The CSET is a group of tests administered by the state of California to provide teacher credentialing. The CSET offers many single subject test options, which makes it a key credentialing system for teachers at all levels. CSETs can be taken to show proficiency in knowledge and teaching multiple subjects, or for showing expertise in one area of education.
What Is the CSET Test?
The CSET, or California Subject Examinations for Teachers is a group of subject matter tests. This test is used in California. There are two types of CSET tests.
The CSET Multiple Subjects Exam is taken by candidates for the multiple subject and education specialist credential, usually elementary school teaching candidates. This test consists of three subtests.
Subtest 1 covers reading, language, literature, and history.
Subtest 2 covers math and science.
Subtest 3 covers visual and performing arts, physical education, and human development.
CSET Single Subject Tests are typically for secondary school teaching candidates who are aiming to teach a particular subject. Single subject tests include math, English, science, art, business, home economics, Spanish, and many more.
You can register for the test on the registration page. The CSET Multiple Subjects test has a $99 registration fee per subtest taken separately, and is $247 for all subtests taken together. Single subject test fees vary but are usually around $99.
There is no fee to change your CSET registration, but there is a $50 fee to request score verification.
The tests are primarily computer based, though some tests are available as paper-based tests. You can find the CSET test dates and availability for the paper tests when you register for your test through the registration link.
Format of the CSET Test
The CSET Multiple Subject Test consists of three subtests.
Subtest I: Reading, Language Literature, and History has 52 multiple-choice questions and 4 constructed response questions.
Subtest II: Math and Science has 52 multiple-choice questions and 4 constructed response questions.
Subtest III: Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education, and Human Development has 39 multiple-choice questions and 3 constructed response questions.
Format of the Single Subject Tests
The Single Subject tests also usually have multiple choice questions and constructed response questions. Single subject tests may also contain subtests.
They usually have around 40 multiple choice questions and 3-4 constructed response questions. However, some tests do have more than 40. The science single subject CSET, for example, has 100 multiple choice questions.
Additionally, the Art and Music Single Subject tests now require that you submit electronic files of your work to show competency in those subjects.
The time allowed to take all three subtests in the multiple subject test is 5 hours. The length of time for single subject tests vary, but are usually 2-4 hours.
How Is the CSET Scored?
To pass the CSET, you need to score a 220 or above on each subtest. Most computer-based tests will show you a preliminary score immediately concluding the test. Offices scores for the CSET results are released five weeks after the test date. You can get an estimate of your score release date.
Sample Questions From the CSET Multiple Subject Test
These sample questions are similar to what you might see on the CSET multiple subjects test. Since each subtest tests multiple subjects, we've indicated what subject the question relates to as well.
Subtest 1: Reading, Language Arts, Literature, and History
Question 1, Reading: A substantial vocabulary is most likely to help a student with reading comprehension in what way?
- Use context clues to determine the subject matter of a passage
- Use syntax clues to determine the meaning and pronunciation of certain words
- Recognize words they may be familiar with
- Help learn to spell difficult words
Answer: The correct answer is 1. Note that the question specifically asks about reading comprehension; while all of the answer choices are helpful for a student, understanding the subject matter of a passage speaks most clearly to reading comprehension.
Question 2, Constructed Response: During the height of the California Gold Rush, an estimated 300,000 people migrated to California, and every 1 in 90 people in the US was living in California. Use your knowledge of California history, prepare a response in which you address the societal and historical reasons that promoted the Gold Rush in California and how the migration shaped California society.
Answer: In this response, you should discuss the global migration to California, the opportunity for land based on the U.S. government’s policies, and the ability for entrepreneurs to build businesses and cities around the gold rush communities.
It’s helpful in this kind of response to pinpoint specific examples that you can use as supporting evidence. For example, you can discuss how the in San Francisco, the booming population also increased the fishing and shipping industries, or how the increase in laborers and population was key to the future transcontinental railroad project.
Subtest 2: Math and Science
Question 1, Math: Numbers for 10-46 are written on individual pieces of paper. If all of these numbers are put in a bag, what are the odds that when you remove a piece of paper 1 time, you will draw a prime number?
Answer: The answer is 5/18. There are 10 prime numbers between 10 and 46, (11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43) and 36 total numbers. The answer is 10/36, but since we always reduce fractions where possible, this becomes 5/18.
Question 2, Science: Provide the names five main layers of the Earth's atmosphere and their functions. Provide information about their scientific composition, altitudes, and temperatures. Explain how the layers contribute to the atmosphere as a whole.
Answer: For this question, you want to include the five main layers, Exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere, and make sure to recall as much data as possible. In this response, you can provide data and then include how they work within the atmosphere in coordination, or on an individual basis. It’s better to include more than less with these types of questions, just keep an eye on your time limit.
Subtest 3: Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education, and Human Development
Question 1, Physical Education: What is the best technique in getting students to set physical fitness goals in class?
- Creating fitness plans for students to follow
- Organize group fitness activities, focusing on one area of health at a time
- Guide students in creating their own fitness plans
- Put students into groups and focus on team sports
Answer: The correct answer is 2. But letting students decide on their own fitness plan under your guidance, they will work on their knowledge of physical health while honing their management and executive decision making goals.
Question 2, Human Development: You’re an elementary school teacher and are looking into a class-wide activity that all the kids can participate in, that will be educational and fun. This can be any activity you like, and you have permission to leave school grounds. Using your knowledge of human development, devise a plan below and describe the activity, what students will do, and how it will enrich them.
Answer: This question is very open-ended, and there are a lot of different possible answers. Before you start writing, decide what exactly you’d want your hypothetical class to get out of the activity and why. Then you can devise a plan around that, and use your knowledge of human development as proof of why it’s a good idea. Make sure you describe the activity clearly, and reference evidence throughout.
CSET Practice Tests
The official practice tests can help you get a handle on the format of the test and help you devise a study plan. Make sure to use practice tests for the subject you intend to take, and brush up on your general knowledge. There are free test guides and practice tests available for all CSET tests.
You find access test prep and resources at the official CTC resources page.
The CSET can be a tough test, so it’s important to take time to prepare both for the content of the test and its structure. Your study plan should account for both your knowledge of the subject or subjects you're taking, as well as an overall knowledge in education and technology that teachers have to be prepared for in the classroom settings. Hopefully, you’ll pass no problem and California will gain another qualified teacher.
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Carrie holds a Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and is currently pursuing an MFA. She worked in book publishing for several years, and believes that books can open up new worlds. She loves reading, the outdoors, and learning about new things.