CBEST Test: How to Get Into Teaching


If you’re someone that aims to have a career as an educator in the state of California, passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) test should be your first priority if you haven’t done so yet.

While it isn’t specifically designed to measure your ability to teach the subjects included in the exam, it is, in essence, a way for the state to make sure that you are someone that is bright enough to take on the duties and responsibilities of a teacher.

If you manage to pass the CBEST test, you are providing your would-be employer with proof that you have the reading, writing, and math skills needed to be a successful educator.

With some hard work and dedication, everyone can pass the CBEST assessments.

That being said, this is not an exam that you should underestimate or tackle without any preparation because missing out on one score can mean you not only having to retake it but also paying for the registration fee once again, 41$ for the paper-based exam and $102 for the computer-based test.

Carefully portion your time

When you take the CBEST assessment, you are given four hours to complete everything if not as many questions as you can.

Although this may seem like enough time to to answer everything, you would not believe how many test-takers failed because they got too confident in answering only one section of the exam while neglecting or not putting enough effort into the others.

This means that even if either of the math, reading, or writing section isn’t your forte, you should make it your point to try and answer as many questions as you can.

As a result, you will have to carefully plan out how long you should stay in each section before going to the next.

Due to there being three subjects, you can choose to answer them equally with 80 minutes each.

However, it is advisable to tackle the subject which you are more familiar with as finishing that immediately will increase the time that you can spend on the others.

Know how to tackle the essay writing test effectively

In the CBEST assessment, there are two types of essays that you have to write: the expressive essay, where you will have to share a personal experience relating to the topic provided; and the expository essay, where you will have to make an informed opinion about the provided topic.

For many, this part of the exam is a lost cause because you are not even sure how many points you can get due to how ‘free-form’ this section is.

However, this doesn’t need to be the case for you.

In fact, the essay writing portion of the CBEST test can even be the source of more than half of your total points if you play your cards right.

This is because you don’t have to be knowledgeable in the subject or topic provided in the exam.

Instead, your essay will be judged based on these criteria:

  • Clarity
  • Relevance
  • Structure
  • Impact 
  • Narrative Development

Furthermore, the CBEST exam rarely takes into consideration the length of your essay and instead will focus on if you can write a compelling argument or story while abiding by English grammar, capitalization, and punctuation rules as well as citing any relevant studies or statistics to back up your claims.

For the experienced writer, you can get a perfect score at the essay portion of the CBEST test within five or so paragraphs. 

It should be noted that this doesn’t have to be the case during your attempt. If it goes beyond five paragraphs, there is nothing to worry about as long as your essay has perfect or near-perfect grammar, follows the judging criteria for points, and conveys a coherent idea based on the topic.

Practice as much as you can

What appears on the CBEST is not a well-guarded secret.

The subjects, although numerous, are on their official website with a breakdown on how many questions are there on each topic.

This means you have the opportunity to prepare and know what to expect in the actual exam, either by dusting off some old college books to sharpen your skills or by looking up a few CBEST practice tests online.

The latter is seen as the more effective course of action to take by previous test-takers because such practice tests contain questions that are similar or nearly identical to the ones that will appear on the actual exam.

Some providers even supply a number of essay prompts so that reviewers can also practice their essay writing skills.

As a point of reference, you will need to earn a total of 123 points from all three sections.

Although some may say that you can pass it with just 37 points in two sections then ace the rest, you shouldn’t be content with just answering 37 ‘sure questions’ then move on to the next section.

Remember: while you can retake the CBEST assessment as many times as you need, you will have to wait 45 days before you are allowed to take it again.

This means that it would be in your best interest, and budget, to get it right the first time around.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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