Becoming a teacher in the state of New York requires certification under the state department of education. Requirements for certification as a social studies teacher for grades seven through 12 include completion of a registered teaching program and successfully passing three exams, including a content specialty test, or CST. Each CST includes both multiple-choice questions and a written assignment.

Testing Basics and How the Test is Organized

The content specialty tests are criterion referenced, which means the test-takers' knowledge is tested against an established standard of performance rather than against the performance of other test takers. The test is also objective and tests knowledge in subareas of information under the topic of social studies. Objectives are developed in each subarea in the form of knowledge and skills and derived from textbooks, New York State standards and curriculum guides, teacher education curricula and certification standards.

Topics and Question Breakdown

The Social Studies CST is divided into six subareas. The majority of the exam, or 35 percent, focuses on history, while approximately 16 percent of the exam covers civics, citizenship and government. Geography comprises 15 percent of the exam, and economics and social studies skills are each the focus of 12 percent of the CST. The final section of the exam is the constructed response portion, which accounts for 10 percent of the test.

Skills to Focus on for the Social Studies CST

In taking the exam, the test taker should be able to apply concepts to an analysis of historical events and government systems. Identifying cause and effect of major historical events and political patterns, and comparing and contrasting leadership styles of major historical figures are skills necessary for the exam. Additionally, the ability to examine primary source documents, recognize arguments and demonstrate understanding of political and social philosophies will increase success on the CST. Understanding of geography should include both location and land use throughout history. The test taker should also be able to analyze quantitative data, graphics and political cartoons.

Preparing for the Written Portion of the CST

The written portion of the social studies CST requires a response of 150 to 300 words on an assigned topic. The response should conform to standards of American English, but is not evaluated on the writing. The criterion the written response is evaluated with includes purpose, application of content and support. Purpose requires that the writing responds to the assignment, and application of content requires that the candidate accurately and effectively apply relevant knowledge to the response. The support in the response should include appropriate examples and clearly reasoned application to the essay.

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