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Passing the CBEST

Before you can become a teacher in California you first need to pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Preparation is very important if you wish to pass this test the first time.

Most people who already have a bachelor's degree will have little trouble passing on the first try. Since the test is made of three parts - reading, writing, mathematics - if one part does not earn a passing grade, you can always retake that one section of the test.

Each section of the test can achieve a score between 20 and 80 points. You must achieve a passing score of 41 in each section, or have a total score of 123 across all three sections, as long as you don't score lower than 37 in any section. Visit the official CBEST website for an official score report explanation (PDF format).

Passing the Reading Section

  • Read all the directions very carefully
  • Read through all of the 50 questions in each section
  • Read through the passage and highlight important words, phrases, or passages
  • Try to consider the tone of the passage (Critical? Humorous Pessimistic?)
  • Return to the questions and eliminate all answers that appear obviously wrong

Remember that your answer should be based purely on the material itself, not how you think it should be interpreted based on your experience

Passing the Essay Section

This section of the test consists of several essay topics. You're instructed to choose two topics to write on. Generally one topic will be an analysis of a situation or statement, while the other will be a narrative of a personal experience. The basic goal of the essay section is to measure your ability to compose essays within a given time, which effectively communicates certain ideas to your audience.

You will not have much time in this section to consider, plan, or rewrite. You need to map out each essay quickly and clearly. Before you take the test, take some time to look at past questions or high scoring answers.

Passing the Mathematics Section

This section consists of 50 math problems with multiple choice answers. The questions will be on a range of mathematical disciplines, from elementary level through early college, including:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Geometry

Try not to spend too much time on an individual question. If you budget your time accordingly, you should have time to come back and take a crack at the more difficult questions.

General Test-Taking Tips

  • Study by taking CBEST practice tests before exam day
  • In order to save time, pre-read the test instructions before exam day. This will keep you from having to go back and forth reading the instructions.
  • Bring a watch with you so you can accurately budget your time.
  • If you get stuck on a question, make a note and come back to it if you have time.
  • Make sure that you mark the answer on the correct sheet.
  • Only correct answers are counted, so if you're reaching your time limit or don't know an answer, you're better off guessing the answer than leaving it blank.
  • As you're working through the test, cross off answers that are incorrect in your test booklet. That way you can see clearly which options remain.
  • Keep in mind that not everyone will pass this test the first time. You can always come back and try again!

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