CSET Multiple Subjects Practice Test and Ultimate Guide
So you’re taking the CSET Multiple Subjects and need to master the test? No problem, we’ve got everything you need!
1- Important Tidbits: There are a few important details you need to know, like the cost of the test, where to take it, and how many questions are on each subtest.
2- What to Know: Each subtest focuses on a specific set of skills and knowledge. We breakdown the specific concepts, ideas, and skills you need to pass EACH subtest.
3- Practice Test: Get an idea for the kinds of questions on each subtest and see how well you know the concepts. Check out our CSET videos below and our free practice test above.
Quick Jump on the Page
Each subtest has a specific number of questions you must complete in the allotted time. Below is a breakdown of the number of question per subtest, as well as the time allotted to answer the questions.
|Subtest||Domains||Number of Multiple-Choice Questions||Constructed-Response Questions||Time Allowed|
|I||Reading, Language, and Literature
History and Social Science
Visual and Performing Arts
|2 Hours and 15 Minutes|
Cost: $99 per subtest. $247 for all subtests taken together.
Locations: The Multiple Subjects is a Computer-Administered Test (CAT), so it can be taken at numerous locations across California, as well as a few locations outside of California.
Passing Score: 220 per subtest. Test results are available within 5 weeks of testing.
Miscellaneous: A standard four-function on-screen calculator is provided examinees for the Multiple Subjects II. Testing is not available on Sundays and major holidays.
What is the CSET Multiple Subjects
The CSET Multiple Subjects exam is an assessment of English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Fine Arts. It is required to teach at the elementary level in the state of California.
How much is the CSET Multiple Subjects
The CSET Multiple Subjects cost $99 per subtest when taken separately. The cost for all three subtest taken together is $247.
How long is the CSET Multiple Subjects
The CSET Multiple Subjects consist of 3 separate subtest:
- Subtest I: 52 multiple-choice questions and 4 constructed-response questions
- Subtest II: 52 multiple-choice questions and 4 constructed-response questions
- Subtest III: 39 multiple-choice questions and 3 constructed-response questions
For a more in-depth test breakdown, see test breakdown section.
How is the CSET scored/graded
Each CSET Multiple Subjects subtest has a passing score of 220. Each subtest is scored on a scale from 100 to 300. The test is graded on a scale. This means that if you have an easy set of questions that you, and everyone else, scores very high on- the test will “scale” your score so that the passing percentage is equal (or fair) for people who get hard test questions.
How hard is the CSET (Subtest 1, 2, & 3)
In 2014, the Multiple Subjects exam was revised. The cumulative passing rate for the Multiple Subjects has been 73%. The exam is difficult to very difficult and requires a test-taker to properly study and prepare for the exam.
*Source: Annual Report on the Passing Rates of Commission-Approved Examinations from 2010-2015.
CSET Multiple Subjects Locations
Pearson offers locations United States (and some places internationally). To find the testing location(s) nearest you, simply register for the CSET and choose the most convenient testing center.
The CSET offers Computer-Based Testing (CBT). When taking the CSET via CBT, you can register at multiple locations throughout California during most weekdays.
CSET ID Requirements
To take the CSET, 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.
CSET Multiple Subjects 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 CSET
To pass the CSET 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.
The CSET Multiple Subjects: Subtest I English questions focus on Language and Linguistics, Written and Non-Written Communication, and Reading Comprehension. The tricky part of the English question is they focus, primarily, on how well you understand the pedagogy of English (that is how students learn, and how best to teach, English).
Language and Linguistics
To teach English, you must first know the basics of the English language. So, the Multiple Subjects: Subtest I exam tests you on the fundamental components of human language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and the role of pragmatics). One of the foundational aspects of language is phonemic awareness – the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes. After you master that, make sure you understand the alphabetic principles, the parts of speech, and know basic sentence structures (simple, compound, and complex).
You also need to understand how a child’s first language develops, how a child can develop a second language, and the observable milestones for each development. And you should be familiar with the major theories associated with language acquisition.
