CBEST writing test for non native speaker

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by ilazuardi10, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. ilazuardi10

    ilazuardi10 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2012

    Hi,
    My name is Ivan and I'm currently pursuing my MA in Special Education with m/s teaching credential.
    I've passed all of my CSET exams and CBEST math/reading portions, yet I have been struggling to pass my writing section. matter of fact, I've taken the test 6 times, yet, keep getting the same score.
    It is very frustrating, but I realize that i'm not the only one who is having trouble passing the exam. As a non native speaker I have trouble with my grammar, and word choices. But at the same time, i find it really difficult to write a solid, concise, cohesive essay on a short period of time, especially on a given random topic.
    also I've tried reading the Cliff note CBEST guides, and some of the samples seem very well developed which impossible for me to match their quality based on the given circumstances of timed exam and my limited writing skill.
    any input please?
    thank you so much
     
  2.  
  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 25, 2012

    Welcome to A to Z, ilazuardi10, and hugs as regards CBEST.

    It's hard to know what to suggest without knowing more about your writing. What score have you been getting, and what diagnostic indicators do you see on the official score reports? Do you see the same collection each time, or has it varied? The categories are

    - Rhetorical force
    - Organization
    - Support and development
    - Usage
    - Structure and conventions
    - Appropriateness
     
  4. ilazuardi10

    ilazuardi10 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2012

    thank you for the reply.
    i keep getting the same indication for areas of improvement in:
    -usage
    -structure and convention.

    my scores stay in consistent 26 points. there were 2 tests which i earned 29. Each time I felt good after taking the test, i kept hearing ugly news.

    so my question also is, obviously the test examiner will not expect a perfect essay, rather looking on one's ability to write and proven a point in a given topic.
    so what would deduct an essay score the most? spelling? grammar? let say in a good written essay, if there were 1 bad usage of word choice or grammar flaw, will that instantly cause the essay to fail?

    thank you so much
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 25, 2012

    One usage or conventions error won't doom an otherwise good essay, no.

    How many points do you have in reading comprehension and math, together?

    What is your first language? Did you attend university in California?
     
  6. ilazuardi10

    ilazuardi10 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2012

    I'm from indonesia and I earned my BA in CSULA. I earned 44 on reading and 49 on my math. I still need min 37 to pass my writing, correct?
    thanks
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 26, 2012

    Um. "Indonesia" doesn't tell me what your first language is, though it narrows the possibilities down to only about 700 or so; Bahasa is fairly likely, of course.)

    As to you needing 37 points, yes, and there's no point in you retaking either of the other two sections; you probably already figured that out.

    What you'd probably most benefit from is essay practice with feedback. If you are now enrolled at a CSU, your cheapest option might be to go to the campus writing lab - most CSUs have one, and it's run either through the tutoring center or through the English or composition/rhetoric departments - for help in writing CBEST essays; this help should be free to enrolled students. Is that practical for you?
     
  8. ilazuardi10

    ilazuardi10 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 26, 2012

    Sorry for not being too specific, yes i speak bahasa. the language is relatively simple to learn and not as technical as English. There is no past/present tense,nor gender subject or possessive. Bahasa tend to be more "wordy" with their sentences, where english emphasis more concise and short sentences. this is why, i have to carefully construct my sentences and break out from my habit. I'm currently attending APU for my MA. they do have writing lab, but they only focus more on revising research paper. none of the staff ever worked with any CBEST students (or in this case anyone who shares similar situation with me). I'm just trying to hear out from other success stories of passing CBEST writing exam. I know some may find it very2x easy, others may struggle.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 26, 2012

    Thanks for satisfying my linguistic curiosity, and even more for your insights as to how Bahasa differs in grammar and style from English.

    For practice with points of English grammar, you could get work through LearningExpress's 501 Writing and Grammar Questions - it shouldn't cost more than $20, and I believe LearningExpress is now offering additional online help to purchasers. Most Barnes & Noble bookstores carry it routinely. You could also try the exercises on the Using English Web site, http://www.usingenglish.com, or you could Google "English ESL past tense practice", "English subject pronoun practice" and the like.

    What was your undergraduate major? Have you taken science classes (either high school or college) for which you had to write up lab reports in English?
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 26, 2012

    As for APU's writing lab, if you can use it for free, explain that tell the tutor that you mostly need help with usage and sentence structure and conventions, and that what you need to write - and please quote me - is "a five-paragraph-style timed persuasive essay" and "a five-paragraph-style timed personal narrative essay". The format comes in for a great deal of criticism, not least because it does not encourage great writing, but it's highly adaptable for many sorts of prose that teachers need to be able to crank out quickly.
     
