CBEST Writing Tips

Tips for Taking the CBEST Writing Subtest

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) uses the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) to ensure that prospective teachers in the state have sufficient mathematics, reading and writing skills to be effective educators. In many cases, it is essential that individuals pass all three of these subtests to earn certification, and there are some specific preparation strategies that individuals taking the CBEST Writing subtest can use to ensure they're ready on test day.

Tip 1: Clarify the Focus of the Writing Subtest

When you're taking an exam, it helps if you understand its purpose. There is a notable difference between completing an essay that will demonstrate whether you understand a specific educational philosophy, for example, and an essay that is designed to solely evaluate your writing skills. The CBEST Writing subtest is not used to evaluate how well you understand any specific facts. The test is used to determine if you can clearly express information in a logical manner. Some of the key factors that are considered when the writing subtest is evaluated include:

  • Your ability to express a clear position or focus
  • Your ability to write about your topic by using relevant examples or information
  • Your ability to follow English language rules
  • How well you did at following a logical pattern of thought

Tip 2: Access Reputable Study Materials

To ensure you use information that is reliable when you are preparing for the CBEST Writing subtest, it is important to look at resources offered from reputable sources.

Study Guides: This CBEST Test Prep: Practice & Study Guide contains 131 lessons. It is intended to help individuals who are preparing to take all three CBEST subtests, including the writing exam. If you wish to focus exclusively on studying for the writing subtest, you can complete the 56 lessons offered in the CBEST Writing: Practice & Study Guide.

Practice Tests: The CTC exams website has a preparation materials page for every type of certification test that it offers, including the CBEST. From this page, you can access a CBEST Writing subtest practice exam. Taking this practice test is one way to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you could be asked on the CBEST Writing subtest. Comparing your essays to scored sample responses is also an effective way to clarify the test objectives and determine your ability to produce material that meets the expectations of the educators who grade CBEST Writing subtests.

Tip 3: Use Writing Apps

Programs, such as Word, contain spelling and grammar check capabilities. There are also free spelling and grammar check apps online that can be used to evaluate a piece of writing. It can be a good idea to run some of your written material through these apps to identify common spelling or grammatical errors that you can work to correct before taking the CBEST Writing subtest.

Tip 4: Work With a Study Group

Unlike multiple-choice questions that are either answered correctly or incorrectly, the constructed-response questions on the writing subtest are assessed by educators. It's a good idea to work with other individuals preparing for the writing subtest and have them review your sample test answers while you review theirs against the test objectives. This strategy can help you clearly identify issues you may have in your writing, such as failing to stay on topic or not providing examples that support your position.

A General Study Group Plan

Following these steps with your study group is one way to get ready to take a timed writing exam and determine how well you satisfy the scoring criteria that will be used on the CBEST Writing exam.

  • Step 1: Work with your study group to find or create several sample test questions for each part of the writing subtest.
  • Step 2: Group the sample questions for analyzing a scenario in one pile and the sample questions for writing about a personal experience in another pile.
  • Step 3: Determine which question type you will work on.
  • Step 4: Set a timer for 40 minutes.
  • Step 5: Start the timer and randomly pick a sample question from the appropriate test question pile.
  • Step 6: Write your answer.
  • Step 7: Stop when the timer stops.
  • Step 8: Exchange answers with another person in your study group.
  • Step 9: Evaluate your study group member's answer against the CBEST Writing subtest objectives.
  • Step 10: Review your study group member's evaluation of your answer.
  • Step 11: Identify areas to focus on to improve your performance.

Tip 5: Be Aware of First-Time Pass Rate on the CBEST Writing Subtest

Each year from the 2012-2013 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, the CBEST subtest with the lowest passing rate on the first attempt was the CBEST Writing test. During the six most recent school years with test data available, 79.2% to 81.5% of first-time test-takers passed the CBEST Reading subtest, and 78.3% to 80% of first-time test-takers passed the CBEST Mathematics subtest. Only 66.9% to 75.1% of individuals passed the CBEST Writing subtest on their first attempt, which indicates that this is the most challenging subtest for many test-takers.

The fact that there are only two questions on the CBEST Writing subtest may give some individuals the mistaken idea that this test is easier and requires less study time. The lower first-time passing rates on this subtest indicate that individuals may underestimate the difficulty of this subtest or fail to adequately prepare for it. Remembering the lower passing rate for this subtest can help ensure you stay motivated to study effectively before your exam date.

Continue reading: CSET Math Pass Rates

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.

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