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Passing The CBEST Without Buying The Book

Updated on March 4, 2016

Stick To The Internet

Your Current Level/Degree Matters

I will start out by saying that YES I passed my CBEST on the first try after studying for a solid week. Yup, only one week. However, I do have a Bachelor's of Science degree in Neurobiology from the University of California, Davis. Therefore, I did not attempt to take the test without higher education training or without a degree under my name.

That being said, all the material on the CBEST is covered in high school Algebra and English classes. Anyone who has seen either Algebra or high school English should be more than capable of passing the test with flying colors. I would say to give yourself (1) One week to study if you have a B.S./B.A. degree or higher or (2) three weeks to study (along with reading two novels) if you have an associates or no degree.

What Level/Degree Did You Have Before Taking The CBEST?

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Don't Waste Your Money or Time

Consequently, most people who need to take the CBEST are not making a lot of money. As recent graduates or current underpaid school employees, we need to figure out how to pay for (1) the expense of the test and (2) any testing materials involved. Also, most of us need to take the exam sooner rather than later in case we need a retake or because we've been procrastinating on our graduate applications or substitute permits (usually the latter).

Currently, the CBEST supplies/books are not that expensive and can easily be found on Amazon, but unless you have a prime account it'll take around 2 weeks+ for you to receive these materials. This can be devastating. If you have looked at the CTC (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing) website and times the test is being offered, there are very few spots or times available and missing two weeks just to wait for a book can ruin your plans. Also, it'll take 10 days for you to receive your testing results (keep this in mind when deciding on your testing time).

In order to avoid these problems I began my research on how to pass without buying any testing materials and only relying on the internet for help.

Figure Out When You Will Take The Test

First visit the CTC exams website and decide where/when you will be taking the test. Its a fairly easy application process, takes around 30 min to complete all the questions as long as you can actively remember all the high schools and college you have attended. Once you fill out the application you will be sent a notification that you may begin your actual registration. Prior to the registration you may look up where you wish to take the exam and the times currently available. Please be aware that the online version of the test is mainly provided on weekdays before 5:00 PM. There will be weekend options every so often, but you may need to skip work if you are employed in a 9 to 5. Use the link below to easily find the website if you haven't already:

Best Links For Studying

There are three sections on the CBEST: Mathematics (up to basic Algebra), Reading Comprehension, and Writing. Both the math and reading section are 50 questions long and the writing section requires you to write 2 essays. One topic will be entirely opinion based that only requires you to pull example from your personal history to prove the point; while the other will still be based on forming an opinion about the topic, but may require outside information to back it up.

When you start your studying I highly recommend starting with math. Most of the problems can easily be reviewed, but if you haven't seen school-like algebra problems for awhile you may need a good amount of studying (one week). In order to start my studying, I relied on the ever-impressing Google Search tool. Basically, I typed in "studying for the CBEST" or "online CBEST tests." Unfortunately, there were many tests and sites to weed through before I found anything useful. In addition to this trouble, some of the sites I thought were going to be useful actually had no correlation to the test itself.

Therefore! To make it easier on everyone, I decided to put together a list of the useful, and relevant to the actual test, links.

1. The most obvious and extremely helpful website is the CTC Preparation page itself. This page offers you three practice tests (one for each section) that are extremely similar to the actual test (as expected). What is also really neat about this page is that it offers the test in both computer-simulated format (for all of you who will be taking the online version) and also a PDF file if you do not wish to stare at a screen. Whats really exciting is that both the reading and math section in the practice have 50 questions; therefore, allowing you to be able to time yourself correctly for the real deal.

2. The second best site is Union Test Prep. They offer a study guide for each subject (extremely useful for those who have forgotten basic algebraic topics; we can't all be expected to remember the little details). There are 22 math problems and 27 reading problems available. All of these problems are similar to the ones found on the actual CBEST test and with each problem the site provides an explanation. This explanation based format is what makes this site top notch for your studying. Unfortunately, the writing section has nothing to do with the CBEST writing material. It can be useful for those wishing to enhance their vocabulary or practice sentence structure, but there are no prompts provided.

I highly recommend using the (1) Math and Reading study guides and practice tests and (2) the flashcards for all subjects. Don't bother with the writing sections here unless your vocabulary needs work with the practice test.

3. The third helpful site is the Study Guide Zone. This site is ranked third mainly due to its formatting. All of the questions provided are simply written on the page without special effects or an intriguing arrangement. Additionally, be weary of the answers being written so obviously on the bottom of the page for there is a high chance you it may ruin your studying.

Their specific reading and math sections are not very useful since they only have 10 questions each and these are extremely similar to the two previous websites mentioned above. Although, the extra practice is always good and the questions come with an explanation for each answer.

The most useful part included in this website can be found by scrolling down to the "Math Practice Questions" blue link, clicking it, and then scrolling down the following page where you can find the blue link "CBEST Practice Questions."

This is where the beauty of this site comes alive! All the different modules provide questions and examples to help you study for the CBEST! The only sections that I found relevant to the actual CBEST math section were the Algebra modules (of course), Fractions and Square Roots, Percents and Ratios, and definitely Estimation and Sequences. Concerning the English modules, I found the Author's Purpose, Basic and Advanced Reading Comprehension, and Reading for the Main Idea sections to help the most.

Which Website Did You Find The Most Useful?

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Writing Section

The writing section is possibly the trickiest to study for. Both questions will be opinion-based/argumentative and only require you to write 500 words. You will need to provide evidence for your opinions, so don't forget to include the "why you believe this" aspect of the essay. During my exam I was given one question concerning a current social issue that had two respectable sides for the argument and I was asked to choose a side and provide information defending my decision. The second essay topic was related to my personal experiences. This one was much harder, solely because I did not have a direct personal experience that could answer the question with 500 words. If this happens to you don't be afraid to embellish. You may not want to make up the entire essay, but the ability to add small non-truths can swing your writing more towards the topic provided.

When searching for example prompts I came across a PDF provided by the NY Times (who knew they could actually be useful) that provides numerous (NUMEROUS) potential topics. Now, you DO NOT need to try and answer any of these prompts, or even think too hard about them, but you can use the PDF to prepare you for the types of social concerns you will be given. All of these roughly relate to currently discussed issues of this day and age (social media, school times, rising/fallen sport heroes) and are definite possibilities for the CBEST exam.

The link can be found below and to get to the PDF you will need to click on the blue link labeled "PDF of there 301 prompts."

Honestly, the best way to "study" for the writing section is to read. Before my exam i read two separate novels in order to understand proper writing formats again. By reading you will enhance your vocabulary, sentence and paragraph structuring, and gain insight into current writing techniques.

Remember, make sure you form several (at least 4-5) paragraphs, use proper grammar (if you start in past tense, stay in past tense), and always double check your spelling.

Read To Improve Your Score

Reach For Success

By using these three websites, studying daily for a week (or two), and reading your novels you will be passing the CBEST in no time!

Good Luck!


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