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Pre-Admission Content Tests: CBEST & CSET

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1.3 hours

Pre-Admission Content Tests: CBEST & CSET

Learn about the exams you need to take, and how to prepare and report your scores

COVID-19 Update: Many Praxis tests can now be taken at home. Learn more from ETS.

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If you have any questions about your required exams or this process, visit Support or reach out to teacher preparation program (TPP) staff for support.


Here's a bit of background on the exams you may need to take to gain admission to a teacher preparation program.

Required Tests: CBEST & CSET

To apply for your TPP, you will need to prove mastery of basic skills in reading, writing and math, and you’ll need to show you’ve mastered content in your chosen subject area. This generally requires two tests: The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Out-of-state educators applying for certification in California must have their credentials reviewed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). Out-of-state educators may still need to take the CBEST, CSET or both.

CBEST — The Basic Skills Test

For your basic skills requirement, many applicants take the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). This test includes sections on reading, writing and math. You’ll need to score a 41 on each section, though you can score as low as 37 on a section if your overall scaled score is at least 123.

The CBEST is not the only option to meet California’s basic skills requirement. Your SAT, ACT, AP or other test scores may satisfy this requirement as well. To find out whether you should sign up for the CBEST, your best bet is to talk to your TPP staff about your specific situation. They can guide you in the right direction. 

CSET — The Subject Matter Competency Test

Whether you want to teach middle school art, AP Physics or third grade everything,  there’s a subject area test for that! To demonstrate competence in your grade level or subject area, the most widely used option is the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Like the CBEST, check with your TPP staff if you think you may have met this requirement without taking the CSET. If you completed undergraduate or post-baccalaureate coursework from an approved waiver program, you may be all set. 

Choose Your CSET Tests

The right CSET for you depends on your program and teaching interests. You will need to take one or more subtests depending on your subject and grade level. See examples below for common teaching assignments and the associated CSET subtests. You can find a full list of single-subject credential tests on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website.

Teaching Subject Teaching Subject

Multiple Subjects Test:

  • Subtest I: Reading, Language, Literature, History and Social Science
  • Subtest II: Science and Mathematics
  • Subtest III: P.E., Human Development, and Arts

You may also need to take:

  • Writing Skills: If you take the writing skills test and pass, this meets the basic skills requirement. In other words, you won’t need to take the CBEST.
Secondary English English Test:
  • Subtest I: Literature, Composition and Rhetoric
  • Subtest II: English Language; Linguistics, and Literacy
  • Subtest III: Literature, Composition and Rhetoric (essays)
  • Subtest IV: Communications; Creative Performance
Secondary Foundation Level General Science Science Test:
  • Subtest I: General Sciences
Secondary Life Sciences, Chemistry or Physics Science Test:
  • Subtest I: General Sciences
  • Subtest II: Choose from the subtests in your specific field (Life Sciences, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences, or Physics)
Secondary Foundation Level Math Math Test:
  • Subtest I: Algebra; Number Theory
  • Subtest II: Geometry; Probability and Statistics
Secondary Mathematics Math Test:
  • Subtest I: Algebra; Number Theory
  • Subtest II: Geometry; Probability and Statistics
  • Subtest III: Calculus
Secondary Music Music Test:
  • Subtest I: Artistic Perception; Historical and Cultural Foundations; Aesthetic Valuing
  • Subtest II: Creative Expression; Connections, and Applications
  • Subtest III: Music Methodology and Repertoire

CSET Registration & Fees

In many cases, you’ll complete a separate registration and pay a separate fee for each CSET subtest. Some subjects allow you to schedule the required subtests individually or all at once with a single fee. 

For example, for the multiple subject test, you can schedule three different test dates, lasting two to three hours each, or schedule a single, five-hour test date. This single-session administration will save you some money on fees, but if a five-hour test sounds daunting, we recommend you sign up for separate dates. You know what’s best for you!

Know When & How to Register

Check with your TPP to find out when you need to have taken and passed the basic skills test and content exams. Some require that you take and pass one or both tests before you submit your application, while others allow you to submit proof of registration for the tests when you apply.

