Details About CBEST Essays

All about CBEST Writing Section

In the Writing section of the CBEST, you will find two essay assignments that primarily assess the writer's aptitude in English Writing and Communication. One's power of analysis is a secondary skill that is tested in this section.

Format of the Writing Skills Test

The CBEST Writing Skills section consists of only two questions, for which one has to provide essay type answers. Both the questions present a scenario, each. Candidates have to write responses in the form of essays based on the criteria pertaining to these scenarios. Answering both the questions is mandatory to score high in this part of the exam. One of these questions aims to assess your skills of analyzing a given scenario. The other question tests your English writing skills and creativity, by presenting to you a question that requires you to state a personal experience.

The total time allotted for the test is 4 hours and this is divided between all the three test sections. A maximum of 30 minutes is allotted for answering each essay question. The Writing Skills section tests one's ability to effectively pen down one's ideas. Similar to answers of other sections, the written responses are also scored on a scale of 20-80, with a passing score specification of 41 and a minimum passing score of 37.

A Closer Look at the CBEST Written Responses:

In this section, we will discuss certain aspects of the essays in details:

  • 1st Topic - The topics of this section are usually based on general awareness and it is best written in the persuasive style. The ability of the examinee to clearly communicate is assessed in this section. Though factual accuracy is important, the examiners will be laying more emphasis on evaluating the writing skill of the examinee. In this type of essay, you have to first form an opinion and questions, which you can answer to persuade the readers to follow your opinion.

  • 2nd Topic- This CBEST essay is to be written in a narrative style. In these, the examinee has to convey in clear terms a personal experience. However, it is not necessary for the examinee to have really experienced the situation presented in this question. The examinee has to only be able to write an impressive narration, which is as realistic as a personal opinion.

Scoring of the Essays

Your responses are evaluated by professors from California and Oregon. These essays are evaluated on a set of standardized criteria as follows:

  • Effective delivery and writing style
  • Organization of content
  • Development and support
  • Appropriateness of content
  • Structure of content and the writing conventions used
  • Content usage

Tips for Writing Essays

  • Make a rough draft - It is better to make a rough draft before writing the essays, so that you can quickly correct your mistakes. However, time is limited and you need to write long responses so ensure that you make the rough draft in maximum five minutes and then start with the content.

  • Spend the first 4-5 minutes in planning the content of your essays and how well you can organize them - For answering both the questions, you should spend the first 4-5 minutes in planning your responses and then organizing them into paragraphs. Scores that you receive will depend on the organization of content in paragraphs and evaluators suggest that the content should be organized into 5 paragraphs conveying 3 complete ideas, on the whole. More weightage is given to content-richness and length of the essays written.

  • Be realistic in your arguments - Though the essays are meant to assess your writing abilities and not much importance is given to factual accuracy, the examinee should always aim to be as realistic as possible, as the content is meant for an educated and mature audience.

  • Concentrate more on vocabulary than technical appropriateness - As your writing skills are given more weightage than your technical expertise, you can concentrate more on the Vocabulary and Writing Skills aspect than your knowledge of the subject.

  • Good handwriting is very important - Good handwriting is of utmost importance while writing your response. The evaluation team of the examination has less time for checking the answer sheets and they will disqualify an answer if it does not easily and clearly convey that which is written.

  • Practice essay assignments well - Before you take the test, practice the sample assignments well as that will give you adequate training to get acquainted with the  pattern of the test.


The essays that you need to write in the writing section should contain relevant response to the questions. One needs to focus on the criteria that this test aims to assess in the CBEST examinees and answer it, and practice them well in order to perform well in this examination.