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If you’re planning to complete a teacher credential program and teach in California, you'll need to meet the state's basic skills requirement in order to qualify for a teacher certification or credential. For many people, taking and passing the CBEST is the way to meet this requirement. What is the CBEST test? This guide will give you the CBEST information you need, including who needs to take it, what kind of questions are on it, and what is required to pass it.

1. What Is the CBEST and What Is the CBEST For?

You undoubtedly learned “the three Rs” in grade school — reading, writing, and arithmetic. It turns out that these are as important as your elementary teacher said they were, especially if you want to teach. No matter your educational specialty, the State of California wants to ensure that all classroom teachers have basic skills in these fundamental subjects —and this is exactly what the CBEST exam is designed to measure.

CBEST stands for the California Basic Educational Skills Test and must be passed in order to get a teaching credential or to work as a substitute teacher in the state. What type of test is the CBEST? The exam assesses whether a teacher candidate meets state proficiency standards in the core subjects of mathematics, reading, and writing in English. The CBEST does not assess whether you can actually teach those subjects to others. It only measures whether or not you satisfy the basic skills requirement in those subjects.

Keep in mind that CBEST and CSET are two different tests. While many confuse the two, the CSET is a separate test assessing subject matter competence.

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2. Who Should Take the CBEST?

It’s possible that you won’t need to take the CBEST. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing specifies several other options for meeting the basic skills requirement. For example, taking and passing both the Multiple Subjects and Writing Skills examinations of the CSET meets this requirement. So does taking and passing a basic skills examination in another state. Your score on the ACT or SAT may also exempt you from having to take the CBEST. Review the CBEST requirements to see if skipping the CBEST is an option for you.

3. What Is On the CBEST Test?

The CBEST is made up of three sections, which you can take together in one four-hour session or take in four separate one-hour sessions.

Reading is the first section, which consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. These questions on various subjects require you to read and comprehend information as presented in text passages, graphs, and tables. As you answer the questions, you’re assessed on two main skills:

  1. Critical Analysis and Evaluation (40% of the questions)
  2. Comprehension and Research (60% of the questions)

Mathematics, the second section, also contains 50 multiple-choice questions. Most of these questions are word problems, and calculators cannot be used. This section assesses three main skills:

  1. Estimation, Measurement, and Statistical Principles (30% of the questions)
  2. Computation and Problem Solving (35% of the questions)
  3. Numerical and Graphical Relationships (35% of the questions)

The final section is writing and consists of two essay questions. Both assess your writing ability but do not require you to demonstrate specialized knowledge in your responses. The essays will ask you to:

  1. Write from personal experience on a given topic
  2. Analyze a given statement or situation

Test specifications, practice tests, and other online resources will help you prepare for the CBEST.

4. What is Required to Pass the CBEST?

Each of the three CBEST sections – math, reading, and writing – has a passing score of 41. A combined score of 123 is required to pass the CBEST. You can score as low as 37 on one or two sections and still pass the CBEST, as long your overall total is 123 or higher. However, you would have to retake any section that scores below 37.  

Your CBEST score is released up to three weeks after your testing date for paper-based tests. If you take the CBEST examination via computer, your preliminary reading and math scores will be available that day, with your full results delivered within two weeks.

5. What Are CBEST Testing Options?

The CBEST is offered in both computer and pencil-and-paper formats. Both formats require a test fee for each test registration. Paper-based testing is typically offered six times a year at locations throughout California. Computer-based testing has the advantage of being available year-round, by appointment, at state testing centers. However, this convenience comes with an additional service fee.

6. How to Ace the Exam?

To ensure you'll get a CBEST passing score, you can find various CBEST study guides and CBEST practice test questions online. Before going through the CBEST registration process, reviewing CBEST exam practice tests is highly suggested so you can develop your math, reading, and writing skills before test day.

Here are some suggested materials to help you get ready for the examination:

  • Visit the official CBEST study guide - The official study guide provided by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) is a comprehensive resource. It outlines the test content, provides practice question samples, and offers valuable insights into the exam format.
  • CBEST test prep books - Bookstores offer numerous study guides, but you must select those associated with the most reputable brand names.
  • Explore online practice platforms -Look for those that offer CBEST practice questions and interactive study resources. Websites or apps focusing on CBEST preparation can provide additional practice opportunities.
  • Flashcards - Use CBEST flashcards to reinforce key concepts and definitions. Flashcards are a portable and effective tool for reviewing content and testing your knowledge on the go.
  • CBEST Study Courses - Enroll in CBEST study courses, either in-person or online, that provide structured lessons, expert guidance, CBEST math practice tests, and additional practice materials. 

Study Tips for the CBEST

  • Master each basic skill proficiency (basic reading, mathematics, and writing). Seek feedback from teachers, tutors, or peers to gain additional insights. Review incorrect answers during your teacher's test prep and understand why you got them wrong. This maximizes your chances of success if you can master each section.
  • Understand the question formats and techniques for the best answers - This helps you navigate tests and choose the most appropriate answers. This is a strategic approach for better performance in different types of assessments.
  • Provide detailed and well-supported responses - Avoid vague or ambiguous language that may lead to misinterpretation. Steer clear of broad generalizations. Instead, focus on specific details that directly relate to the question. Always stay on topic. Review and edit for clarity if you have to.
  • Rewrite the passage into your own words - This strategy helps in active engagement and comprehension when dealing with written information. Rephrasing requires you to mentally engage with the material, making it more likely that you'll remember and understand it.
  • Use scratch paper - Calculators are not allowed on the CBEST math test. All computations have to be done by hand. Use the provided scratch paper to work through problems to minimize the likelihood of making mistakes.
  • Check for Special Instructions - Some CBEST questions may include special instructions or considerations. Reading the fine print in these cases is crucial to addressing the question accurately.

​​​​​​​If you are looking for a teacher preparation program to start your career, Alliant International University can help. We prepare all future educators with test preparation tools and skills they need to succeed in this line of work. Contact our enrollment office today to learn more about our teacher credentialing and CBEST preparation.

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About Alliant

At Alliant International University, you can earn a single-subject, multiple-subject or even a special education credential. Alliant also offers a program for California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL), Leading to CLAD Certificate. Talk to an Alliant Admission Counselor today at (844) 582-4927 to learn more.


  1. “CBEST,” California Educator Credentialing Assessments
  2. “Basic Skills Requirement,” California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
  3. “CBEST,” California Educator Credentialing Assessments…

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