Vocabulary is vital!

If you’ve failed the LANTITE literacy test, it may be that your vocabulary has let you down, rather than your poor grammar or punctuation. Unfortunately, one of the ‘problem areas’ that LANTITE students often fail to address is, how to improve their vocabulary. This is a big mistake!

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Vocabulary is a crucial component in improving and acquiring reading comprehension skills. Why? Simply because students who lack knowledge of the meaning of words, may find understanding the reading texts in the LANTITE test difficult, if not impossible. For students whose first language is not English, the problem is even more challenging. There is a considerable difference between spoken and written English, and it is conversational English which tends to be acquired first. Unfortunately, this often masks the deficit in their vocabulary.

One of the best ways to expand and enrich your vocabulary is, of course, to read. Knowing the LANTITE test is constructed within an academic framework, means that students should pay special attention to the sort of formal, academic vocabulary that is likely to be used in the Test and read both informal and academic texts in order to prepare. Do you know your paradigms from your paradoxes? No? Then you’d better look them up! What’s more, reading enables you to read a word in context. As you hopefully already know, the meaning of a word might change, depending on the context in which it is used.

When one first learns a word, as well as learning the spelling, it is important to look up the definition. After this first step, it is important to also read information which shows how the word is employed in changeable contexts. In order to really get to grips with a new word, you need to see it used in multiple contexts, and practise using it yourself. Look also at synonyms (and antonyms, and homophones) and other words that might be used in its place to improve your understanding of how that new word might be used.

There are some great website and apps to help improve your vocabulary, but be aware that many of them are American, and there are significant differences in many spellings between American English and Australian English (the same can be said for grammar and punctuation). A few of the ones I’ve found useful are:

Quizzitive – an app from Merriam-Webster


Knoword – website and app

English Oxford Living Dictionaries

Vocabulary tips:

  • Start your own glossary/dictionary of words : Research has shown that students have to see, read and interact with a word 5 – 7 times before they are likely to add it to their long term memory. When you discover a new word, look it up and check the spelling (make sure it is British/Australian), write it down (preferably handwritten), also write down its meaning, and most importantly revisit and use it! Look at it again later the same day, the next day, the next week etc. Try to incorporate it into your writing. It’s a bit like interval training for your vocabulary!
  • Make sure you are aware of some of the basic difference between American and Australian English spellings, for example: words ending ‘-er’ in American (meter, liter, theater, caliber) often have an ‘-re’ ending in Australia (metre, litre, theatre, calibre); words ending ‘-or’ in American, often end ‘-our’ in Australian English (flavour, candour, labour, endeavour); the way in which practise and practice is used in America, compared to Australia is also different; as are many words ending ‘ize/-ise’ (both are often acceptable but the Australian presence is the ‘-ise’ ending (criticise, emphasise). There are many more examples, so check you have the appropriate spelling.
  • Familiarise yourself with academic vocabulary lists. You can find them online. Here is a useful one:
  • Use word games, vocabulary websites and apps to help improve and expand your vocabulary. The more fun you have, the less arduous it will seem.
  • Learn the meanings of common prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
  • Learn to use context clues to determine the meanings of words.
  • Make improving your vocabulary a daily habit!

Vocabulary plays a vital role in the reading process and is critical to reading comprehension – so avoid it at your peril. A reader cannot understand a text without knowing what most of the words mean. The more you read, the more new words you’ll see, and the more you’ll improve your vocabulary knowledge. This can be quite a long-term process, so get started as soon as possible.

The bottom line is, the better your vocabulary, the better you are likely to perform in the LANTITE test. Forewarned is forearmed!

Best wishes and good luck!


More than a dozen ways to improve your reading comprehension

light bulbIf you’re concerned about your reading comprehension skills, you are not alone. When it comes to the LANTITE Literacy Test some students seem to sail through, while for others it is a daunting prospect. As with most things, practice makes all the difference.

Here are more than a dozen tips and strategies that you can use to improve your chances of responding effectively to unfamiliar and sometimes challenging reading passages and the questions that you might be faced with in your LANTITE Literacy Test:

