The California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST) evaluates test takers on their Reading, Writing, and Mathematics skills as a part of the certification process for teaching at public schools. CBEST results are evaluated by adding up the individual scores from each section on the test; in other words, a test taker would get CBEST scores for each section, and then those scores would be added together for the complete CBEST results. CBEST test scores for each section are scaled from 20 to 80, with the CBEST Reading and CBEST Math being scored based on the number of correct answers on multiple-choice questions. The Writing section is scored based on the evaluation of an essay. Each section must have a minimum scaled score of 41, and the total test score must be at least 123; there are some exceptions to this, and we'll cover them below. To obtain a CBEST passing score, you must pass all 3 sections of the test.
How Are CBEST Scores Scaled?
Each section of the CBEST test has a scaled score that test takers must meet in order to pass. The Reading and Mathematics sections are skill-based tests, with multiple-choice questions available to answer. Your CBEST scaled score for these sections is determined by how many questions you answer correctly. With each question you get right, your score gets higher on the scale. Each scaled score in the skill areas will help you determine where your strengths and weaknesses are, which can help you if you end up needing to retake the test. The score scale is from 20-80, and a designation area tells you how well you performed. For example, if you scored a 40 on the mathematics section, it means you only answered some of the questions correctly. There are 4 designation areas that tell you how well you performed, with each area based on numbers from the scores scale. They are:
If you answered most of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 61-80)
If you answered many of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 41-60)
If you answered some of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 31-40)
If you answered few or none of the questions correctly (scaled skill area score of 20-30)
The CBEST Writing is scaled differently since it is based on the quality of two essays and not a specific set of questions. The CBEST Writing score is scaled from 1-4, with 1 being the worst performance and 4 being the best. Each essay is scored twice, so an essay can have a score ranging from 2-8. The results of each essay are then added together, with a total score ranging from 4-16. This is then converted to a scaled score of 20-80. Below are the scaled score areas for the Writing section and what they signal about your essay:
Score of '4'; indicates a well-formed writing sample with effective communication
Score of '3'; indicates an adequate writing sample with some communication
Score of '2'; indicates a partially-formed writing sample with an attempt at communication
Score of '1'; indicates an inadequately-formed writing sample with little to no communication
CBEST Result Dates
There are two testing options for CBEST test takers; the computer-based test and the online proctored test. The computer-based test is taken at a designated testing center, while the online proctored test can be done from home, so long as you have the right software. The result dates vary by the type of test you take and when you take it. Appointments to take the computer-based test are available Monday-Saturday year-round, but appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis. For those who prefer CBEST online proctoring, appointments are only available for one week each month.
Those who take the computer-based test at a designated location can receive preliminary test scores on the Reading and Mathematics sections as soon as they finish the test. Online-proctored candidates will not receive any preliminary test results. Both types of tests will have scores ready to report within 2 weeks of the date of the test; there may be a delay of up to 2 weeks for online-proctored candidates. Although there is a 2-week window for results, CBEST test results are typically reported based on testing periods. For example, candidates who took the test within a specific time period can expect to receive their scores by a specific date.
Below is a list of some available testing periods and their test result dates for the computer-based test:
Test Results Date
Since the online-proctored test is only available for one week a month, their testing periods and results dates are different than the computer-based test. A list of dates is below:
Test Results Date
Week of June 28, 2021
July 9, 2021
Week of July 26, 2021
August 6, 2021
Week of August 23, 2021
September 3, 2021
Week of September 20, 2021
October 1, 2021
Week of October 18, 2021
October 29, 2021
Week of November 15, 2021
November 29, 2021
Week of December 13, 2021
December 27, 2021
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The CBEST test scores are an indicator of your overall knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. There are two types of scores: the CBEST raw score and the CBEST scaled score. The raw score is how many questions you've answered correctly out of the total of 50 questions; the scaled score is the results you get when the raw scores are converted to the scaled scores. Scaled scores range from 20-80, with 80 being the best score you can earn.
The CBEST writing score is scaled differently. Each candidate must write 2 essays and each essay will receive a score of 1-4. However, each essay is scored twice, so the total score of both essays can range from 4-16. Then, the scores are converted into a scaled score of 20-80, just like the scores on the reading and mathematics sections.
Passing Scores for the CBEST
Each section of the test has its own passing score that candidates will need to meet. The scores for each section are added together to form a total scaled score. Candidates must meet or exceed each section score in order to earn a total passing score. The CBEST math passing score is a scaled score of 41; the CBEST reading passing score is also 41, and so is the passing scaled score for the writing section. In total, a candidate must have a scaled score of at least 123 to pass the CBEST exam.
