Does Every Florida Teacher Have to Take the General Knowledge Exams?

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General Knowledge Exams are part of the assessment required to secure teacher licensure in the state of Florida. Do all teachers have to sit for this exam? Read on to find out...

What is the General Knowledge Test?

The Florida Department of Education uses two banks of exams to evaluate teacher proficiency for state certification: the Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE) and the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE). The General Knowledge (GK) Test is a component of the FTCE, and consists of four subtests:

  • Essay
  • English Language Skills (ELS)
  • Reading
  • Mathematics

The Florida Department of Education has determined that these basic skills are important for all teachers to master and believes they will help ensure teachers are academically prepared should they change positions or advance later in their teaching careers.

Many teacher applicants question whether they are required to take this exam - especially if they are history or science teachers and will not be teaching reading, writing, or math. The answer: All teacher licensure candidates must demonstrate a mastery of the material covered in the General Knowledge Test. Does that mean you have to sit for the exam? Not necessarily.

Demonstrating Proficiency vs. Sitting for an Exam

Man taking a test on the computer

Just because a test is listed as a requirement for certification doesn't necessarily mean you have to take it. In this case, the Florida Department of Education requires evidence of mastery, not completion of the exam itself. And sitting for an exam is just one way to demonstrate proficiency in a given bank of material. Often coursework, similar testing, or voluntary certification can be substituted for an exam score.

Testing Alternatives

Of course, the Florida Department of Education is not going to let you randomly submit materials, and it will not arbitrarily waive completion any of the test components. It has, however, determined that the following list of credentials can be submitted to demonstrate mastery of the some or all of the subject matter found in the General Knowledge Test in lieu of sitting for the entire exam.

If you have any of the following, you may be in luck:

  • A valid teaching certificate from another state or territory
  • Board Certification: either from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence
  • Proof of two years of full-time teaching at a postsecondary level (or the equivalent part-time experience)
  • The following passing scores on the GRE (taken on or after July 1, 2015) can be substituted for the following GK:
    • GRE Analytical Writing combined score of 4 out of 6 satisfies GK Essay
    • GRE Quantitative Reasoning scales score of 417 satisfies GK Mathematics
    • GRE Verbal Reasoning scaled score of 151 satisfies both GK ELS and GK Reading

Weighing Your Options

Balance scale

So actually, there are several options beyond taking the test. If you are transferring your credentials from another state, your valid licensure is enough. And if you are looking for additional incentive to apply for National Board Certification, state transfer of credentials is just one more added benefit. Many states, in addition to Florida, recognize Board Certification as an indication of teacher excellence and often accept Board Certification in place of their state-specific requirements when seeking licensure. Most elementary and middle school teachers don't end up teaching at the postsecondary level, but if you are a secondary school teacher with a master's degree, you may have taught at a local community college or university - especially if you are considering doctoral work.

If you're a recent graduate, your options may be limited, but if you've taken or plan to take the GRE for grad school admission, taking it early might save duplicate effort and expense. The GK Test costs $130 ($150 for retakes), and you'll spend $205 to sit for the GRE. However, your GRE scores are good for five years, so if you think graduate school is in your future, your money and time might be better spent on the GRE.

So, no, all Florida teacher candidates do not have to sit for the General Knowledge exam. They must, however, show mastery of the concepts covered in the four subtests. When applying for licensure in any state, read the requirements carefully and fully explore the website. The details can be difficult to find sometimes, but unearthing them can save your time and money!

By Laurie Smith
September 2016
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