Do-it-yourself guide to online CBEST prep

Better known as the CBEST, the California Basic Educational Skills Test is a standardized test that is required of all public school teachers in California and Oregon. The CBEST evaluates basic proficiency in three areas: reading, writing and mathematics. To earn a score that reflects your potential as an educator, learn how to prepare for the CBEST.


A closer look at the CBEST

The California Basic Educational Skills Test is a credentialing exam originally mandated by the State of California. It has also been adopted by Oregon. Created in conjunction with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and an advisory board of California educators, the CBEST assesses a baseline level of knowledge required of all teachers. The test does not cover specialized subject matter, practice teaching or pedagogical training required of many public school teaching positions.

The CBEST consists of three sections:

  1. Reading: 50 multiple-choice questions assessing comprehension, critical analysis and research ability
  2. Mathematics: 50 multiple-choice questions in word problem format, covering basic math knowledge. Estimation, measurement, problem solving, probability, numerical and graphic relationships are tested.
  3. Writing: Two essay topics assess written communications. In the first, you'll analyze a statement or situation; in the second, you'll describe a personal experience.

CBEST publishes detailed test specifications to give you a better idea of what to expect on the exam. You will have about four hours to complete all three sections, allotting as much time as you like to each section. Each of the three sections is assessed on a scale of 20 to 80; a passing grade is 41 on each section and a minimum total score of 123 on all sections.

How to prepare for the CBEST

Once you have a basic idea of what the CBEST entails, you're ready to prepare for the exam. CBEST test prep may require a few months of sustained study, depending on your length of time out of school, level of knowledge and comfort with test-taking.

You can take a comprehensive, online CBEST prep course--or create your own--by following these steps:

1. Take a practice exam. Access the downloadable CBEST Computer-Administered Practice Test and take the test timed, simulating actual test-taking conditions. The program takes you through the scoring, where you'll have the opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Use this practice exam as a diagnostic tool, targeting specific areas for improvement.

2. Read CBEST study guides. Prep for CBEST online or in print by checking out study guides. Popular guides include The Princeton Review's Cracking the CBEST, which outlines a strategic approach to taking the CBEST and includes two practice tests with explanations. Kaplan and Barron's also publish CBEST guides.

3. Practice CBEST skills. Drill yourself in reading comprehension, mathematics and writing using online CBEST prep materials. The UC Irvine Department of Education recommends Reading Comprehension Connection for CBEST test takers. There you can practice reading comprehension and vocabulary based on your skill level. There are also CBEST mathematics and vocabulary flashcards available to help aspiring teachers prep for the CBEST online.

4. Work with a tutor. If you don't want to invest in a full course, some online CBEST prep websites also offer online tutoring on an as-needed basis. Also check out tutoring marketplace sites like WyzAnt, which identify local tutors certified as CBEST coaches. A tutor can help you structure your study time, develop test-taking strategies, give feedback on your writing and explain math problems. If you determine that you need focused instruction in a particular area, look for online CBEST prep training modules, such as math refresher courses.

5. Prepare for the day of the exam. Lining up logistics for exam day in advance puts you in the right frame of mind to do your best on the test. There are two test-taking modes, paper and computer-based. If you're taking the paper test, you'll need several No. 2 pencils. Computer test-takers can expect to view a tutorial about the test before beginning the exam. View a preview of these computerized instructions on the CBEST site.

The CBEST is an important step toward a teaching credential for California and Oregon educators. Prep for CBEST online to ensure that your study time translates into a solid performance on this important professional exam.

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