How to Pass the CBEST Exam?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


If you aim to become an educator, then a CBEST is an excellent way to go through the rigorous process. However, this is the examination you’ll need if you want to teach in California, and you’ll have to pass the exam to become a teacher.

Think about the CBEST exam as the first step you need to earn your credentials in California, as it is designed to test a few skill sets of yours. Without this, you won’t be able to teach in that state. Hence, the CBEST is the fundamental step for your career, and without it, you won’t be able to progress your teaching career.

Hence, this article will discuss all the various steps you need to pass the CBEST exam. Moreover, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to help you study, what to expect, and what scores you should achieve.

What is CBEST?What is CBEST?

CBEST stands for the California Basic Educational Skills Test. Its primary purpose is to test your basic understanding of three fundamental topics. These are mathematics, writing skills, and reading. People who pursue this certification are working towards becoming teachers.

This exam is meant to test some basic understanding that you already have. Hence, it’s incredibly similar to other standardized tests, as it doesn’t go into specifics.

Why would someone want to take the CBEST exam? You might be required to sit for it if you’re working as a teacher or substitute educator. Moreover, you must pass the test if you are seeking an administrative service credential or when you want to gain accredited preparation or credentialed program.

The California Educator Credentialing Assessments now offers two ways to sit for the CBEST exam. You can complete it through a computer, or you can also sit for a face-to-face examination. The three different topics will be administered in three separate sections.

Computer-based Test

  • CBEST registration for the online version is quite simple. You can sit for it anytime during the working weekdays and Saturdays, year-round. Remember that the seating is limited, and registration happens according to first-come, first-serve. Hence, check the availability of the examination and decide accordingly.
  • Each section is divided, and you’ll have different time limits accordingly. You have 1.5 hours for each writing and reading section and 2 hours for the mathematics part.
  • You must register for each section separately as they are administered in different testing sessions.
  • Any break you take is part of the total testing time. However, you’re not allowed to use a break during online proctoring. Online proctoring happens when you test remotely in the comfort of your own home.
  • The total fee for each section is $30. Hence, you will have to pay $90 for all areas.

Paper-based Test

  • As there are always limited seatings, check the deadlines for registration of the CBEST examination a while before you decide to sit for it. However, keep in mind that face-to-face exams are more likely to happen less often than online proctoring ones.
  • You have 4 hours to complete all sections. However, you can choose to take only one or two of the areas during the 4-hour testing session.
  • Once you register, you’ve automatically registered for all 3 sections.
  • If you decide to take a break, it will automatically be deducted from the total time you have for the exam.
  • The total registration fee varies according to some conditions. It goes as follows: $41 for the test fee for the registration, $18 extra if you register late, and $35 for emergency registration on top of the registration fee.
  • Your results will be available in 3 weeks.

How Many Questions Are on the CBEST?

How Many Questions Are on the CBEST?

There are three sections on the exam, which are:

  • CBEST Mathematics: the exam includes 50 multiple-choice questions that revolve around math. You should expect to solve questions on multiple topics, including graph relationships, numerical equations, computation, statistical principles, estimation, and measurement.
  • CBEST Reading: the reading section also includes 50 multiple-choice questions. While it sounds simple, this section might be the most complicated one, as it asks you quite specific questions. You should be proficient in two main areas: critical analysis and research skills.
  • CBEST Writing: if you enjoy writing, you’re probably going to shine through this one. However, for your typical person, reading is not a strong suit. You will be expected to write two short essays. One asks you to write about a specific situation, and the other is more of a personal experience.

Hence, the number of questions on the CBEST exam is 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essays.

What is a Good CBEST Score?

What is a Good CBEST Score?

All the sections are graded in slightly different manners. While the reading and the mathematics part are initially graded on a raw scale, from 1-50, it’s converted to a scaled score system. This scaled score is on a scale of 20 to 80.

As for the essay part, things get a little tricky. First of all, it’s done on a four-point scale system according to how well your writing is. The grading will consider your clarity, organization of ideas, assertion, choice of words, syntactic phrasing of words, and the correct addressing of the topic.

Moreover, the writing part is often graded by two separate people. Then, your total score is calculated as the average of both grades supplied by the two people. Afterward, it is converted to the same scaled system, from 20-80.

So, the question of how to pass the CBEST exam requires you to attain a minimum grade of 123 on the scaled grading system. Anything about that is considered a good CBEST score, as the actual score won’t matter much. All you need to do is pass to attain your certificate.