Get Registered for CBEST & CSET

Once you know which exam you’re taking, head over to the CTC online registration system. There, you will:

  1. Click Register Now.
  2. Select Create and Account Now.
  3. Enter your personal information.
  4. When you get to  Program Selection, choose CBEST or CSET.
  5. If you choose the CSET, you’ll select the specific test you want to take on the next page. You can add multiple subsections on this page. So, if you want to take all available subsections for your subject, make sure to add them all during this step.
  6. Choose your test date.
  7. Choose where you want your score reports sent. CTC offers pull-down menus for all California TPPs!
  8. Follow the prompts to complete the background information.
  9. Click Add to Cart then Check Out to pay for your exam. 

Prepare for the Tests

There are some universal things you can do to prepare for your tests. There are also more specific study guides available based on the subject areas and grade levels you’re interested in. We cover them both below.

Remember: You’re taking these tests for a reason. You want to become a teacher in a specific subject, and this is your chance to prove you can handle it. Take the time necessary to truly understand the information. You’ll thank yourself for it (and your students will thank you, too).

We recommend a two-pronged approach to structuring your study time:

  1. Create a work-back schedule. Start by writing down the day of the tests. Then, outline the steps you need to accomplish before that end date: 
    1. Research test prep resources. Check out the next section for our recommendations.
    2. Study your subject matter area. This is where the bulk of your time will be spent. Don't rush it.
    3. Take practice exams. Even when you know the information, you'll need to get used to the test-maker's phrasing and topical area distribution.
  2. Make smart right-before-the-test choices. These are the obvious ones: Get plenty of sleep the night before, eat a decent breakfast the day of, bring a water bottle and show up early. Hanging outside the testing center 20 extra minutes is better than causing your brain undue stress minutes before having to think critically.

Test Prep Resources

There are a number of test prep options available from the test-makers directly, and some third-party services have come up with options, too. These resources offer a variety of prep strategies, from study guides and practice tests to one-on-one coaching.

  • Provided by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)

    The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) administers and provides prep materials for the CBEST and the CSET. Head over to their “Prepare” site and choose the test you plan to take.

    CBEST Materials

    On the CTC’s CBEST prep site, you’ll find resources that outline the structure and content of the test, plus an interactive practice test you can take online. Prefer to break out your pencil? There’s PDF versions of test sections too.

    CSET Materials

    CSET Test Guides provide an overview of test subsections and an extensive annotated bibliography of resources recommended by California educators.  You’ll also find sample test questions for each subtest.

    To find the Test Guide and practice questions for your subtests, choose your subject from the dropdown list on the CTC’s “Prepare” site.

  • Preparation Materials for Similar Exams

    Although they may not be identical to the CSET, you may find it helpful to review materials for Praxis exams in your subject area. Praxis tests are administered by ETS, the same organization that administers the GRE, TOEFL and other nationwide tests. Many states use Praxis tests to show subject matter competency, so you may benefit from ETS’s Praxis prep guides and interactive practice tests:

    • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics (5732)
    • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading (5712)
    • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing (5722)
    • Agriculture (5701)
    • Algebra I (5162)
    • Art: Content and Analysis (5135)
    • Art: Content Knowledge (5134)
    • Audiology (5342)
    • Braille Proficiency (0633)
    • Business Education: Content Knowledge (5101)
    • Chinese (Mandarin): World Language (5665)
    • Citizenship Education: Content Knowledge (5087)
    • Computer Science (5651)
    • Early Childhood Education (5025)
    • Earth and Space Sciences: Content Knowledge (5571)
    • Economics (5911)
    • Education of Young Children (5024)
    • Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision (5411)
    • Elementary Education: Applied Content Knowledge for Teaching (7901)
    • Elementary Education: Content Knowledge (5018)
    • Elementary Education: Content Knowledge for Teaching (7801)
    • Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (5017)
    • Elementary Education: Instructional Practice and Applications (5019)
    • Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001)
    • English Language Arts: Content Knowledge (5038)
    • English to Speakers of Other Languages (5362)
    • Family and Consumer Sciences (5122)
    • French: World Language (5174)
    • Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge (5511)
    • Geography (5921)
    • German: World Language (5183)
    • Gifted Education (5358)
    • Government/Political Science (5931)
    • Health and Physical Education: Content Knowledge (5857)
    • Health Education (5551)
    • Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (5023)
    • Journalism (5223)
    • Latin (5601)
    • Library Media Specialist (5311)
    • Marketing Education (5561)
    • Middle School: Content Knowledge (5146)
    • Music: Content and Instruction (5114)
    • Music: Content Knowledge (5113)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Core Assessment (5152)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Core Assessment: Pedagogy (5153)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Core Assessment: English Language Arts and Social Studies (5154)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Mathematics and Science (5155)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Subject Concentration: English Language Arts (5156)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Subject Concentration: Mathematics (5158)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Subject Concentration: Science (5159)
    • PA Grades 4-8 Subject Concentration: Social Studies (5157)
    • Physical Education: Content and Design (5095)
    • Physical Education: Content Knowledge (5091)
    • Physics: Content Knowledge (5265)
    • Pre-Kindergarten Education (5531)
    • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood (5621)
    • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades K-6 (5622)
    • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 5-9 (5623)
    • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12 (5624)
    • Professional School Counselor (5421)
    • Psychology (5391)
    • Reading for Virginia Educators: Elementary and Special Education (5306)
    • Reading for Virginia Educators: Reading Specialist (5304)
    • Reading Specialist (5301)
    • School Psychologist (5402)
    • Social Studies: Content and Interpretation (5086)
    • Social Studies: Content Knowledge (5081)
    • Sociology (5952)
    • Spanish: World Language (5195)
    • Special Ed: Core Knowledge and Mild to Moderate Applications (5543)
    • Special Ed: Core Knowledge and Severe to Profound Applications (5545)
    • Special Ed: Preschool/Early Childhood (5691)
    • Special Ed: Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students (5272)
    • Special Ed: Teaching Speech to Students w/ Language Impairments (5881)
    • Special Ed: Teaching Students w/ Behav. Disorders/Emot. Disturbances (5372)
    • Special Ed: Teaching Students w/ Learning Disabilities (5383)
    • Special Ed: Teaching Students w/ Intellectual Disabilities (5322)
    • Special Ed: Teaching Students w/ Visual Impairments (5282)
    • Speech Communication: Content Knowledge (5221)
    • Speech-Language Pathology (5331)
    • Teaching Reading (5204)
    • Teaching Reading: Elementary Education (5203)
    • Technology Education (5051)
    • Theatre (5641)
    • World and U.S. History: Content Knowledge (5941)
    • World Languages Pedagogy (5841)
  • Provided by Third Parties

    Finally, there are a number of additional free and paid options for getting prepped for the CSET.

    • UC Irvine offers free online prep course for the CSET single-subject math and science tests through their UCI Open platform.
    • Head to your local library and check out CSET prep books from test prep gurus like Kaplan or Cliffs Notes. (If you’re planning to mark up your book, you should probably buy the book instead!)
    • National University offers paid test prep programs online and at their San Diego campus.
    • Check your county’s department of education for test prep offerings. For example, the Tulare County Office of Education offers several CSET workshops.

    While we haven’t personally vetted the resources below, you might find some of these useful. A few programs even advertise guaranteed results:

Take the Tests

You’ve settled on a content area, verified which test is required for your program application, studied hard, and now you’re ready to take the test.

Make sure you:

  • Verify your test location. Even if you think you know where your exam is being held, double-check that the test center schedule hasn’t changed.
  • Bring required materials, which may include a printed admission ticket, your ID, a calculator or other materials.
  • Dress in layers. Test centers can be chilly, and you’d rather be able to remove a jacket than be uncomfortably cold for the duration of your exam.
  • Show up early. You will not be admitted if you miss your reporting time.

See CTC’s Day of the Test resource page for the nitty-gritty.

View & Share Your Scores

Find out how you did—and make sure your program does, too!

Viewing Your Results

Paper scores are so yesterday. Get yours by email by selecting this option when you register. You can also access your test results online.

To find out when your score will be available, review the Test Results Release Dates section of the Get Results page, and then choose your test from the list. When they’re available, head back to the Get Results website to see how you did.

Reporting Your Scores

Generally, you will report your scores on your online application itself. (Your checklist has a step for this!) In some cases, submitting your “score report” will be part of the required paperwork during a program’s onboarding process.

  • Download templates and example content for your application.
  • Get best practices from the experts in education.
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