Feb 24 / Dr. Jason Ampel

The 2024 Guide to Pearson Foundations of Reading (190) Exam

The Pearson Foundations of Reading (190) is an exam many teaching candidates in early childhood education through middle school must take on their pathway to licensure. It has replaced the old version of the test, Foundations of Reading (090). 

The exam was developed in Massachusetts and draws from scientifically based reading research for early childhood, elementary, middle school, and special education. Its purpose is to evaluate a teaching candidate's knowledge of best practices in reading instruction and the components of reading development. 

Our guide will provide an overview of the Pearson Foundations of Reading to prepare you for what to expect on exam day. We'll also explain who needs to take it, how to register, provide testing tips, and provide resources for additional preparation assistance.

Don't stress. You can do this.  

Do I Need to Take the Pearson Foundations of Reading?

At the start of 2024, thirteen US states require the Foundations of Reading as part of the pathway to receiving teaching licensure in some educational areas. If you are a teaching candidate in the following states, you may need to take the exam:

  •    Alabama
  •    Alaska
  •    Arizona
  •    Arkansas
  •    Connecticut
  •    Massachusetts
  •    Mississippi
  •    New Hampshire
  •    North Carolina
  •    Ohio
  •    Rhode Island
  •    Utah
  •    Wisconsin

The Foundations of Reading is for teaching candidates seeking licensure in:

  •    Early Childhood 
  •    Elementary
  •    Middle Childhood
  •    Special Education

If this sounds like you, check out Pearson's state guide for the Foundations of Reading to confirm if you need to take the exam. Alternatively, consult your state's education department's certification and licensing requirements. 

Need to take it? Read on!

Exam Overview of Foundations of Reading

Exam Name and Code: Foundations of Reading (190)

Purpose of the Exam: The purpose of the Foundations of Reading is to ensure teaching candidates have the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully teach reading to English language students, including:

  •    Learners who are experiencing challenges in an area of reading.
  •    Learners with special needs.
  •    Learners who are advanced in one or more areas of reading.

Content Summary: The Foundations of Reading is designed to evaluate a candidate's grasp of the knowledge and skills required to teach reading, including development, instruction, and assessment. The exam divides the knowledge and skill into four subcategories: 

  •    Foundations of reading development.
  •    Development of reading comprehension.
  •    Reading assessment and instruction.
  •    Integration of knowledge and understanding.

Detailed Breakdown of Exam Content

The Foundations of Reading (190) is a 4-hour exam comprising 100 multiple-choice questions that make up 80% of the test and 2 open-response questions that make up 20%. 

Teaching candidates must demonstrate they have the range of knowledge and understanding to successfully teach reading, including the following:

  •    Oral language and writing strategies are used to support reading.
  •    Children's development of academic language.
  •    Children's development of spelling.
  •    Children's development of literary texts, complex and informational.
  •    The National Reading Panel's five essential components of reading development:
  1.    Phonemic awareness
  2.    Phonics
  3.    Fluency
  4.    Vocabulary
  5.    Text Comprehension

The computer-based multiple-choice questions that make up 80% of the test focus are divided into three subareas: 

  •    Foundations of reading development (35%).
  •    Development of reading comprehension (27%).
  •    Reading assessment and instruction (18%).

The written open-response section focuses on one subarea:

  •    Integration of knowledge and understanding (20%).

Foundations of Reading Development with Example

The first section of the Foundations to Reading exam is Foundations of Reading Development. It is multiple choice and makes up 35% of the total test.

The purpose of the section is to have teaching candidates demonstrate knowledge of principles and evidence-based instructional practices in:

●    Developing language and literacy skills.
       o Phonological awareness
       o Phonemic awareness
       o Alphabetic principle
●    Developing reading skills.
       o Phonics
       o Spelling, including transitional and phonetic
●    Developing word analysis skills and strategies.
       o Orthographic skills
       o Syllabication
       o Structural analysis
       o Morphemic analysis
●    Factors that can impact reading development
       o Dyslexia
       o Dysgraphia
●    Stages of reading fluency.
●    Stages of reading development.

An example test question:

The purpose of understanding onset and rime is to:

a.    Assess sight word recognition
b.    Build nonsense word fluency
c.    Understand syllables
d.    Use word families to decode

(The answer is d.)

Development of Reading Comprehension with Example

The second section of the Foundations to Reading exam is Development of Reading Comprehension. It is multiple choice and makes up 27% of the total test.
The purpose of the section is to have teaching candidates demonstrate knowledge of principles and evidence-based instructional practices in:

  •    Academic language development

       o Relationship between written and oral development
       o Understanding the need to read widely
  •    Comprehension and critical thinking of literary and informational texts

An example test question:

If a teacher wants to help her students develop their listening comprehension, which should be used? 

a.    Cold read passages
b.    Sight word center
c.    Close read
d.    Listening center

(The answer is d.)

