CBEST vs CSET math

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by error_404, Nov 18, 2005.

  1. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Nov 18, 2005

    Hello. I'm currently in the process of studying for the Math and Science portion of the CSET Multisubject Test. Do you think that this is sufficient preparation for the Math section of the CBEST exam or do I need to study separate material?

    I was thinking about taking all 3 parts of the CSET on Jan. 21, followed by the CBEST on Feb. 11. Too much? Not that I have much of a choice...

    Thanks for your help!

    Elana
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    There's a little bit of CBEST math that isn't in the CSET, and that is the material on test score interpretation: you need to know percentile vs. quartile vs. stanine and you need to know what a raw score and a grade-equivalent score are. It's not horribly complicated, just different. Other than that, CBEST math is simpler than CSET math, and most of the CSET prep books go deeper into algebra and geometry than Subtest II itself actually tends to.

    Taking all three subtests of CSET-MS in one go can be a challenge, but many people pull it off. If you're comfortable taking tests and familiar with the material, there's no principled reason why you shouldn't pass too. On the other hand, if external deadlines permit, there's also no principled reason not to spread the subtests out.
     
  4. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Thanks for the info, TeacherGroupie!

    Yeah, I'm not feeling too confident about the CSET (particularly the math/science portion), but I guess I'll just study hard and hope for the best. Figure I ought to get the CBEST out of the way too while i'm out in California.

    Thanks again :)
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    What are you using to study?
     
  6. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Nov 19, 2005

    I just ordered a bunch of books--Cliffs CSET Prep book and the books from the "Everything you need to know about your... homework" series that were recommended in another post on this site. I only recently discovered that I'd be required to take the CSET in January to qualify for admission to California based Teacher Credential/Masters programs so I'm just getting started now.

    I was very unpleasantly surprised by the level of difficulty of the multiple choice practice questions on the CSET site. Without any studying, I only got 10/16 on Subtest I and 7/15 on Subtest II. I did fine on Subtest III. I figure once I review all the history stuff I'll be in much better shape for I. But math/science...I couldn't even do any of that stuff when I was immersed in at as a middle/high school student, let alone now! I'm sure I can handle 5th grade Math (and I wouldn't dream of attempting to teach any math beyond that level), so why do I need to know all this other stuff? Wah!

    OK, I know complaining won't get me anywhere. But yeah, if you have any other suggestions about prep materials and methods, I'm all ears.

    Thanks again!
     
  7. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Nov 19, 2005

    Oh, and I also have a GRE study guide (Princeton Review). Do you think that'd be useful in preparing for Subtest II?
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    A couple of points, error_404:

    - Whether you need to have passed CSET for entrance depends on the programs you're applying to. Cal States and Univ. of Califs as a class do require CSET for entrance, but not all the private schools do - and I'd check specifically with the UC, come to think of it.

    - There's no such thing as The One Best Prep Materials For Everybody. Lots of people really like the Hirsch Everything Your Nth Grader Ought to Know, but they don't work for everyone. Some people like one or another of the standard prep books (we're now up to Cliff's, REA, Barron's, Kaplan, and Boosalis), but just as many people buy one and then can never quite bring themselves to open it because they're so daunted by the size of the text and the range of the material.

    - The passing score on any CSET subtest is 220 on a scale from 100 to 300 - in other words, there are 200 scaled points on the table, and you need 120 of them. In other words, if you get 2/3 of available points, you're fine.

    - The GRE prep book will massively overprepare you in math. It isn't so much that CSET-MS tests algebra specifically as that, if you can think in algebraic terms, you're better equipped to be able to figure out an answer and justify it.

    - I'll deal with your question about why you need to know the math and science separately.
     
  9. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    As TeacherGroupie has already pointed out, your preparation for CSET MS Math will more than prepare your for CBEST Math, with the exception of score interpretation. IMHO CBEST Math is so basic as to be ridiculous. FWIW, howeverm when I took CBEST a year ago, at least 3 of the questions in the Math section were on score interpretation. So, I recommend you don't blow it off. The good news is that a few minutes on the internet can find you all that you need to know about it.
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 19, 2005

    CBEST Prep books with publication dates after 2002 usually discuss this as well - though there aren't very many that have been updated.
     
  11. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Nov 20, 2005

    Hm, I got the "Everything you need to know about..." series by Anne Zeman and Kate Kelley. Are these pretty much the same thing as the Hirsch books? So far the only one that's arrived is American History, but i've been ploughing through it for the last 2 days and, um, I hate to say it but I'm actually kind of enjoying it! And I seem to be retaining it as well, for the moment anyway...

