What is the CBEST? for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 5)
This lesson provides the Who, What, When, Where, and How of the CBEST—those all-important details such as who has to take the exam, what it's used for and what's on it, when and where it's given, how it's scored, and how to register.
California Education Code (Section 44252) requires that teachers, administrators, and other school practitioners demonstrate adequate proficiency, in English, of three basic skills: reading, mathematics, and writing. Administered by National Evaluation Systems, Inc. (NES®), the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST®) was created to assess and verify these skills. The CBEST is not a measurement of teaching abilities or skills; it is a tool for measuring proficiency in the more fundamental, necessary skills as previously indicated—skills used by all school practitioners at the elementary, secondary, and adult education levels.
By law, the CBEST provides separate scores in each of these three areas, and acceptable scores must be achieved in each area to meet the requirements of the code relative to credentialing and employment in California and Oregon.
In July 1984, the CBEST guideline was adopted by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC).Within six months, satisfactory CBEST scores were made mandatory for initial licensure in Oregon as a teacher, personnel specialist, or administrator. The CBEST test requirement is additional to other licensing requirements as set forth in the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS, Chapter 342) and the Oregon Rules for Licensure of Teachers, Personnel Specialists, and Administrators (OAR, Chapter 584).
Who Must Take the CBEST?
In California, you are required to take the CBEST if any one of the following provisions applies to you:
- You are applying for a teaching or services credential for the first time.
- You are applying for issuance or renewal of an Emergency Permit (unless you already hold a valid California teaching credential for which a bachelor's degree is required).
- If you have not taught during the 39 months prior to new employment, the CBEST may also be a condition of employment under ECS 44830. If you are uncertain whether the CBEST is required in the school district where you are considering employment, contact the district directly.
- You are applying for admission to either a teacher-preparation or services-credential program approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) (unless you already hold a valid California teaching credential for which a bachelor's degree is required).
Oregon requires passing CBEST scores prior to initial credentialing as a teacher, personnel specialist, or administrator, unless one of the following provisions is met:
- You can document five years of full-time, licensed employment in public schools in another state.
- You already hold one type of Oregon license and are a first-time applicant for a license of a different type. For example, an Oregon-licensed teacher who applies for an initial personnel specialist license does not need CBEST scores.
- You give evidence of passing scores on Praxis I or the NTE Core Battery Test of Communication Skills and General Knowledge.
Who Is Exempt from the CBEST?
In California, you are exempt from taking the CBEST for the following kinds of employment:
- Instructor of adults in an apprenticeship program
- Teacher in a children's center or a development center
- Teacher in any subject for which a bachelor's degree is not required
- Provider of health services, unless you are also required to teach
- Student teacher status, which requires a Certificate of Clearance
- Educational Specialist in Deaf and Hearing Impaired or School Counseling Services, where the individual seeking employment is prelingually deaf. Service under this option is limited to state special schools or to classes for students who are deaf or hearing impaired. However, those who choose this option are required to complete a job-related assessment in lieu of the CBEST.
- Any position in which a valid, non-emergency California teaching credential is held that requires a bachelor's degree, and for which CBEST is not required for renewal
- Any position that requires the renewal or reissuance of a clear, or professional clear, credential
NOTE: CBEST states that candidates wishing to obtain an Exchange Credential, a Sojourn Credential, or a credential based upon the completion of a teacher preparation program outside of California may obtain an initial teaching credential without meeting the CBEST requirement. All such candidates must pass the CBEST, however, during the first year of validity of the initial credential.
In Oregon, you may be granted a two-year (24-month) exemption from the CBEST requirement if you have not yet passed the CBEST, but are otherwise qualified for licensure.
The CBEST waiver is only granted upon request of the employing school superintendent or school board in the event that (1) attempts were made to hire a properly licensed educator, but were unsuccessful, and that (2) the position is necessary for the school to operate normally. However, exemption can be granted without district request to candidates from states with reciprocal agreements in Oregon—such an exemption is nonrenewable. For further licensure, passing scores on the CBEST must be presented by the candidate.
What Types of Questions Are on the CBEST?
The CBEST is comprised of three separate sections: (1) Reading, which consists of 50 multiple-choice questions; (2) Mathematics, which consists of 50 multiple-choice questions; and (3) Writing, which consists of two essay subjects.
