What is CSET?

What is CSET?The California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) is a set of examinations that assist teachers who choose or are required to meet specific requirements in order to gain teacher certification in California. The test set was developed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and continues to be the standard for teacher's examinations in the state.

The examinations presented by the CSET is designed as a criterion-referenced examination and evaluates a test taker's skills and knowledge in comparison to a pre-set standard of knowledge. Scores are never evaluated in comparison to other's performance. To meet various needs for teachers in California, there are five different tests that help to meet certification requirements. The five tests include:

  • CSET: Multiple Subjects: Three different tests that include constructed-response and multiple-choice questions.
  • CSET Preliminary Education Technology: Two subtests that evaluate a test taker's knowledge through a combination of constructed-response and multiple-choice questions.
  • CSET: Writing Skills: Consisting of only two constructed-response questions, it is used in conjunction with the Multiple Subjects test to acquire the basic skills requirement.
  • CSET: Single Subjects: Helps meet the needs of several certifications, the test also includes the foreign language component and consists of two to four subtests. The tests require test takers to answer both constructed-response questions and those that provide multiple-choice answers.
  • CSET: Languages other than English (LOTE): Multiple-choice and constructed-response questions cover various languages.
    The CSET was designed to assist in meeting teacher needs regarding credentialing and certification. There are many certifications that teachers in California see in order to advance or be employed in their teaching careers. Some of the basic requirements that the CSET assists with include:
  • Basic Skills Requirement: Candidates must complete all three subtests of the Multiple Subjects examinations and the writing skills test in order to acquire the certification of Basic Skills.
  • Subject Matter Competence Requirement: If applying for a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, teachers must pass all exams in the Multiple Subjects examination. However, if a teacher is only wishing to satisfy requirements for the Single Subject Teaching Credential, he or she only has to pass the appropriate subject within the Multiple Subjects examination.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Subject Matter Requirement: Multiple Subject Teaching Credential candidates may use the Multiple Subjects examination; Single Subject Credential candidates are encouraged to use the Single Subjects examination.
  • Educational Technology Requirement: Teachers who require a technology component for Multiple Subject or Single Subject credentials may use the Preliminary Educational Technology examination.
  • Competence Requirement for Effective Teaching of English Learners: The LOTE examination is recommended to assist in gaining competency requirements and the Bilingual Authorization.

The examinations that make up the CSET were established to coincide with the California K-12 Student Academic Content Standards and reflect the standards expected from teachers and teacher educators within the state of California.

There are certain qualifications that must be met in order for teacher candidates to take the CSET set of examinations to gain credentials in other areas.

CSET Examination Expectations

CSET Examination ExpectationsTest takers of the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) should know what to expect when they arrive for testing on the day of their examinations. There are many important things to consider such as what to bring to the testing site, when to arrive, when to expect test scores and various other issues. Knowing what to expect may help decrease text anxiety and make the entire process go more smoothly.

Test takers should arrive to the test center on time. It's important to be there by the time recommended on one's admission ticket so that any security issues can be cleared up in time for the examination. The admission ticket lists the test date and reporting time, along with the selected tests and test site location. Test takers who arrive late may be considered absent and be ineligible for any refunds or credits. If a test taker arrives late after the recording or audio segments have begun playing, he or she will not be admitted to the test area.

Candidates are encouraged to dress comfortably for all temperatures of test centers. Clothes that may be layered are recommended.

Additionally, candidates are urged to wear soft-soled shoes. Hard-soled shoes create noise as a test taker moves around. Test site administrators try to maintain a quiet testing environment and soft-soled shoes are appreciated.

Examinees are advised to bring several things with them to the testing site. The first thing they need is their admission ticket, which is sent to them in confirmation for their test registration. To check in, an examinee needs to present a government-issued identification that is current and printed in English. The identification must include a photograph and signature. The name on the identification should match one's registration. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver's license or a passport. Unacceptable form s of identification are a Social Security card, credit card or employee ID card.

