Writing on the CBEST® Test

The CBEST® Writing exam is designed to test your knowledge of writing using proper conventions and organization techniques.

What Type of Writing Is Required?

Two essays are required on the CBEST®, each of them requiring you to display the ability to create an essay using supporting details but without diverging from the topic at hand. The first essay is a personal one, in which you will be given a prompt to create an essay based on an experience or a memory, while the second will give you a phrase, topic, or suggestion, and require that you take that topic and write about it, using any information given, and expounding on it to create a fully fleshed, well-thought-out response.

How to Prepare

Because the Writing portion of the CBEST® does not allow for traditional preparation, such as studying via flashcards or memorizing terms, the best possible way to practice is to take writing prompts, create small essays, and have a trusted friend, mentor, or teacher review them and point out any areas in need of improvement, with a focus on conventions (think grammar, punctuation, and word usage).

Writing Topics to Practice

In keeping with the exam format, first practice writing about a personal topic, such as a treasured memory, or the moment that a sudden shift in your worldview occurred. From there, you can then choose to write about a famous quote, an oft-cited scientific study, or something similar, in order to craft an essay that requires you to dig deep into the source material—even if that material is only a single sentence.

Specific Writing Skills to Practice

When writing, there are six main things you must keep in mind: clarity, organization, support, usage, structure, and audience.

  • Clarity in your writing means keeping yourself on topic, and using language appropriate for the topic at hand.
  • Organization refers to the sequence in which you write your essay. Outlines can be helpful in making sure you have clear, readable work.
  • Support refers to the amount of support you have for your ideas in the piece and can refer to descriptions of the event you are writing about, or supporting details.
  • Usage means using words correctly.
  • Structure means choosing the best possible structure for the essay, such as choosing the correct space for paragraph breaks and using grammar correctly.
  • Finally, the CBEST® will be evaluating your tone to determine whether or not your essay is written to correctly reflect your audience.

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