Questions in the Reading section are derived from two important skill areas: critical thinking/argument analysis and research/comprehension. Drawn from a variety of fields, such as humanities, the social sciences, consumer affairs, or health, CBEST questions are based on passages that vary in degree of difficulty and complexity, and are designed to assess the test taker's ability to evaluate and comprehend the information presented. Some passages are longer (200 words or more); some are shorter (about 100 words). Some may be statements of one or two sentences, while others may even be tables or graphs. Every question is based on a particular passage, table, or graph. None requires prior knowledge, and all of the questions can be answered on the basis of the information provided.
The Mathematics section is mostly comprised of questions—presented as word problems—that evaluate your ability to solve mathematical problems. The questions are designed to assess three major skill areas: estimation, measurement, and statistical principles; computation and problem solving; and numerical and graphic relationships.
The Writing section is comprised of two essay subjects—both of which you must respond to—that are designed to assess your ability to write coherently, authoritatively, and persuasively. In one of the essays, you will be asked to analyze a situation or statement, while the other requires a written response relating to a personal experience. Your essays must be written in your own words, and you must write only on the topics presented. All points in both essays must address the assigned topic, and should be aimed at a specific audience. Essay responses must support any assertions with specific, relevant details and examples. The key to success here is to stay specific—do not digress! For more detailed information on what it takes to write a high-scoring essay, see the section on Writing in the CBEST Mini-Course (Chapter 4). The criteria for scoring the CBEST essays is found on pages 60–61 and at the end of Chapter 5; many tips for successfully writing a "4" (Pass) essay are also found there.
How Long Does the CBEST Take?
When you take the CBEST, you have a total of four hours in which to complete the three sections. You do not need to complete all three sections in one four-hour sitting. However, the essays cannot be split up; both essays in the section must be completed in one sitting. You may choose to concentrate on one or two sections at any given test administration, reregister, and then work solely on a third section at a later date. If you choose this latter option, take note that regardless of the number of sections you are taking at any given sitting—even just one—the entire test fee is required, and you will be required to reregister each time.
If you choose to do the whole test in one four-hour sitting, know that you don't have to do the sections in any particular order. The test is not timed according to individual sections, so you may want to get the hardest sections out of the way first. You may want to do the essays first, because you can guess on the other sections if you run out of time. This may work to your advantage, because no points are deducted for guessing.
Doing the practice tests in this book, or taking advantage of the practice questions on the CD-ROM—which has the advantage of ease of use, and automatic, immediate test scores—will help you decide what is the best course of action for you on test day.
What Should I Bring to the Test Site?
Because of test security, few materials are allowed in the test-taking room. You will need to bring the following materials:
- Your admission ticket
- Several sharpened #2 pencils with erasers
- A current, government-issued photo ID with signature
Materials NOT permitted in the testing room (unless previously authorized or provided by NES) include:
- Scratch paper
- Cellular phones or other communication devices
- Alarm watches
- Unauthorized aids
- Food and drink
Bringing any prohibited materials to a test administration may result in your score(s) being voided. If you have questions or require more detailed information, call CBEST at 916-928-4001, from 7:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. Pacific Standard Time (PST).
What Is a Passing Score?
To pass the CBEST, you must pass all three sections of the CBEST. Raw scores can range from 1–50, and these are then converted to scaled scores ranging from 20–80. The passing scaled score on each section of the test is 41. You must achieve a minimum total score of 123 for the three sections (the sum of the Reading, Writing, and Mathematics scaled scores).
It is possible to pass the CBEST even if your scaled score in one or two sections is as low as 37, providing your total scaled score is 123 or higher. (Take note that regardless of how high your total scaled score might be, you will not pass the CBEST if, in any section, you get a scaled score lower than 37.)
What Do My Scores Mean?
You should receive your scores four to six weeks after the test date. For each section—Reading, Math, and Writing—your scores will tell whether or not you passed the section and will suggest areas within each section that you may need to improve. The score report will also include the highest score you have obtained so far in that section. A passing score on any part of the test means that you will not have to take that part of the CBEST again.
Retaking the Test
What happens if you fail, or fail to finish, one or more sections of the CBEST? Don't worry. You don't need to pass all three sections at the same time, nor is there a limit to the number of times you can retake any or all sections of the CBEST to achieve a passing score. Once you pass a section, you need never take that section again. However, you may wish to repeat a section already passed to achieve a higher score, if that higher score can help you reach the total score required to pass the entire CBEST.
