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How To Prepare For (And Pass) The CBEST - A Must Read

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If you are planning to teach in California, it’s likely that you have heard about the CBEST, the test that you will need to pass before entering a teaching certification program. The CBEST, or California Basic Educational Skills Test, is broken into three sections that assess your basic knowledge of mathematics, reading, and writing.

In this guide, we will provide you with everything you need to know to pass the CBEST. We will discuss the relative difficulty of the test and offer you advice about how to study for it. We will show you where to find the best resources for the CBEST (some of them free!), and walk you through how to use the study guides effectively.

Additionally, we will give you some tips about when to start studying and how much you should study to have the best chances of passing on your first attempt.

Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!

How hard is the CBEST?

We will start with some good news. Most people pass the CBEST. In fact, the overall cumulative CBEST passing rate was approximately 84% from 2012 to 2017. Although the first-time passing rate was lower at just under 69%, these numbers are encouraging. Of course, it will take some preparation to pass, but there’s no need to stress much, as you don’t have to pass all sections in a single session. You can take each section separately and retest as often as you need to. You can even retake a section you’ve already passed, as a way to get more points.

How do you pass the CBEST?

So, how exactly do you pass the CBEST? Well, you must earn at least 123 points across all three sections to pass. Raw scores, which range from 1 to 50, are then converted to scaled scores of 20 to 80. A score of 41 is considered passing, although you can technically score as low as 37 in one or two sections provided that your total score is over 123. On the math and reading sections, every question has the same value, and there is no penalty for wrong answers. On the writing section, essays are scored holistically based on criteria such as rhetorical force; organization; support and development; usage; structure and conventions; and appropriateness. It sounds like a lot, but you can find simple explanations of the criteria here.

Looking for an article specifically focused on scoring? Check out the CTC Scores article.

Where do you find resources for the CBEST?

The official California Educator Credentialing Assessments site offers some additional details about the CBEST as well as some practice test questions. You can also find the CBEST Test Standards, which are descriptions of all the skills the test-taker is expected to demonstrate.

What are the best resources to use for the CBEST?

In addition, it is a good idea to spend time reviewing the content of the CBEST and practicing questions from trusted sources like 240 Tutoring. 240 Tutoring offers a free test breakdown that includes reading and mathematics practice tests and offers full study guides as well.

What makes 240 Tutoring the best? A proven development process that consistently creates amazing study guides that are aligned to your specific exam. They even have a pass guarantee!

Where do you find study guides for the CBEST?

Check out 240 Tutoring’s CBEST test breakdown materials and practice tests at the links below.

How do you use study guides to study for the CBEST?

We recommend that you start by watching 240 Tutoring’s video introductions to each section of the CBEST and taking notes of the concepts and skills you need to review. Then get started with some practice questions.

How do you study for the CBEST?

If you like to read, then you have already unknowingly started to prepare for the CBEST reading section, which will test things like your reading comprehension, analysis skills, and ability to understand vocabulary in context. If you haven’t read a book in years, it’s time to get started with some practice questions. And it wouldn’t hurt to clear the dust off your high school English notes to review some rhetorical devices and the proper way to paraphrase.

If you haven’t solved a math problem in years, you will need to brush up on the basics – arithmetic, introductory algebra and geometry, and numerical and graphical relationships. You cannot use a calculator on the math section of the CBEST, so in order to mimic testing conditions, practice without one.

This chart breaks down the content of both the Reading subtest and the Mathematics subtest:

To prepare for the writing section of the CBEST, search for some sample prompts and responses and then get writing. The CTC site includes a CBEST Practice Writing Test with a detailed scoring rubric and sample responses for each score. Read as many past prompts as possible to familiarize yourself with what will be asked and expected of you. 240 Tutoring also offers a resource to help prepare test-takers for constructed-response questions.

On the CBEST there is no penalty for incorrect answers, so you should always guess when you don’t know the answer. However, when taking practice tests, take note of the questions you guessed on so you can review the question content, even if you answered correctly.

Read this CBEST Structure article for more information about the structure of the exam.

When should you study for the CBEST?

As with most exams, it’s best not to wait until the last minute to begin prepping for the CBEST. It might be a long time since you last practiced the skills being tested on the CBEST, so it’s likely these skills will need to be sharpened.

How much should you study for the CBEST?

You should get started a few months in advance and review a little bit every day. Running out of time for a test you already scheduled? Check Dr. Kristy Mulkey’s “Effective Cramming” tips to make the best of your remaining study time.

Good luck!

Picture of: Diane Gantenhammer

Diane Gantenhammer

Diane is an ESL professional and the founder of With more than five million views on YouTube, her English content has helped students from all over the world to learn English. When not designing lesson content, Diane can be found caring for her two small children or trying to sleep!