California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET)

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In 1970, California adopted the Teacher Preparation and Licensing Law. This act created the Commission on Teacher Preparation and Licensing (CTPL), the first agency of its kind in the United States. The CTPL developed guidelines for the professional preparation of teachers and also established the scope and content of subject examinations for educations in the state of California. In 1983, the CTPL's name was changed to its present name, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). Over the decades, the CTC has retained control of the teacher credentialing process and has revised policies and examinations in response to changing state and national standards.[1]

The first examinations in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) suite of assessments were developed in collaboration between National Evaluation Systems (NES) and the CTC[2] and deployed in 2003.[3][4] NES was acquired by Pearson, Inc. in 2006. Pearson is the current vendor for the CSET examinations after having been awarded a five-year contract in 2011.[5]

Function of the Tests

CSET Study Guide

The CSET examinations are subject-specific assessments commonly taken by prospective educators who wish to teach in the state of California. Among other credentialing requirements, teacher candidates must have their subject matter competence assessed and verified in order to earn a Single (or Multiple) Subject Teaching Credential. This requirement may be fulfilled by completing a CTC-approved subject matter preparation program; passing the relevant CSET examination(s); or verifying out-of-state experience or education.[6]

From CSET's introduction in 2003 until 2010, there were 219,137 CSET subject examinations taken. By far the most common examination taken was the Multiple Subjects examination (126,454 attempts, 91.2% pass rate), followed by English (19,034, 78.5%), Social Science (15,551, 79.2%), and Mathematics (Foundational-Level) (13,242, 47.8%). The most commonly taken foreign language examination was Spanish (2,727 attempts, 86.9% pass rate), followed by Mandarin (698, 94.1%) and French (443, 88.7%).[7]

Test Administration

CSET Flashcards

The CSET examinations are administered by Pearson, Inc. Exam fees vary from subject to subject and from subtest to subtest, but a typical subtest costs about $70 to $100, for a total subject examination cost of about $200 to $300. Exam dates also vary from subject to subject. Some exams, such as the popular Multiple Subjects exam, are available year-round by appointment at any Pearson VUE testing center.[8] Other exams may be offered in only a few testing windows per year, or only be administered at a few specific testing sites. Candidates should confirm their own subject exams' fees, test dates, and testing sites on the CSET website.[9]

Forty subjects are covered by the CSET suite of examinations, and all subjects are divided into two to four separate subtests covering different domains of that subject.[9] For example, the subject of English is divided into four subtests, two of which are multiple choice and two of which require essays or other constructed responses:

Subtests of the CSET English Subject Examination[7]
Subtest Description # of
Choice Items
# of
Response Items
I Literature and Textural Analysis
Composition and Rhetoric
50 0
II Language, Linguistics, and Literacy 50 0
III Composition and Rhetoric
Literature and Textual Analysis
0 2
IV Communications: Speech, Media, and Creative
0 4
Totals 100 6

Every CSET subject examination has at least one constructed response item (such as a short answer or essay) on at least one subtest. In addition, all CSET subject examinations include at least one multiple choice subtest.[7]

The results of paper-based tests are released about one month after the examination date.[10] The results of computer-based tests are typically released about two to three weeks after the examination date.[10] CSET examinations are typically scored on a scale from 100 to 300. A score of 220 represents the minimum passing score. In order to successfully receive certification to teach a given subject, the candidate must pass all of that subject's subtests.[11] Unsuccessful candidates typically only need to retake the subtest (or subtests) on which they did not achieve a passing score.[11] However, such candidates must wait 45 calendar days between taking and retaking a given exam.[12]

Candidates with disabilities who require special testing accommodations must submit a request form and supporting documentation to Pearson. Candidates are encouraged to submit requests as early as possible before the intended test date.[13]

Test Format

Test Structure

The CSET exam series, or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, offer a variety of exams to certify teachers in different subjects and settings. Testing lengths and times vary, but most contain around 110 multiple choice questions and 5 constructed response questions. Most of the exams last around five hours. Tests vary on whether they are paper-based or computer-based.[14]

Test Environment

Candidates for a CSET exam are expected to arrive in a timely manner to their testing center. For computer-based testing, test takers should arrive at least thirty minutes before their test is scheduled to begin. For both forms of CSET exams, a valid, government-issued photo identification containing a signature is required. For paper-based exams, each test taker should bring their own pencils and erasers, as they will not be supplied by the test center.[15]

Test Content

  • Sample CSET Social Science Practice Questions
  1. Which of the following is not a correct statement regarding the Pilgrims?
    A. The Pilgrims left England in 1620 on the ship known as the Mayflower and landed at Cape Cod.
    B. The Pilgrims were led by William Bradford with a charter from the London Company.
    C. The Pilgrims were a group of Puritans who left England to escape religious persecution.
    D. The Pilgrims were a group of separatists who migrated to leave the Church of England.
  2. The best definition of culture is:
    A. The actual expression of societal norms
    B. The ideal of what should occur in a particular society
    C. The universal practices evident in all societies
    D. The sum of everything learned by participants in a society
  • Sample CSET Mathematics Practice Questions
  1. Determine the number of diagonals of a dodecagon.
    A. 12
    B. 24
    C. 54
    D. 108
  2. Which of these can be modeled by a quadratic function?
    A. The path of a sound wave
    B. The path of a bullet
    C. The distance an object travels over time when the rate is constant
    D. Radioactive decay
  • Sample CSET Multiple Subjects Practice Questions
  1. What type of expression is the phrase "on the other hand"?
    A. interjection
    B. transitional
    C. parenthetical
    D. tag question
  2. A major difference between independent reading and guided reading is that in independent reading:
    A. students read silently.
    B. teachers do not interact with students.
    C. students select their own texts.
    D. students read together in small groups.
  • Sample CSET Physical Education
  1. Related to summation of forces, which is accurate about how body parts move?
    A. The largest body parts are the slowest and move last.
    B. The smallest body parts are the fastest and move first.
    C. The largest body parts are the slowest and move first.
    D. Regardless of speed, all parts move at the same times.
  2. What is true about technology tools that let schools and teachers use electronic records?
    A. They are more efficient but only for maintaining records.
    B. They permit faster, easier access but afford less security.
    C. They not only keep records but also produce new records.
    D. They are not subject to paper confidentiality regulations.

More free CSET practice test questions.

Answers to Sample Questions

Social Science: 1;C 2;D Mathematics: 1;C 2;B Multiple Subjects: 1;B 2;C Physical Education: 1;C 2;C


  1. ^ CTC - A History of Policies and Forces Shaping California Teacher Credentialing May 20 2015
  3. ^ COMET - Standard Setting Committee Members are Sought for the CSET May 20 2015
  4. ^ CTC - Passing Standards for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) May 20 2015
  5. ^ Pearson - Pearson Awarded Five-Year Contract Renewal for Administering California Teacher Certification Testing Programs May 20 2015
  6. ^ CTC Exams - About CSET May 20 2015
  7. ^ a b c CTC - Report on Passing Rates of Commission-Approved Examinations from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010 May 20 2015
  8. ^ CTC Exams - CSET: Multiple Subjects May 20 2015
  9. ^ a b CTC - Tests May 20 2015
  10. ^ a b CTC Exams - FAQs May 20 2015
  11. ^ a b CTC Exams - CSET Test Results Report Information May 20 2015
  12. ^ CTC Exams - Retake Tests or Subtests May 20 2015
  13. ^ CTC Exams - Request Alternative Testing Arrangements May 28 2015
  14. ^ CSET Exams 11 May 2015
  15. ^ Test Day 11 May 2015

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