Reading Assessment and Instruction with Example

The third section of the Foundations to Reading exam is Reading Assessment and Instruction. It is multiple choice and makes up 18% of the total test. 

The purpose of the section is to have teaching candidates demonstrate knowledge of principles and evidence-based instructional practices in:

  •    Assessing reading development
Understanding the       
      o interconnectedness of reading, writing, listening, and speaking    
      o Informal and formal reading assessment uses and interpretations
  •    Reading instruction
      o Understanding of the diverse student needs
      o Different approaches to the five major components of reading development 

An example test question: 

Alphabet knowledge is most effectively taught: 

a.    In rote memorization
b.    By learning the "ABC Song"
c.    Explicitly in context
d.    With sight word fluency activities

(Answer is c.) 

Analysis and Response with Example

The final section of the Foundations of Reading is Analysis and Response. It is answered by written open-response and makes up 20% of the test. There will be two questions. 

The open-response questions will present classroom-like scenarios and require the candidate to analyze the situation and compose answers based on the situation. 

For example, a test question might pose the following situation:

Leo, a second-grade student, reads aloud a passage from an unfamiliar story. As he reads, the teacher notes his performance on a separate copy of the story. Printed below is an excerpt from the teacher's record of Leo's oral reading performance. 

The test will then show the text Leo was asked to read with the teacher's markings, noting deletion of words, repetition, insertions, self-correction, and substitutions.   

Underneath the sample piece are directions:

Using your knowledge of word identification strategies (e.g., use of phonics, analysis of word structure, use of context clues, identification of sight words), write a response in which you:

  •    Identify one of Leo's strengths in using word identification strategies; and
  •    Identify one of Leo's weaknesses in using word identification strategies. 

Be sure to cite specific evidence from the information shown to support your response. 

Exam Format and Administration

Length of Exam: The test takes 4 hours. Another 15 minutes is allocated for a computer-based testing tutorial and signing the nondisclosure agreement. 

Length of Multiple Choice: Candidates have 2 hours and 30 minutes to answer the 100 computer-based multiple-choice questions. 

Length of Open-Response: Candidates have 1 hour and 30 minutes to answer the two computer-based open-response questions. 

Breaks: The process of breaks is dictated by the state and where the test is taken. Some provide a 15-minute break, bringing the total testing session to 4.5 hours. Others make the break optional and the time is taken out of your testing allocation. 

Registration, Fees, Arrival Time, and Required Items

Registration Process: Registration for the Foundations of Reading exam is typically online through your state's portal or vendor(s). For more information, see the Pearson's state guide. Click on your state to find the necessary links to register in your area. 

Fees: At the start of 2024, it costs $139 to take the Foundations of Reading exam, paid by credit or debit card. However, check Pearson's state guide for additional fees and payment information.

Dates: Each state has its own schedule for the Foundations of Reading exam. Most have testing dates throughout the year. However, it is advised to book in advance as venues have a limited number of computers available. 

Venues: Most candidates take the test at their nearest computer-based testing site. However, some states allow candidates to take the test from home, provided they meet the requirements. Pearson's state guide or your state's educational department can provide information on your options. 

Arrival time: Arriving 30 minutes early at your testing venue is advised. If taking it remotely, give yourself plenty of time to ensure your equipment works properly and you can follow all necessary instructions. 

Required Items: Be sure to learn about your state and venue's policies on what you can and cannot bring. Common requirements are ID and proof of registration. Ensure you know what types of ID are accepted and/or required. 

Check your testing centers dos and don'ts before you arrive. Many don't allow any watches, phones, or even a pencil. 

Preparation Tips and Strategies

You might prefer a spa day or a trip to the beach rather than taking the Foundations of Reading exam. We hear you and understand. But there are ways to reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative feelings that might arise when you hear the word "exam." 

Our biggest advice: Don't cram

Cramming creates big feelings and leaves little room in your brain to retain information. 

Instead, consider following our tips below. 

Select Study Resources

Successfully passing the Foundations of Reading requires studying the specific subareas the exam assesses. Candidates will find the preparation process easier if they select focused study resources rather than general teaching preparation material. 

One excellent resource is taking a preparation course. The material in these courses gives in-depth knowledge that applies to each exam section through videos and webinars. They also provide study material tools such as content review guides, flashcards, learning activities, practice quizzes, and online study groups.

 Other study resources include:
  •    Books
  •    Articles
  •    Websites

Create a Study Plan

Goals are easier to achieve with a plan. Consider athletes, such as long-distance runners, who draw up a training schedule in the months leading up to a big marathon. They will reach the finish line by consistently following their schedule, unlike those who only started exercising a week before (bad idea). 

