CBEST Ultimate Guide and Practice Test2020-07-27T20:47:52+00:00

CBEST Practice Test and Breakdown

Want to prepare for the CBEST but don’t know where to start? We’ve got the prep materials you need, including:

  1. Need-to-know Details:  This includes all of the important test info, how much it costs, and explains a passing score.
  2. Test Breakdown: Wanna know what’s on the CBEST? Each test covers specific concepts, skills, and ideas. We’ll tell you what it takes to pass.
  3. Practice Test: Measure your readiness for the CBEST Mathematics and Reading tests by taking our free practice test!

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CBEST Overview

CBEST, or California Basic Educational Skills Test, is a required exam for anyone seeking teacher certification in California.

If you have:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • College credit toward a career in education
  • Applied or are applying for an alternative teaching certification program

Then you can register to take the CBEST.

There are three parts to the test:

  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Writing

You can take one, two or all three sections at a time and you can pass them individually.

The math and reading sections are both made up of 50 multiple-choice questions, and the writing section includes two short essays.

Quick Facts

Cost: $102 for the computer-based test or $41 for the paper-based test*

Location: The CBEST offers computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT). CBTs are offered year-round daily (except Sunday) and PBTs are offered at set times throughout the year.

For more information on testing dates and details, check out the CBEST Test Info Page.

Number of Attempts: There are no limits on how many times you can take the test before you pass. However, you do have to wait 45 days between testing attempts.

Scoring: CBEST scores each subject on a range from 20-80. A passing score for each CBEST subject is 41.


if you score a 123 overall, you can pass with a single subject score of 37 or higher.

CBEST releases preliminary scores for Mathematics and Reading at the testing site, but official results aren’t released for 2 weeks if you take the Computer-Based Test or 3 weeks if you take the Paper-Based Test.


The test gauges your ability to solve mathematical problems, comprehend information presented in reading passages, tables and graphs, and assesses your ability to write effectively.

Is the CBEST hard? Not if you understand the test structure and know what types of information the questions want you to answer – which is what we’re here for!

CBEST Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CBEST

The CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) exam is an assessment of basic skills in the areas of mathematics, reading, and writing. It is required for any admission into a teacher certification program in the state of California. Passing the CBEST qualifies you for admission into a teacher preparation/certification program.

How much is the CBEST

The CBEST exam cost $41 per registration (plus $61 CBT fee).

How long is the CBEST

The CBEST consist of 3 separate subtest:

  • CBEST Reading section – 50 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 85 minutes
  • CBEST Mathematics section – 50 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 85 minutes
  • CBEST Writing section- 2 essay questions.

For a more in-depth test breakdown, see test breakdown section.

How is the CBEST scored/graded

Each CBEST section (math, reading, and writing) is graded on a scale from 20 to 80, with a scaled score of 41 to pass each section. To pass the entire test, you must score 123 or higher. It is possible to pass the CBEST with a scaled score on one or two sections as low as 37, provided that the total score is 123 or higher.

How hard is the CBEST (math, reading, writing)

The first-time passing rate for all three sections for the CBEST is about 70%, meaning 3 out of 10 test-takers fail at least one section of the CBEST on their first attempt. Historically, minorities have had lower scores on the exam than test-takers identifying as “White”.*

*Source: Annual Report on the Passing Rates of Commission-Approved Examinations from 2010-2015.

CBEST Locations

Pearson offers locations United States (and some places internationally). To find the testing location(s) nearest you, simply register for the CBEST and choose the most convenient testing center.


The CBEST offers Computer-Based Testing (CBT) and Paper-based Testing (PBT). If taking the CBEST via CBT, you can register at multiple locations throughout California during most weekdays. The PBT exams are provided 8-10 times a year and are scheduled months in advance.

CBEST ID Requirements

To take the CBEST, you must present an original, government-issued, valid (non-expired) identification that has your photograph, full name, and signature. Make sure to bring the ID with you on the day of the test to the testing center. For most test-takers, a valid driver’s license or United States Passport is a valid ID.

CBEST Tips (Top 7)

  • Make sure to answer every question (even if you guess)
  • Know how much time you have left
  • Be familiar with the on-screen calculator (for the math section)
  • Understand how to write a Constructed Response Question
  • Eliminate incorrect answers first
  • Work through practice questions so you know what to expect
  • Study quality, trusted sources [like 240Tutoring]

How to Pass the CBEST

To pass the CBEST you must first understand what is on the exam and what you will be expected to know. The best way is to review the 240 Tutoring test breakdown materials and practice questions. Once you identify areas of weakness, you can begin targeting those areas with instructional content and practice questions.

CBEST: Mathematics Breakdown

The mathematics portion of the CBEST is made up of 50 multiple choice questions. Most of the questions will be scenario based problems, or word problems.

You have 4 hours to complete the CBEST, no matter how many sections you take.

There are no calculators are allowed for any part of the exam.

The First Step

While mathematics can seem intimidating, the concepts covered in the CBEST test are, for the most part, basic math skills with practical applications. The mathematics section of the CBEST focuses on three main skill factors:

  • Estimation, measurement and statistics
  • Computation and problem solving
  • Numerical and graphical relationships

That might not seem too bad, but each of these skill factors also has subcategories. We’ll cover them in detail below.

Estimation, Measurement and Statistical Principles

Estimation, Measurement and Statistical Principles make up 30% of the questions on the test.

