CSET Scoring

An exam is meant to evaluate specific knowledge and skills. Your performance in an exam is a reflection of the skill levels and the knowledge that you possess. For ease of interpreting your performance in an exam, you are awarded scores in the exam. Your scores in an exam will depend upon how you have responded to the questions asked in the exam. Some exams utilize computer-adaptive formats while others are paper-based exams. A certain level of performance represented by a specific score may be set as the minimum passing standard for the exam. There are some exams that just measure your skill levels and they do not have any passing requirements. The scoring system for an exam and the passing standards for an exam depend upon the requirements of the exam and how your performance in the exam is going to be utilized by the score recipients.

How are CSET Scores Utilized?

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has developed the CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) as a means for evaluating the potential of the applicants who wish to teach in California. Your scores on the CSET are utilized for assessing your competence in performing satisfactorily as a teacher in California schools and for grant of certification in related fields. CSET consists of a series of tests and each CSET test measures specific skills and knowledge in various subject areas. Your performance in a specific set of two or more CSET tests can be used to measure

  1. Your basic skills as per the state basic skills requirements
  2. Your knowledge of a particular subject area
  3. Your capabilities for meeting the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) subject matter requirement
  4. Your skills and knowledge as required for fulfilling the basic educational technology requirement
  5. Your proficiency in the skills and knowledge that are essential for effective teaching of English Learners and for earning a Bilingual Authorization


Go to the CEST website, www.ctcexams.nesinc.com to identify the set of CSET tests that you will have to take to demonstrate any of the above skills or knowledge.

How are the Requisite Skills Evaluated by CSET?

All the CSET tests are criterion referenced. In other words, they evaluate your skills and knowledge against an established standard and not in respect of the performance of other test-takers. CSET evaluates a wide range of skills and knowledge that are necessary for the different types of certifications granted by the state of California. For ease of the conduct of CSET and evaluating the potential of the test-takers, the CSET tests are classified into the following categories:

1.         CSET: Multiple Subjects
This test consists of three separate subtests. Each subtest consists of both multiple-choice questions and constructed-response questions based on test content from all the basic subject areas taught in schools.

2.         CSET: Preliminary Educational Technology
This test consists of two subtests with each subtest consisting of both multiple-choice questions and constructed-response questions designed to measure your abilities that are essential for handling computers in an educational environment.

3.         CSET: Writing Skills
This is a single test consisting of two constructed-response questions. This test can be taken only with the CSET: Multiple Subjects to meet the criteria for the basic skills requirement. The basic writing skills which are essential for excelling as an educator are assessed by this test.

4.         CSET: Single Subjects and CSET: LOTE (Languages Other Than English)
Each of the single subject tests and the CSET: LOTE, except for the CSET: LOTE (used toward a Bilingual Authorization) consists of two to four subtests. Most of the subtests consist of both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions. These tests are used to assess your skills and knowledge in a subject area that would be necessary for teaching that subject. The CSET: LOTE (used toward a Bilingual Authorization) consists of a subtest that evaluates your familiarity with the methodology of bilingual education. Apart from this there will be subtests that will assess your bilingual cultural knowledge and language and communication skills. Basically, the test content will be drawn from the knowledge base necessary for teaching English learners in their primary language.

How is the CSET Scored?

  • CSET Subtests

The CSET tests consist of subtests. You will have to pass each of the subtests of a test for passing that particular test. The CSET Registration Bulletin available on the CSET website, www.ctcexams.nesinc.com lists the requirements for certification including the details of the subtests for each CSET test. The CSET scoring system lays down a specific score as the ‘passing score’ for each CSET test. You will need to attain the passing score for the test you take in order to pass the said test. The recommendations and professional judgements of California educators were utilized for arriving at the passing scores for each CSET subtest.

  • Scaled Scores

Each of the subtests for a test is scored separately. Your performance in each subtest is compared to an established standard as laid down by the state for qualifying as an educator. The total score for a subtest is calculated on the basis of the raw score points earned for each test section. Each test section will consist of either multiple-choice questions or constructed-response questions. A weight will be assigned to each test section and this weight will be taken into account while calculating your total subtest score and converting it into a scaled score. The raw scores for each test section are converted to a scaled score ranging from 100 to 300. A scaled score of 220 is the passing score. Each subtest may include certain trial questions that will not count towards your scores.

  • Validity of passing scores

Your performance in the test sections of a subtest across different test administrations cannot be combined together for considering your subtest scores. In other words, your subtest score will be calculated on the basis of your performance in the test sections of the subtest taken in the same test administration. Once you have passed a subtest for a particular CSET test, you need not take that subtest again if you have not been able to pass the other subtests of the same CSET test. However, you should be able to earn the certification that you have applied for within five years from the date you took the subtest failing which you will have to take the subtest again for meeting the passing requirements for the required CSET test.

If you have applied for satisfying the basic skills requirement, then you have to pass all three subtests of CSET: Multiple Subjects and the CSET: Writing Skills.  Your passing scores on CSET: Multiple Subjects and those on CSET: Writing Skills do not expire and they will remain valid until you meet all the criteria for meeting the basic skills requirement. If you are seeking to satisfy the subject matter requirement, then your passing scores on any of the subtests of CSET: Multiple Subjects are valid for only five years within which they should be used for the certification process.

How to Improve CSET Scores?

You can take and also retake the subtests of a CSET test separately for meeting the passing requirements of the CSET test, but you will have to complete the entire registration process every time you take a retest, even if it is for a single subtest. Therefore, you can improve your scores in the CSET subtests by retaking the subtests if you have failed to attain the passing scores. However, keep in mind that if you do have to take a retest, you must do so after you have been able to identify the subject areas in which you performed poorly. Work upon improving your skills in those areas before you take a retest.  This is the surest way to improve your CSET scores and meet the criteria for earning the certification that you have applied for!

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