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Reading on the CBEST® Test

The Reading portion of the CBEST® is a 50-question multiple-choice exam that analyzes your ability to take in and synthesize information you’ve read.

The exam will not require you to step in with any prior knowledge. All of the information you’ll need to answer the questions will be provided on the test itself—in paragraphs or passages. These paragraphs will be followed by the question and possible answers.

The Overall Test Purpose

This particular type of test is encouraging, as all of the information you need is at your fingertips, but can also be somewhat difficult to study for. To practice for the CBEST® exam, practice reading different passages from different genres, and see if you can pull out important information, such as the main idea, supporting details, points of view, inferences, and persuasive techniques. The test evaluates two primary skills:

  • critical analysis/evaluation
  • comprehension/research

Specific Skills

Assessing critical analysis skills and the ability to evaluate means examining the following areas: comparing and contrasting, locating evidence, making predictions, identifying viewpoints and the intended audience, fact versus opinion, logical assumptions and fallacies, and pinpointing inconsistencies within a text. Each of these items can be practiced with passages in textbooks, novels, newspapers, and other printed works.

  • Comparing and contrasting is more often found in poetry or prose, while logical assumptions are more likely to be found in a news source.
  • Making predictions can be done across the board, as can identifying viewpoints and intended audiences and finding inconsistencies.

Practicing each of these skills will help prepare for the CBEST®.

Important Terms

Preparation for the CBEST® should also include studying the areas of:

  • relationships between ideas
  • event sequencing
  • idea organization
  • main idea
  • summarization
  • inferences
  • context clues
  • figurative speech
  • transitions
  • using provided tools to locate information (tables of contents, etc.)

These, too, can be evaluated using materials you might already have, or local newspapers.

  • To identify relationships or sequences, simple charts are best: a brainstorming chart can help determine relationships, while a list is best for identifying sequencing.
  • The main idea, conclusions, and transitions can all be studied while identifying idea organization, as each of these has its own place within the body of a piece: the main idea at the beginning, transitions at the end or beginning of new paragraphs, and conclusions at the close of the piece.
  • Inferences, context clues, and figurative speech all require a closer look at the passage in question, as an inference asks you to weed out information not explicitly stated, context clues help determine the meanings of works when the word is unknown, and figurative speech uses simile or metaphor to create a form of speech that likens one thing to another.

How to Prepare

As you study for the CBEST®, the best way to prepare is through consistent reading and evaluating the pieces you read for evidence of the above elements of language. Taking regular practice tests can also help you prepare, as these are designed to more closely mimic the standard patterns of the test in question. Ultimately, the CBEST® is not a test you can study for in a concrete way, memorizing facts and figures, but is best prepared for by actually doing similar exam questions and reviewing dedicated study guides.

You can find these free study materials at Union Test Prep:

Study Guide for the CBEST® Reading Test

Practice Questions for the CBEST® Reading Test

Flashcards for the CBEST® Reading Test

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