Test candidates may also bring several No.2 pencils. These are not provided by the testing administrator. The pencils need to be sharpened. Mechanical pencils are not allowed.

Unlabeled, clear bottles of water will be admitted to the testing area.

There are several items that test takers must leave at home. A list of items includes:

  • Visitors
  • Weapons
  • Tobacco
  • Cell phones
  • Electronic devices (including MP3 players, laptops, alarms, PDAs, jump drives or other storage devices and pagers)
  • Calculators
  • Notes and scratch paper
  • Backpacks, purses or briefcases
  • Hats
  • Food and drink (other than the unlabeled bottle of water)
  • Other test aids (highlighters, rulers or translation aids)

As one completes his testing for the testing period, he or she should return his test materials to the site administrator and proceed to be dismissed. A test taker may return to the test site later if he or she will be taking more tests later.

Test takers will receive official test scores through the mail in approximately 4 weeks to a month after the examinations are completed. Official test scores will also be reported to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

CSET Examination Preparation

As there are many subtests that make up the content of the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET), it's difficult to plan an overall strategy to apply for preparation for all of the examinations. However, there are some steps a candidate can take that will work to plan out methods and techniques of test preparation.

  • Firstly, a test taker needs to identify the objectives, goals and content of the test(s) they plan to complete. Some exams are very specialized and only contain content pertinent to one subject. However, others are much more involved and require a test taker to learn many subjects all at once. For instance, the CSET: Multiple Subjects examination contains information about reading, arithmetic, history, science and social studies. Test takers should evaluate the subject matter and core content for each subtest they plan to take in order to be able to plan accordingly.

Examinees should set their priorities for studying and focus on creating a timeline. If a test taker knows the majority of information for the subtest, his or her timeline may be shorter than if he or she is unfamiliar with most of the content information. Additionally, it's important for prospective test takers to establish priorities in reviewing content for the subtests. Candidates should analyze the content outline and the objectives to be tested on. Selecting the subjects that he or she is less familiar with as major study topics may help a test taker learn the material in which he lacks knowledge. These subjects should become priority topics of study.

Test takers need to determine the resources they need in order to study effectively. Many prospective test takers use college textbooks in order to review the topics of content in their subtests. Once they've identified the subjects and the context in which they will be covered in the examination, test takers may identify chapters and sections of their textbooks that provide the necessary information. Also, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) provides test guides for each subtest covered by the CSET. The test guides give insight as to the topics, content outlines and subjects covered in the tests. Sample questions are a part of the test guides. The free test guides prove to be useful to prospective test takers.

Establishing one's study techniques is essential to being able to study effectively to pass the examinations necessary. Candidates need to establish study plans that involve timelines, subject and content information and use of sample questions. Many test takers choose to work with others and create a study group in order to prepare for examinations. However, some test takers appreciate being able to work independently on their own. Candidates need to identify what works best for them and their study skills and create visual aids or audio aids to assist in their study methods.

Test takers should take advantage of sample questions. These questions are available from the CTC for each of the subtests and provide test takers a way to test themselves and check their answers. Additionally, the sample questions help a test taker prepare for the type of questions on the examination. Multiple-choice questions are fairly standard with A,B,C and D answers, but the constructed-response questions may take some getting used to. The constructed-response questions entail test takers providing answers that discuss, describe, explain, analyze, evaluate or interpret a particular situation.

CSET Examination Requirements

CSET Examination RequirementsMany certification examinations have many eligibility requirements and prerequisites. However, the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) does not include all the stringent prerequisites that many programs do. The CSET are used as a tool in many other certification programs and is not a program itself. It does, though, have some registration requirements that must be met by prospective test takers.

Individuals aspiring to take any of the CSET subtests must have obtained a minimum level of education. All candidates must have graduated from an accredited high school or have obtained a GED in order to register for the exam. If a candidate does not have proof of either high school graduation or achievement of a GED, he or she must have transcripts that prove enrollment in courses for college credit leading to an education career. Enrollment in college courses can be current or previous.

