LANTITE – Don’t lose your head over it!
First of all, let’s start with the good news: 90 – 95% of university preservice teachers pass the LANTITE tests, so the odds are stacked in your favour, and if you do suffer a setback it can be for many reasons. With regards the literacy part of the LANTITE test, it may be that English is not your first language, or that your grammar and punctuation is a little rusty, or that you have never been explicitly taught how best to approach a reading comprehension text. You may have been in a fog of anxiety. Whatever the reason, if it is your first time attempting the LANTITE tests, or if you have given it a go and not passed, do no despair.
To be honest, I was horrified to read someone’s recent post on the Numeracy and Literacy Test Support Group on Facebook which said that with regards the Literacy test ‘studying for it before a first attempt is absolutely pointless’. This sort of short-sighted, narrow-minded venting makes me cross. Yes the LANTITE tests are challenging, but there is so much you can do to increase your chance of a successful pass. To NOT prepare for the LANTITE tests is in my opinion foolhardy, that is if you value a career in teaching. Why on earth wouldn’t you prepare when your whole future is at stake? Why on earth would any person who seriously wanted to go into the teaching profession advocate this sort of ‘do nothing’ approach? Comments and attitudes like these are not helpful to those people who have not breezed through the LANTITE test and they undermine preservice teachers’ potential to pass the test. So first things first, I want to say that unless you are confident in both your literacy and numeracy ability and willing to take the gamble, please study. For first timers there is a lot you can do. There are many websites that you can use to brush up on your technical English skills if they are a bit rusty, such as Bristol University’s ‘Improve Your Writing’ pages. As far as your reading comprehension goes you can practice, and the more you do, the more you enhance your chances of passing. A good starting point for improving both your technical writing skills and your reading comprehension skills is to download and try previous Year 9 NAPLAN tests. If you are not sure of the best way to tackle a reading comprehension, you can look up strategies, or find someone suitable who can explicitly teaching you reading comprehension strategies. Although it is UK-focused, another useful resource can be found on the UK Department of Education Literacy Skills website. There you will find downloadable tests (QTS) for preservice teachers used in the UK which, like NAPLAN, were referenced when they were establishing a framework for the LANTITE tests. You also need to have a careful think about how you are going to approach the test as a whole.
In my experience, vocabulary, or the lack of, can be a major stumbling block when attempting LANTITE. Read articles about education and brush up on any of the educational concepts and vocabulary you are not familiar with (remember many of the test questions will be based in educational contexts). Practise reading comprehension strategies such as identifying main ideas and themes, and author’s purpose. Spot and highlight topic sentences and key words in texts. Practice skimming and scanning when reading. These reading strategies, as well as other reading comprehension and response techniques can help you to become more confident when reading. For EAL/ESL students particularly, make sure you brush up on English idioms (start keeping a glossary), converse as much as possible with native speakers of the language and ask them about any expressions they use that don’t make sense to you. Study when to use the definite or indefinite article, the difference between countable and uncountable nouns, and pay attention to the grammatical structure and syntax of sentences, as well as common problem areas such as verb/noun agreement.
For most of us, anxiety is an issue when faced with the unknown, but never more so than when we are being tested and it is important that we pass (especially if we have failed before). If you know that high anxiety is an issue for you, perhaps you could investigate meditation or other ways to calm those nerves. Diet and exercise also play an important part in helping you to feel mentally and physically prepared for what can be a very demanding challenge, but there is a lot you can do by yourselves to improve your chances of passing the LANTITE test.
Not everyone is blessed with the ability to sail through LANTITE. Some of you might study extensively by yourselves, but still feel you need a little extra help, a reminder of the basics (which you may have never been taught) or a simple boost of confidence. There is no shame in seeking help, often it is simply taking a belts and braces approach (spot the idiom!). Perhaps you failed the test because your literacy skills were rusty, or you were over-anxious and couldn’t think straight, or you wasted time trying to get to grips with navigating ACER’s computer system (and had not been informed that once you’ve registered with ACER you can go onto the site to have a look at the sample tests online and get a better feel for how it will be on the day). It may be that you ran out of time, or you might have been over-hasty and over-confident. There are many, many reasons why some students fail LANTITE. No one person’s experience will be exactly the same. So what can you do? I am not saying go and find a tutor. More than anything, the answer to that question is practice and study, either by yourself, or with someone who can help.
Preparation prevents poor performance.
It is true that it is not easy to prepare for the LANTITE test, but it is not true that studying for it is pointless. As I’ve already indicated there is a great deal that you can do in order to prepare. If you didn’t do enough to pass LANTITE first time, make sure you do more, much more, for your second attempt, and be more focused in your approach. Find out what your weak areas are. If possible do a diagnostic test. Seek help from your university, family and friends. It goes without saying that the more confident you are in your literacy knowledge and skills (and by skills I mean not only your technical language skills, but your ability to respond to reading comprehension texts) the better chance you will have of success.
More practice and expertise generally equates to less anxiety and better results. My advice to preservice teaching students is do everything you can to brush up on both your technical language skills and your reading response skills. Doing this independently first, without splashing out on tutoring, makes perfect sense.
When I hear preservice teachers tell others that there is nothing to be done about reading comprehension or literacy skills, it fills me with dismay. Yes, for some of you it may be easy, but for students who have not been brought up in Australia, or who were not explicitly taught reading comprehension skills, or grammar and punctuation, or for the many who have not even looked at a reading comprehension text since before Year 9, it is not easy, but it is not true that you cannot improve! Time and practice help and for that reason I would encourage you to take a long term approach and not to rush into the LANTITE tests without doing all you can in preparation. Strategies for LANTITE can also be coached, technical language skills can be taught and practice to improve reading comprehension will make a difference to your performance.
Not everyone is going to be a natural whiz at literacy and/or numeracy. BUT my friends, not everyone who is brilliant at literacy and numeracy is going to be an outstanding teacher – that is something I’m certain of. Outstanding teachers have a certain sort of magic – they require passion, empathy, patience, perseverence … and so much more. Some of you will be confident in your English literacy and language and will knock LANTITE out of the box on the first attempt without any problems, but for those students who do not find the prospect of sitting LANTITE a walk in the park, it is not fair or wise to dismiss preparation for these tests! Each of you will have an equally valid experience and opinion of how best to approach the LANTITE test and I wish you all the very best of luck!