    The only schools I'm applying to in California are Berkeley and USF. USF isn't a big deal cause they have rolling admissions. And they actually told me I can hold off on the exams until I'm admitted since I currently live in Pennsylvania. But if I don't pass all 3 subtests on the first go in Jan, then Berkeley is out of the running (or rather, I'm out of the running).

    I appreciate what you're saying about the Math, but those practice questions were really hard for me, especially taking into account time constraints. And I still don't really understand how the test is scored. If there are 52 multiple choice questions and 4, 4-point constructed response questions, then how do they get to a total of 200 available points? Doesn't that mean that each multiple choice question would have nearly the same point value as the constructed response questions? Am I just proving my lack of mathematic abilities here? Argh.

    You don't need to address my question about why I need to know the math and science stuff. That was more of a rhetorical complaint than a question. ;)
     
  12. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 21, 2005

    Your issues, last to first:

    The question about why one has to know math and science is a recurrent one, and worth answering. (In any case, it's hard for me to pass by a rhetorical question without answering. Dreadful habit, but there it is.)

    Don't bash your mathematical abilities, please! Would you let one of your future students get away with doing that? I bet not.

    It's true that there are 52 multiple choice questions in Subtest II and four constructed responses; but constructed responses are scored on a scale from 0 to 3 AND they're scored by two readers, so the total possible raw constructed-response points is (3 + 3) x 4 = 24. Bear in mind also that multiple choice is worth 70% and constructed response is worth 30%. So it's not that each constructed response QUESTION has the same value as a multiple choice question, but that each constructed response POINT has (rather approximately) the same value. There's a relatively recent thread, in fact, in which we do the math to work out the approximate values.

    You're applying to Cal and USF? If your hopes of admission are at all realistic, you've got the firepower to succeed on all three subtests - at least if you stop bashing yourself!

    The Zeman/Kelley books are not Hirsch, no, but there's no reason to rush out and get Hirsch: most of the Zeman/Kelley books are pretty good (the book on English contains some fairly shocking errors about linguistics but is otherwise solid).

    You're "kind of enjoying" American history? Bravo! The more fun you can have with your prep, the easier it will be for you to come up with answers you didn't actually know cold, and the better you'll teach this stuff when you get to the classroom. History, by the way, can be seen as the biggest, juiciest soap opera ever: that, or a sandbox with more toddlers than there are sand toys...

    Good questions! Keep asking , please.
     
  13. error_404

    error_404 Companion

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    Thanks, TG! You're like a CSET guardian angel! :angel:

    So, to answer my own question then... I think I need to know all this stuff (that I have no intention of ever formally teaching) so that I can help students who may be "prematurely" curious about this content. I, personally, have no problem with telling a student that I don't remember the specific details or that I have to do some research before I can answer her question, but I guess this extra knowledge will prevent the inclination to give over-simplified and/or wrong answers to questions I can't answer on the spot. And I suppose the more knowledge you have of a subject, the better equipped you are to teach it, at any level. (And no one feels like making up/administering a separate test for Middle School Educators.)

    Am I right? How many points did I get?

    And yes, I've done well academically (except in Science and Math!) which is, perhaps, why I find this so frustrating. Studying Math can be just as interesting as studying History for me, but no matter how interesting I find the Math problem at hand, I can never seem to get to the correct solution. Or, I will get the correct solution, but I'll do the problem in such a roundabout way that it eats up all my time. I feel like I have to be very pragmatic about the way I study for a Math exam (as opposed to the way I would go about actually learning/teaching Math) because dry, boring, memorization seems to be the only effective tool that can save me when time is limited.

    It kind of breaks my heart because, in many ways, I feel that if I had been offered a greater variety of angles from which to approach Mathematics as a kid, I wouldn't have this insane phobia and doubt about my abilities as an adult. That's probably the only reason I have any interest in teaching Elementary Math in the first place--to prevent other kids from ending-up like me!

    Thanks for explaining the point breakdown for the subtests. That helps a lot.
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Flattery will get you almost everywhere, error_404, and self-knowledge gets you the rest of the way. Well done!

    Your answer about math, up to the point where you ask how many points, is almost VERY good: two points for sure. Mention a specific math problem (in this case, "I personally have no problem with telling a student I don't remember how to calculate a cosine" will do), and you're looking at three. (Though you might lose a point for the crack about tests for middle school educators: I think I've seen one or two for states other than California...)

