5 Key Strategies for Passing the Bilingual Education Supplemental Exam

You’ve probably landed here because you’re in search of tips to help you pass the bilingual education supplemental exam (164).

That means you’re in the process of becoming a bilingual teacher in Texas.


What isn’t so great is the amount of testing that’s required to get the certification.

There are four TExES exams that teacher candidates in the state of Texas need to be pass in order to obtain bilingual certification:

  • TExES Core Subjects EC-6 exam– required for ALL elementary teacher candidates; tests knowledge of the main content areas taught in elementary school such as math, science, social studies, literacy, art, etc.
  • TExES Bilingual Education Supplemental exam– just for those teacher candidates who want to be bilingual certified; tests knowledge of second language pedagogy (This post focuses solely on this exam).
  • TExES Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test for Spanish– This one is known for being quite challenging (even for some native Spanish speakers), and it’s only required for bilingual teacher candidates. It demonstrates one’s knowledge of the Spanish language within the context of education.  Check out this post on tips and strategies for passing the BTLPT the first time.
  • TExES Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities, or PPR, EC-12 exam– required for ALL teacher candidates K-12. It assesses knowledge of general teaching practices, educational ethics, and pedagogy.
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Is Passing the Bilingual Supplemental Exam Hard?

It depends.

Maybe that’s not the answer you want to hear, but it’s true.

How hard something seems is relative, right?

If you’ve never worked within an elementary bilingual/second language learner classroom, this exam might be a little bit more challenging for you.

You’re in good shape if you’ve taught reading/writing to monolingual learners in a school setting or have experience teaching literacy strategies.

Many test-takers comment that the test isn’t challenging.

Others say to imagine that the situations presented in the test are the perfect scenario. The classroom, school, students, and school district are in a perfect world, and you simply need to answer accordingly.

At the end of the day, everyone has her say on how best to pass the bilingual education supplemental exam, but…

This post is for those of you who need a guide, a reference that guides you towards passing the bilingual education supplemental exam.

Go into that test center knowledgeable and prepared. 

5 Strategic Tips: How to Pass the Bilingual Supplemental Exam

It’s not practical to cover every single aspect of the exam here (The exam covers A LOT of stuff.).

However, you’ll find here the gist of what to expect on the test plus navigation towards additional, helpful resources.

1.  Know the Structure and Expectations of the Test.

The Bilingual Supplemental exam is computer-administered and consists of 80 multiple-choice questions with various question formats.

You can sign up for the exam year round, and to date, it costs about $116 (plus fees).

Though you’ll have more than enough time to complete all responses, total testing time is 5 hours.

Within the testing time frame, skip questions you’re not sure about and return to them before your times finishes. (Don’t forget to return and answer them though!)

Mark the item as incomplete, then move on and come back to it later.

You don’t want to waste too much time on one question.

For a complete guide of helpful study tips, check out the official study tips from TEA.

2.  Be Familiar with the Competencies.

Four bilingual education competencies compose the content for the Bilingual Education Supplemental Exam:

Competency 001:

“The beginning Bilingual Education teacher understands the foundations of Bilingual Education and the concepts of bilingualism and biculturalism and applies this knowledge to create an effective learning environment for students in the Bilingual Education program”.  

*Review the official study guide for the complete list of topics covered within this competency.*

  • Understand the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee (LPAC) process.
  • Know how to create an environment that maximizes learning for bilingual students.

Competency 002:

“The beginning Bilingual Education teacher understands processes of first-and second-language acquisition and development and applies this knowledge to promote students’ language proficiency in their first language (L1) and second language (L2)”.

*Review the official study guide for the complete list of topics covered within this competency.*

  • Understand basic L1 and L2 linguistic concepts (e.g. BICS vs. CALP).
  • Know the major language components from a second language perspective (e.g. semantics, phonology, etc.).  If you’ve formally taught reading to elementary kids, you should be fine with this one.
  • Comprehend the stages of 1st and 2nd second-language development.
  • Apply appropriate instructional strategies for teaching bilingual students.
  • Help students make connections between their 1st and 2nd languages.
  • Know well the proficiency levels used for second language learners.

Competency 003:

“The beginning Bilingual Education teacher has comprehensive knowledge of the development and assessment for literacy in L1 and the development and assessment of biliteracy”.

*Again, review the official study guide for the complete list of topics covered within this competency.*

  • Familiarize yourself with formal and informal literacy assessments in L1

For this one, the questions are relatively easy if you’ve taught reading to monolingual kids.

Think about Fountas & Pinnell, DRA, etc., and how kids are tagged as “Frustrational”, “Instructional”, and “Independent”. 

Terms such as hose are pretty useful for the bilingual supplemental and so is having prior knowledge of any formal reading assessment that uses a similar system.

  • Read thoroughly the language arts certification standards (TEKS) for English and Spanish.
  • Know how to help students apply reading strategies learned in L1 to L2.

Competency 004:

“The beginning Bilingual Education teacher has comprehensive knowledge of content area instruction in L1 and L2 and uses this knowledge to promote bilingual students’ academic achievement across the curriculum”.

*Once again, review the official study guide for the complete list of topics covered within this competency.*

  • Know and use assessments for language proficiency and content knowledge.
  • Incorporate strategies for integrating L1 and L2 in the content areas.
  • Last but not least, be aware of instructional methods that maximize comprehensible input such as pre-reading activities, accommodations, and other appropriate instructional strategies.

3.  Check Out Online Resources.

  • Also take a look at the TEA website which has good resources for the area of bilingual education.
  • Quizlet is another great resource for brushing up on bilingual education terminology.

4. Take On the Mindset of a Foreign Language Teacher.

When you answer questions about instructional strategies during the Bilingual Education Supplemental exam, mentally see yourself as a language instructor in a bilingual classroom.

Think about what strategies would be most effective in helping the student advance in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in the target language.

Of course you’ll need good prior knowledge of a wide variety of bilingual instructional strategies, but having in mind a bank of ideas and concepts will have you to be more confident in answering the questions.

5.  Invest in Books and/or Tutoring.

As additional support, consider purchasing the Bilingual Education Supplemental exam book.

There are also some decent tutoring options online, so do a search and choose one that best fits your learning style and budget.

Wrapping Up: How to Pass the Bilingual Education Supplemental Exam

In conclusion…

Passing the Bilingual Supplemental exam is about having a decent foundational knowledge about general bilingual education theories/laws and accompanying instructional strategies.

And for help scoring well on the written expression section. see our BTLPT writing study guide.