However, there are a few keynotes to keep in mind:

  • The passing score on each section is 41
  • You need 123 in total on all three areas to pass the test
  • If you have any part with a score lower than 37, you won’t be able to pass the exam
  • You can repeat one section to raise your overall score

How Many Times Can You Take the CBEST?

How Many Times Can You Take the CBEST?

Things sound pretty straightforward, don’t they? But is CBEST test hard? Well, it technically is more complex than you would anticipate.

According to some data from testing scores as of 2016-2017, only 66.8% of examinees passed the exam on their first attempt. Of all the students who sat for the exam during that period, 80% passed the reading section, 78.3% passed the math part, and only 66.9% passed the writing section.

Hence, it became clear that the most challenging part was writing. However, if you do not pass the test or any specific section, you shouldn’t worry about it. You can repeat the exam or any particular area as many times as possible. However, you will have to register all over again.

Suppose you want to retake the examination through a computer-based test. In that case, you aren’t allowed to within the initial 45 days after the first one. Moreover, you will have to go through registering, finding a seat, and deciding on a specific time. You also have to pay the full fee once again.

Moreover, if you have already scored 41 and above on a particular section, you won’t have to repeat it. All you have to do is sit for the one you haven’t passed. But keep in mind that if your overall score is lower than 123, it might be good to repeat another low section to raise your grade.

How Do You Prepare for the CBEST Exam?

How Do You Prepare for the CBEST Exam?

To prepare for the CBEST exam, you need to know how to pass the CBEST test. Hence, this requires a fundamental understanding of the format, the questions included, and the difficulty level. Nothing will be easy if you go in blindfolded without prior knowledge of the basics involved.

Hence, we recommend you go through the following:

  • CBEST Test Specifications: the specifications will inform you of the essential information you’re expected to know during the examination. Moreover, it is a simple guide that will aid you through the process of the person grading your paper, as it’ll show you what they’ll be expecting of you.
  • Tutorials: we all know how online examinations can be a little tougher to navigate, as they are often more confusing. Hence, you should check out the CBT tutorials (computer-based testing) and OP (online proctoring). These will enable you to understand what to expect during the exam.
  • Test Results Explanation: once you receive your test results, things might be a little confusing for you. It will be clear whether you pass the test or not, as you will receive a Permanent Verification Card and two transcript copies of the card if you give. However, the information about interpreting the test results will eventually come to your aid.

5 Helpful CBEST Study Tips to Pass the Exam

5 Helpful CBEST Study Tips to Pass the Exam

All examinees wonder how long to study for CBEST, which will range quite a bit. If you’re fresh out of graduating from college, 2 hours a day for 2-3 weeks would be sufficient to quickly go over the fundamental material.

However, if it’s been a while, you definitely need a proper refreshing session on all the content knowledge and basics you’re expected to have. Hence, expect to study for 2 hours for at least 5 weeks to adequately prepare for the exam and pass on your first try.

Here are our main study tips to pass the CBEST from the very first shot:


Read through the outline to understand the concepts mentioned in the examination. This will come to your aid, especially once you start studying. You’ll know which sections to focus on and what to expect while solving past exams.

Study Books

Study books and study guides are going to come in handy. They’re often relatively cheap, containing some tips, tricks, and practice examinations. Check out our top three favorites from the following institutes: Princeton Review, CliffsNotes, and TPB Publishing.

Practice Tests

These are absolutely vital, as you won’t grasp the weight of the exam until you sit through one. Hence, we recommend you time yourself while doing each individual section. Moreover, the CTC exam’s website offers official practice tests, one for each section:


To pass the exam with the help of candidates who have previously taken the exam, get in contact with them. Look for online forums and reach out when you need help. An example is the A to Z Teacher Stuff forum.

Good Habits

We have numerous tips for incorporating into your study lifestyle:

  • Schedule enough preparation time before your exam
  • Check your grammar and spelling through online apps
  • Minimum pre-test stress by planning the day of the exam out
  • Don’t spend too much time on one difficult question – circle back to it
  • Set a regular time each day to study for the exam

Wrapping Things Up: How to Pass the CBEST Exam?

You’re preparing to become an instructor and give back to the community by building a generation of equipped students. Hence, we advise you to prepare sufficiently and give yourself approximately 4-8 weeks, depending on your level, before sitting for the exam.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More