  • Skim read the text: This means paying attention to its title, subtitles, visual clues, graphics and captions, format, structure and layout, first and last paragraphs, topic sentences at the start of paragraphs. All of these clues should give a clear indication of what the text is about.
  • Make predictions: As you skim read, start trying to predict what type of text it is and what it might be about.
  • Read a few questions: Before reading the text in detail, read a few questions and keep them in mind when reading the text in detail. With practice, you will get an idea of how many questions you can keep in mind. If you think you have read something relevant to the questions asked, you can highlight pertinent words or phrases as you read so that you can find them more quickly once you have read the whole passage.
  • Generate questions: You may not feel you have time to do this if you are in a test situation, but when reading a text make sure you are actively reading and engaged with the text. If you find your mind straying, pause and ask yourself questions about the passage. These might be questions such as: what do I think the text might be about? Or, what is happening in this story? Or what is the author’s purpose in writing this text? Or what do I already know about this topic? Asking questions helps you to focus on the main ideas and assists your understanding of unfamiliar and sometimes challenging texts.
  • Highlighting on the screen: It helps to be able to take notes, annotate or highlight key words and phrases in a text. You cannot do all of this in the Lantite literacy text, but you can highlight or jot down the odd note. It is useful to practice this skill before you sit the test.
  • Read in detail and monitor understanding: As you then read the text in more detail, monitor what you have understood or not understood. Try to make connections with what you know about the topic. Practice, being metacognitive in your approach to reading.
  • Summarise: It is useful to practise summarising the main idea behind the text. If you read something get in the habit of asking yourself what the main idea behind it was.
  • Identify the sort of questions: If you are able to identify what type of question has been asked (access and identify, integrate and interpret, evaluate and reflect) it will help you to respond more effectively. By practicing question-type identification you will become faster and more confident when responding to questions.
  • Find the evidence: If you have been asked to infer meaning from the text, make sure you find evidence in the text. Don’t just answer according to what you think you know. Pay attention to vocabulary in both the text and the questions as it will help you to narrow down the correct answer.
  • Process of elimination: Use the process of elimination to help clarification and your chances of responding accurately. Don’t just focus on one part of the question. Make sure you have picked the answer that most closely matches the whole question.
  • If in doubt – make a note: In the LANTITE test you are given a piece of paper. Do not spend too long on any one question, but if you are uncertain, put an answer but make a note of the question number so that you can return to it at the end.
  • Double check: Make sure you have been thorough when reading the question and the text. It is easy to make silly mistakes. It pays to check, rather than having to pay again to re-sit the test.
  • Don’t listen to naysayers. It is easy to get in a flap and think there is nothing you can do to improve your reading comprehension and response skills, but that is not true. Like anything you will improve if you are taught how to go about it and you practise.

I’ll say it again – practise! Like most skills, the more time and effort you put into reading and responding to questions about a text, the better your performance will become. Improving reading skills can require a long-term approach, so I wouldn’t advise leaving it until the last minute. Start reading articles and texts that are pertinent to the education. Don’t forget that the LANTITE is framed within the educational context, so the majority of passages of writing you are likely to be faced with will be of an educational nature.

When you become teachers, please, please remember that the skills associated with reading comprehension need to be taught explicitly.

Get practising and best of luck!

If you would like any additional support or more information, I am happy to help. You can contact me via email :



LANTITE – Don’t lose your head over it!

First of all, let’s start with the good news: 90 – 95% of university preservice teachers pass the LANTITE tests, so the odds are stacked in your favour, and if you do suffer a setback it can be for many reasons. With regards the literacy part of the LANTITE test, it may be that English is not your first language, or that your grammar and punctuation is a little rusty, or that you have never been explicitly taught how best to approach a reading comprehension text. You may have been in a fog of anxiety. Whatever the reason, if it is your first time attempting the LANTITE tests, or if you have given it a go and not passed, do no despair.

To be honest, I was horrified to read someone’s recent post on the Numeracy and  Literacy Test Support Group on Facebook which said that with regards the Literacy test ‘studying for it before a first attempt is absolutely pointless’. This sort of short-sighted, narrow-minded venting makes me cross. Yes the LANTITE tests are challenging, but there is so much you can do to increase your chance of a successful pass. To NOT prepare for the LANTITE tests is in my opinion foolhardy, that is if you value a career in teaching. Why on earth wouldn’t you prepare when your whole future is at stake? Why on earth would any person who seriously wanted to go into the teaching profession advocate this sort of ‘do nothing’ approach?  Comments and attitudes like these are not helpful to those people who have not breezed through the LANTITE test and they undermine preservice teachers’ potential to pass the test. So first things first, I want to say that unless you are confident in both your literacy and numeracy ability and willing to take the gamble, please study.

