth 20% of the exam score, and it is focused on the competency of Analysis, Synthesis, and Application. It is recommended that candidates prepare for this exam by utilizing NYSTCE ESOL study guides, as well as practice tests. These are available through a variety of educational websites.

Language and Language Learning (13%)

In this section of the NYSTCE ESOL exam, teacher candidates will demonstrate their knowledge of language acquisition. Some elements of this competency include the following:

  • Awareness of current research on language acquisition.
  • Knowledge of the multiple steps of language acquisition.
  • Awareness of multiple methods of developing language.
  • Knowledge of cognitive and linguistic strategies that promote English language acquisition.
  • Understanding how society and language produce linguistic variations, such as different dialects.
  • Understanding of the interplay between language and culture and how this dynamic informs language acquisition.
  • Knowledge of language systems like phonetics, syntax and semantics, and their impact on the more challenging arenas of English language acquisition.

Knowledge of English Language Learners (13%)

This section of the NYSTCE CST English to Speakers of Other Languages exam focuses on diversity amongst English Language Learners. Differentiation is a key element to this competency, and some of the performance indicators are below:

  • Knowledge of appropriate and differentiated instruction based on proficiency levels.
  • Awareness of the importance of individualized plans for English Language Learners.
  • Knowledge of strategies that are culturally responsive.
  • Recognition of cultural differences in communication.
  • Awareness of cultural and cross-cultural variables in language acquisition.
  • Understanding of how classroom environment and students' learning styles may affect student success.
  • Awareness of political, social, socioeconomic, and disability statuses as factors in English language acquisition.

ESOL Instructional Planning, Practices, and Assessment (13%)

In this section of the NYSTCE ESOL exam, candidates are tested on data-driven decision making as a factor in the creation of appropriate instructional planning, differentiation, and scaffolding. Some of the key competencies are highlighted below:

  • Knowledge of the most current research-based ESOL approaches to instruction.
  • Application of knowledge of evidence-based and research-based principles of literacy.
  • Awareness of learning standards via the New York State Bilingual Common Core Initiative.
  • Demonstration of the ability to promote active student engagement in English Language Learning.
  • Creation of safe, student-centered learning environments conducive to language acquisition.
  • Knowledge of multiple assessment methods.
  • Awareness of the importance of testing accommodations, interventions, and federal accountability measures.

Instructing English Language Learners in English Language Arts (14%)

This section of the NYSTCE CST English to Speakers of Other Languages exam focuses on the multi-faceted nature of language mastery. Candidates are asked to demonstrate understanding of the complexity of language acquisition in a variety of forms. The following is a sampling of performance indicators:

  • Knowledge of all New York State Language Arts requirements.
  • Awareness of strategies that incorporate home languages in English language development.
  • Knowledge of the complexities of communication via multiple methods.
  • Knowledge of a variety of methods and resources for supporting achievement in speaking and writing.
  • Knowledge of a variety of methods and resources for supporting achievement in close reading, inferences, and complexity of written-text.
  • Awareness of a variety of methods to support wide-ranging proficiency levels, as well as finding age-appropriate materials regardless of reading level.
  • Awareness of teaching strategies related to conducting research, utilizing primary sources, and constructing a thesis.
  • Knowledge of assessment strategies in all of the language competency modalities, including but not limited to speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Instructing English Language Learners in the Content Areas (14%)

This competency area focuses on language use in the content areas. Teacher candidates for the NYSTCE ESOL will be assessed on their ability to demonstrate understanding of differences in subject-area language, as well as their ability to support student growth in a variety of content areas. Some of the performance indicators are listed here:

  • Awareness of New York State academic standards in a variety of subject areas.
  • Knowledge of specific vocabulary and discourse within the subject areas.
  • Adoption of a variety of methods that support student growth in the subject areas without simplifying content.
  • Utilization of scaffolding techniques to foster growth in the subject areas.
  • Knowledge of a variety of methods to strengthen cross-disciplinary connections that support cross-curricular student growth.

