So, you’re getting ready to take the CBEST™. I bet you have some questions, and some of these following questions might be on your list:

  • What is this CBEST™?
  • How do I sign up or register?
  • How hard is it to pass the CBEST™?
  • What should I study to pass?
  • These are great questions!

My name is Marshall Highet and at TestPrepPractice we are here to familiarize you with all things CBEST™!

First Thing to Know

CBEST™ stands for California Basic Educational Skills test, an exam that’s used in California and Oregon to assess the basic skills of educators. It is important to note that this test is used to assess potential educators’ skills in the areas of reading, math, and writing, and not to assess how well a potential educator can teach these subjects. That’s an important distinction.


The CBEST™ is made up of three different tests: reading, writing, and mathematics. This means you must pass each individual subject test to pass the entire CBEST™ exam.

You have four hours to take the entire test, whether you’re taking three sections or only one or two sections. You can use any amount of time on any one subject. In other words, you can dedicate one and a half hours solely to the writing section if you’d like to. 

Here are three tables with some more specifics about each subject test of CBEST™:


CBEST: Reading




50 multiple-choice questions based on passages 100-200 words long Critical analysis and evaluation 40%

Comprehension and research 60%

  • Compare and contrast
  • Make predictions
  • Recognize author attitude
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion

CBEST: Mathematics

50 multiple-choice questions



Skill Factor 1 Estimation, measurement, and statistical principles
  • Units of length, temperature, weight, etc.
  • Measurement of length and perimeter
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Averages, ratios, proportions, etc.
  • Probability
  • Standardized test scores (stanine scores, percentiles)
Skill Factor 2 Computation and problem-solving
  • Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with whole numbers, negative numbers, fractions, etc.
  • Simple algebra
  • Determination of appropriate mathematical process
Skill Factor 3 Numerical and graphical relationships
  • Data changes
  • Position of numbers in relation to one another
  • Rounding rules
  • Logical connectives

CBEST: Writing





NOTE: Essays should not be  letters or personal notes, and should not be about speculative or imaginary experiences Two essay questions Essay 1: Expressive


Essay 2: Analytic skills (referential aim)

Essay 1: Remembered experience

Essay 2: Literature analysis

The essay section of this exam is made up of two essays, or constructed-response questions (CRQs). In most states, CRQs are part of educational testing for teachers. These kinds of questions require the test-taker to produce or construct the answer in an essay form and are considered an additional measure of test-takers’ subject knowledge.


Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions can measure factual knowledge, but CRQs are used to measure such skills as:

  • organizing thoughts into clearly planned communication while using appropriate language,
  • providing logical, connected explanations for responses, and
  • demonstrating higher-level thinking skills while showing the need to encourage the use of such skills

Remember, CRQ prompts will likely involve some tasks like determining cause and effect, comparing and contrasting ideas, categorizing, drawing conclusions, and synthesizing information from sources. 

In addition, most exam scorers look for clarity and proficiency in your writing; therefore, you’ll want to brush up on your grammar.

You have to pass all three subject tests in order to pass the CBEST™, but you don’t have to pass all three subject tests at the same time, nor do you have to take them all at the same time. Again, you’re given four hours to complete the test regardless if you are taking one, two, or three of the subject area tests.

You can take the subject area tests in any configuration you please, so if you fail one but pass the other two, you can just retake the subject area test that you failed. You do have to pay the registration fee for each subject test every time you take it.


Passing Score

Interpreting the scores on these tests is always tricky. For the CBEST™, you have to get at least a scaled score of 41 on each of the sections in order to pass the exam. However, you may be able to pass if you get a scaled score of 123 or higher in total, even if you’ve earned a 37 on a subject area test. You cannot pass if you earn lower than 37 points on any of the individual subject area tests, regardless of your total scaled score.


How to Register

New to Teaching?

To register for CBEST™, you need to create an account on the California Educator Credentialing Assessments site. Here’s the link to the site.

After you’ve created an account, you should:

  • click on “Assessments,”
  • click on “California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST™),”
  • click on “Reading, Writing, and Mathematics,” and
  • click on “Register for CBEST™.”

You must take the CBEST™ if you are:

  • applying for the first time,
  • haven’t taught for 39 months prior to your new job, or
  • are applying to either a teacher-prep or service-credential program (approved by the CCTC).


Already Certified?

There are some individuals who are exempted from taking the CBEST™. You do not have to take this exam if you:

  • teach adults in an apprenticeship program,
  • teach in a children’s center,
  • teach a subject that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree,
  • are a health care provider,
  • are a student-teacher, or
  • are an educational specialist for the deaf or the hearing-impaired.


There are some alternatives to taking the CBEST™. The ways that you can become qualified to pursue your teaching credentials in the state of California are

  • passing the CBEST™,
  • passing a basic skills exam from another state,
  • passing all three CSET tests,
  • showing proficiency on the English and math sections of the California State University, Early Assessment Program,
  • earning at least a 500 on the English or 550 on the math section of the College Board SAT, or
  • earning at least a 22 on the English and at least a 23 on the math section of the ACT


Once you pass the exam (or one of the alternatives), you are qualified to seek teaching credentials in the state of California!

Hurray! You’re well on your way to becoming a Californian educator.


Other recommended articles:

The Best CBEST™ Study Guides

The Ultimate Overview of the CBEST™ 

Best CBEST™ Preparation Videos


About the Author

Marshall Highet has been writing since she was a wee thing. No longer a wee thing, for the past ten years she’s worked as a professor, a professional writer, and an educational consultant.