There are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to passing section scores. It is possible for candidates to pass the test with a minimum score of 37 in one or two sections as long as their total score is 123 or higher. For example, if a candidate has a 37 on the mathematics section, but their reading and writing scores are high enough that their total scaled score is at least 123, they will still pass the CBEST test. However, if a candidate has a score below 37 on any of the sections, they have failed the test and must retake it, even if their total scaled score was 123 or higher. If a candidate obtains a passing score (41 or higher) on any section of the CBEST, they do not need to repeat that section. It may be to their advantage, however, to repeat a section that has received a passing score. An increase might help a test taker reach the total score of 123 required to pass the CBEST. For this exam, the highest score received on each section, regardless of when the section was taken, will be used to calculate the overall CBEST score.
What Is the Average CBEST Score?
You may be asking yourself, 'what is a good CBEST score?' or 'what is the average CBEST score?' While the average CBEST score cannot be calculated because individual test results are not reported, there is data available for the CBEST passing rate. A passing rate is a percentage that is calculated from the total number of tests passed versus the total number of tests taken. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reports that in the 2016-2017 testing year, the CBEST first-time passing rate was 66.8%. This means that about 67% of candidates passed the test on their first try. For that same year, the cumulative passing rate was 76.2%. This means that overall, about 76% of candidates passed the test, first time or not.
Data were also collected on each section's passing rate. For the 2016-2017 testing year, 80% of candidates passed the reading section their first time, and 83.1% passed overall. For the mathematics section, 78.3% passed on their first try, and 82.3% passed overall. For the writing section, 66.9% of candidates passed on their first try, and 71.6% passed overall.
How Are Raw Scores Converted?
The process of converting raw scores into scaled scores involves using the formula: (raw score + 15)/2 = scaled score. Your raw score is the total number of questions you answered correctly. The maximum raw score and the maximum scaled score must correspond. In this case, the maximum raw score for the mathematics and reading sections is 50 because there are 50 questions for each section. The maximum scaled score is 80. An example of CBEST raw score conversion is a candidate answering 40 out of 50 questions correctly on the Mathematics section of the test; when converted to a scale of 20-80, the candidate's raw score of 40 is converted to a scaled score of 64. This is the number the candidate will see on their test results.
What Is the Writing Score Scale?
The writing score scale for the CBEST test still uses the 20-80 scale, but it is converted from raw scores that are different from the reading and mathematics raw scores. Unlike those sections, which are question-based, the writing section requires candidates to write 2 essays. Each essay is reviewed by 2 people who will each give a score ranging from 1-4. So there are 4 raw scores overall for the writing section of the test. The scores from each essay are added together and converted to the 20-80 scale. So, for example, if one essay has a combined score of 6 and the other essay a combined score of 8, this would total 14, which would be the raw score for the writing section. Converted to the 20-80 scale, the score would now be 70, and that would be the score candidates see on their results.
Essay scorers review the essays holistically and assign them a score based on a number of factors. Here's how it's broken down:
The writer does not communicate ideas effectively; the assignment is not understood; multiple errors (spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure) are present; the essay is not focused and fails to grasp a central idea.
The writer demonstrates focus and a central idea, but the organization and communication are ineffective and/or unclear; there are some distracting errors; the essay fails to completely address the tasks of the assignment.
The writer demonstrates a central idea and effective communication with general focus and adequate reasoning; some errors exist but are not enough to distract from the ideas being presented; the topic may not be fully addressed, but the purpose and intended audience are clear.
The writer demonstrates clear focus and effective communication; there may be some minor errors, but the sentences are well-structured with a specific audience in mind; the assignment is fully explored and ideas are presented logically.
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Lindsey Seril, M.Ed. has worked as a teacher for 8 years. She passed the CSET and CBEST exams while obtaining her license. Lindsey also holds Montessori teacher certifications for early childhood and elementary school. She earned her M.Ed. from St. Catherine's University and her Bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good CBEST scores?
A passing score for the CBEST is a minimum total score of 123. Each section must have a minimum score of 41. Some exceptions may apply as long as the minimum total score is met.
How do I find my CBEST scores?
Your CBEST scores can be emailed to you or you can find the scores in your testing account on results day. CBEST scores are also sent to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, as well as any institutions that you have indicated when registering for the test.
Is the CBEST difficult?
The CBEST can seem daunting, but with enough preparation and practice, it is possible to get the CBEST results you're looking for on the first try. There are study guides and practice tests available to help you prepare.