CBEST Math Test Tips

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test is an important step toward acquiring your licensure as an educator. This lesson provides tips and strategies that will help you prepare for success on the exam.

Taking the CBEST Math Test

If you are preparing to become a teacher in the state of California, one of the things you will have to do is pass the credentialing exams, known as the CBEST tests. To become a math teacher, you will have to pass the CBEST math test. If you are feeling a little anxious about this exam, have no fear; it's is a perfectly normal response to such an important task! However, there are plenty of things you can do in advance to ensure that you are prepared for success on the test.

The tips in this lesson will help you understand what to expect on the CBEST Math Test, determine a preparation strategy that makes sense for you personally, and recall test-taking tips that work in general and certainly apply to this test.

Knowing What to Expect

As with any standardized test, understanding what to expect on testing day can make a big difference in helping you do well on the test. After all, when you understand what a test is going to ask of you, you do not need to waste time reading directions and you will not be caught off guard by any surprises in formatting or content!

The CBEST math test is comprised of three subtests.

  • Subtest I contains 35 multiple-choice questions and 3 constructed-response questions.
  • Subtest II contains 35 multiple-choice questions and 3 constructed-response questions.
  • Subtest III contains 30 multiple-choice questions and 2 constructed-response questions.

You will have two and a half hours for each of the first two tests, and two hours for the third. All of the subtests are computer-based.

What does this mean for you as you prepare? Well, it means that you need to plan to manage your time accordingly. Leave time to review your answers, particularly to the constructed-response test items.

It also means you need to build your stamina because overall, this is a long set of tests. Completing practice tests can make a big difference, as can building up your stamina for sitting in front of a computer screen and working for longer durations of time.

Mathematical Content

Part of knowing what to expect is understanding which types of math the test is looking at the most. In general, Subtest I covers number, quantity, and algebra. Subtest II covers geometry, probability and statistics, and Subtest III covers calculus. As you prepare, ask yourself these questions:

  • Of those branches of math, which one is my strongest area? With which one do I struggle the most? Spend the most time practicing problem sets from the strand where you tend to struggle most.
  • Which kinds of questions tend to take me the longest? What can I do to become a more efficient problem solver?

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