Estimation and Measurement requires you to know:

    • How to estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a project
    • How to estimate the result of a problem before computing it
    • Standard U.S. units of measurement for length, temperature, weight and capacity
    • How to measure length and perimeter

Statistical Principles tests your knowledge of ratios, probability and percentages. You need to remember:

    • How to use data to find the average, proportion or percentage
    • How to predict an outcome based on probability
    • How to determine student performance in a classroom based on test scores

Computation and Problem Solving

Computation and Problem Solving make up 35% of the test. Not having a good foundation of mathematics will cause these questions to be more difficult to answer, so make sure you feel confident in:

  • How to add/subtract/multiply/divide whole numbers, and how to add/subtract positive and negative numbers
  • How to solve practical math problems: can you determine a total based on unit price?
  • How to solve for one unknown
  • How to recognize if a given problem has enough information to be solved or if there are alternate ways to solve a problem

Numerical and Graphical Relationships

Numerical and Graphical Relationships questions also make up 35% of the test.

Here you’ll be tested on your ability to use data from tables, spreadsheets and graphs as well as whether you can recognize that .25 and ¼ mean the same thing.

You need to know:

  • How to organize numbers on a number line, like knowing -7 < -4
  • How to use greater than/less than/equal to and other mathematical symbols
  • How to identify mathematically equivalent numbers, formulas and expressions
  • How to apply the meaning of logical connectives (if/then) and quantifiers (some, all, none) to solve problems
  • How to use tables, spreadsheets and graphs (bar, line, circle) to solve math problems

And Remember!

All of the questions are worth the same amount of points and there’s no penalty for wrong answers. If you don’t know, do your best to make an educated guess by eliminating the obviously wrong answers.

And you can always use the “guess and check” method – plugging the answer options into the problem to see which one works best!

Now it’s your turn to put all your new knowledge to good use. Try going through our free practice test below:

CBEST: Reading Breakdown

The reading portion of the CBEST is made up of 50 multiple choice questions, which vary in their difficulty, complexity and subject matter.

You have 4 hours to complete the CBEST, no matter how many sections you take.

The test measures two skill factors, and all of the questions can be answered based solely on the information given in the passages.

The First Step

The reading section of the CBEST has two skill factors:

  • Critical Analysis and Evaluation
  • Comprehension and Research Skills

There are 50 questions, and not all of them come from reading passages. The test looks at your ability to understand information that comes from written passages, tables and graphs.

The questions cover multiple subjects with different degrees of difficulty and complexity,


You can answer all of the questions based only on the information given in the test.

Critical Analysis and Evaluation – 40%

Analysis and Evaluation covers your knowledge of identifying, recognizing, and determining the central ideas, author’s point of view, and intended audience from the passage you read.

These questions cover:

  • Identifying what supports a writer’s main idea, and inconsistencies or differences in the point-of-view from a passage or two sources
  • Recognizing the writer’s viewpoint, persuasive techniques, audience and how the specific words used communicate the correct/incorrect tone
  • Determining relevant information in the writer’s argument, what strengthens/weakens it, and what statements are facts and what are opinions

Comprehension and Research

Comprehension and Research questions test your ability to logically and accurately read the text and make conclusions about specific words and ideas.

These questions cover:

Words – using context clues, syntax and structure to determine meaning of unknown words, figurative or colloquial language, how context changes a word’s meaning or how words can have different interpretations or meanings.

Ideas – identifying the relationship between general/specific ideas, arranging ideas into an outline, recognizing the main idea or purpose statement, identifying accurate paraphrases or summaries of ideas and recognizing implied relationships between people, ideas and events.

And Remember!

With the reading questions, there’s no penalty for wrong answers – so even if you don’t know, make your best guess!

If you’re ready to see how you’ll do on the exam, check out our free CBEST Reading Test.

CBEST: Writing Breakdown

The writing portion of the CBEST is made up of two writing topic prompts that measure your ability to write effectively.

You have 4 hours to complete the CBEST, no matter how many sections you take.

The First Step

The writing test is just that – writing!

You’re given two different writing prompts. The prompts ask you to write from your perspective, and don’t require that you have any specialized knowledge.

The first prompt is to analyze a statement or situation:

This might look like agreeing or disagreeing with a given quote from a well-known author or analyzing opposing viewpoints on a particular political or educational opinion.

The second prompt is to write about a specific personal experience:

This could be something like sharing a time you overcame adversity and what you gained from it, or imagining being able to change something from your past and how it could affect your life now.

The Essays

The essays are scored on a scale of 1-4.

A score of 4 means you effectively communicated to your audience with:

  • Clear central ideas and point-of-view
  • Clearly arranged ideas and discussion points
  • Good choice of words and understanding of their meanings
  • Well-laid out paragraphs and sentence structure
  • A response that adresses the topic and uses language/tone meant for the audience

A score of 1 means you failed to communicate with your audience by:

  • Not stating or staying focused on a central idea and point-of-view
  • Unclear meaning and poorly organized writing
  • Using the wrong words and/or spelling them incorrectly
  • Having errors in the sentences, paragraphs and writing mechanics
  • Not understanding and providing what the writing prompt asks for

Because of the way the test is scored, it’s important to be able to state your central idea and point of view clearly.

Make sure your ideas are organized clearly and logically – does your writing have a good flow?

Stay on topic – what you write needs to relate to the prompt and your supporting information should make sense.

Pick the right words and use them well – make sure what you say is written for an educated audience. No slang, swearing or otherwise unnecessary language should be in your essay.

And make sure your writing mechanics – like spelling, punctuation, and capitalization – are up-to-date.

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