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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the CBEST

About the CBEST

The California Basic Education Skills Test, or CBEST, is required for individuals who would like to teach in the state of California. It was originally developed by the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing to meet legislative requirements in the state and ensure that educators were able to demonstrate mastery of basic academic skills.

The exam is structured to have three sections: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. There are 50 multiple-choice questions in each of the Reading and Mathematics sections, and the Writing section requires two essay responses.

The total duration of the test is five hours, with two hours allocated to the Mathematics section and 90 minutes each for the Writing and Reading sections. The paper-based version of the exam was discontinued in 2021, and now the test must be taken on a computer, either in a testing center or online with a proctor.

Each section of the exam is scored independently, with a score of between 20 and 80. To pass the exam, your scaled (composite) score must be at least 123, and you cannot get a score of less than 37 in any of the individual sections. The best way to perform well on the CBEST® is to study and prepare as much as possible in the time leading up to the test.

Sections of the CBEST


There are three main skill areas represented in the CBEST Math section. They are:

  • Estimation, measurement, and statistics
  • Computation and problem solving
  • Number and graph relationships

Most of the 50 multiple-choice questions involve reading a word problem. You may not use a calculator of any kind.


You will need to read and analyze written passages, graphs, and tables when answering the 50 or so questions on CBEST Reading test. No prior knowledge of the content of the passages is necessary. Topics discussed in the passages will vary among many different areas of study.


The CBEST Writing section involves composing two separate essays. One essay will be about a personal experience and the other will be your reflection on a certain situation or statement. There is no special knowledge needed to be successful in this section.

You can use our practice questions to review grammar and word usage skills that will help you produce quality essays. Then, practice writing an essay with our essay grader. You can submit an essay you’ve already written or use a prompt to get started.

What to Expect on Test Day

Taking the CBEST can be incredibly stressful. After all, your performance determines your ability to work in your chosen profession. However, you can calm your nerves and perform better if you have studied adequately and know what to expect on your testing day.

It is a great idea to arrive early for the exam. You will be required to provide a valid, government-issued ID and biometric data during registration (palm scan, fingerprint, digital photograph, and signature). You will also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, a copy of the test center rules, and a copy of the CBEST policies. Having sufficient time to read through these documents is essential. Examinees may also review the CBEST policies document before their test day to save time. If you do not arrive at the testing center within 15 minutes of your scheduled time, you will forfeit your fees and must reschedule your test. You may cancel and receive a full refund provided that you cancel at least 24 hours prior to your testing time.

The CBEST is a rather long test, with five hours provided for examinees. Because of this, it’s also important that you get adequate rest the night before and have eaten a nutritious meal before arriving at the testing center. Restroom breaks are permitted, but examinees will be required to provide identification and biometric verification of their identity before re-entering the room. Access to any electronic devices during breaks is prohibited.

What to Bring

You must bring a valid, government-issued form of identification with a signature on it. Without proper identification, you will not be permitted to take the exam and will not receive a credit or refund.

What Not to Bring

Electronic devices, personal items, food or beverages, or study aids are all not permitted in the testing rooms.

Best Ways to Study for the CBEST

Take CBEST Practice Tests

One of the best ways to study for the CBEST is by completing practice tests beforehand. These study aids can help you to master the format of the test and develop a study plan so that you can shore up your knowledge in any areas where your performance isn’t as strong as it needs to be. CBEST practice tests can also help you to understand better what the evaluators are looking for in the essays found in the writing section of the exam to ensure that you have all of the elements for a strong essay on your testing day.

Use Alternative Study Methods

In addition to CBEST practice tests, alternative study materials can elevate your study experience by reintroducing concepts, data, and facts in different formats. flashcards and study guides can sometimes give you additional insight into how to best prepare for the exam that you might not see when you only use CBEST practice tests.

Simulate the Testing Experience

Simulating the CBEST testing experience can also give you a better idea of how you might perform on your testing day, which is especially helpful to understand since the CBEST is a very long test that is taken all in one sitting. Simulations beforehand can help you to make a plan for how much time you will devote to each section so that you stay on track to complete the exam. They can also tell you when you perform the best and what actions you can take during breaks to re-energize yourself if you experience mental fatigue.

CBEST Tips and Tricks

Pace Yourself

Even though you have five hours to complete the entire exam, there are allotted break times across the exam. You must always keep an eye on the clock to ensure that you have enough time to complete all of the sections. You can try to allocate the time equally across the three sections, although it is often better to simulate the exam several times beforehand so you know which sections take you the longest and which ones you complete faster. This method lets you get a rough idea as to how much time you should take on each section by accounting for your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Remember to Prepare for All Three Sections

The reading and mathematics sections of the CBEST may be easier to prepare for, simply because they are multiple-choice questions, which lends well to practice exams and other study aids. However, you must achieve a score of at least 37 in every section in order to pass, even if your composite score is 123 or above. Spend some time practicing the essay section as well and understanding the expected structure. This process is the best way to ensure that you meet the minimum score for all sections.

Begin Studying Early

To demonstrate the subject mastery required to be an educator in the state of California means that the three sections will test you on content that spans a wide variety of different facts, concepts, data, and knowledge. The best way to prepare for this is to take a slow and steady approach to studying. Cramming at the last minute often leads to high anxiety and a poor performance.


1. How much does it cost to take the CBEST?

The cost for each section of the CBEST is $30, so the entire test costs $90. If you register late or would like additional copies of your scores, you may also pay additional fees.

2. If I failed only one section of the exam, do I have to take the whole test over?

No, if you failed only one section, you may register to take just that section again, although the cost will be the same.

3. How many times can I retake the CBEST?

There are no limits to how many times you can take the CBEST; however, you must wait 45 days between testing dates.

4. When will I get my CBEST results?

You will receive preliminary results for the Reading and Mathematics portions at the conclusion of testing. Full test results will be available within two weeks of testing.

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