Reading Study Guide for the CBEST

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General Information

To answer the 50 multiple-choice questions in this section, you should be able to read and analyze written passages, graphs, and tables. Beyond that, you need to be able to analyze the material presented and make judgments about it, including finding inferences that can be made from the information or opinions given. You will not need to have any prior knowledge of the passage topics. The material will represent many different areas of study.

Two skill factors are tested on the CBEST Reading section. They are:

  • critical analysis and evaluation (40% of questions)

  • comprehension and research skills (60% of questions)

Following are the important specific skills to practice and terms to know.

Critical Analysis and Evaluation

The CBEST reading selections may be excerpts from books, chapters, paragraphs, articles, or reports. To perform well on these questions, you need to be competent in these skills.

Comparing and Contrasting

Comparing and contrasting are two sides of the same coin; while comparing involves finding likenesses among two or more things, contrasting involves finding differences between two or more things.

When comparing, words such as like and as denote that there exists a relationship of similarity between the objects or ideas you are comparing. When contrasting, the words contrary and conversely indicate that there are differences ahead.

Identifying Supportive Evidence

Although it may initially seem daunting, locating and identifying supporting evidence is actually quite simple. When you have determined what the main idea or purpose of a paragraph/paper is, you look for sentences or phrases that support that idea.

A thesis stating, “Cats are better than dogs,” for instance, will likely have supporting statements such as “Cats are strong and independent,” “Cats do not need to be let out for bathroom breaks,” and “Cats do not require extensive amounts of attention.” Each of these statements supports the notion that cats are better than dogs. To apply this in your own studying and test-taking, first, identify the main idea or purpose of a piece, then find sentences and phrases that build up this idea.

Making Predictions

Making predictions involves creating a future tense. “Bob ran to the mall” is an example of past tense. “Bob is running to the mall” is an example of present tense. Future tense, or predictive language, would be “Bob will run to the mall.” When you are making predictions, you will typically use either “will” or “going to” to denote the presence of a predictive tense.

To practice, change “Erica is a fine swimmer” to a predictive statement. “Erica is a fine swimmer” becomes “Erica will be a fine swimmer,” or “Erica is going to be a fine swimmer.” Making predictions is a simple matter of using different verb tenses.

Determining the Author’s Viewpoint

The author’s viewpoint is frequently considered an important aspect of a piece because it informs the reasoning and purpose behind the piece. To determine the author’s viewpoint, scan the article or work in question. Look for words that inform the tone of the piece. Is it sarcastic? Urgent? Excited? When you have determined the tone of the piece, search for the slant of the article. Is the author encouraging the audience to change preconceived notions, or is he/she encouraging the audience to hold fast to already-expressed ideals? All of these questions will help determine what the author’s viewpoint is―that is, whether the author is for, or against, the topic of the work.


All Study Guides for the CBEST are now available as downloadable PDFs