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  • Having taken my last social studies class over 12 years ago I was very worried about the content exam which was required to teach. After speaking to a 240 Tutoring representative I decided to give it a try. Upon studying the first section of the guide I was hooked! It is organized extremely well and flows like a well written book! I will definitely use 240 Tutoring again to become certified in many more areas!

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CSET Exam Information


What is the CSET?

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:

  • Basic skills requirement
  • Subject matter competence requirement
  • Every Student Succeeds Act subject matter requirement
  • Educational technology requirement
  • Competence for Bilingual Authorization

Who should take the CSET tests?

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 pursuing an education degree from a California college or university
  • Candidates pursuing highly-qualified certification status in California
  • Candidates seeking Education Specialist Instruction Credentials
  • Candidates transferring credentials from an out-of-state program or institution (reciprocity applies in some cases)

When should a candidate take 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.

Which CSET Exam Should I Take?

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.


Preparing for the CSET

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.

  • The California Basic Educational Skills Test consists of three subtests: Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. The Reading and Mathematics tests each consist of 50 multiple-choice questions. The Writing subtest consists of two constructed response assignments. Testing time is four hours for both computer-based and paper-based testing. For more information, see the CBEST test info page.
  • The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) vary in length and format. Most include a combination of both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions. Most CSET tests include multiple subtests. For specific guidance about your subject-area, see the CSET program website and select a subject test for more information.

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.

  • Identify which test you need to take prior to beginning your study plan.
  • Register for a test. Test dates are offered year-round at various locations. Candidates can select either a computer-based or paper-based format for most tests. Additional guidance is available through the CSET registration page.

Develop a Study Plan

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:

  • Practice or diagnostic test: decide on a time to take a practice test to determine your current level of familiarity with the content and to see which areas you should prioritize in your study plan. For more information, see this post on the blog!
  • Prioritization of content or skills: based on the results of your diagnostic test, you will see the content areas or skills in which you are strongest and weakest. Your study plan should prioritize the skills, types of questions, or content areas in which you are weakest.
  • Schedule: only you can know how much time you should spend studying, but no matter how much time is required, you should create a schedule to help your plan stay on track. You may choose to study one hour a day for five days a week, or five hours a day for one day a week. The most important part of your schedule is consistency. It is easy to fall behind as distractions and other events come up, but maintaining a regular schedule will help you work around unexpected interruptions to your plan.
  • Study materials: determine which study materials you will use to prepare for the test. In addition to 240Tutoring’s study guides, you can also find sample questions on the CSET website.
  • Accountability: determine how you will hold yourself accountable to your plan. You may choose to keep a study log, to mark off study sessions on a calendar, or to set electronic reminders on a phone or device. Another technique that can be helpful when holding yourself accountable to goals is to share your plan with someone else. Consider peers or classmates who may also be preparing for exams, and make time to study together or check in with one another about progress. Consider family or friends with whom you can share your plan so that they can check in with you about your progress. The key is to build multiple levels of accountability into your study plan to ensure success!

Need help preparing for the CSET?  Find your CSET Study Guide!


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.

  • Read test overviews and descriptions. Completing practice questions without guidance will not help you improve. Read the introductory information in each tutoring guide, including the overview for each content area. By understanding the content assessed in each section, you will have a more informed understanding of how to approach each question.
  • Learn about question types. Understanding the types of questions on each assessment is essential to preparation strategies and time management strategies during the test. Each question type requires a different approach and method of preparation.
    • For multiple-choice questions, you will need to understand content very thoroughly in order to answer questions correctly. Your strategies should include eliminating wrong answer choices, skipping over but returning to the most challenging questions, and making educated guesses when possible.
    • For constructed-response questions, you will need to understand content knowledge, be able to analyze documents or problems in the moment, and explain your thinking in a clear, concise way. Your strategies should include planning, drafting, revising, and using key words.
  • Complete practice questions with a timer. After you understand the content and question types you will face on your exam, you should then begin completing practice questions. When practicing, use a timer. Practicing without a timer can be detrimental on test day—if you are not accustomed to the time limits and do not have a sense of how much time to spend on each question, you could easily run out of time on test day. Set a timer for each section of the test that aligns with the allotted amount of time for the official test. Even if you do not finish your practice questions within that amount of time at first, you will see whether you are spending too little or too much time on each part.
  • Check your answers and read explanations. After each practice test or section, check your answers against the key. Do not simply mark the number of questions you answered correctly or incorrectly, but instead analyze your performance by looking for patterns. Ask yourself:
    • Are there content-areas in which I consistently do well?
    • Are there content-areas in which I consistently struggle?
    • Do I answer more questions correctly at the beginning, middle, or end of a test/section?
    • Are there many questions on which I need to guess?

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.

Test Day

What to Expect on Test Day

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.


Arrival and What to Bring

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.

  • Verify your test location and reporting time. Reporting times will differ from testing times, and it is important to arrive early to ensure admission. Examinees should arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the examination to ensure enough time for check-in.
  • Print your admission ticket. Access and print your admission ticket in advance. You must bring your admission ticket to the center with you in order to be permitted to test. Electronic versions will not be accepted. To avoid technical problems that could delay the process, print your ticket the night before your exam.
  • Gather identification materials. All test takers are required to provide one valid form of identification. Identity verification methods vary by testing method (paper-based or computer-based), but all examinees must bring one piece of current, government-issued identification printed in English, in the name in which you registered, bearing your photograph and signature. You will not be permitted to test without proper identification. For information about ID requirements and acceptable forms of ID, see the guidance provided on the CSET website.
  • Permitted items vary by test method. See below for more information, or view the CSET testing policies page.
    • Candidates taking computer-based tests MAY NOT bring pencils, pens, or writing utensils. A pen and booklet of erasable sheets will be provided.
    • Candidates taking paper-based tests MUST bring: admission tickets and several No. 2 pencils with erasers.

Taking the Test

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:

  • Learned the content
  • Reviewed testing strategies
  • Learned how to break down questions and answer choices
  • Learned how to write a constructed response
  • Developed strategies for reducing test anxiety

Throughout the test, remember what you have learned, maintain a steady pace, and keep calm!

Test Scores

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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