Better Teaching Better Learning Demonstrate Your Knowledge

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Assessment Center Exercises

  • National Board Certification
  • 2009-2010
  • Connie Wolf, NBCT

Better Teaching . . . Better Learning

Demonstrate Your Knowledge

  • The online assessment portion of the National Board Certification process asks you to demonstrate your content knowledge in response to 6 exercises developed and designed by practicing professionals in your certificate area.
  • You will have up to 30 minutes to respond to each of the exercises at one of 200 testing sites in the U.S. All responses are written at a computer using a basic word processing format.

Why are these exercises part of the NBC process?

  • Teacher content expertise is embedded in the Five Core Propositions.
  • The National Board Certification process samples teacher knowledge across six aspects of the content referenced in the certificate standards around content.
  • Being an “accomplished” teacher implies mastery of relevant disciplinary content.

5 Core Propositions

  • Teachers are committed to students and their learning
  • Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
  • Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
  • Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience
  • Teachers are members of learning communities

Assessment Center Exercises

  • Designed to assess fundamental content knowledge that supports quality instruction on a daily basis
    • What do you know?
    • How do you apply this knowledge to student learning?

Assessment Center Exercises

  • Cover the entire developmental age range included in the certificate – You are expected to demonstrate knowledge of appropriate content across the full range
  • 3) Can focus on any number of things germane to the content knowledge outlined in the standards for a given certificate area

Assessment Center Exercises

  • May consist of 1 or more prompts or questions designed to elicit evidence of content knowledge
  • 5) A scenario or student profile may be presented for consideration before responding to a set of prompts

Assessment Center Exercises

  • May ask for a specific number of examples as part of the response. Candidates should only submit the number requested because assessors are trained to evaluate this number.
  • Assessors look for depth and
  • quality, not quantity.

When should you schedule?

  • When it is convenient—but choose and confirm a date as soon as possible after all your fees are paid. This helps set a target for your preparation.
  • There is no advantage in waiting until your portfolio is completed. Some teachers prefer completing the AC exercises well before the portfolio is due, finding the content review helpful as they create lessons for their portfolios.

AC Calendar

  • Assessment Center Testing Window
  • 2009-2010 Candidates:
  • July 1, 2009
  • thru
  • June 15, 2010

Schedule Early

  • Many other professions use these testing sites. Call early to make sure you can schedule an appointment that is convenient to you.
  • The testing centers are closed on several federal holidays.

Before Scheduling

  • Receive your Authorization to Test form in the mail
  • Verify that all information on your Authorization to Test form is correct.
  • If you have a disability that necessitates special accommodations under the ADA, submit the Nonstandard Testing Accommodation Form by January 31, 2009.

Authorization to Test (Sample)

Before Scheduling

  • Review all information and policies outlined in the
    • Guide to National Board Certification
    • Assessment Center Orientation Policy and Guidelines
  • Submit fees and forms:    
    • First time candidates deadline: January 31, 2010
    • Retake Candidates deadline: December 31,2009
  • 2007

Scheduling an Appointment

  • To schedule your assessment center appointment, please call:
  • The Pearson Professional
  • Registration Center
  • 1-888-288-3028

Testing Sites

4 Testing Sites in Wisconsin

  • Brookfield
  • Pearson Professional Centers-Brookfield Bishops Court, Suite L10 Bishops Woods Centre Brookfield, WI 53005
  • Eau Claire
  • Pearson Professional Centers-Eau Claire WI3610 Oakwood Mall Drive Suite 102 Eau Claire, WI 54701
  • Madison
  • Pearson Professional Centers-Madison WI8517 Excelsior Drive Prairie Trail Office Suites II, Suite 105 Madison, WI 53717
  • Kenosha
  • Pearson Professional Centers-Kenosha WI7500 Green Bay Road Johnson Bank Building Suite 311 Kenosha, WI 53142

Where can you test?

  • The Pearson Professional Centers on the website can help you locate a testing center. Simply enter your zip code to locate the closest center near you. 

Changes to your Appointment

  • Rescheduling – If you need to reschedule their appointment, you will be charged a $50 rescheduling fee
  • Cancellations - Please note that by canceling your appointment, you will also rescind your eligibility for the testing in the year which you apply. 
  • Reinstatement – If you miss or cancel your appointment, you will be charged a: $175 reinstatement fee (2007-2008 candidates) to reinstate your candidacy.
  • Change of Specialty Area – If you wish to change your certification area, you will be charged a $75 fee.
  • You must pay rescheduling fees immediately after your appointment is rescheduled

Preparing for the AC Exercises

Do you have to study?

  • National Board standards support staying current in disciplinary knowledge, so professional reading for the Assessment Center tests fits with this idea of continuous growth in your practice.
  • It is likely that content review will be helpful for some of your Assessment Center exercises.

What should you study?

  • Textbook chapters (including student texts and teacher’s manuals)
  • Web resources, including content discipline associations’ websites Professional development books and journals
  • Resources recommended by colleagues—often these are “tried and true”

Prepare for Your Appointment

  • Get Organized – read the Assessment Center Orientation Policy and Guidelines for policies, information about test day, and additional instructions for first-time, retake, music and world languages candidates.

Download Your Exercise Descriptions

  • The assessment center component provides six exercises, each allowing up to 30 minutes for candidate response.  For a complete description of each assessment center exercise, select your certificate area from the drop-down menu.