ESOL Professional Environments (14%)

This section of the NYSTCE CST English to Speakers of Other Languages exam focuses on a teacher candidate's knowledge of professional networks, ESOL legislation and policies, and the role of community in supporting English language development. Below are some of the performance indicators for this competency:

  • Knowledge of New York regulations and key court cases in bilingual education.
  • Knowledge of the multiple professional programs and current developments in the field of ESOL.
  • Commitment to reflection and ongoing professional growth throughout one's career.
  • Knowledge of local community support networks and other collaborative partnerships.
  • Awareness of collaborative opportunities with colleagues on multiple levels.

Analysis, Synthesis, and Application (20%)

This segment of the NYSTCE ESOL exam contains the single constructed-response question. Test-takers will need to write a several paragraph response to a situation, explaining how they would assess and identify particular aspects of student learning. The purpose of this question is to examine a candidate's ability to analyze assessment data in order to better understand student needs. Teachers will be asked to perform the tasks listed below:

  • Identify effective strategies for improving all elements of an English Language Learner's competency level.
  • Discuss effectiveness of instructional strategies utilizing valid pedagogical reasoning.
  • Effectively utilize data to inform instructional decisions.
  • Synthesize information from a variety of sources in order to determine the most important needs of an English Language Learner.

How to Register for the NYSTCE ESOL

Candidates may register for the NYSTCE ESOL exam directly through the NYSTCE website. The cost of the exam is $122, and may be paid via VISA or MasterCard. The registration remains valid for one year. Should an examinee not appear at a test center within that time, no refund will be provided. Should a candidate not be in the possession of a VISA or Master Card, they can contact Evaluation Systems in order to obtain information on how to pay by check.

Be Ready for Test Day

Individuals should plan to arrive 15 minutes before their assigned test time. They should plan their route ahead of time, and consider the impact of traffic upon their arrival time. It is suggested that examinees dress in layers, and wear soft-soled shoes to the test center. The NYSTCE ESOL test comprises three hours and 30 minutes total, so examinees should prepare to remain at the center for that length of time. It is required to bring a government-issued photo ID to the test center. Prohibited items include tobacco products and e-cigarettes, as well as weapons. Cell phones, watches, wallets, and any other personal items can be kept in a locker on-site.

How the NYSTCE is Scored

The passing score for the NYSTCE CST English to Speakers of Other Languages exam is 520, out of a range of 400-600. Scores are available between two and six weeks after the completion of the exam, and a detailed score report will also be made available to examinees. Candidates can obtain their scores by logging into their NYSTCE accounts at 10:00 PM on their assigned score reporting date. This date is indicated on the NYSTCE website.

How to Prepare for the NYSTCE ESOL

Numerous resources are available for candidates to prepare for the NYSTCE ESOL. Individuals should look for NYSTCE ESOL (116) study guides and NYSTCE ESOL practice tests that are available for free and for purchase through reputable websites. Candidates should plan to take this exam towards the end of their teacher licensure program, and should set up a study schedule in order to ensure success. Candidates will have received most of the required exam knowledge through their licensure program, but two months of exam preparation utilizing study guides and practice exams is recommended. Utilizing group studying, or studying with a partner from one's teacher cohort, is often a valuable resource for accountability, and will make the test preparation period more fun and engaging.


Teacher candidates should be sure to utilize the wide variety of available NYSTCE ESOL (116) study guides. These study guides are tailored specifically to the NYSTCE ESOL exam and are an invaluable resource as candidates prepare. A good study guide will address all the exam content areas, and can help test-takers note which subjects they find challenging and should spend more time studying.

NYSTCE ESOL Practice Test

Practice tests are perhaps the single most important resource when it comes to exam preparation. Candidates should plan to take several NYSTCE ESOL practice tests, available from a variety of reputable educational websites. The practice tests provide key insight into the content and format of the exam, and they also provide invaluable insight regarding the rationale behind the questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I prepare for the ESOL exam?

