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How to Pass the SLLA Exam

Instructor: Chelsey Wilt
This article provides aspiring school leaders with recommendations for formulating a study plan that will lead to success on the SLLA exam. Get information about the test content and format, and learn where you can access sample questions, practice tests, and supplementary study resources.

Passing the SLLA Exam: At a Glance

The School Leaders Licensure Assessment (Code 6990) is one of the examinations in the School Leadership Series (SLS) suite of tests. The SLLA is formulated and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) company and is used by many states as part of the licensing process for principals, superintendents, or other school leadership positions. It's designed for entry-level school leaders who seek to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities and qualify for leadership positions.

Candidates for this exam can consider the following steps to pass the SLLA.

  1. Understand the exam's content and format
  2. Create a study timeline
  3. Gather study materials
  4. Complete practice exams

Read on for more details about each of these steps.

Examine the Official SLLA Study Companion

Available on the ETS website,, you can download a PDF document called the SLLA Study Companion, which contains about 50 pages of essential information regarding the exam. The SLLA is taken on a computer, and the ETS website also provides videos that demonstrate how to navigate the test and answer questions.

The SLLA is divided into two sections:

Section 1 consists of 120 selected-response questions. Examinees have 165 minutes to complete the test. In total, this section is worth 75% of the exam score. The content categories that are tested over and the approximate number of questions in each are listed below:

  • Strategic leadership: 20 questions
  • Instructional leadership: 27 questions
  • Climate and cultural leadership: 22 questions
  • Ethical leadership: 19 questions
  • Organizational leadership: 16 questions
  • Community engagement leadership: 16 questions

Section 2 has an analysis constructed-response format and it contains four scenario prompts, which may include accompanying materials such as documents. Examinees have 75 minutes to write their answers. The constructed response section makes up 25% of the exam score.

In the Study Companion, there is a complete outline of all the content areas from Section 1 and the objectives regarding each aspect of the content area. Additionally, discussion questions are provided so that individuals can evaluate their understanding of the content and their ability to respond. Following this outline is information about the types of test questions, a set of sample questions, and an answer key with explanations for the sample questions.

Regarding Section 2, the Study Companion provides information about the scoring rubric, and an example of a constructed-response prompt. Following are four sample written responses, accompanied with the associated score and commentary regarding those responses.

Delineate Your Study Plan

Once you've pored over the SLLA Study Companion, take that information and put it into a personalized study guide. Have this study guide both digitalized and printed out. There's even a template provided on the ETS website. It can be downloaded as a Word document, and each of the content areas are delineated into objectives. The template includes the following columns which candidates can fill in.

Test Content Categories How well do I know the content? (scale 1-5) What resources do I have/need for this content? Where can I find the resources I need? Dates I will study this content Date completed

Here are some tips for constructing a study guide:

  • Determine your areas of strength and weakness and order your timeline of dates for studying accordingly.
  • Gather numerous resources that target your challenging content areas. Prioritize your time by seeking out comprehensive resources that have everything you need for the SLLA exam.
  • Incorporate practice exams into your timeline.

Once you have a clearly developed study plan, be dedicated to completing it. A good idea is to rate your confidence in each content area before beginning your study plan. Once you think you have mastered a concept, try to explain it in your own words and provide examples. Re-evaluate yourself periodically and adjust your study plan as necessary.

Utilize A Variety of Study Resources

Someone who is seeking to become licensed as an educational leader has accumulated academic and real-life experience. They may revisit textbooks, professional development materials, teaching guidebooks, or other documentation from their time working in schools. Moreover there's plenty of engaging options as well, like YouTube, social media, and offers several resources for the SLLA exam. In addition to articles that provide information about the exam, we also have a complete study guide of our own: School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA): Study Guide & Practice.

This study guide has more than 100 lessons total. These are categorized among over a dozen chapters, though the number of lessons in each chapter can range greatly. Take a glance at some of our chapter and lesson topics:

Principles of Educational Leadership Professional Standards Curriculum Design Data and Assessment Operational Systems Resource Management Educational Policy
Ethical leadership

Promoting lifelong learning
Instructional coaching

Professional development goals

Standards-based curriculum

New instructional strategies

Differentiated instruction
Educational assessments

Summarizing assessment results

Strategic planning process

Workplace safety

IT resources policy
School funding

Acquiring and allocating resources

Teacher contracts
Influencing change

Advocating for students' needs

Study Group

Joining a study group is another tip. Study groups can be coordinated online and take place via video calls and shared documents, like with Google Docs and Google Slides. Take advantage of the entire group's knowledge and approach this exam with like-minded colleagues. Groups can take different approaches, like having question and answer sessions, or taking turns summarizing content areas of proficiency and providing examples, serving as each other's tutor.

Take Practice Exams

The SLLA Study Companion includes sample questions. In the beginning stages of test preparation, candidates should complete these questions as a preliminary assessment. The correct answers and explanations are provided. users benefit from self-assessments for every lesson. They contain five multiple choice questions about key concepts from the exam and provide a quick glance at whether you need to review the lesson again or are ready to move on. The SLLA study guide concludes with a final exam that contains 50 multiple-choice questions.

A practice test is available for purchase through the ETS website. It's a simulation of an authentic exam and is the most realistic way to find out if you're prepared for the date of your official SLLA exam. Not only do you get the experience of taking an online test, you'll also receive your results, separated by content category. This gives you an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses and can guide your efforts in your final weeks of exam preparation.

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