  11. Nyuck

    Nyuck Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 26, 2016

    Hello Ivan,
    This is Tang. After reading your poster, I feel I need to talk to your for asking some advice. I get the same situation as yours. I am an international student and my first language is Chinese. After passing math 58 and reading 43, I got my writing in 26, and I am so frustrating. I thought it was not that bad, but.... I am here for asking you, did you pass it finally? How did you practice it? Many thanks in advance!!!!!!
     
  12. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 19, 2016

    Hi Tang.. how is it goes?? were you able to get in touch with IVan?? did you pass your Cbest test?? i am planning to take the test soon.. need some advice..

    thanks
     
  13. veracholakian

    veracholakian New Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2015
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 6, 2016

    Hi
    This is Vera I have difficult time to pass the writing section in cbest.please I need help help
     
  14. nida

    nida New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 16, 2016

    Hi
    I just took CBEST writing and was able to write my first essay consisting of 776 word and with 7 supporting paragraphs and my second essay was 740 words with five paragraphs in a chronological order .
    Is that considered good ?
     
  15. nida

    nida New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 16, 2016

    Hi
    I just took CBEST writing and was able to write my first essay consisting of 776 word and with 7 supporting paragraphs and my second essay was 740 words with five paragraphs in a chronological order .
    Is that considered good ?
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Jun 16, 2016

    The proof will be whether you pass.

    With that said, I'll note that the longest of the sample essays on the CBEST webpage is under 500 words, and it's perfectly possible to write a passing essay in 300 words.
     
  17. nida

    nida New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 16, 2016

    I am confused now ....
    Is there a rule that you cannot write more than 5 paragraphs or exceed 500 words as I had to do that to explain my supporting points .
     
  18. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Jun 16, 2016

    No, there isn't a rule to that effect. CBEST doesn't specify a word count. Since the passing sample essays (scores 3 and 4) range between 220 and 460 words, however, the obvious conclusion is that the CBEST scorers are fine with shorter essays, and many struggling writers get themselves in much less trouble when they keep things brief.
     
  19. Megan2393

    Megan2393 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 22, 2016

    Hi Ivan,
    Did you pass in the end? I have the same problem. I took CBEST 4 times and my highest score was 29. I need 37. Do you have any advice ?
    Thank you
     
  20. Megan2393

    Megan2393 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 22, 2016

    Hi Tang,
    I feel your pain. I am Chinese too and my score is not high enough to pass. I know you can try to take "ept and elm" to qualify basic requirement. This was what I did. You can check on CTC. I am still waiting for my test result of ept and elm. While waiting for my test result, I would like to retake CBEST writing test again. Shall you know any tutor or method to improve writing, would you please share with me? thank you
     
  21. lanie :P

    lanie :P New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2016
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    3

    Aug 26, 2016

    Hi guys! :) This is Lanie. I'm a Filipino, and my native language is Tagalog. Nobody speaks English in my home in the Philippines so kindly forgive me if I'll commit grammatical errors in this comment. Anyway, I just recently emigrated to America and I have only been here for three months. I wanted to get my teaching credentials, and the university required a passing score in the TOEFL, CBEST and CSET exams.

    I took the TOEFL first and met the university's standard. Then, I took the CBEST and passed all of its three sections. My technique - I took the reading and math sections on the first day. Then, I took the writing section on the other day.
    Since I'm not a native speaker, the reading section was confusing for me. I really spent most of my exam time reviewing this section. It's funny, all the choices looked correct to me. Math wasn't as hard as reading. I think that Math is a pretty universal subject. I don't need to be a native speaker to solve math problems as long as they're showing the symbols.

    I decided to take the writing section separately because I know that this is my weakness. Oh my God! Reviewing for this section drove me nuts!! Like most non-native English speakers, my weakness is writing. I believe that English grammar is very complicated.

    My advice for the writing section is to practice writing, and then have an English native speaker evaluate your essay. Once they read it, ask them to tell you the problems and errors. You should know your weaknesses so that you'll know the areas that you have to improve. I was very terrible in verb+preposition. Sometimes I say "count in" instead of "count on", "reply with" instead of "reply to", and so much more! After knowing your weakness, obviously, STUDY. I felt like a nerd in the corner studying all these complicated grammar structures.

    My next advice is as same as the saying "less talk, less mistake". I think that your writing doesn't have to be so long. When I did this writing section, I wrote a shorter essay on the first topic, and a much longer one on the second topic. Guess what, I had a higher score on my first topic (which had the shorter essay). Just make sure that you'll respond directly to the questions. I know, we have all these nice ideas, it's just so hard to express them without committing grammatical errors!

    These are my scores:
    Reading: 52
    Mathematics: 62
    Writing: 39
    Total: 153
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Aug 26, 2016

    lanie :p, I'm impressed with your insight into CBEST taking, your performance on the test itself, and your command of English in this post. (I saw two minor mistakes and one mistake that is somewhat more major; if you want to know what they are, ask.) Congratulations on passing!