    Numerous NYSTCE ESOL practice exams and study guides are available online via reputable educational resources. It is recommended that candidates spend time with these resources, set up a study schedule, and work with friends in their teaching cohorts to prepare collaboratively.

  • What is the ESOL exam?

    The NYSTCE ESOL (116) exam is a Content Specialty Test (CST) required by the state of New York for teacher candidacy in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages. Prospective ESOL teachers must pass this exam with a score of 520 in order to earn certification in the state of New York.


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  1. Which of the following identifies the most effective use that a picture walk can have in a content area classroom?

    • Correct Answer
  2. Use this material to answer question #2

    For the July 4th parade, the mayor dressed as Uncle Sam. He was the guest of honor and rode in the back of a classic pickup truck. Sitting on a bundle of hay, he waved to the crowd and threw out candy to the crowd. Kids ran around eating hot dogs, and at dusk, they waved sparklers in the air. The celebration ended with a spectacular fireworks show.

  3. On a test about topic sentences, students are given a paragraph and have to write a topic sentence suitable for the paragraph. A majority of the ELL students struggle with the question because:
    • Correct Answer
  4. Students are expected to use different graphic organizers in their classrooms. In their science class, students are given the following graphic organizer, the Frayer Model. How should students use this?
    Students are expected to use different graphic organizers in their classrooms. In their science class, students are given the following graphic organizer, the Frayer Model. How should students use this?
    • Correct Answer
  5. When teachers introduce and teach about new concepts in a content area class, they can use the PAR method to do which of the following?

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  6. Which of the following identifies why a student may be proficient speaking in social settings but not as proficient when such speaking is associated with the content of a specific class, like science or math?

    • Correct Answer
  7. When working with a group of native Spanish speakers, a teacher introduces cognates for the vocabulary words: Correct, Exact, Curious, Numerous, Magic, and Tragic. Use of cognates will help the students to do which of the following?

    • Correct Answer
  8. Students' development of conversational English is rooted in a framework that emphasizes which of the following skills?

    • Correct Answer
  9. When in science class, students are having difficulty understanding the different types of lab equipment. Prior to the students beginning their first lab experiment, the teacher must ensure that students can identify the appropriate tools that they need while also understanding important vocabulary they must be accustomed to using. Which of the following strategies might be the most effective in making sure the students are appropriately prepared?

    • Correct Answer
  10. The language arts teacher and the ESL teacher are collaborating on a unit about prefixes. What will occur if the teachers opt to take on a parallel teaching approach to the lesson?

    • Correct Answer
  11. ESL teachers will benefit from Advanced Practitioner Programs if they want to do which of the following?

    • Correct Answer
  12. A school district has just recently had a huge teacher turnover rate; nearly half the teachers are new to the district, two-thirds of those new to teaching. The district has also seen an influx of enrollment, many of which are students who have a native language other than English. What should ELL teachers be concerned with?

    • Correct Answer
  13. In a classroom of ten ELL students, a teacher has identified that three are three visual/spatial learners, three kinesthetic learners, and four social learners. Students are learning nouns associated with eating. To appeal to all the varied learning styles, the teacher should:

    • Correct Answer
  14. During a lesson about Aboriginal tribes in Australia, what will occur when the teacher appropriately employs a transformation approach to learning?

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  15. Julio has been in the ELL program for a year and a half. Several months ago, he was in a car accident, one that killed one of his siblings. While in the past, Julio has been engaged in the schoolwork, he has become aggressive and has lost interest in school. Which of the following is the most effective action Julio's teacher can take to increase his engagement?
    • Correct Answer
  16. Aside from requiring schools to provide appropriate ELL programs and services, the New York State Commissioner's Regulation Part 154 requires schools to do which of the following?
    • Correct Answer