Test takers may register for any of the subtests included in the CSET by registering by phone, online or through the mail. Payment arrangements must be made at the time of registration. Examinees may pay by debit card, credit card or Visa or MasterCard check card if they are enrolling for exams through the Internet or over the telephone. "Eval Systems Test Fee" will appear on one's bill once the charge has transacted. Personal checks, money orders, cashier's checks, credit or debit cards or check cards may be used when registering through the mail.

Through the registration process, it is required that test takers provide several items of personal information. The information is used only to register a candidate for testing. Test takers must supply their names (as they appear on identifications), addresses, daytime phone numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and email addresses. This information is used to get in contact with test takers to confirm their test dates and other important information.

Background questions are asked after a registrant signs up for the examination. Many background questions inquire about a registrant's history as an undergraduate, highest level of education, reasons for taking the examination, basic career information, language proficiency and the level of in-service training underwent. All information is kept confidential and used for the purposes of research only.

After supplying background information through the questions, aspiring test takers are required to agree to and abide by the "Rules of Test Participation." The rules involve several principles and guidelines including compliance with the regulations, eligibility requirements, late arrival policies, test security methods, non-disclosure clauses, testing guidelines and program changes. The rules also indicate behavior that will be considered misconduct and policies that enforce forfeiture of exam fees and scores.

Registrants who require alternative test arrangements may request those at the time they register for the CSET subtests. Physical disabilities, non-physical disabilities and religious practices that do not allow Saturday testing are situations that are acceptable for alternative arrangements. While some situations need special arrangements, others are already provided for with the regular test site standards. All test sites have wheelchair access, allow visual aids such as magnifying glasses, color overlays or straight-edges and provide for hearing loss disabilities by having a written copy of oral directions available.

Release of CSET Results

After taking the subtests, test takers may be eager and anxious to learn their California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) scores. Official score reports are released through the mail, but unofficial results are available online prior to when the score reports may arrive in test takers' mailboxes. Additionally, test takers receive information about how to interpret test scores and opportunities to receive additional copies of score reports.

Test scores are reported to three different entities when they are calculated. The test taker gets a score report through the mail 4 weeks to a month after taking the examination. Additionally, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) receives report of the individual's scores for credentialing purposes. During registration, the test taker identifies his or her choice of institutions to send official test score reports to, as well. These institutions may utilize a test taker's test scores into consideration when making hiring decisions.

Unofficial test scores are available on the Internet approximately 4 weeks after the examination was taken. The scores are posted on the date listed on the Test Date Release information and will be accessible by 5 p.m. Pacific time. Online, unofficial results will be available for only 2 weeks and may be viewed by a test taker only once. In order to gain access to view test results, an examinee must input his or her CSET Identification Number and date of birth after accessing the score reporting area. The online results are not acceptable as official test results.

Test takers will receive their test score reports through the mail approximately a month after taking the subtests. A report will be enclosed for each subtest taken during the examination period. Test score reports include information about whether or not the examinee passed or failed the examination. Additional performance information is included. An explanation about how to read test scores should arrive within the mailing, as well, which will help the examinee interpret his scores.

Tests are scored using a scaled score, which is based on a 100 to 300 point scale. A passing score is 220 points or more. If a test taker passes a subtest, he or she must apply this toward certification within 5 years of taking the examination.

Test takers who fail to pass the examination, may register to retake the examination immediately. Waivers will be given to recently failed test takers so they may take the examination during the same examination window, if they wish. There is no limit to the number of times a test taker can retake the examination. Registration and examination fees are required each time the test is retaken.

Examinees may obtain additional copies of test scores and results by filling out an additional form. A request for additional copies can be made by submission of the form and a minimal fee per copy desired. Additional copies of test scores will be official results and can be used for documentation in seeking further certifications or credentials in the future with other organizations.


Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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