    Which CSET are you taking?
     
  23. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 3, 2016

    I passed CBEST Reading and Math. I am struggling to pass the writing section. I attempted it 2 times and got 26 as scores. I have my masters degree in Computer Science from India. It is frustrating to see the low score. I have few questions about how to write the essays.
    1. How many sentences should I write in each paragraph? Should it be 8-12 sentences or can it be less than 8 sentences? Is there any format for every sentence, like the first sentence should be the topic sentence, second should be the background of the thesis and so on?
    2. Can you please guide me how to write a personal essay? Is there any book I can refer for the formats?
    Thanks in advance.
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Sep 4, 2016

    It's certainly acceptable to write fewer than eight sentences in a paragraph: of the sample responses in the Writing Section Practice Test document at http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/PM_CBEST.asp that scored 3 or 4 points, all have at least one paragraph with around four sentences. I'll add that it's enough to score 3 on both essays.

    As for the format, it depends on the essay and the paragraph.

    For an expository or persuasive essay, it's customary to begin each supporting paragraph with a topic sentence that states the supporting point that the paragraph is elaborating. A personal essay can be formatted like a persuasive essay ("The website I refer to the most is A to Z..."), in which case it can offer 3 ± 1 supporting points and each of its paragraphs will be structured like those of a persuasive essay. For a narrative essay - an essay that makes its point by telling a story - paragraph breaks are dictated more by shifts in scene or perspective or speaker ("'Get out of that tree right now!' Father demanded" can be a paragraph on its own); as long as the story flows logically and makes the point that the essay prompt specified, it matters little whether there are two paragraphs or ten.

    What resources did you use to prepare for your previous attempts at CBEST Essay, and which of the six aspects of writing did the diagnostics on your score report pick on? (The aspects: rhetorical force; organization; support and development; usage; structure and conventions; appropriateness.)
     
    futuremathsprof likes this.
  25. lanie :P

    lanie :P New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2016
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    3

    Sep 4, 2016

    Hi Indudak. Based on my opinion, there’s really no specific number of paragraphs or sentences in each essay. I passed the CBEST without counting my sentences and paragraphs. Usually, non-native English speakers like us are having trouble with grammar. So, I advise you to study English grammar. But in any writing, correct grammar isn’t the only factor that contributes to a well-constructed piece. I believe that one of the most important things in writing is a good ROAD MAP. Yep! All you have to do is to build a “road map” so you won’t get lost. I’ll try to give a simple example using a road map and hope you’ll see what I mean.

    Example: Why do you like Philippines?

    Introduction. Tell the reader exactly what you’re going to write about by explaining each of your ideas (these will end up being your paragraphs). Keep it simple – only pick 2 or 3 ideas.

    My introduction paragraph would look like this: There are many things to like about the Philippines, and many tourists visit to enjoy the country. My favorite things about this country are the food, the people, and the countryside once you leave Manila.

    (I call this a roadmap because I just told you everything I’m going to write about.)

    Body. Now expand on the ideas you provided in your roadmap. My first paragraph will be about food, and I will explain that Filipino food is unique, uses lots of fresh ingredients and is inexpensive.

    My second paragraph will be about the people. I will describe them as kind, friendly, family oriented, humble, etc …

    My third paragraph will be about the countryside once you leave Manila. I will explain that the Philippines is made of thousands of islands, giving endless possibilities to explore whether you love mountains, forests, or beaches.

    Conclusion. My conclusion will be simple, for example: The food, people and nature of the Philippines are wonderful. I hope you visit and have a wonderful time!

    This structure works for any essay. If they ask who you admire, pick a person, give a couple reasons, and make each reason your paragraphs. If the ask you to argue a position, pick one side and give a couple reasons for your opinion. Make each reason a paragraph.

    Hope this helps … Good Luck!
     
    futuremathsprof, nila and indudak like this.
  26. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 4, 2016

    Thank you very much for your reply, @TeacherGroupie. I got less score because of usage, and structure and conventions. I wrote 5 paragraphs starting with an introduction, followed by 3 body paragraphs each with supporting examples, and a conclusion. For narrative essay also, I wrote 5 paragraphs starting with an introduction, followed by 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion.
    I referred McGraw-Hill CBEST book. Can you please suggest some books for reference?
     
  27. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 4, 2016

    Thank you for the detailed explanation, @lanie :P. I will practice writing using the tips you gave.

     
  28. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Sep 5, 2016

    If the arrangement of your essays and their paragraphs had been at fault, your score report would have shown "organization" or possibly "support and development". It didn't.

