CBEST Reading Test: Everything You Need to Know

Are you preparing to take the California Basic Educational Skills Test or the CBEST? If so, you must already know that the test has three different sections: Reading, Math, and Writing. Each section assesses various skills so you can prove that you have the competencies to teach basic education in the State of California.

Once you register and schedule your test, it’s time to gather your materials and prepare! Each section is just as important as the other, and the CBEST is infamously not an easy test to pass; it is important that you dedicate an ample amount of time to pass and move your career forward.

CBEST Reading Test Structure

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) offers various tests for those who want to become licensed practicing teachers in the state. The CBEST is one of the tests under the CTC Basic Skills Requirement for teachers in the state. You can read more about our overview of the CBEST in this article.

The CBEST consists of three sections with the following test formats and time limits:

  • Reading – 50 multiple choice items, 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Math – 50 multiple choice items, 2 hours
  • Writing – 2 essays, 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Reading section aims to assess your proficiency in basic reading skills, namely critical analysis and evaluation; and comprehension and research skills. These two skill factors are tested in this section: 40% for critical analysis and evaluation, and 60% for comprehension and research skills. You will be reading and analyzing passages, tables, graphs, and other forms of text which vary in difficulty. You will be answering two to four questions per passage or table provided.

For critical analysis and evaluation questions, you will have to sharpen your ability to identify the main idea of a passage, inconsistent points, as well as comparing data provided. You may also be asked to evaluate evidence as presented, and will engage your critical analysis skills.

On the other hand, comprehension and research skills questions test your ability to fully understand given data presented together in various formats, relate them to one another, and draw out information as needed. You will be asked to draw out conclusions or make inferences, or define a term based on context clues.

CBEST Reading Test: Sample Questions

All three sections of the CBEST weigh equally in terms of scoring. It is therefore important for test takers to make sure they will get the minimum score for each section, instead of depending solely on the subjects they are stronger in. See if you can answer our following sample questions:

Sample Question #1:

In recent years, schools have increasingly adopted zero-tolerance policies to address disciplinary issues among students. These policies enforce strict consequences for any form of misbehavior, regardless of the severity or context. Proponents argue that zero-tolerance policies create safer school environments and send a strong message about the unacceptability of misconduct. However, critics argue that these policies often result in disproportionate punishments, particularly for minor infractions, and disproportionately affect certain student groups.

On one hand, proponents of zero-tolerance policies argue that they promote discipline, deterrence, and consistency. By applying severe consequences uniformly, schools aim to establish clear boundaries and maintain order. Supporters contend that zero-tolerance policies contribute to a focused learning environment where students feel safe and can thrive academically.

On the other hand, critics contend that zero-tolerance policies often lead to unintended consequences. Punishments such as suspensions or expulsions may remove students from the educational setting, disrupting their learning and potentially pushing them into further trouble. Moreover, studies have shown that these policies disproportionately affect students from minority backgrounds, exacerbating existing inequalities in the education system.

Which of the following provides the Best Summary of the Main Point of the Passage?

a. Zero-tolerance policies are effective in maintaining discipline and safety in schools.

b. Critics argue that zero-tolerance policies result in disproportionate punishments and impact certain student groups unfairly.

c. The adoption of zero-tolerance policies has led to a decrease in disciplinary issues among students.

d. Supporters of zero-tolerance policies argue that they create a more inclusive educational environment for all students.

The passage presents both the arguments in favor of and against zero-tolerance policies. However, the main focus is on the criticisms of these policies, emphasizing that they often lead to disproportionate punishments and have a disproportionate impact on certain student groups. Therefore, the best summary of the main point of the passage is: b. Critics argue that zero-tolerance policies result in disproportionate punishments and impact certain student groups unfairly.

