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This CBEST study guide provides tips on how to pass the CBEST, which is the California Basic Educational Skills Test. If you are studying to become a teacher, you might already know what the CBEST is.  If not, the CBEST exam measures whether or not you meet the state’s basic skills requirements in math, reading, and writing. You should also know the difference between CBEST and CSET, which is a separate test that assesses your subject matter competence.

Although not everyone who pursues a single-subject, multiple-subject or special education credential must take the CBEST, chances are that you’ll need to in order to meet your basic skills requirements. Here, you’ll find information about CBEST prep materials, how to use your study time effectively, and how to know what to do on the test day. Read on to find out more.

Know What CBEST Covers

CBEST assesses whether teacher certification applicants possess the necessary reading, writing, and mathematics skills to excel as educators. Below are the test specifications and the content areas in each of the three subtests.

Mathematics Subtest

The Math CBEST section features questions in a multiple-choice format, comprising 50 questions. This mathematics section will cover proficiency in calculations, estimating and measuring, and demonstrating knowledge in rounding numbers and identifying relationships between them. 

Tip: Review basic math concepts and problem-solving, and practice mental math during your CBEST math test prep period.

Reading Subtest

Like the mathematics subtest, the reading subtest consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. Your assessment will focus on your ability to evaluate written information and adeptly utilize it for research.

Tip: Build your vocabulary, practice active reading, and review literacy terms and techniques. Learn how to identify main ideas and details. Allocate time in your teachers test prep for reading materials to expose yourself to different writing styles, genres, and topics.  

Writing Subtest

The writing subtest comprises just two constructed-response assignments. One task requires evaluating provided information and crafting a response based on a prompt, while the other involves writing about a personal experience. This assessment gauges your capability to present information in a clear and logical manner, and passing the test doesn't necessitate specific knowledge about teaching philosophies, strategies, or subjects.

Tip: Focus on clarity and coherence while using proper grammar and punctuation. Use timed writing practice tests to develop time management skills and complete the task within the allotted time.

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How to Prepare for the CBEST

Register for the CBEST early. Registering for the CBEST usually involves a cost to applicants for the paper version and an additional test fee for the computer-based test. Registering late can cost extra. But extra fees are not the only consequence. As testing spots fill up, you also have fewer dates, times, and locations. By registering early for the exam, you can select the closest location and choose the most convenient session times.1

Find test prep materials. Preparing for the CBEST should begin long before your test date arrives. Start reviewing CBEST test prep materials, gathering practice test questions, and familiarizing yourself with the skills you’re expected to demonstrate on the test. Fortunately, Pearson Education has made this information available for free on its California Educator Credentialing Assessments website.

Know which skills you’ll be tested on. The first resource on Pearson’s prep materials webpage is the CBEST Test Specifications. This document lists all of the domain skills you’ll be assessed on for each section of the test (reading, mathematics, and writing). Even though no actual test questions appear here, the specifications indicate that you’ll need to, for example, identify the figurative and colloquial language in a passage of text or solve an algebraic equation with one unknown variable during the math test. Read these specifications and identify any basic skills you need to study and pass the test.2

Take a practice test. The most helpful resource on the webpage is the CBEST Practice Test. This is available as a Flash-based version that you complete in your web browser or as a PDF that you print and complete on paper. If possible, use the practice test version corresponding to the computer-based or paper-based CBEST you’ve registered for.

You can search for and find other free CBEST practice tests, and study guides online if you need additional practice. Be aware that many test prep websites allow you to access those free materials only by registering with your email address.3

CBEST Study Tips

Practice as if it’s the real test. If you’re a musician, dancer, or athlete, you may have heard a teacher or coach say, “Practice the way you want to perform.” In other words, try to replicate during your CBEST test preparation and practice the same conditions you’ll face in performance. Naturally, this isn’t always possible. But if you’re practicing for a test, you should try as much as possible to take it as if it’s the real thing. This includes putting away your cell phone and eliminating distractions that may interfere with your study time.

Time yourself. The CBEST is usually administered in a four-hour session, during which you can take one section of the test, two sections, or all three sections. If you plan to take the actual CBEST in one four-hour session, taking the practice test the same way is helpful. You should also minimize or avoid breaks during practice since only restroom breaks are allowed during the four-hour CBEST session.

Use practice scores to guide your review. Once you’ve taken the CBEST Practice Test, score each section according to the directions. The writing section is the hardest to score since your responses are in essay format rather than multiple-choice. While your practice test results won’t tell you how you’ll score on the actual CBEST, they can help you identify what you’ll need to study for to pass the test.4

Leading Up to Test Day

You might find yourself grappling with uncertainties in the days leading up to the CBEST, like "Is the CBEST difficult?". It is normal, and the key lies in ensuring you are well-prepared to tackle it with effective test-taking strategies and diligent studying. While studying is the primary factor in passing the CBEST, other important ways exist to prepare for test day and make the experience as smooth as possible. Here are a few suggestions.

