California Teacher Commission | What will I need to know to take the CBEST test?

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Becoming a Teacher in California

Teacher credentials in Californiaare a little different than in most other states. The primary difference is the need to take a "fifth year" to complete the program. This additional year in most cases will not count towards a Masters degree (unless you play your cards right- more on this in another HUB). The other mandatory thing a teacher must do is pass what is known as the "CBEST" test.

Some questions you may have about the CBEST:

What is the CBEST?

It stands for "California Basic Educational Skills Test". It is a test that will determine if you have the basic skills necessary to teach (yes a degree and a fifth year just don't seem to be enough proof). The fee varies depending on whether you take it on a paper test or on the computer.

Ironically, the computer version cost an additional $65. Why? Who knows? The benefit, however, of the computer version is leaving with an "unofficial pass/fail score". This means you will have a pretty good idea if you passed upon leaving the test site. Paper versions take weeks to get to you and the agony of waiting can be worth the $65. The only exception to this is the essay portion- you have to wait for that as a human needs to grade the essay. But, if you do well on the other two sections, you will probably know if you passed.

What do I need to do take the test?

You will need to register on the CBEST web site. Follow all the instructions paying close attention to the steps you have to go through to get your exam date scheduled and confirmed.

What do i need to do to PASS the test?

There are three sections to the CBEST.

A Math section that deals with fractions, averages, measurements both in distance and in things such as cooking recipes (example: if it takes 1 1/2 cups of flour to make a cookie recipe, how much for 2/3 of the recipe), adding, subtracting, minor Algebra (solve for x kinds of questions), word problems, test score weighting and averaging...and you may not use a CALCULATOR! So brush up on those times tables!

A reading comprehension section will give you a short paragraph to read, and then will ask you to identify main points; fill in blanks with best sentences to make the point; identify the logical order if outlined; determine where to look in an index if you were say, looking for information on the best way to organize a speech; identify what type of persuasion is used (logic, plea to self interest, etc.); determine points made that are least important; etc.

And the final section is the essay. There are two you have to write. The first is usually something that would be of general interest. An example would be arguing your reason for saying, "it is best to demand all students wear red shirts in school", instead of letting them pick their own colors. The topic is given to you on the test.

The other essay usually tends to be of a more personal nature, and will probably be a little easier as it will be about something in your life. They also will give you the prompt for what you need to write about.It may be something like: "If you had to describe what hobby or interest you have that is most fulfilling in your life, what would it be and why?"

They will look for grammar; sentence construction; use of language; points to your argument (do you make supporting statements?); flow of reason and structure;spelling (sorry no spell check is available- you are on your own). The length needs to be between 300 - 600 words.

Scoring- you need to get a minimum of 37 on each section (with a total score of a minimum of 123- you do the math). The score represents a weighted score (not a 37/100- even a one-eyed monkey with a broken pencil could pull that one off). The site gives some explanation of how they arrive at these scores, but it is pretty vague- much like hub scoring (insert laugh here).

How can I get study aides to help me?

There are books that help you that you can buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. if you feel weak in any of the areas I would HIGHLY recommend investing in these study materials. the test is fairly comprehensive and moderately difficult. There is also an online practice test on the CBEST site that give you a ballpark idea of how you will do.

What if I only want to be a substitute teacher, do I still need to take this test?

YES...It takes a lot of skill to sit and have kids do crossword puzzles for an hour don't you know! They need to know you have those skills. You will also need to complete the background check.

What if I want to teach at a private school?

Most of the time the answer is "yes". Check with the school that you wish to teach at to verify if this is a requirement. The other mandatory requirement will be the background check. At a private school you can often teach if you have a Bachelors Degree, but you will need to pass the background check. This gives the school the assurance you aren't a crazy escaped convict, or a recreational drug user (at least one that hasn't been caught yet).

What can I expect at the CBEST testing site?
LOTS of security measures for one. You can't take anything into the test area...no water, no calculator, no munchies, no forgotten crumpled Taco Bell receipt in your pocket. They make you take a picture. They make you turn all your pockets inside out. They ask if you are wearing any contraband (my word) around your waist; they take your right index finger scan; they have you put any personal items in a locker; you must produce a government issued photo ID and keep it with you at all times (in case you can do a magic trick and become someone else while you are behind locked doors with a camera on you at all times and human monitors watching you). You can take your glasses if you need them, but not the case. If you have ANY medical condition that requires something like food and water during the test, this must be pre-arranged at the time of sign up.

How long do I get?

You have 4 hours to complete all three sections. The exception here is you can take one section at a time if you need lots of time. You can also retest any section you fail. These 4 hours are non stop. That means you don't have a break unless you ask the proctor for one. The clock keeps ticking, however, so take care of business quickly as you are losing precious time!


Final Thought-

The CBEST is moderately difficult especailly if you have been out of school for any length of time. Buy the study aides. Brush up on your math without using a calculator, practice simple essay writing, and you should do fine. Good luck and great teaching!

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Comments 2 comments

Brian 7 years ago

Im glad there are standards to become a public school teacher. Im not sureit does any good to make those testing feel so uncomfortable though. The state should be more welcoming to future teachers.


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bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Brian- I totally agree with you!

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