CBEST: Everything You Need to Know
The education sector is the foundation of human development and civilization. Teachers are in charge of shaping young minds and inspiring them into becoming engineers, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals that make up our society. It is therefore critical for teachers to have the right skills to teach students.
Like other states and countries, the State of California requires certain credentials for individuals who want to become teachers or certain positions within the system.
Passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) is one of the ways aspiring teachers can show their competencies and capabilities to teach, specifically proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics.
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What Is CBEST
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. It is usually a computer-based test taken in testing centers, but can now also be taken remotely with an online proctor, which has a separate set of guidelines and registration. The paper-based test has been phased out by the state.
In 2021, the CBEST was removed as a requirement for aspiring teachers. Instead, teachers can also pass the score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), obtain and pass Advanced Placement (AP) Exams from the College Board, or obtain Basic Skills Requirement through other coursework, among others. This helps teaching graduates apply for teaching positions in many ways. However, the CBEST is still required for some state-accredited teacher or credentialing programs, as well as those seeking administrative services credentials.
What Is in the CBEST
The CBEST consists of three sections with the following test formats and time limits:
- Reading Test – 50 multiple choice items, 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Math Test – 50 multiple choice items, 2 hours
- Writing Test – 2 essays, 1 hour and 30 minutes
Calculators are strictly not allowed in the Math section. Each section is administered in separate testing sessions; therefore, candidates must register for each section separately. This can be used to one’s advantage as you can register and schedule each section on separate days if you are overwhelmed by the time and amount of questions.
CBEST Reading Test
The Reading section aims to assess your comprehension through passages, tables, and graphs. While the questions do not require any prior or external knowledge, they all vary in difficulty and can be about different fields.
There are two skill factors tested in the Reading section: critical analysis and evaluation (40% of questions); and comprehension and research skills (60% of questions). These questions will measure your ability to draw out correct conclusions based on given data, identify evidence in passages, determine which is the main idea, and analyze statements in order to determine its intended audience.
CBEST Math Test
The Mathematics section on the other hand aims to assess integral mathematical skills. There are three skills factors tested in this section: estimation, measurement, and statistical principles (30%); computation and problem-solving (35%); and numerical and graphical relationships (35%). Most of the questions in this section will be presented as word problems, although graphs and tables may also appear.
Unlike the Reading section, the test taker should be familiar with foundational math concepts when taking this test. Some concepts include basic conversion and measurements, using statistical principles, and interpreting data. Calculators are strictly not allowed in this test.
CBEST Writing Test
The Writing section aims to gauge your writing skills, specifically about two topics. You will analyze a given situation or statement in the first topic, while you will be asked to write about a specific personal experience in the second. These two prompts will test your writing skills and how you organize your thoughts, flesh out details, and of course basic grammar and language use.
Not everyone can take the CBEST. It is only open for those who have earned their high school diploma or GED, and have taken or are taking college credit courses for a career in education.
There are two ways to take the CBEST: computer-based at designated testing centers and online proctored remotely (at home or in the workplace). Computer-Based Testing is appointment-based and is available all year round for applicants, from Monday to Saturday excluding holidays. For remote testing with online proctoring, there is a one-week window provided per month where people can take the exam.
To register for CBEST, you need to make an account at the California Educator Credentialing Assessments website. The CBEST registration process is as follows:
- Sign in to your account. Make sure to take note of your username and password. In case you forget, follow the retrieval process on the login page.
- Choose the correct test program (in this case, CBEST) and the respective subtests or test sections. Choose the test center nearest you, or if you will be taking the test remotely.
- Answer all questions and make sure all information is accurate. Review and agree to the test rules and guidelines, before proceeding to payment. As of writing, each section costs $30. Fees are waived for California residents.
- Schedule your test appointment and wait for the confirmation email from the website, which will contain your schedule, the address of your testing center, as well as directions to the venue.
- If you wish to reschedule or withdraw your registration, sign-in on the website and go under Current Registrations, where you can change or cancel testing dates up to 24 hours before your appointment. Follow these instructions for withdrawals and these instructions for changing your registration to computer-based testing.