Literacy development is another big aspect of Language and Linguistics. You need to understand the process of literacy development and how to assess it. Become familiar with concepts like decoding, comprehension, word recognition, spelling, accuracy, rate and prosody.
Big Concept to Know: Phonemic Awareness. Make sure you THOROUGHLY understand what phonemic awareness is.
Big Concept Resource: http://www.begintoread.com/articles/phonemic-awareness.html
Non-Written and Written Communication
Writing questions appear on the exam, and focus mainly on two aspects of writing: strategies and applications. Writing strategy questions cover the five steps of the writing process- outline, note-taking, rough draft, revision, final draft. You also need to know about specific writing concepts such as principles of organization, transitions, point-of-view, word choice, task, purpose, and audience.
Also, for writing you should know the four principles of composition (appropriate structure, logical development of ideas, appropriate vocabulary, and context). You need to recognize the characteristics of different writing genres (argument, informative, narrative, summaries, letters, and research reports). Also, you should know how to teach students to create arguments and then support their claims.
Non-written communication addresses genres like storytelling, narratives, persuasive pieces, research presentations, and poetry recitations. But the aspects of communication still hold. Non-written communication questions address how the speaker best communicates their idea.
Big Concept to Know: The Writing Process.
Big Concept Resource: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/1/
Reading Comprehension and Analysis
Reading comprehension and analysis is the last major area the Multiple Subjects: Subtest I English questions address. The reading questions measure how well you, the test-taker, understand what you’re reading. The test provides various reading passages and asks you to identify the main idea, reason for word choice, and other relevant questions to gauge your comprehension.
You should be familiar with characteristics of different genres, including novels, short stories, folktales, fairy tales, and poems. Make sure you understand how to analyze the structure of a reading passage, looking the structure, organization, and purpose of informational texts.
Big Concept to Know: Text Complexity
CSET Multiple Subjects: Social Studies
The Social Studies portion of the Multiple Subjects: Subtest 1 can be divided into three main categories: Ancient Civilizations, United States History, and California History. The tricky part is the CSET test requirements weave geography and history together, so that you must know both to really have a shot at answering the questions correctly.
The Social Studies portion of the Multiple Subjects: Subtest 1 can be divided into three main categories: Ancient Civilizations, United States History, and California History. The CSET test complicates things by weaving geography and history requirements together, so you must know both to really have a shot at answering the questions correctly.
For ancient civilizations, the first thing to know is how geography impacted the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Kush, Hebrew, Greek, Indian, Chinese and Roman civilizations. So, what are some examples of geography impacting these civilizations? Just take a look:
- The Egyptians were surrounded by desert on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on one side. This geography placement insulated Egypt from its enemies, as any invading force would have to cross a desert or sail across the Mediterranean to reach Egypt.
- The Greek city-states, while Greek in name, were very independent in culture and values (think Athens v. Sparta) due to the difficulty of overland travel in the mountainous Greek topography.
- Israel (the ancient Hebrew nation) is in a trade intersection of multiple major civilizations – giving it a distinct advantage in trade.
Also, you should know about the major intellectual contributions of these ancient civilizations.
Ancient civilizations also applies to the Medieval and Early Modern civilizations. Questions from this section look at the influence of physical geography on the civilizations of the Chinese, Japanese, African, Arabian, Mesoamerican, Andean Highland, and European civilizations. (See above examples for how geography impacts civilizations). You MUST know the causes for the decline of the Western Roman Empire, as well as the rise of feudalism in Europe and Japan during the “Dark Ages” (the period between 600 A.D. – 1400 A.D.) You should be familiar with Pre-Columbian American art, architecture, and science. Also, you need to know about the influence of Christianity and Islam on Europe and the Middle East during this time, as well as the cause and influence of the Renaissance.
P.S. Check out the Magna Carta – it’s a big deal.