For first timers there is a lot you can do. There are many websites that you can use to brush up on your technical English skills if they are a bit rusty, such as Bristol University’s ‘Improve Your Writing’ pages. As far as your reading comprehension goes you can practice, and the more you do, the more you enhance your chances of passing. A good starting point for improving both your technical writing skills and your reading comprehension skills is to download and try previous Year 9 NAPLAN tests. If you are not sure of the best way to tackle a reading comprehension, you can look up strategies, or find someone suitable who can explicitly teaching you reading comprehension strategies. Although it is UK-focused, another useful resource can be found on the UK Department of Education Literacy Skills website. There you will find downloadable tests (QTS) for preservice teachers used in the UK which, like NAPLAN, were referenced when they were establishing a framework for the LANTITE tests. You also need to have a careful think about how you are going to approach the test as a whole.

In my experience, vocabulary, or the lack of, can be a major stumbling block when attempting LANTITE. Read articles about education and brush up on any of the educational concepts and vocabulary you are not familiar with (remember many of the test questions will be based in educational contexts). Practise reading comprehension strategies such as identifying main ideas and themes, and author’s purpose. Spot and highlight topic sentences and key words in texts. Practice skimming and scanning when reading. These reading strategies, as well as other reading comprehension and response techniques can help you to become more confident when reading.

For EAL/ESL students particularly, make sure you brush up on English idioms (start keeping a glossary), converse as much as possible with native speakers of the language and ask them about any expressions they use that don’t make sense to you. Study when to use the definite or indefinite article, the difference between countable and uncountable nouns, and pay attention to the grammatical structure and syntax of sentences, as well as common problem areas such as verb/noun agreement.

For most of us, anxiety is an issue when faced with the unknown, but never more so than when we are being tested and it is important that we pass (especially if we have failed before). If you know that high anxiety is an issue for you, perhaps you could investigate meditation or other ways to calm those nerves. Diet and exercise also play an important part in helping you to feel mentally and physically prepared for what can be a very demanding challenge, but there is a lot you can do by yourselves to improve your chances of passing the LANTITE test.

Not everyone is blessed with the ability to sail through LANTITE. Some of you might study extensively by yourselves, but still feel you need a little extra help, a reminder of the basics (which you may have never been taught) or a simple boost of confidence. There is no shame in seeking help, often it is simply taking a belts and braces approach (spot the idiom!). Perhaps you failed the test because your literacy skills were rusty, or you were over-anxious and couldn’t think straight, or you wasted time trying to get to grips with navigating ACER’s computer system (and had not been informed that once you’ve registered with ACER you can go onto the site to have a look at the sample tests online and get a better feel for how it will be on the day).  It may be that you ran out of time, or you might have been over-hasty and over-confident. There are many, many reasons why some students fail LANTITE. No one person’s experience will be exactly the same.

So what can you do? I am not saying go and find a tutor. More than anything, the answer to that question is practice and study, either by yourself, or with someone who can help.

Preparation prevents poor performance.

It is true that it is not easy to prepare for the LANTITE test, but it is not true that studying for it is pointless. As I’ve already indicated there is a great deal that you can do in order to prepare. If you didn’t do enough  to pass LANTITE first time, make sure you do more, much more, for your second attempt, and be more focused in your approach. Find out what your weak areas are. If possible do a diagnostic test. Seek help from your university, family and friends. It goes without saying that the more confident you are in your literacy knowledge and skills (and by skills I mean not only your technical language skills, but your ability to respond to reading comprehension texts) the better chance you will have of success.

More practice and expertise generally equates to less anxiety and better results. My advice to preservice teaching students is do everything you can to brush up on both your technical language skills and your reading response skills. Doing this independently first, without splashing out on tutoring, makes perfect sense.

When I hear preservice teachers tell others that there is nothing to be done about  reading comprehension or literacy skills, it fills me with dismay. Yes, for some of you it may be easy, but for students who have not been brought up in Australia, or who were not explicitly taught reading comprehension skills, or grammar and punctuation, or for the many who have not even looked at a reading comprehension text since before Year 9, it is not easy, but it is not true that you cannot improve! Time and practice help and for that reason I would encourage you to take a long term approach and not to rush into the LANTITE tests without doing all you can in preparation. Strategies for LANTITE can also be coached, technical language skills can be taught and practice to improve reading comprehension will make a difference to your performance.

Not everyone is going to be a natural whiz at literacy and/or numeracy. BUT my friends, not everyone who is brilliant at literacy and numeracy is going to be an outstanding teacher – that is something I’m certain of. Outstanding teachers have a certain sort of magic – they require passion, empathy, patience, perseverence … and so much more. Some of you will be confident in your English literacy and language and will knock LANTITE out of the box on the first attempt without any problems, but for those students who do not find the prospect of sitting LANTITE a walk in the park, it is not fair or wise to dismiss preparation for these tests!


Each of you will have an equally valid experience and opinion of how best to approach the LANTITE test and I wish you all the very best of luck!