    "Usage" refers to vocabulary - sufficiently varied, sufficiently precise, sufficiently close to college level - and the ability to write idiomatically in English. "Structure and conventions" refers to correct sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and the like. "I got less score" in your reply to me would get you flagged for both: "less score" is unidiomatic (use either "a lower score" or "fewer points"), and better choices than "got" would be "earned" or "received".

    Try Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day and its companion workbook 501 Writing Skills Questions, both published by LearningExpress; you should be able to find both in any Barnes & Noble bookstore, which means you can examine them before committing your hard-earned money to them. If neither suits you, look at other offerings on the same shelf. Painless Grammar, published by Barrons, might also work for you. Alternatively, spend some time with Using English, www.usingenglish.com.
     
    futuremathsprof and indudak like this.
  29. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 6, 2016

    I will focus on improving my vocabulary. Thank you for your help. I will buy the books suggested by you. Should I post my essay as a new thread?
     
  30. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Sep 6, 2016

    A new thread, yes.
     
  31. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 3, 2016

  32. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Nov 3, 2016

    Congratulations!
     
  33. indudak

    indudak Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 17, 2016

  34. e2sucess

    e2sucess New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Dec 9, 2016

    Hi Indudak
    Iam a non native english speaker as well. Would like to know the details on how you passed the cbest writing test. Iam getting dinged for the same thing usage and structure and conventions.
    How much did you practice? Thank you!. Iam taking this test tomorrow. Iam hoping that I'am able to pass it. It is so frustrating.
     
  35. nila

    nila Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2017
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jul 25, 2017

    Hi! Indudak
    Congratulations on your success in CBEST. I Passed CBEST math-52,reading-39 and writing I failed yesterday I got 33 marks. This was my first attempt. I am very sad and sort of feeling low in my confidence now. I am also non native speaker, from India, have my masters in English literature. Is there any advise you would like to give me on how to pass the writing section. I registered again for September 23rd CBEST. This will be my last try since I am feeling quite low. It gives me hope when I saw you passed in your second try.
     
  36. nila

    nila Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2017
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jul 25, 2017

    Hi!
    Did you pass the writing section. I failed my yesterday feeling very sad. If you passed is there any advise on how to pass?
     
  37. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,106

    Jul 26, 2017

    I am so sorry that I missed this post last December.

    "Usage" has to do with choices in vocabulary:
    - whether your language is reasonably idiomatic (for instance, the plural of "food" is "food" - unless one is discussing distinct types of food);
    - whether you use words that fit precisely what it is that you mean to say ("get" can mean 'acquire' ("I got a pet"), 'find, take, or buy' ("I got a cup from the shelf", "I got some coffee at the cafe"), 'move' ("I got down"), 'become' ("I got sick"), 'receive' ("I got a compliment"), 'undergo' ("I got my bike stolen", and please do not ever use this phrase in formal writing), and much more, and the wise test taker will avoid "get" in favor of verbs that are more precise); and
    - whether you can vary your vocabulary (if one uses "I like" seven times in an essay, change two or three to synonyms such as "I appreciate", "I enjoy", "I prefer").

    "Structure and conventions" has to do with English grammar (correct word order) and mechanics (spelling, capitalization, punctuation).
     
  38. Manon

    Manon Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2017
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    4

    Jul 28, 2017


    nila, I used:
    • 501 Grammar & Writing Questions
    • Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day
    • Write Better Essays in Just 20 Minutes a Day
     
  39. Shie

    Shie Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2

    Oct 12, 2017

    Hello. I stumbled upon this website three weeks before I took the CBEST writing portion. Similar to most comments here, I had trouble passing the CBEST Writing exam. The reason why I find it hard to passed before was because I have a hard time avoiding the word "that" in most of my sentences. Furthermore, I often digress on my essay. However, the pointers mentioned on the above discussion really helped me. I recently passed the Writing Section following most of the pointers you shared in this discussion and I also used the books Nila suggested which are the following:
    • 501 Grammar & Writing Questions
    • Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day
    • Write Better Essays in Just 20 Minutes a Day
    These books are available in any local library or you can also buy them online for a cheap price. To those who are still having trouble with the CBEST writing section, just practice the drills in the books and you will improve. Never give up!
     
  40. ram singh

    ram singh New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 2, 2017

    I have passed Math and Reading section easily but Writing portion is the only one giving me hard time, i have received only 29 max marks on this test .. for last 4 attempts ... HOW TO PASS ...?
     
  41. nila

    nila Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2017
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1

    Nov 2, 2017

    Hello!
    I am in the same situation, First time I got 33 but last time I got 29. I am finding a tutor for guidance and try one last time. It's sort of hard for non-native speakers.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. MrTempest,
  2. blazer,
  3. Alexander,
  4. Backroads,
  5. catnfiddle,
  6. LovesToTeach123
Total: 444 (members: 6, guests: 417, robots: 21)
test