The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) is an important step in the process of becoming a certified teacher in the state of California. It is made up of three separate tests including the writing test. The writing section measures a candidate’s command of the English language as well as their ability to skillfully express themselves in writing.
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When Is the CBEST Offered?
The computer based test is offered daily all year round so you have a lot of flexibility with scheduling if you opt for this version. If you prefer a paper based test, you do have that option as well. However, it is only offered on five dates throughout the year so you’ll need to plan in advance to make sure you get a date that still leaves you plenty of time to study and prepare but also fits with your schedule and time frame.
If you struggle with test anxiety or other issues that require additional test taking time, you can choose to take each section separately. This option allows you to use an entire four hour session on just one section as opposed to needing to complete all three in one four hour session.
How Long Will the CBEST Take?
You should expect to spend about five hours at the testing center. This includes:
- 30 minutes to check in
- 15 minutes to sign a nondisclosure agreement and complete a tutorial (if you are taking the computer based version)
- 4 hours to complete the exam itself
- 10 to 15 minutes to speak with the test administrator about any concerns you might have about the test (such as a disruption or distraction that might have affected your performance).
This is a long time so make sure that you are well rested and have eaten a nourishing, high protein breakfast before you arrive. Moreover, make sure you arrive half an hour early for checking in because you need to be checked in and ready to go by the time your appointment starts.
What Am I Expected to Know for the Writing Section of the CBEST?
The writing section of the CBEST will require you to provide written responses that demonstrate your command of the English language and your ability to express clear, coherent ideas in writing. Graders will be looking for the following criteria when grading your written responses:
- Write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs.
- Keep writing focused and on topic
- Develop ideas effectively using illustration and support
- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard written English
- Avoid non sequiturs, internal contradictions, confusion of fact or opinion, and unwarranted conclusions.
- Demonstrate ability to write both expressive and referential prose.
You will be given two types of prompts to craft written responses for. One will require an expressive response about a personal experience of yours. The second will be a more referential topic requiring you to demonstrate your analytic and reasoning skills.
How Is the CBEST Scored?
The CBEST is given one cumulative score which is the sum of the individual scores you received on each section. All three sections are scored on a scale ranging from 20 to 80. This includes the writing section. The minimum passing score for each section is 41, making the minimum cumulative score 123.
However, you can still pass the CBEST as a whole if you score less than 41 on the writing section as long as your cumulative score is still at least 123. So if you do well enough in math and reading, you have some flexibility. With that said, you can’t afford to completely bomb any section. No score below 37 will be accepted, even if your cumulative score is 123. So there’s no excuse for avoiding studying for a section!
How Should I Prepare for the Writing Section of the CBEST?
You should aim to write at least two or three full practice essays leading up to the exam. Don’t just write on any topic, however, choose something that is similar to the kinds of topics you might be given on the CBEST.
One source of topic ideas will be the Mometrix Study Guide. You will get sample writing prompts to help guide your practice writing sessions. Along with that, you’ll also get tips and strategies to improve your writing and meet the particular demands of the CBEST. Graders will be looking for a very precise set of criteria to be met so even if you are a good writer, it’s worth taking time to make sure you can write in the specific way that those graders will want to see.
For further help on this, you should pick up the Mometrix Flashcards which will help you build your vocabulary and review the most important rules and conventions that you should understand when writing your responses.