Big Concept: How Geography impacts Civilizations
Big Concept Resource: http://ancienthistory.mrdonn.org/geography.html
United States History
United States history is not nearly as broad, but you need to know specific details. The big concepts to know for U.S. History begin with why Western European countries began exploring the Americas (see this page about the Northwest Passage), how the economic idea of Mercantilism influenced American colonization (article about Mercantilism), and how slavery developed in the New World (in-depth analysis about Bacon’s Rebellion). You really need to know about the Revolutionary War (the War for Independence), specifically, the colonial political and military leaders, the impact of the war on Americans, France’s role in the war, and the key ideas outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
Moving forward in history, you need to know about the political system in the U.S.- such as how citizens participate, the Articles of Confederation, the factors leading to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights (see article above), the major principles of the U.S. Constitution and – this one is VERY IMPORTANT – the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
Once you understand the political ideology of the new republic, look at U.S. expansionism (like Manifest Destiny) and the government’s policies toward American Indians during this time of expansion. As the U.S. expanded, the question of slavery became even more polarizing and important. Eventually, this would lead to the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction. While specific Civil War battles are unlikely to be on the Multiple Subjects: Subtest I, you should know about the implications of Reconstruction on the South, such as the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment, the role of Blacks and women in this time, and Jim Crow laws. Reconstruction eases into the industrialization of America – the second Industrial Revolution – and the immigration it encouraged. So be familiar with the response of Nativism and the impact of industrialization on the U.S.
Big Concept to Know: The ensured rights of the U.S. Constitution, specifically the separation of powers, federalism, and the concept of a Democratic Republic.
Big Concept Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO7FQsCcbD8
California history is all about… CALIFORNIA! (Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Maybe you did…)
California history focuses somewhat on Pre-Columbian civilization in California, so make sure you know the geography, economic activities, folklore, and religion of American Indians in California. Also, you should really understand the impact of Spanish exploration on California – such as the impact of the mission system.
Make sure you know the impact of the gold discovery on the culture, politics, social fabrics, and economy of California.
Finally, you need to know about the key principles in California’s Constitution – such as progressive-era reforms of the referendum and recall – as well as the similarities and differences between California’s Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. You should know about migration to California (during the Dust Bowl and in the 1950s) – and the cultural, social, political, and economic impact of migration. You should know the factors leading California’s water system – and its relationship to geography – as well as the development and locations of California’s major economic activities (mining, agriculture, entertainment, recreation, aerospace, electronics, and international trade).
Big Concept: The Mexican-American War – because it changed California immensely. Who controlled California before the war, then after the war, how this timeline relates to the Gold rush and when California became a U.S. state are all important details to know.
Big Concept Resource: http://www.history.com/topics/mexican-american-war
On Part II of the CSET Multiple Subjects: Subtest I test guide, it does state that non-history, social studies skills will appear on the test. This includes economic concepts like scarcity, opportunity cost, supply and demand, the business cycle, and fiscal and monetary policy. For political science, this includes concepts like reading a map and a globe, geographic systems (like the water cycle), and cultural diffusion. This can also include concepts related to philosophy, anthropology or general concepts relating to human migration.
The mathematics questions on the Multiple Subjects: Subtest II can be the most intimidating for many test-takers. The reason is many test-takers do not feel comfortable with math, yet alone answering 24 math questions ranging from solving for “X” to calculating the probability of a die roll to how best to teach fractions to fifth-graders. The good news is that the mathematics tested on the Multiple Subjects: Subtest II is just, for the most part, basic mathematical skills. The math questions can easily be divided into four sections: Number Sense, Algebra and Functions, Measurement and Geometry, and Statistics/Probability.
Number sense questions focus on how well you understand the base 10 place value system, your understanding of the greatest common factor and prime factors (which are really important), ordering real numbers (integers, mixed numbers, and rational numbers) on a number line, representing numbers in scientific notation, and performing operations with positive, negative, and fractional exponents.