    I should add that it's not merely the "'prematurely' curious" for whom you need to know higher math: curricula all over the country are introducing algebra-like notation and processes earlier and earlier, on the theory that the transition to real live algebra will then be a little less painful. A teacher will be better prepared to help her kids on the way to where they're going if she herself knows at least some of the terrain.

    Glad to hear you're finding math interesting. (If anyone's reading this over our e-shoulders, so to speak, and DOESN'T see the point of math, let me recommend Dorling Kindersley's wonderful new book GO FIGURE (ISBN 0-7566-1374-4) and/or one of my old favorites, ALGEBRA UNPLUGGED (ISBN 0-9627815-7-6) - different approaches, but both very good.) As to working out particular problems, some of that comes with practice, and some of it comes from asking questions: let me invite you and your issues over to the Multiple Subject Tests thread, okay?

    I bet, in fact, that I know one of the problems on the sample/practice tests that's got you hung up: it's the informal proof, yes?
     
  15. earthmommy2003

    earthmommy2003 Rookie

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    TG- I was checking another state's requirements (NM maybe?) and they have a staggered Multiple Subj. Credential. I think you can get K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. So really, you DON'T need that info to effectively teach those grades. It's a state by state thing. And those "things" can change. I recommend teachers who don't want to teach upper elementary start complaining to their CA representatives post haste!
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

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    With respect, earthmommy2003, I disagree with every fiber of my being. Certainly it's true that primary grade teachers need to be good people with empathy and warmth for their little charges. But primary grade teachers also need solid skills - and they need to be seen as having solid skills. Other things being equal, a person who's not terrified or repulsed by higher math is going to be a more credible teacher of math, even in primary grades, than a person who isn't. The same goes for science and history and whatever else you care to name. What's more, as primary teachers' confidence goes up, they're better equipped to tell when the district or the state are imposing inappropriate curricula or methods and to fight back accordingly. (I yearn for the day when a superintendent will have his facts perfectly in order before talking to kindergarten teachers, because he knows they can and will catch him out if he doesn't.) And if one of the products of the CSET process is that it gives good people who want to teach one more chance to deal with the skeletons in their own educational closets and grow into the intelligence that they really do have, then CSET, for all the grief, is accomplishing something very important indeed. And THAT is what I'm here for.
     
  17. earthmommy2003

    earthmommy2003 Rookie

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    I respect and understand your point of view, I just disagree with it. One does not need to understand calculus in order to be a good accountant, even though both professions work with numbers, nor does one need to understand the history of western civilization in order to effectively teach United States history. In fact, one could argue that the very scope of the multiple subjects examination in its current incarnation precludes knowing anything with any depth. Further, I've been truly disgusted with the subject matter competency process. It doesn't test knowledge. One can take the tests as many times as one wants without limit, until one passes it or depletes one's financial resources. I would far rather have a K-3 teacher who had a depth of knowledge of K-3 grade subject matter, including pedagogy and processes of that age group, than one who had a breadth of knowledge that is essentially useless to his/her class. Second grade students do not need to understand variables or balancing equations in order to learn basic math. Teachers do not need to know and understand variables and balancing equations in order to teach basic math. Chemistry and baking are two entirely different things even if they DO interrelate. I can assure you that I know many a chemist who can't bake a cake, and many a baker who can't tell a proton from a electron. Expecting a K-2 teacher to understand 6-8 subject matter IS as erroneous as expecting a chef to understand chemistry. But, I respect your opinion. I hope you can respect mine as well. :love:
     
  18. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Obviously this hits a nerve with you. However it happened, I offer my sympathy.
     
  19. earthmommy2003

    earthmommy2003 Rookie

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    Nah, it's not so much a personal nerve as a political one. I've repeatedly told people that getting an education and getting a degree are two entirely different things (though when you're lucky, they overlap). I don't believe that it's in the best interest of society that good teachers, those blessed men and women whom 6 year olds remember for life, should be stymied by what is essentially a gatekeeper test. It's unfair. Yes, I know,"life's not fair," but that doesn't mean that good people shouldn't work to make it so. JMO Also, my children have lost good teachers who can't pass this test, and they've had HORRIBLE teachers who did pass it.
     
  20. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    Somehow it doesn't seem unreasonable to require California K12 teachers to be able to prove math and other subject matter competence at a level equal to that required to graduate from highschool. That really is not asking much. And I don't have a problem with it.

    Ofcourse, subject matter competence does not mean a person can actually teach. But subject matter competence and teaching ability are two sides of the same coin. You have to show both to teach in California.