Don’t cram. You may continue reviewing needed skills the week before the test, but finish your most intense studying at least a few weeks prior.

Look up the testing center’s location. If you’re not exactly sure where your assigned testing center is located, make sure to look it up before the day of the test. Searching the address on Google Maps allows you to see a street view of the testing center and driving directions and times so you can plan accordingly.

Review CBEST procedures and expectations. The California Educator Credentialing Assessments website includes CBEST testing information you should know prior to test day, including how to report to the test site, what to bring with you on your scheduled test day, and what identity document you’ll bring to the test site.

List everything you need to bring. Don’t hunt for these items at the last minute. Make a list of what you’ll need before the test day. This includes your driver’s license or other official ID and a printed copy of your admission ticket. If you’re taking the paper-based test, pencils are not supplied at the testing center, so bring multiple sharpened No. 2 pencils with erasers.

Rest well. Don’t underestimate the value of getting a good night’s sleep the night before taking the CBEST. You don’t want to be nodding off during the four-hour session.

The Day of the Test

From the moment you wake on the day of the test, everything you do should contribute to preparing yourself physically and mentally. Again, these are common-sense test-taking tips, but ones you may forget under pressure. Think through your game plan well in advance of test day. 

Eat well. As with resting well the night before, eating a nutritious breakfast that morning will give your body the stamina and energy needed to make it through the CBEST session. This is true even if you have an afternoon test session and have time for lunch beforehand. Closeable bottled water without a label is the only refreshment you can bring into the testing room.

Dress in layers. Consider bringing a long-sleeved sweatshirt you can easily put on or take off in the testing room. You don’t want the temperature to be a distraction during the exam.

Arrive on time. You’re expected to arrive no later than your scheduled time, but it’s wise to get there at least 15 minutes early to allow parking, walk to the building, check-in, locate the testing room, and stop at the restroom if needed. Not only will you be more relaxed for testing, but you’ll also avoid arriving late and being denied admittance. If you aren’t admitted, you’re marked absent and not given a refund.

Taking the CBEST

Once at the testing center, procedures will vary based on which version of the test — computer-based or paper-based — you’re taking. Here are some top test-taking tips to remember while taking the exam.

Read carefully. Whether directions, questions, diagrams, or text passages, read everything thoroughly. The wording in questions can be misleading if skimmed over. Pay attention to not, never, always, most, least, and other words that may narrow or rule out answer choices.

Pace yourself. If you took a CBEST Practice Test, you should know which sections require more time. Knowing how much time you have left is especially important if you take two or three sections in a single session. While a small clock will be displayed on your screen during the computer-based test, a clock may not be available during the paper-based test. The test facilitator will occasionally announce how much time remains, but wearing a silent, non-calculator wristwatch that day might still benefit you.

Answer all questions. On the CBEST, you aren’t docked points for answering incorrectly. But if you leave a question blank, you’re sure not to get points for it. If you’re completely stuck on a question, move on. Return to it later, reread the question, and give it your best guess.5

Remember that success is within your grasp as you embark on this significant journey toward obtaining your teaching credentials. The tips and strategies outlined in this guide can help, but what is more, is knowledge. Trust in your preparation, stay focused and believe in your ability. Best of luck.

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Where can you register for the CBEST?

Registration can be done through the CTC Exams website, by phone, or via mail.

How long are you allowed to complete the CBEST?

You have a four-hour time frame to finish all three sections of the exam.

What is the CBEST passing score?

To get a CBEST passing score, you need a total score of 123 across the three subtests. The results are calculated using scaled scores ranging from 20 to 80 for each section (reading, mathematics, and writing). While a passing score for each section is a scaled score of 41, you are allowed to score as low as 37 on one section, as long as the sum of your three scores is 123 or higher.

About Alliant

When you earn your credential from Alliant International University, you get the hands-on experience you need to become a credentialed teacher while enjoying the flexibility of online courses. Looking to earn a Certificate in California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL)? Alliant offers that as well. An Alliant Admission Counselor can tell you more at (866) 825-5426.



  1. “CBEST,” CBEST, accessed December 14, 2021,….
  2.  Basic skills requirement (CL-667), accessed December 14, 2021,
  3. CBEST preparation materials. Accessed December 14, 2021.…;
  4. “Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers,” | Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers, accessed December 14, 2021,
  5. Bonnie, and Jennifer. “Our Top 7 Tips for Taking the CBEST Test.” Swing Education. Accessed December 14, 2021.…;

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