Once you have passed the entire CBEST, you will never have to take it again. You need to pass the entire CBEST only once to qualify for the initial issuance or renewal of any teaching credential.
When Is the Test Given?
The CBEST is offered six times a year, once every two months, at various locations throughout California and Oregon. It is usually given on the first or second Saturday of the months of February, April, June, August, October, and December.
How Do I Register?
There are three periods of registration: Regular, Late, and Emergency; and three registration options: by mail, phone, or Internet.
For Regular Registration, you should register at least one month prior to the applicable test date. You can register either by mail or through the Internet; phone registration is not available for this option. If you register by mail, applications must be postmarked by the Regular Registration deadline, or received by the Late Registration deadline. If you register online, applications should be completed by 5:00 P.M. PST on the Regular Registration deadline.
For Late Registration (up to approximately two weeks prior to the test date), a late fee applies, and registration is granted on a space-available basis only. You may complete late registration by mail, phone, or Internet. If you are registering by mail, your completed materials must be received on or before the Late Registration deadline. If you register by phone, you must call before 5:00 P.M. PST on the Late Registration deadline. If you register online, your application must be finished by 5:00 P.M. PST on the Late Registration deadline.
For Emergency Registration (up to four days prior to the test), an additional late fee is charged, and registration is granted on a space-available basis only. You can register either by phone or Internet; mail registration is not available for this option. If you register by phone, you must call before 5:00 P.M. PST on the Emergency Registration deadline. If you are registering online, your application must be submitted by 5:00 P.M. PST on the Emergency Registration deadline. Emergency Registration limits you to ten test sites in California, and one in Oregon.
Alternative testing arrangements can be made for either religious reasons or for special needs accommodations. All requests for alternative testing arrangements must be postmarked by the Regular Registration deadline for the test date applied for. Be advised that registration deadlines are strictly enforced—and there are NO exceptions!
Whom Do I Contact with Questions?
For any questions, or more detailed information regarding registration procedures, test dates, or locations, contact:
- National Evaluation Systems, Inc.
- P.O. Box 340880
- Sacramento, CA 95834-0880
- Telephones are open 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. PST,
- Monday–Friday, excluding holidays; Saturday test
- dates only: 7:30 A.M.–3:30 P.M. PST
- Facsimile: 916-928-6110 (Note: Registration forms are not accepted by fax.)
- Automated Information System is available 24 hours daily: 800-262-5080
- CBEST website: www.cbest.nesinc.com
- Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD): 916-928-4191
- Telephones are open from 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. PST,
- Monday–Friday, excluding holidays; 7:30 A.M.–3:30 P.M.
- PST, Saturday test dates only.
- For Late and Emergency Registration services: 916-928-4001
- During phone-in registration periods, telephones are open
- from 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. PST, Monday–Friday,
- excluding holidays.
For more detailed information about CBEST policies in general, contact:
CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON TEACHER CREDENTIALING (CCTC)
- Attention: CBEST Project Officer
- P.O. Box 944270
- Sacramento, CA 94244-2700
- 916-445-7254; If outside the 916 area code, call toll free: 888-921-2682.
- Telephones are open 8:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. PST,
- Monday–Friday, excluding holidays.
- Automated Information System is available 24 hours daily.
- CCTC website: www.ctc.ca.gov
- (Please include postal address in any e-mail messages.)
- Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission
- 465 Commercial Street NE
- Salem, OR 97310
For more detailed information about CBEST test requirements in California and Oregon, or other questions:
- For college or university program admission in California, you can contact the department or school of education that you are interested in.
- For employment in California, you can contact the county school district's credentialing department, or office of education.
- For employment, or college or university Commission-approved program admission in Oregon, call the personnel office or the Education Service District, of the school district you are interested in, the Dean of Teacher Education at the university or college you are interested in, or the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
The CBEST probably will not be the hardest test you will be faced with in your life. For many, it will require some careful and thoughtful preparation. If you have completed four years of college, you will be able to pass the CBEST. Some of you may need extensive review first, and some of you may need private tutoring. If you are willing to put forth the effort, passing is possible!
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