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What is the CSET Exam?

Instructor: Bill Sands
The CSET is a series of exams administered to prospective teachers in California. Learn more about the structure, format, and scoring system for these tests and how to prepare for them.

About the CSET

In order to assess the preparedness of aspiring teachers, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) developed a series of tests. Known as the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), these tests verify prospective K-12 teachers' command of essential subject matter, and passing scores are among the requirements for certification.

CSET Test Types

Exam requirements vary depending on the subjects and grade levels in which teachers wish to earn certification. The following are among the types of tests required of most teachers:

  • Basic Skills: The basic skills test requirement is used to verify that a teacher has mastered fundamental reading and writing skills. Candidates have multiple options for fulfilling this requirement, including passing all subsections of both the Multiple Subjects and Writing Skills tests.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Subject Matter: NCLB is a federal mandate that requires all new teachers to demonstrate proficiency in the areas they wish to teach. Teachers looking to earn the Multiple Subject credential required to teach elementary school in California must take the Multiple Subjects exam. Aspiring middle, secondary and K-12 teachers looking for Single Subject certification must sit for the CSET exam related to their teaching area. These tests are available in subjects ranging from agriculture and physical education to general science and mathematics. There are even more esoteric subject tests that focus on foreign languages, such as Punjabi and Farsi.

Exam Content and Format

CSET tests are developed by committee, with each test being created by educators, administrators, and state education agencies. The test is intended to closely mirror content found in school curricula, and questions will also reflect the goals and objectives of Common Core standards and California's own academic standards.

Most exams consist of a series of subtests, which are concentrated on specific aspects of a given subject. The duration as well as the number and type of questions are unique for each one, though many consist of multiple-choice and constructed response questions.

CSET Scoring

CSET tests are what's known as criterion referenced. In other words, these tests are graded based on an established scale. The performance of other students will not affect individual test results. Candidates must score at least a 220 on each subtest in order to pass.

Scores are typically not available until at least two weeks after your testing appointment. The release dates vary from exam to exam, but you can check the exact day you can expect to receive results once you've selected a test date.

Preparing for the CSET

Regardless of which test you wish to sit for, each CSET assessment requires extensive preparation and studying.

The CTC website contains plenty of useful information, including a breakdown of the scoring system, examples of questions used on past exams, and practice tests. Candidates can use the sample questions to gain an understanding of how CSET questions are formatted, and the practice tests are an excellent means of assessing strengths, weaknesses, and overall preparedness.

Outside of the CTC, Study.com offers several practice and review guides for multiple CSET exams. These resources also include practice quizzes and tests in addition to self-paced video lessons:

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