Make sure to check the website for announcements that may temporarily hinder you from registration, such as site updates or scheduled system maintenance. It is highly recommended to register and schedule a test as early as possible to avoid running out of slots for your desired date of testing. CBEST test dates can get filled quickly.
Sample CBEST Practice 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.
Sample questions: Reading
Expect the following types of questions for the Reading Section:
Climate change is an urgent global issue that requires immediate action. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation contribute to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to rising temperatures, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events. These changes pose significant risks to ecosystems, human health, and socio-economic stability. To mitigate climate change, a shift towards renewable energy sources, sustainable land use practices, and international cooperation is essential. Urgent measures are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to changing conditions, and promote sustainable development for a better future.
Which of the following best summarizes the main idea of the passage?
a. Climate change is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation and requires urgent action to mitigate its impacts.
b. Rising temperatures, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events are consequences of climate change, which necessitates immediate global cooperation and sustainable practices.
c. Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change pose significant risks to ecosystems, human health, and socio-economic stability, emphasizing the need for international efforts and sustainable development.
d. The urgent need to shift towards renewable energy sources, sustainable land use practices, and international cooperation to mitigate climate change and promote a better future.
The correct answer is d., as this sentence best summarizes the main idea of the passage, which emphasizes the necessity of taking urgent action by transitioning to renewable energy sources, implementing sustainable land use practices, and promoting international cooperation to mitigate climate change and work towards a better future.
See below for another example:
Table: Average Monthly Temperatures (in Celsius) in Different Cities
Based on the table, which city experiences the highest average monthly temperature in August?
a. City A
b. City B
c. City C
d. City D
The correct answer is c., as by examining the “Aug” column in the table, City C has the highest average monthly temperature listed as 35 degrees Celsius.
Click here to get more practice test questions and answers for the CBEST Reading Section.
Sample questions: Math
Expect the following types of questions for the Math Section:
1/2, 3/8, 5/16, 7/32, ____?
To solve this question, we can observe that the numerator increases by 2 each time, while the denominator doubles with each term. Following this pattern, the next numerator should be 7 + 2 = 9. And the next denominator should be 32 × 2 = 64. Therefore, the correct answer is a.
See below for another sample question:
A store is offering a discount of 15% on all items. If Sarah buys a shirt during the sale and pays $34.85 after the discount, what was the original price of the shirt before the discount?
The sale price of the shirt can be calculated as:
Sale price = Original price – (15% of Original price)
$34.85 = x – (0.15 * x)
To solve for x, we simplify the equation:
$34.85 = x – 0.15x
$34.85 = 0.85x
Dividing both sides of the equation by 0.85 gives us:
x = $34.85 / 0.85
x ≈ $41.00
Therefore, the original price of the shirt before the discount was approximately $41.00, which is letter b.
Click here to get more practice test questions and answers for the CBEST Math Section.
Sample topics: Writing
Expect the following types of topics to write about for the Writing Section:
- In today’s digital age, the use of technology in the classroom has become increasingly prevalent. Some argue that technology enhances the learning experience and provides valuable educational opportunities, while others believe it can be a distraction and hinder traditional teaching methods. Write an essay in which you analyze the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating technology into the classroom. Support your position with examples and evidence from your own experiences or observations.
- Describe a challenging experience you faced in your educational journey. Reflect on how you overcame the obstacles and what lessons you learned from the experience. Explain how this experience has shaped you as an individual and influenced your approach to education. Use specific examples and details to support your response.
- Which technological innovation has had the most significant impact on society? Discuss one innovation and provide specific reasons and examples to support your assertion.
- In your opinion, which character trait is most crucial for maintaining strong personal relationships? Choose one trait and use specific reasons and examples to explain your decision.
Click here to get more writing prompts and explanations for the CBEST Writing Section.
How to Prepare for the CBEST
The CBEST assessment not only costs time and money whenever you register, but it is also important if you want to move forward in your teaching career. Do not be fooled by the word “basic” in its name. In the last three years, the passing rate of first-time CBEST takers across all three sections is at 65%. Make sure you follow these tips in preparing for the test:
Do you prefer to take the test in a testing center or at home? While the unfamiliar environment of a testing center can make you feel more anxious, your home or workplace may not be conducive for taking a long exam. Make sure you list down all the pros and cons before registering on the website.
