Comparison Between the CBEST and CSET

Comparison of CBEST and CSET

The CBEST and CSET are two examinations that provide certifications in teaching, which can be used for pursuing a career as an educator, in California. CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) tests a person’s basic skills in English Reading, Writing and Mathematics. This assessment, basically, comes in use for credentialing a person for employment. CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers) is created and developed by California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the same body that created the CBEST, but its purpose is different from CBEST, as you will observe in the following section:

Comparison of CBEST and CSET

These two exams are basically created and developed for credentialing candidates for employment in the teaching profession, in California. However, these tests differ as discussed below:

  • Both exams are aimed at testing different calibres of Teaching aspirants – CBEST is a consolidated and generalized test to assess the basic skills of persons wanting to take up a career in education, whereas CSET is designed for testing a person’s general competence, as well as, in-depth competence in specific subjects. Hence, one can opt for CSET if he or she wants to get certified on specific academic skills, along with the basic skills.
  • The CSET is viewed to be more difficult than CBEST – CSET, which tests candidate’s knowledge of specific subjects, in a more in-depth manner than the other exam and it is considered to be tougher by many teaching aspirants. If you want to make good progress in the teaching career and want to be appointed in senior positions, then taking this exam will be advantageous for you.
  • Both the California educator examinations have different mandatory criteria – These two tests have different mandatory criteria. The CBEST is to be compulsorily taken by any person who wishes to be a Science or Math teacher in California, while the other exam is mandatory for all persons wanting to take up teaching, as a profession in California, in general.
  • Difference in the time duration  – The CBEST is of 4 hours duration while the CSET is of 5 hours duration.
  • Teaching specific subjects in California – You can opt get the CSET certification in a single subject, or two or three subjects, in order to start teaching these subjects in California schools.
  • Testing a person’s proficiency in different languages – While the CBEST is designed to test one’s proficiency in the English language, the CSET can be taken for testing proficiency in non-English languages too, such as, Chinese, Filipino, Punjabi, Spanish and Korean. One can also opt for a bilingual authorization to take the test.
  • The CBEST scores can be used for exemption from certain CSET subtests – For example, if you have appeared for CBEST, then you do not have to appear for CSET Writing Skills test, specifically, to be certified in this examination. Your CBEST scores can be considered here.
  • Test availability online – Both these exams are available for testing different subjects online and offline. The CBEST tests are available both online and offline, but not all CSET tests are available in both the offline and online formats. Some of the CSET subject tests are available only in one of the formats.


Both the exams are very different from each other though they broadly seem to be used for testing the proficiency of a candidate in teaching. The CBEST is a more basic examination than the CSET. This examination can be taken when one wants to be a teacher for school subjects that do not require subject matter expertise. CSET, on the other hand, is a tougher examination that can be taken in individual subjects to teach those subjects in schools. Generally, classes of middle and higher levels require the teacher to have subject matter expertise. You should take CSET if you aim to teach at middle and high school levels, and also teach in primary levels, where subject matter expertise is required. You can collect more information on these two tests by visiting the following webpages: and