    Yes, the CSET MS exam doesn't test anything in depth. All it does is reveal if you have reasonable breadth in all the relevant areas you might teach. It might be a very different if California split out the requirements for lower grades from higher grades. But that is not how the CTC has decided to do it.

    As far as CSET single subject exams goes, I can tell you from experience that at least the math exam does indeed test subject matter competency in depth. The fact that you can retake a subtest as many times as you like is irrelevant. Failing a subtest forces you to retrench, study some more, and improve your competence. You won't pass it by simply taking it enough times.

    FWIW I cannot imagine someone teaching American History well who was not familiar with the History of Western Civilization, unless your idea of teaching history is simply memorizing dates and events. And having passed the CPA exam, I could take issue with the math requirements for accountants. But I think what you are really thinking about is bookkeepers, which is something very different.
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

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    earthmommy, I think you and I have some common ground here: we agree that it's unfair that people who would be good teachers struggle with CSET-MS. Where we differ is in what to do about it. You think CSET is the problem and that the solution is to abolish it. Now I'm not about to claim that CSET - any CSET - is a perfect instrument, or for that matter that any test is a perfect instrument. But I think that difficulty with CSET is a symptom, not the problem, and that the solution lies not in trashing a particular test but in helping good people acquire a set of mental tools - or, more often, gain confidence in using mental tools they already have - that are useful in problem-solving no matter the discipline or school level. Approaching the issue this way takes more time and effort, but when it works, ah! the payoff is huge and heart-mendingly wonderful.

    As to variables in primary grades, they DO show up. And one of the great manipulatives for teaching basic math involves numbers that are to be placed on a scale. That's balancing equations in the most literal of senses! Sorry. I know that's not what you meant. But the pun and the connection were irresistible. And the first-grade teacher needs to understand math deeply enough to be able to discern when her young charges' mistakes turn out to make math-theoretic sense (as they do with remarkable regularity).

    And then there's Western civilization and US history... you've thrown me a high outside fastball there, and all that's left is to decide to which field to drive it.... but I'll save that for another time.
     
  22. Lardygeezer

    Lardygeezer Comrade

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    The CSET is in part an indictment of the failure of high school and college education.

    At my local CSU they have a WPST (writing proficiency test) it is absolutely frightening the numbers of people who fail. It becomes even more frightening when you discover that many who have passed can hardly speak let alone write english beyond the basic 1000 words. So what are the people who have failed doing at college?

    The WPST is a test to ensure that you are capable of writing at a scholarly level (allegedly) when the reality is that it really is no more than a high school essay test. America has been dumbed down to an alarming degree and the public schools system in many (but not all) cases have become no more than english language schools.

    The CSET is a measure of outcomes assessment, it shows that you know something about the subjects that you should know. I agree with TG on the CSET/Teaching relationship entirely.

    Students at high school and college level can for the most part pass their classes just by turning up. At my local CSU many classes have 1/4 to one 1/3 of the total grade points on attendance participation - yeah right!

    Bluntly, if you can't pass the CSET you have no right to be teaching in the classroom. I don't want half assed teachers teaching my grandchildren. There is no such thing as "I don't need to know XYZ', of course you do. Learning is a multifaceted and relies heavily on connections of ideas for concepts to be understood.

    If education has failed you because you dont have the knowledge to pass. it is not enough of an excuse to let your through. I dont want a teacher in the classroom who made it by 'extra credit' assignments or a cursory 'C' grade that shows you actually got out of bed for a few days in each semester. As much as I abhor the CSET I'm glad it exists to keep the flotsam and jetsam out of the teaching profession.

    As for the CBEST..if you can't pass this you need to go back to grade school or an equivalent.
     
  23. Victoria

    Victoria New Member

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    Well,,,,have you ever heard of a person who worries and gets sick when it comes time to take a test? I'm one of those.....I got through those crazy tests but it took some time. I am teaching and I see that those crazy tests CBEST,CSET and RICA did not make me a better teacher. I wish you nuts who like tests would understand that !!! Its crazy to think that a test will make that person a better teacher when all it does is prolong the good teachers to be from getting into the classroom and make a difference.

    I guess you have an idea how I feel, and if you don't then you should take a test and pass so you can understand how I feel.
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Victoria, my sympathies: it's bad that you're hurting so over this test. I've worked with many, many people who worry and get sick over tests; it wrings my heart. And I'm certainly NOT going to claim that having struggled in this way means you're a bad teacher. Obviously you care deeply.