Here are some helpful tips for designing a study plan:

  •    Take stock of your life's obligations. Grab your calendar or daily planner and go through the next few months. Mark out all the "must dos" in your life, such as work, walking the dog, and fetching kids from daycare. Then, go through each week and give a realistic estimate of how many hours are "free" for studying for the Foundations of Reading.  
  •    Book your time. "Free time" gets eaten fast by unexpected events, invitations, and people asking for favors. Book your study time now. Mark it on the calendar like it is an essential meeting with the CEO. Which is true because you are the CEO of Your Life. 
  •    Leave room for plot twists. Give yourself wiggle room. Yes, you are the CEO of Your Life, but life happens, from unexpected work demands, sick pets, children doing "what were you thinking?" stunts that break an arm, cars getting flat tires, and buses arriving late. Perfection is impossible, so make space for the inevitable twists and turns that will be thrown your way. 
  •    Arrive with an objective. Studying should have a purpose. Have an intention of what that session should achieve? Reading a chapter? Watching a video on a specific topic? Do a quiz for that testing subsection? 
  •    Plan for variety. Nothing causes people to abandon an activity faster than dull routines; just look at the quitting rate in diets and fitness. Ensure to vary your study techniques. Maybe study partners or "online quiz nights" twice a month. Rotate reading chapters by watching relevant videos. 
  •    Evaluate and adjust. Keep notes on your progress and adjust your study sessions accordingly. If you are nailing one subsection of the test, there is no point in focusing on it if you are struggling in another area. Once you feel confident in an area, begin investing more time in places you feel more uncertain. 

Practice and Review

Practice tests and reviews are essential for confidently taking the Foundations of Reading. The practice tests reveal your strengths and weaker areas. The information can be used to focus your review time to target the places that require the most attention. 

Practice tests also teach you about pacing yourself during the exam so that when the real day arrives, you can proceed calmly and steadily and won't feel the need to rush. 

Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress is a natural reaction to a big event. But it's different to think clearly if the emotion gets too high and brings anxiety in for the ride. Here are some ways to lower stress and keep it at manageable levels. 

Sleep and eat well
. Sure, we're always being told to eat well and get enough sleep, but that's not always practical. But make it a priority during the week leading to the test. Late-night cramming isn't going to absorb new information. Better to sleep and eat well so your brain is working its best. 

Avoid alcohol and party substances
. Leave the blowing off steam until after the test is done. For now, take a bath, light a candle, or listen to that meditation podcast you keep meaning to try.  

Breathe like its fuel for your brain
. Nobody says you have to do yoga, but according to Harvard, learning to take deep, steady breaths will help lower stress. Also, as the Smithsonian Magazine pointed out, we perform better at cognitive tasks when breathing properly, through the nose and engaging the diaphragm, 

Foundations of Reading Exam Strategies And Time Management

In the final few weeks before the Foundations of Reading Exam, it is time to start taking practice tests as if they were the real event. Set your timer and give yourself 2 hours and 30 minutes for multiple-choice and 1 hour and 30 for the two open-responses.  

Important exam strategies:

  •    Pay attention to the instructions. Before the test begins at the venue, instructions will be given on using the computer and answering the questions. Be sure you understand how to use the equipment before you begin. 
  •    Read the whole question. Don't rush. It's tempting to skim the question and give an answer to save time. But it raises the chances you'll miss essential information and answer incorrectly. 
  •    Come back to challenging multiple-choice questions. Don't dwell on a tough question for too long. You'll lose valuable time that could have been spent answering questions you can easily answer. Answer everything you can first, then come back to the difficult one. 
  •    Do the easier open-response first. Answer the open-response question that's easier first. Do not use more than half your allotted time on it. 

Scoring and Results

Scoring System: The Foundations of Reading (190) scoring system provides a mark of 100-300. The state determines the passing score. For example, Alabama and Mississippi require a 233 or higher, whereas  Massachusetts and North Carolina require a 240 or above.

Receiving Scores: Scores are released on a schedule related to your testing date and state. For example, candidates in Alabama who take the exam on May 12, 2024, will have their results released on May 31, 2024.  

Retaking the Exam: Most states allow candidates to retake the Foundations of Reading 30 days after their previous attempt, provided spaces are available at the venue.


Passing the Foundations of Reading (190) exam is a manageable goal. You can confidently prepare by following a study plan that addresses each of the exam's subareas over a plotted timeline. Ensure you are comfortable with the test structure and can manage your time by taking many practice quizzes. 

Deep breath. You can do this. But you don't have to do it alone. We at The Learning Liaisons are here to help you prepare and succeed.

Additional Resources