CBEST vs. CSET: What's the Difference?

Both the CBEST and CSET are examinations developed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) for prospective teachers in California. However, these two tests have some significant differences between them.

The CSET is a series of tests, each of which is related to the subject a teacher wishes to teach (examples include agriculture, mathematics, and various foreign languages). Passing scores on one of these exams are generally required to prove subject matter competence and qualify for teacher certification.

The CBEST is a single standardized test that measures an examinee's proficiency in mathematics, reading, and writing. It's one of the ways candidates can meet the basic skills requirement for teacher certification.

CBEST Content and Format

The CBEST is composed of three subtests: writing, reading, and mathematics. The reading and mathematics sections each contain 50 multiple-choice questions, while the writing component includes a pair of essays. Subtest content is broken down as follows:

  • CBEST Reading: Questions in the reading section are drawn from a series of written passages as well as graphical representations of data. They focus on two major skill areas: research & comprehension and critical analysis & evaluation.
  • CBEST Math: Math questions assess examines' problem-solving skills in the areas of basic arithmetic, estimation and measurement, statistical analysis, and graphical reasoning. Most questions come in the form of word problems and must be solved without the aid of a calculator.
  • CBEST Writing: One of the writing section's essay prompts asks candidates to describe their personal experience with a given topic, while the other asks for an analysis of a provided argument or situation. These prompts do not require test takers to rely on outside knowledge. Students will need to use their expository and argumentative writing skills, but they will not need to memorize information beforehand.

Students are not required to take the test all at once. While they certainly may take all three sections in one 4-hour sitting, they can also split the test up into multiple sessions if that is the more comfortable option.

CSET Content and Format

Prospective teachers take the CSET subject test required for certification in the subject area and grade level they plan on teaching. Certification candidates looking for an alternative to the CBEST exam can also take the CSET Multiple Subjects and CSET Writing Skills tests to fulfill the basic skills requirement.

These exams usually consist of about three subtests, and the format varies depending on the subject matter. Test takers can expect to encounter multiple-choice and/or constructed-response questions, although the exact amount will be different for each exam. Some tests require the submission of extra materials; the CSET Art, for example, requires students to submit a portfolio.

The exams are developed in conjunction with California state standards, and content will reflect material found on curricula used in the state's public schools.

Preparing for the Tests

In addition to the test outlines, sample questions, and practice tests provided by the CTC, prospective teachers can take advantage of Study.com's extensive set of preparation materials for both the CSET and the CBEST.

This CBEST Study Guide includes video lessons and self-checking quizzes that provide a comprehensive review of exam material, while the following courses can be used to focus on each section:

Study.com also has CSET Study Guides for a variety of subjects.

Click the following link to view a complete list of Study.com's CBEST and CSET practice tests.

There are a number of tests that are part of the CSET test family. This article looks at different resources that can be used to study for CSET tests as well as useful test prep information.

Take the CSET/CBEST exam with confidence
Try our test prep resources risk-free today and achieve the test score you want

CSET/CBEST Scholarship

Need help paying for the CSET/CBEST Exam?

Our CSET/CBEST scholarship could be yours!

Learn more