    But standardized testing is highly unlikely to go away any time soon, and for that reason teachers who hate tests might want to examine and reconsider their attitudes. One way to approach CBEST and CSET and RICA is as opportunities to do just that. Again and again we see that an individual's attitude plays a very large role in how that individual does on a standardized test, and evidence is mounting that a teacher's attitude toward tests is a big factor in how students do. If we present tests as terrible daunting obstacles, we are prepared to struggle, and those of our students to whom test taking doesn't come easy will be prepared to struggle too. If we present tests as consisting of puzzles that can be solved, in contrast, we're likelier to be able to reason our way to answers we don't know cold, and we're better at modeling that sort of behavior for our students.

    By the way, at the beginning of the test, the good test taker often doesn't feel any more comfortable than anyone else in the room does - as far as I can tell, just about everyone experiences that "Oh, my gosh, this time they're going to find out what a fraud I am" feeling. The good test taker has learned to wait out or work through that feeling. Hypnosis can be helpful - I mean hypnosis of the sort that dentists use to help patients manage their pain, and I'm told some dentists are willing to work with people who aren't their patients on this.
     
  25. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    FWIW I know I can teach math well at some level. So does the dean at the local community college where I teach math to vocational students. I am in the process of passing CSET Math (two down, one to go) so I can teach in California public schools. I don't like taking tests any more than anyone else. I definitely get nervous, not before the test, but as soon as I read the first page of questions because the folks at NES have a way with coming up with questions the likes of which I have never seen. And I am going to be very nervous on the third test if I take it in January. I'll work through it just like I did on the first two.

    All that said, as stated previously, I believe that it is not unreasonable to require any teacher to prove their competence in the subject matter that will teach before being let loose in the classrom. In my case, CSET offers me a way to do it without having to go back to school and take a bunch more courses in math. And it gives the state a way to reduce the shortage of math teachers because in all likelihood I would not go back to school if I had to do it for the subject matter. The teaching courses I'll have to take are enough as it is.

    IMHO requiring CSET MS for all K6 teachers is the only reasonable way for the state to go to prove subject matter competence. There is no remotely standardized undergraduate curriculum for MS candidates. Whereas you can pretty much bet than anyone with a B.S. in Mathematics has taken certain courses and gone well beyond what is taught in a public school, this is not the case with MS candidates. All you have to do is have any bachelor's degree, except one in professional education. The alternative would have to be something like requiring all MS candidates to be liberal studies majors with so many units in specific areas, or at least spelling out in detail what general education pattern a candidate would need.

    I pretty much agree with Lardygeezer that anyone who cannot pass CBEST does not belong in a classroom as a teacher, although I think a remedial class at a community college would be a better place for them to go.

    IMHO if you don't think having to pass RICA made you a better teacher, either you don't teach reading, you are exceptional, or you just don't realize how much you learned in order to pass it. RICA was a result of the poor reading ability of students in California. If teachers had been doing a good job in the first place, there would be no RICA. I am no expert in teaching reading. But from what I can see from the info on the test site, what you have to know to pass it is very similar to some of what my mother had to learn years ago to become a reading specialist.
     
  26. lizutu

    lizutu New Member

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    Hi - I passed two parts of the CBEST - almost passed the Math! I am soon to take the CBEST - how should I prepare? What is the reason we have to take both? What is the difference btw them?
     
  27. lizutu

    lizutu New Member

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    I forgot to ask...can one take just one part of the CSET to pass it if we have already passed two parts?
     
  28. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Good heavens: this thread hasn't been posted to in forever!

    Ahem. Welcome to A to Z, lizutu.

    The reason you have to take CBEST for California is to show that you possess basic skills in reading, math, and essay writing. CBEST is the main way to do that for most credentials, but there are other options.

    If the CSET to which you refer is CSET-Multiple Subjects, you do have the option of fulfilling the basic skills requirement by passing CSET-MS plus CSET-Writing. This option is not available to anyone but takers of CSET-MS.

    When you retake CBEST, you pay for the whole thing and you get the entire test booklet, but you may certainly take only the section that you haven't passed yet. The sections you don't take aren't scored, and your highest score on a given section is always your score of record for that section.

    The reason you take CSET-MS is to show off your subject-matter knowledge so that the state and the feds will deem you Highly Qualified. CSET-MS math works differently than CBEST math: the skills are broadly similar, but CSET-MS expects one to be able to select and apply a wide range of math skills to a given question.
     

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