How to Prepare

  • Create a notebook, file or other
  • organizational study system – a section for each exercise
  • Familiarize yourself with the computer
  • Gather the 6 AC exercises and the corresponding level 4 scoring rubrics
  • Review your standards
  • “Unpack” each prompt

Review Scoring Guide

  • For additional information you should also read the Scoring Guide for your selected certificate. These guides contain the rubrics that are used to score assessment center exercises and two retired prompts in your certificate area.

Use the Online tutorial

  • Locate the Tutorial at
      • Introduction
      • Testing Tools
      • Taking the Test
      • Post-test

Assessment Exercise Writing

  • Read each descriptor carefully – scroll down to read all parts to this exercise
  • Respond appropriately and focused to all of the questions

Assessment Exercise Writing

  • You do not need to write an essay – you may make bulleted lists (use * or >)
  • Don’t go off on tangents – stay focused
  • Quickly identify what is asked
  • Think rapidly about your ideas and how to organize them
  • Write concisely
  • Assessors look for depth and quality, not quantity.

Practice an Exercise

  • Try a sample assessment exercise in your certificate area. These retired prompts can be found at:
  • “Candidate Resources”
  • “Scoring”

What kind of questions do they ask?

  • Assessment Center exercises focus on themes, ideas and principles that represent core concepts in a discipline.
  • For EA/Gen and MC/Gen candidates, the content often is inextricably linked to pedagogies—the knowledge of how to teach the concept is the content.
      • Assessment Center prompts do not test recall of trivia or obscure content.

Early Childhood Generalist Assessment Exercise Prompt (retired) Mathematics

  • Early Childhood Generalist Assessment Exercise Prompt (retired) Mathematics
  • Introduction
  • In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of mathematical concepts and processes to apply these concepts to real-world applications. You will be asked to respond to 4 prompts.
  • Criteria for scoring
  • To satisfy the highest level of the scoring rubric you must provide clear, consistent, convincing evidence of the following:
  • A deep understanding of mathematical concepts and processes
  • An accurate identification of the student’s misconception/difficulty
  • A well-developed instructional strategy or learning experience that is clearly linked to real-world applications and appropriately addresses the child’s needs
  • Developmentally appropriate choice of materials to teach the mathematical concept and a rationale for your choice of these materials.

Early Childhood Generalist Assessment Exercise Prompt Example

  • Early Childhood Generalist Assessment Exercise Prompt Example
  • “A kindergarten child is having difficulty with a math concept”
  • Students were asked to mark an X on each triangle.
  • 1) Identify the student misconception/difficulty on this student work sample.
  • 2) What fundamental concepts are prerequisite for students at this grade level in order to learn these skills?
  • 3) Based on real-world application, state your goal for a learning experience to help this student. Plan a learning experience based on this goal that would further student understanding of this mathematical concept .
  • What materials would you use to teach this concept to this child. What is your rationale for your choice of materials?

Who can help you prepare?

  • Preparing for the Assessment Center can be done effectively in groups—but there are often single candidates who must prepare for a unique certificate area. These candidates can turn to other teachers (not necessarily NBCTs) to help them think about likely questions, using the exercise descriptions.
  • Candidates sign a confidentiality agreement upon taking the AC exercises. Protecting the integrity of the National Board process is a responsibility for all candidates as well as NBCTs. Please do not divulge information about your actual Assessment Center prompts.

Test Day

  • Arrive 30 minutes early to familiarize yourself with the testing center
  • You will be asked to:
    • Surrender your Authorization to Test
    • Show your valid photo ID
    • Sign a confidentiality statement
    • Have your photo taken
    • Leave your belongings in a secured locker
    • Raise your hand at any time with problems or questions
    • Scratch paper will be provided for your use during exercises
    • Sign in and out of the testing room whenever you leave

Test Day Schedule (first-time candidates in most certificates)

  • Check in
  • 15 minutes
  • Computer Tutorial
  • 30
  • Exercises 1 - 3
  • 90
  • Break
  • 15
  • Exercises 4 - 6
  • 90
  • 4 hours

What to Bring

  • Your Authorization to Test
  • The appropriate ID with your photo bearing your signature - read the Assessment Center Orientation Policy and Guidelines for exact instructions
  • Sheet of bar code ID labels sent with your Authorization to Test if applicable


  • Practice your typing skills. You have only 30 minutes to write your answers to each exercise
  • Read all parts of each exercise before you start typing so you know what is expected in the exercise
  • A clock on your computer screen will keep you aware of your time – the clock never stops!


      • The sample test items are just that. . . there are specific questions that are quite different than those on the actual test.
      • Make sure that you cover all of the area and age groups that you are applying for in the test. . . . if you don't teach that age group, talk to others who do to get ideas from them about activities, characteristics of that age and what works and what doesn't.


  • Prepare a study sheet for each exercise
  • Research what is current in your certificate area
  • Do your very best. These six exercises weigh 6.67% each, or 40% of your total score.
  • Review your standards – this is what accomplished teaching looks like in your area

NBPTS Code of Ethics

  • Do not discuss the contents of your assessment exercises with anyone

What do other candidates say about the AC Exercises?

  • It helps to prepare, especially in areas where you feel you may need shoring up.
  • Remember: each exercise is worth only a small percentage of your score. One weak AC exercise score is not fatal. If you encounter something difficult, don’t let it derail you.
  • Preparing for the Assessment Center can actually be a great content review, and lead to a sense of better preparation for teaching, as well as new ideas for instruction.

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