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Last Updated On: January 30th, 2024

The CBEST is a standardized test that is taken by people looking to work in California public schools in positions that need a credential, certificate, or permit. It is a common way to provide the required proof of basic skills proficiency. If you are planning on taking this important exam, this article will give you some great information about the test and how to prepare for it.

Although the CBEST was previously offered in a paper testing format, it is currently offered in two computer-based options. Testing can be done at an official testing center or through remote proctoring in an approved location, like a home or business. To be best prepared for the CBEST in either location type, you will want to be very comfortable with the computer testing format. Pearson Education, Inc. has the official OnScreen Tutorial available to practice with the controls that you will be using on test day. Although the test is done in separate subtests, the longest of which is two hours in standard time, a possible consideration is that breaks taken at a testing center take time out of your testing allotment, but breaks are not permitted at all during a remotely proctored subtest. Scheduling is also a consideration when deciding your format, as remote proctoring is only available one week per month and testing center appointments are first-come, first-served.

Different subjects that will be presented in the CBEST

The CBEST contains three subtests: writing, reading, and math. To successfully pass the CBEST, you must get a combined score of 123 points, which averages to 41 points per subtest. You can make up for a weaker score on one subtest by gaining additional points in your stronger subject, but a subtest with a score lower than 37points must be retaken until you get over 37 points. This means that you can pass with 37/37/49, but not a 36/38/49. CBEST scores are notoriously difficult to predict as the questions are weighted, so practice tests are rarely given scaled scores and scaled score tables are not available as they are for so many other important exams. Generally, above 70% is a good percentage to reach for on Math and Reading sections in practice tests.

The Writing Section

The Writing section of the CBEST has two essay prompts. One essay will be a persuasive style essay, where you present a well organized and supported opinion. The other essay will ask you to meaningfully relate a personal experience. Neither of the essays will expect you to have specific subject matter knowledge, like science or history. The prompts are meant to be relatable for all testers, as the focus of this section is purely on your writing ability. Standard time for this section is 1.5 hours, so you will spend approximately 45 minutes per essay. The Official Writing Practice Test is a fantastic place to see an example of each of these prompt types.

The Reading Section

The Reading section of the CBEST has 50 multiple choice questions that will test your critical analysis and evaluation skills (40% of the subtest) and your comprehension and research skills (60% of the subtest). This section also has a standard time of 1.5 hours. Strictly calculated, this gives you 1.8 minutes per question, but some of that time will be used for an initial review of the passage and the remainder for reading the question and reviewing the passage to determine the answer. The Official Reading Practice Test is a great place to see examples of the types of passages and questions that will appear on the CBEST.

The Math Section

The Math section of the CBEST also has 50 multiple choice questions, but this subtest gives you 2 hours (2.4 minutes per question). The questions in this section are mostly word problems, so that time will be spent reading, breaking down, and solving each question. There are no calculators allowed in the CBEST, unlike the CSET, so calculations will need to be done by hand. Luckily this means that the calculations will use easier numbers. The Math section will test estimation, measurement, and statistical principles (30% of the subtest), computation and problem-solving (35% of the subtest), and numerical and graphic relationships (35% of the subtest).To see the style and level of the math questions, you can start with the Official Math Practice Test.

How to best prep and study for the CBEST

Be ready for the format

With all of the practice materials available for The Writing Section, The Reading Section, and The Math Section, as well as the OnScreen Tutorial for format practice, you have the materials that you need to see the format of the test. Becoming comfortable with the test format will allow you to spend your time working on the test questions and developing the best essay that you can, rather than reading the instructions for the sections or stumbling with the test controls. Additionally, knowing what to expect with the format of the test generally and the subtests in specific will help with your comfort and feeling of preparedness on the day of the test.

For each of the subtests, there are trends in questions and answer choices (for Reading and Math) and prompts (for Writing). If you are ready for the format, you will be able to recognize trends in questions, so that you will be able to more quickly identify what you are being asked, what the potential traps are, and how to start finding the answers. Familiarity with answer formats will help you identify how to eliminate common wrong answer types, when you can plug in numbers, and how to use the answers to clarify the questions. Familiarity with the writing prompts will allow you to more easily work through prewrites, to be comfortable with the two essay types, and to identify “CBEST-type” essay prompts from the extreme number of practice prompts available. When preparing for the format of the CBEST, it may be quite useful to find a mentor, tutor, or teacher that has experience with the CBEST in particular so that you can take advantage of their knowledge in the test structure.

Review the material

In addition to the test format, you will want to sharpen up any areas in the test topics that have gotten rusty or are challenging for you. If you know of particular areas that have been confusing for you in the past, begin your review as soon as you are able. Using textbooks, online sources, or personal instruction to strengthen weak topics such as arithmetic, grammar, or paraphrasing, for example, can build your confidence, ease timing stress, and raise your scores. With all of these benefits, it is worth it to start a solid study program as soon as you are able!

If you do not have specific areas of concern, or you don’t know what your weaker areas are, taking practice tests and reviewing CBEST materials can help you identify topics that could use a boost. Make sure to have supportive mentors, teachers, or tutors read your practice essays; practice multiple choice sections are easy to grade with an answer key, but an objective reader is needed to make writing suggestions. Remember that you can’t learn EVERYTHING, so focus on the most important test topics for as much time as you have for preparation. Use all of the resources that you can find, but check back in often with the official published materials. There is a limited amount of official material, so you will want to use test prep guidebooks and online sources. However, the official materials are written and reviewed by the company that writes the test, so it is important to keep that style and level of difficulty in mind.

Strategies for test stress

If you find yourself battling test stress and anxiety, acknowledge and address it. Learning the format and topics of the test will help, but even as you do that, you may experience the discomfort of stress. When you are battling nerves about the CBEST, you are not as effective in your study or in your test performance. Additionally, test stress can make you miserable in other aspects of your life. There are strategies that you can apply before your test day, on test day, and even during your test, so become familiar with different strategies to help your brain work its best!

As you begin or enhance your CBEST preparation through your research, remember to polish your familiarity with the test formats and materials, maximize your comfort level, and take strategic advantage of the resources available so that you can shine on this important exam!

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