The Algebra questions focus on how well you can identify numerical patterns – specifically using functions, tables, and graphs. That means you should be able to identify patterns and create an equation to mimic the pattern. Also, you should understand proportional reasoning – ratios, equivalent fractions, similar triangles, etc. The Algebra section also focuses on expressions for equalities and inequalities (no, not the political inequalities you see in the news, mathematical inequalities). You need to know equations can be different, but also the same, like how 2(x + 3) = 2x + 6. You should understand basic linear equations (y = mx + b) and how to translate an equation to a graph. And finally, make sure you know what basic exponential equations look like on a graph.
Big Concept to Know: You need to be able to explain the meaning/connection between symbolic expressions- like relating a real-life situation to a mathematical equation or vice-versa.
Big Concept Resource: Practice Questions below
Geometry and Measurement
Geometry questions focus on shapes and their symmetry, translations, rotations and reflections – as well as triangles (I mean, it is geometry). Make sure you understand the basic definitions of shapes – how many sides each shape has and the sum of their interior angles. You should also know how shapes are reflected, translated, and rotated along a geometric plane.
Measurement questions focus on how well you can measure basic units (time, length, angles, perimeter, area, surface area, volume, weight/mass, temperature). You need to be able to calculate the perimeter of two- and three-dimensional figures, as well as their surface area, and the volume of 3D figures. Also, you will be tested on proportional reasoning – or how a scale drawing translates to a full-sized object.
Big Concept to Know: The Pythagorean Theorem. If you don’t know what that is- you need to watch the video in the resource.
Big Concept Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA6RfgP-AHU
Probability and Statistics
The probability and statistics questions focus on analyzing data for mean, median, mode, and range, expressing probabilities in a variety of ways, using ratios, proportions, decimals, and percentage, while assessing the probability of outcomes in terms of defined samples.
To prepare for the probability and statistics questions, make sure you know how to gauge the probability of outcomes of a given situation.
Big Concept: Probability of an Event
CSET Multiple Subjects: Science
The science questions on the CSET Multiple Subjects: Subtest II are divided into three categories: Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science. Earth Science covers the solar system and the universe, the structure and composition of the Earth, and the Earth’s atmosphere. Life Science is about the living and nonliving components in environments, as well as the life cycle, how reproduction works (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s a science test) and evolution. Physical Science questions focus on the structure and properties of matter, as well as the principles of motion and energy.
To really conquer the earth and space science section, you need to know the characteristics of different minerals – such as quartz, calcite, hornblende, mica, and other common ore materials. You should really be familiar with the three types of rocks – sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. Also, you should understand that the earth’s processes impact the earth’s structure. What does that mean? Things like how erosion, especially from water, can shape rock formations and how weathering can affect environments. Finally, you really should know the water cycle and the fundamental impact it has on all life on Earth.
P.S. Make sure you brush up on the lunar cycle. It’s important.
Big Concept to Know: Plate Tectonics – the theory that underneath the Earth’s crust are large plates that float/shift across the surface of the earth. These shifts are the primary cause of mountains, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Be sure to brush up on plate tectonics for the science test.
Resources for the Big Concepts: https://www.livescience.com/37706-what-is-plate-tectonics.html
The life science questions focus on living organisms and life on Earth. So that means knowing things are made up of cells, and knowing how cells work. All living things must have food, water, and shelter to survive. Knowledge of ecosystems and what impacts them is important – water supply, temperature, soil composition. Also, you should know about specific life cycles – like the butterfly, frog, or mouse, and the different ways animals reproduce (sexual v. asexual reproduction). How cells reproduce (mitosis) and the different types of cells is another key concept you should grasp. Finally, undergirding the understanding of life is the theory of evolution and that living organisms evolve through natural selection.
Big Concept to Know: Energy and Food Chain. Among living things there is a hierarchy of plants, insects, small animals, and big animals. You should know what a primary producer is, what a consumer is, and what a decomposer is. All this makes up an ecosystem – the plants, the consumer, and the decomposers. AND, energy is passed between these levels to keep the energy in the ecosystem and food chain.