Review, practice, review
The CBEST tests foundational skills in reading, writing, and math. While this might sound easy, you might have already forgotten some of the concepts covered in the test. Refresh your knowledge, and then take practice tests. Once you see where you are lacking, repeat the process all over again. This method will be most helpful for the Reading and Math Sections.
Learn new tricks
Speaking of Reading and Math, since both tests will be in multiple-choice format, make sure you employ test-taking strategies that will help you get to the right answer faster, whether via elimination or approximation. For reading passages, make sure you read the questions first so you know what to look for in the text.
Learn from your mistakes
During the course of your review sessions, analyze the items that you got wrong. What kind of oversight happened? Which math concept did you forget? Knowing these will help you avoid them the next time and in the actual test itself.
The first draft is the most important
Not everyone likes writing, and some even find it daunting. For the Writing section, practice by writing and using test prep packs. Begin with a simple outline, and then get to writing. Avoid second-guessing every sentence and focus on writing your thoughts down first. Once you finish, then you can reorganize your thoughts, flesh out some ideas, and of course proofread.
Take note of the time
Make sure to time your practice tests. If you go over the 1.5 hours allotted for reading or math, make sure to improve your time in the next round.
Find support groups
Some people review better in a group. See if you can find online or offline study groups in your school or neighborhood. This is also a chance to share materials and make the preparation process easier on your mind.
CBEST Test Day
If you are taking the CBEST at a testing center, make sure you get there 15-30 minutes before your schedule. Check out the usual traffic on that day and time and factor in possible events that can cause you to be late. If you arrive after the exam has started, you will not be permitted to take the exam at all. Make sure you have all the requirements needed, such as two valid IDs and a bag where you can keep all your personal items, to be left outside the testing room.
If you are taking the test remotely, make sure to log in 15-30 minutes before your schedule. You will also need to show two valid IDs. The proctor will also ask for a scan of your room or testing area to make sure you don’t have any of the prohibited items or materials near you. Prior to this, 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.
Take note that you will need to read and sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), whether you are at the testing center or taking the test remotely. Take note of the prohibited items in the testing site for Computer-Based Testing and for activities that can stop your Online Proctoring.
You can get a score of 20 to 80 in each section of the CBEST. If you’re wondering about the CBEST passing scores, you must get at least 41 points per section, for a total score of 123 points. However, if you go below 37 in one section, you automatically fail the test, no matter how high you got in the other sections. For example, if you got a 56 in Reading, 49 in Writing, but a 31 in Math, you are considered to not have passed the CBEST even if your score is 136.
If you opted for the Computer-Based Testing, you will receive preliminary test results for the Reading and Math Sections right after your test, as well as a receipt of completion for the Writing Section. Official test results will be available within 2 weeks. Those who opted for Online Proctoring will not receive preliminary test results and will wait up to 2 weeks for their results.
If you pass the CBEST, congratulations! You will receive a permanent verification card and two transcript copies of your results as proof of your success.
Retaking the CBEST Assessment
If you happen to not get a passing score in the CBEST, don’t fret! There is no limit to taking the CBEST, although you will have to wait 45 days after receiving your scores to register again. There is no shame in retaking the CBEST, given how difficult it is for most first-time takers.
When retaking the CBEST, the best strategy to ensure an improved score is to address your weaknesses. Analyze your test results and see where you must dedicate more time to reviewing and taking more practice tests. Keep on reviewing and look to your support group for advice and comfort.
Only the Best for the Brighter Future
The CBEST was developed to ensure that the individuals who will be primarily in charge of children’s education have passed the high standards for educators. It is understandable that the state of California only wants the best for its students, who will inevitably shape its future.
The CBEST is infamously difficult and for a reason. Proper preparation is required to pass the three sections and begin their careers in the education sector. Reviewing the right materials and joining support groups are just some of the ways one can prepare for the CBEST.
In case you don’t pass on your first try, don’t fret! Rest assured you aren’t the first or the only one. You can retake the test and prove that you have what it takes to be part of this foundational sector.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.