Sample Question #2:

Job Applicants and Qualifications


 Education  Experience



 Bachelor’s degree  5 years  Project management, communication


 Master’s degree

 3 years  Data analysis, programming
 Emily  Associate’s degree  2 years

 Customer service, problem-solving

 Michael  High school diploma  1 year

 Sales, negotiation

Based on the table, which applicant is most likely suited for a job requiring strong project management skills and a high level of communication?

a. John

b. Sarah

c. Emily

d. Michael

Looking at the Skills column in the table, we see that John is the applicant with qualifications in project management and communication. Therefore, John (a.) is the most likely applicant suited for a job requiring those skills.

You can get more free sample questions for the CBEST over at our partners at JobTestPrep!

How to Interpret the CBEST Reading Test Score

Scoring in each section of the CBEST ranges from 20 to 80. If you aim to pass the CBEST, you must get at least 41 points in each section, for a total minimum passing score of 123 points. However, failing to go above 37 in any section means you automatically fail the test.

According to the official CBEST Test Result Information, the Reading (and Math) scores are derived from the total number of questions answered correctly. When reading your results, you can see how you performed on each question. This will help you assess your areas of strength and weakness and/or will help you prepare to retake any section(s) of the test, if ever. For each skill area, you will see one of the designations that appear below:

++++ – If you answered many of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 41–60)
+++ – If you answered most of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 61–80)
++ – If you answered some of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 31–40)
+ – If you answered few or none of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 20–30)

The average passing rate of first-time CBEST takers across all three sections is at 65%.

In case you fail to make the cut, you will have to wait 45 days to retake the CBEST after receiving your scores to register again, but you no longer have to retake the test where you got a score of 41 or higher. However, retaking will give you the advantage of getting a higher score which can help you reach the required 123 points, and whichever higher score you get (whether the previous or the retake), will be used to compute your total CBEST score.

How to Prepare for the CBEST Reading Section

Preparing for the CBEST Reading Section is a must. While you are free to retake the test with no limit, this will take much more resources and time on your end. Here are some tips on how to make sure you are at your best for the test:

  • Begin with the official CBEST Reading Test Practice. This is the best way to begin your review sessions. The answer key at the end of the document will show which questions fall under critical analysis and evaluation, and which fall under comprehension and research skills. Take note where you are lacking, and make sure you improve on this as time goes by.
  • Don’t stop with one test practice. Don’t just use the CBEST reading test practice once or take it over and over again, this is not how you improve. It also cannot be your only basis on whether or not you will pass the test. Rather, look for other CBEST Reading Section practice packs and resources, specifically ones that are made for the CBEST.
  • Read to Refresh. Read up on basic critical analysis concepts and widen your vocabulary. Take other tests that will improve these skills or read news or magazine articles so you can refresh and recharge your mind at the same time.
  • Time all your practice tests. If you are a slow reader, improve your reading time carefully. Make sure you get to absorb all the information without missing critical points or ideas. Another tip is to read the question first before going back to the passage where you will extract the answer from.
  • Prepare a timeline. Set a goal in your review period. When in your timeline should you be able to get a minimum passing score in your practice tests? Ideally, you should aim for a score of 41 and higher in each section to make sure that you pass. You should also make sure that you don’t go below 37 in any section.

Make sure to prepare properly whether you are taking the CBEST at a testing center or remotely; failing to arrive or log in on time will forfeit your slot. For those taking the test remotely, make sure that your device also has the capabilities to perform the test, can run the programs needed, and that you have a working webcam and microphone.

Reading to Succeed

The CBEST Reading section is just one of the three that most aspiring teachers in the state of California will have to take. Each section weighs equally in terms of scoring, and should be therefore  taken seriously. The Reading section will test your critical analysis and evaluation and comprehension and research skills.

If you believe your skills for this subject are weak, then you must prepare thoroughly for this test, as getting a score lower than 37 will mean an automatic failure even if you score higher in the other two. Taking trusted practice tests and improving your reading skills will definitely get you that much-needed certification to kickstart your teaching career. Good luck!

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