Suggestions For Preparing for the Mathematics Portion of the Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency (formerly Basic Skills Exam) for Teachers

  1. Get a copy of the Basic Skills Study Guide - These are also available Note that online the Study Guide may be broken into separate pages and you have to view/print these pages individually. There are also a few copies in MERO (MG 209) which can be viewed and used in MG 209 (open 8:00 am - 4:30 pm).
  2. Make a study plan for yourself and make a timetable (start early--don't expect to be able to cram the week before the exam).
  3. Consider forming a study group of students in your Math 106 or Math 206 class. You might want to ask your professor to help you form such a study group in your class. Your study group can form a study plan and timetable. Your study group might consider hiring a tutor - see below.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the objectives and the Framework (which is included in the Study Guide. Read the individual objectives.
    1. Make sure you know what the terms mean and what the objective is expecting you to know and be able to do.
    2. For most objectives you should be able to think of, find on the sample exam, or find in other resources an example exam question that could be asked to measure competence on that particular objective. If you cannot identify such a sample item, then you probably do not understand the objective.
    3. Identify the standards and objectives your are particularly weak on, and plan to study that material more thoroughly.
  5. Realize you may not use a calculator. You need to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions, mixed numbers, and integers (signed numbers). You need to be able to solve equations by hand.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the definitions (notation) and formulas. Most of the definitions on pages 37-39 of the Study Guide you should know (without having to look up) because they will be used as part of a bigger problem on the exam. Furthermore, most of the information on pages 37-39 is basic information every person should know - especially persons who are going to be teaching our children. For most of the formulas you should know why they are what they are (e.g., why is the perimeter of a rectangle 2l + 2w, or why is the area of a triangle (1/2)bh?). There are three formulas on pages 38 and 39 which you should be able to use, but you may not have them committed to memory (these are the surface area and volume of a sphere and the surface area of a cylinder).
  7. Focus on the mathematics. Spend much of your time doing math problems--yourself--for which you have not yet looked at the answer. Also spend time understanding and discussing how to arrive at the answers and why it works. It is better to do a lot of different problems than to do the same few examples over and over. At some point you should do the sample exam that is provided in the Study Guide, but be aware that the sample exam is very short and provides very limited practice.
  8. Use our Math 106/206 book to study from. You will not be able (and it shouldn't be necessary) to study the entire book. Focus on the areas for which you are weak. Some suggested sections to work on are listed here.
    1. A Problem Solving Approach to Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers, 9th, by Billstein, Libeskind, & Lott, 2007.
      1. Section 1-3, algebraic thinking.
      2. Chapter 5, Rational Numbers as Fractions.
      3. Chapter 6, Decimals, Percents, and Real Numbers.
      4. Chapter 8, Data Analysis/Statistics.
      5. Other chapters/sections for which you are weak.
    2. Mathematics For Elementary School Teachers, 3rd Ed., by ODaffer, Charles, Cooney, Dossey, Schielack 2005.
      1. Section 7.1-7.2 Ratio and Proportion.
      2. Section 7.3 Percent.
      3. Chapter 8 (especially 8.1 - 8.3) on statistics if you have not had much exposure to statistics.
      4. Other chapters/sections for which you are weak.
    3. Mathematics For Elementary Teachers: A Contemporary Approach, 6th Ed., by Musser, Burger, and Peterson 2003.
      1. Section 7.3 Ratio and Proportion - especially the Problems section (A and B) of the exercise sets.
      2. Section 7.4 Percent - especially the Problems section (A and B) of the exercise sets.
      3. Chapter 10 (especially 10.1 and 10.2) on statistics if you have not had much exposure to statistics.
      4. Other chapters/sections for which you are weak.
    4. Mathematical Reasoning for Elementary Teachers, 5/E, Long, DeTemple, & Millman, 2009.
      1. Section 7.3 Ratio and Proportion.
      2. Section 7.4 Percent.
      3. Chapter 9 on statistics.
      4. Other chapters/sections for which you are weak.

    The importance of understanding statistics is growing in our society and in K-12 education.
    If you have a different book, then find the corresponding sections on these topics in your book.

  9. Practice - probably the most important aspect of preparation.
  10. ICTS Basic Skills Diagnostic Practice Test available at I do not recommend starting with the practice test. I recommend you do some studying and become familiar with the Framework, and then take the practice test, as a practice test. Then you'll know where you stand and if you need more study and more practice. This is very useful because it has many more questions than the Study Guide.

  11. Consider getting a tutor. Be prepared to pay them.
    1. You (or your study group) can use the free tutors in MERO (MG 209) which tutor for Math 106 and 206 during the hours that they are there.
    2. You (or your study group) may want to consider hiring a tutor for more focused study sessions. Some possibilities are:
      1. Ask one of the MERO tutors if they have additional time to meet with you (in the evening, for example). Most of these tutors are Elementary Education majors who have already passed the Illinois Basic Skills Exam.
      2. Go the the Mathematics Department (MG 476) and ask the secretary for the list of individual tutors and see if there is someone who can tutor for the Illinois Basic Skills Exam.
      3. Find an Elementary Education majors who is in the mathematics area of emphasis who would be willing to tutor you or your group - for pay.
  1. Ask other teacher education majors in your classes about the exam.
  2. As with any exam, familiarize yourself with the format of the exam and what to bring to the exam -- and get a good night's sleep before the exam. - Illinois Certification Testing System information. - CPEP test preparation page

I.S.B.E. Links - Links I've prepared to the various frameworks for the various teacher certification exams in Illinois.

If, before or after you take the exam, you have other suggestions to help other teacher education majors prepare for the Basic Skills exam, please forward your ideas to Dr. Jim Olsen.

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Updated: March 8, 2017 .
This page is maintained by Jim Olsen, Mathematics Department, Western Illinois University.