Resources for the Big Concepts: https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/ecology/intro-to-ecosystems/a/food-chains-food-webs
The physical science questions test your understanding of the physical properties of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) – specifically about their mass, density, hardness, and conductivity. You should know about the physical changes of matter, like water moving from a freezing state to a gaseous state, and the chemical changes of matter, like brewing coffee, and how physical changes differ from chemical changes. You should know the structure of an atom, and how different structures create different elements – which is how the Periodic Table is arranged – by the increasing number of protons in the atomic nucleus. You will see questions about pH, and you need to know the approximate pH levels of common items (detergent, soda, and water). And since physical science deals with physics, you need to know the fundamentals of objects in motion – like the different ways to describe an object’s motion (position, displacement, speed, velocity, acceleration). You must know about simple machines (levers and pulleys) and different energy forms (solar, wind, chemical, electrical, nuclear, etc.). You should know the different ways heat is transferred (conduction, convection, and radiation) and the difference between heat and temperature.
Big Concept to Know: Waves – specifically the properties of waves (mainly light waves). Know how amplitude and frequency impact wavelength, and how changing these properties influences the characteristics of wavelengths.
The CSET Multiple Subjects: Subtest 3 focuses on Physical Education, Human Development, and the Visual and Performing Arts. The physical education questions focus on teaching students physical education, human development questions focus on how students develop – both emotionally and physically – and the visual and performing arts section focuses on dance, music, theater, and visual art.
Physical education questions center on body movement skills, such as body awareness, space awareness, and movement exploration. Make sure you know the object of manipulation (like catching) and the basic concepts of biomechanics that affect movements (like how the body moves, and the impact of gravity, friction, and the laws of motion on body movement). Also, the questions focus on exercise physiology, like the benefits of exercise, how often a student should exercise, and the frequency and intensity of exercise. Exercise physiology focuses on flexibility, muscular strength, endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, and body composition.
The physical education questions also assess your knowledge of traditional and non-traditional games and physical activities (so brush up on common P.E. games elementary students play and learn why). The questions also measure your ability to choose games that are inclusive for all students, regardless of gender, race, culture, religion, ability or disability.
Physical development questions focus on mental and physical human development. For these questions, you should know the development of an adolescent’s fine and gross motor skills, as well as factors that influence development (exercise, relaxation, nutrition, stress, substance abuse, etc.) Also, know how physical activity impacts a student’s self-image and how goal-setting using physical activities impacts a student’s life-long growth. Finally, recognize individual differences pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability, and disability and how to promote a positive classroom using cooperation, competition, and socially responsible behavior.
Big Concept: What is exercise and why is it important.
Big Concept Resource: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
Human development questions look at the cognitive, social, and physical development of children. Cognitive development questions focus on a student’s understanding of reasoning, symbolic manipulation, and problem-solving. You need to know the stages of cognitive development and the characteristics of each stage.
Social development refers to a student’s personality and temperament – things like attachment, self-concept, autonomy, and identify.
A student’s development is also influenced by various factors which can be genetic, organic, sociocultural, socioeconomic, sex, and gender. Abuse – physical, emotional, substance abuse, and neglect – also affects a student’s development. Know how each of these factors can impact a student’s development.
Big Concept: You need to know Erikson’s stages of Devleopment
Big Concept Resource: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
California has a handbook about how to teach the Arts: Visual and Performing Arts Framework and Student Academic Content Standards. Review that booklet and know the basics. It is a great first step in preparing for the Multiple Subjects: Subtest 3 test.
For each of the arts (dance, music, theater and visual arts) you should know that art is created purposefully to communicate something. Depending on the medium, you can use different tools to communicate different things. Examples for each area might be:
- Elements of dance, such as
- Elements of music, such as
- Music Concepts
- Music Notation
- Elements of theater
- The principles of art:
Big Concept: Art is used to communicate ideas. What are the different tools of each medium and how to use those tools.