Comparison Between CBEST And CSET

CBEST or CSET: What Should You Take?

CBEST and the CSET are examinations, both administered by the Pearson Education and both are exams that are used for selecting candidates for the teaching profession. For many, the difference between the two tests and the purpose of the tests may not be clear. This article primarily talks about both tests, their differences and similarities and under what conditions you should choose which test.


First, you should learn the basic details of each test before knowing the differences.

CSET- California Subject Examinations for Teachers is administered to identify the candidates who possess the knowledge and skills to become good teachers. There are five categories of the test namely;

  1. Multiple Subjects – Authorizes the holder to teach in elementary schools
  2. Single Subject – Authorizes the holder to teach that particular subject in middle and secondary school
  3. Writing Skills – Required for satisfying basic skills requirement
  4. Preliminary Education Technology – Used for evaluating the skills required for handling computers
  5. Languages Other Than English (LOTE) – Required for bilingual authorization

Each category consists of subtests and each subtest is made of domains and you can pass each subtest separately.

CBEST- California Basic Educational Skills Test is administered to identify candidates who have teaching skills. This test is not a replacement for any other test that evaluates your subject knowledge. This test evaluates the basic skills namely, Mathematics, Reading and Writing that are required for any teacher.

The Differences…

The tabular column below gives the differences between both tests:

Skills Tested Tests the skills that are required by all educators Tests the skills that are required to teach
specific subjects
Subjects Tested Three subject areas are tested- Mathematics,
Reading and Writing
Five categories are present and all the subjects
areas are covered
Testing All the three subject tests must be taken up Specific categories alone need to be taken up
Test Fee $41for paper-based testing and $61 for
computer-based testing
The registration fee varies from subject to subject
Scoring Scaled scores range from 20 to 80 Scaled scores range from 200 to 300
Passing Scores The scaled scores of the three tests are totaled and
the passing score is 123 and a minimum of 37
must be attained in the three subjects
You have to pass each subtest separately and the
passing score is 220
Duration The duration of the test is for 4 hours The duration of one session is 5 hours and you can take
more than one subtest in this time
Question Type The Reading and Mathematics section have only
multiple-choice questions and the Writing section
has 2 essay topics
Most subtests have both multiple-choice questions and
constructed-response type questions
Format Both computer-based and paper-based testing
options are available
Both computer-based and paper-based testing options are available.
However, for each subject, only one format is available

The Similarities…

Though there are many differences, the tests have certain similarities as well.

  • Both the tests are pass or fail exams.
  • Both are administered to check your suitability for a teaching profession.
  • For both the tests you can pass the subtests separately and appear for the subtests that you have not passed in the next attempt.

CBEST or CSET- What to Choose?

The choice between the tests depends on what you want to become. With the CBEST, you can earn a teaching credential but if you pass the CSET: Multiple Subjects and CSET: Writing Skills, you will be exempted from the CBEST test. Therefore, if you are planning to take the above-mentioned CSET tests, then you need not attempt the CBEST. However, if you are planning on taking other categories of the CSET, then you must take up the CBEST test as well.

To Conclude…

Though both the examinations are designed to check if you will be a good teacher or not, with a pass in the Multiple Subjects and Writing Skills, you will be exempted from taking the CBEST test. First you must decide what subjects and in which level you want to teach before attempting these tests.