This 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, using your study time effectively, and knowing what to do on the day of the test. Read on to find out more.
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 to choose from. By registering early for the exam, you’re able to select the closest location and choose session times that are most convenient for you.1
Find test prep materials. Preparing for the CBEST should begin long before your test date arrives. Start reviewing CBEST test prep materials and familiarizing yourself with the skills you’re expected to demonstrate on the test. Fortunately, Pearson Education has made this information available to you for free on its California Educator Credentialing Assessments website.
Know which skills you’ll be tested on. The first resource that appears 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 figurative and colloquial language in a passage of text, or solve an algebraic equation with one unknown variable during the math test. Read through all of these specifications and identify any basic skills you will 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 out and complete on paper. If possible, use the practice test version that corresponds to the actual computer-based or paper-based CBEST you’ve registered for.
If you need additional practice, you can search for and find other free CBEST practice tests and study guides online. 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 something like, “Practice the way you want to perform.” In other words, try to replicate during your 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 getting rid of any 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’re planning to take the actual CBEST in one four-hour session, it’s helpful to take the practice test the same way. 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 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 in order to pass the test.4
Leading Up to Test Day
While studying is the primary factor in passing the CBEST, there are other important ways 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, as well as 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 provide your body with the stamina and energy it needs 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 that you can easily put on or take off in the testing room. You don’t want 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 for parking, walking to the building, checking in, locating the testing room, and stopping at the restroom if needed. Not only will you be more relaxed for testing, 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 of our top test-taking tips to keep in mind while taking the exam.
Read carefully. Whether directions, questions, diagrams, or text passages, read everything thoroughly. 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 have a good idea about which sections will require more time. Knowing how much time you have left is especially important if you’re taking two or three sections in a single session. While a small clock will be displayed on your screen during the computer-based test, there may not be a clock available to you during the paper-based test. The test facilitator will occasionally announce how much time remains, but it might still benefit you to wear a silent, non-calculator wristwatch that day.
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
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- “CBEST,” CBEST, accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG%2FCA_CBEST_Te….
- Basic skills requirement (CL-667), accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/basic-skills-requirement-(cl-667).
- CBEST preparation materials. Accessed December 14, 2021. http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG%2FCA_CBEST_Pre…;
- “Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers,” Study.com | Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers, accessed December 14, 2021, https://study.com/academy/popular/how-to-pass-the-cbest.html.
- Bonnie, and Jennifer. “Our Top 7 Tips for Taking the CBEST Test.” Swing Education. Accessed December 14, 2021. https://swingeducation.com/resources/our-top-7-tips-for-taking-the-cbes…;