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The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) are part of the teacher certification process in the state of California. This set of certification exams is designed to ensure that teacher candidates have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to become educators in California’s public schools.
The tests are objective-based and criterion-referenced. Each test measures a candidate’s knowledge and skills in relation to an established set of criterion, not against the performance of other candidates. The CSET series measure a candidate’s mastery of the knowledge and skill required of an entry-level teacher.
The CSET program includes examinations to help candidates meet the following certification requirements:
Anyone seeking certification as a highly-qualified educator in California must pass the CSET. The testing requirements and timeline will vary for candidates depending on the state-approved teacher preparation programs in which they are enrolled. The following list indicates the type of candidates and educators required to pass the CSET:
Candidates must pass the CSET before assuming whole-class responsibility for instruction as either a student teacher or teacher of record. For most candidates in a traditional education program, the best time to complete the CSET is the semester before student teaching begins. For the best timeline, candidates should contact the academic advisor at their institution to find out each program’s requirements.
A list and description of each exam in the CSET program is provided here. Most teaching candidates will need to pass two CSET assessments: the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and at least one California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). For specific guidance, see below.
Candidates pursuing an education degree from a California college or university must pass the appropriate CSET examinations prior to beginning student teaching. Candidates must complete the Basic Skills Requirement and the Subject Matter Competence Requirement.
Candidates seeking Education Specialist Instruction Credentials must pass the approved examinations or complete an approved subject-matter program for the Single Subject Credential area of art, English, world language, mathematics including foundational-level mathematics, music, science including foundational-level and specialized science, and social science or the approved examination for the Multiple Teaching Credential. Holders of previously-issued general education teaching credentials are exempt. Early Childhood Education Specialists are also exempt from the subject-matter competence requirement.
Candidates pursuing an education degree from an out-of-state teacher preparation program must pass the CSET in the subject area for which they are seeking certification. This requirement may be filled through out-of-state certification credentials, however, candidates should contact the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) for more details.
Structure of the Exam
Both the PRE and the Subject-Area Test consist of multiple-choice questions with some constructed-response assignments. The number of questions and length of the test varies by content area.
Registration and Preparation
Beginning to prepare for the CSET exam starts with understanding the test you need to take and the timeline for your preparation and testing dates.
It is important to develop a study plan as part of your preparation for the CSET assessments. Each test contains many content areas, skills, and question types with which examinees should be familiar. The amount of time an examinee should spend studying will depend on their familiarity with the content and skills assessed.
A general study plan should include the following:
After creating your study plan, you need to begin studying! Using 240Tutoring’s preparation guides, you can begin learning more about the content and types of questions on each exam and completing practice questions using The 240Tutoring Testing Approach.
By identifying patterns in your performance, you can adapt your study plan to hone in on the areas in which you need to improve most.
For incorrect answers, be sure to read the answer explanation. You will see why each answer choice is correct or incorrect, and may notice details about the questions and answer choices that you did not notice in your first attempt. Reading explanations of incorrect answers ensures that you learn from your mistakes as you progress.
Your preparation plan does not end with studying—you should also have a test-day plan. This includes strategies such as taking a few days off from studying before the exam, taking care of yourself physically leading up to the exam, and looking up maps and directions in advance to ensure you arrive early to your site. You should also consider strategies to reduce test anxiety to be sure that your hard work and preparation are not overshadowed by nerves on test day.
There are several steps you need to take prior to arriving at the test site to ensure you are set up for admission to the testing center on test day.
By now, you should be familiar with what to expect on the exam. All that is left to do is complete it, but that may not be as simple as it sounds once the test is in front of you.
If you feel anxious, remember 7 Reasons People Fail Their Certification Exam. If you have prepared using these tips and 240Tutoring’s study guide, you will have:
Throughout the test, remember what you have learned, maintain a steady pace, and keep calm!
Score Reporting Dates
Scores are typically released after the test date or after the testing window closes, but dates vary for each test. For the most up-to-date calendar of score-reporting dates, see the “My Test Results” section of the CSET’s FAQs page.
Sending and Canceling Scores
When registering for the CSET, you will have indicated which institutions or programs you would like to send score reports. Your test scores will be automatically reported to you, the CTC, and the institutions that you indicated when you registered. If needed, you may choose to send your scores to additional recipients. Learn more about requesting additional copies of your test results here.
If after taking a paper-based test you do not want your test results reported, you may cancel your results by completing a Score Cancellation Form (available at the test center) or a written request that includes your personal and testing information. Score cancellation is NOT available for computer-based testing. See the CTC’s score reporting policy for more information.
If you choose to report your scores to a certification institution, you will be unable to cancel them at any point and they will become an official part of your record. If you choose to cancel your scores, you will be unable to report your scores and they will never be reinstated to your testing record. Cancellation does not result in a refund.
Except for extreme circumstances, such as severe physical illness or overwhelming anxiety, it is not recommended that you cancel your scores.
Official Score Reports
Official score reports are posted to examinee accounts on the score report date according to the exam. Examinees will receive an email notification when official score reports are available, and may access their CSET account to view their score reports.
Understanding Your Scores
Your official score report explains your score and whether you passed or failed. For specific information regarding passing scores for your assessment, see the test information page for your specific examination.
Retaking the Exam
In the event that you do not earn a passing score, you may retake the test to attempt it again. You must wait 45 days to retake any exam or part of an exam, but there is no limit to the number of times you may take an exam.
A passing score must be achieved at a single test administration, and performance on parts of a test or subtest cannot be combined across administrations. Therefore, if you take a combined assessment and only pass one of the subtests, you will need to retake the entire exam. Once you have achieved a passing score on all subtests, you will have passed the entire assessment. For more information, see the CTC’s guidance on retaking tests or subtests.
In order to retake the exam, you need to re-register for the exam, so do so as quickly as possible. Take action immediately to be sure you meet your certification deadlines!
Students have guaranteed results when using 240Tutoring study guides. Each study guide comes with the 240Tutoring Guarantee–if a student earns a 95% Cumulative Score or higher on our study guides and is unsuccessful on the test, 240Tutoring will provide a full money-back refund!
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