The Reading Section of CBEST

Understanding the CBEST Reading Section

The CBEST credentialing test for educators and teachers in California is a 3-part test consisting of the following sections- Reading, Math and Writing. This is a basic skills test that is mandatory for most entry-level and transfer teachers in California. It is administered in accordance with the legal requirements in the state of California. This article focuses on the Reading section of this test and elaborates its main characteristics.

The Main Features of the Reading Section:

  1. The Purpose

    The main intent of the Reading test is to appraise the candidates for their basic reading and comprehension skills, which are essential for a successful teaching career.

  2. The Curriculum

    In this section, the below-mentioned skills are assessed:

    • The ability to discern and understand a set of passages and graphs.
    • The ability to analyze the context and meaning of the passages/graphs.
    • The ability to evaluate the meanings of difficult words or phrases or the complex information provided in the graphs/passages, within the given context.
    • The ability to explore and research the information in the passages/graphs and thereafter, make the appropriate inferences and conclusions.

    It must be noted that the candidates are not required to have any specialized knowledge in the topics that are discussed in the passages provided.

  3. The Format & Duration

    For a complete score, the candidates will need to take all the 3 sections of the test. However, candidates may retake one or more test sections to pass those sections or improve their previous scores. When the candidates opt to do so, the total score is calculated with the best scores for each test section. Hence, the bottom line is that the Reading test can be taken as a standalone test or in combination with other test sections. The format of this section depends on the format of the overall test that you have chosen, which may be either Paper-based (PBT) or Computer-based (CBT). The total time available is 4 hours, irrespective of how many test sections you attempt during that sitting.

  4. The Question Types

    The Reading test has a total of 50 multiple-choice questions, including scored and un-scored (experimental) items. A selection of passages, tables and graphs form the different parts of this test. One or more questions on each reading item are provided. Every question has 5 answer choices, from which one right answer must be selected. There may be approximately 20 questions that test your analysis and assessment skills and 30 questions that assess your research and comprehension abilities.

  5. The Scoring Standards

    The scores of the Reading test are calculated using the following step-by-step method:

    Step 1#: The correct answers in the answer sheet are scanned and their total number is determined. No negative points are rewarded for incorrect answers.
    Step 2#: The total number of experimental items included in the test is deducted from the number attained from Step 1#.
    Step 3#: The number derived from Step 2# is then multiplied by a factor that is specific to the level of difficulty of each test, resulting in a scaled score in the range of 20 – 80.
    Step 4#: A scaled-score of 41 is considered as a minimum passing score for this section of the test; hence, it is important that the candidates score the same at the least.
  6. The Prep Sources

    There are several resources available to prepare for this section of the test. Some of the effective study resources are listed as follows:

    • Reading Practice tests from the official website (
    •  Study guides such as Barron’s CBEST Study Guide and Kaplan CBEST.
    • Prep courses from TeachersTestPrep and universities such as California State University.

We hope that the information provided in this article has improved your understanding of the Reading test and provided you with the necessary tools to prepare yourself for it with complete confidence. Best of Luck!