The California Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) Written Examination is designed to test a candidate's knowledge about effective reading instruction and his or her ability to apply that knowledge. The test includes a multiple-choice section with 70 questions (60 of which count toward your score) and a constructed-response section consisting of five essay questions: two 50-word essays, two 150-word essays, and one 300-word essay that is a case-study.

For this last and longest essay, you will be given six to eight pages of information about a student, including background, samples and assessments, worksheets, and teacher and parent comments and evaluations. You will use this information to write a 300-word case study in which you assess the student's reading performance, describe and prescribe instructional strategies and activities, and explain why your prescribed strategies and activities would be effective.

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for this section of the exam:

  • Give yourself at least an hour to look through the materials, make notes, and write the essay.

  • Answer all the tasks given. It's easy to skip a part under the time pressure — for example, describing activities but forgetting to explain why they will be effective.

  • Refer to the tasks to make sure that your answer is focused. Marking the tasks will help in maintaining focus.

  • Using specific assessments, activities, materials, and key words ("buzzwords") that are used in the field can help display your knowledge of a subject.

  • Keep track of your time. Pace yourself. Leave time to briefly scan your essay to make sure you've answered the given tasks.

  • Look for major errors in focus. Don't be overly concerned with minor spelling or grammatical errors.

When you get down to actually writing the essay, keep this strategy in mind to create a well-constructed case study that touches on all the necessary topics:

  1. When you write your analysis of the case study, first describe the student's strengths and cite the pieces of data that led you to the conclusion that those were strengths.

  2. Next, do the same for the weaknesses: Explain what the weaknesses are and cite the data that showed that they were weaknesses.

  3. Finally, write your recommendations for instructional strategies and activities to meet the student's strengths and weaknesses. Describe what the strategy and/or activity is and how it works. Give your rationale for why you selected that specific strategy or activity for that student. You want to answer the questions, "What would you do about it?" and "How would you do it?"

Important note: The more specific you can be, the better your score will be. If you can name specific programs or assessments that address the student's weaknesses, you should. It is also helpful to give the names of specific types of materials or titles of books to use as examples. If you aren't sure that a specific program or assessment actually addresses the specific need, then don't mention it; it's better to be general than to be inaccurate.

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