Preparing for the CSET Multiple Subject Test

Preparing for the CSET Multiple Subject Test

Preparing for the CSET Multiple Subject Test

Passing the CSET Multiple Subject test is on the mind of many future teaching professionals hoping to acquire a multiple subject teaching credential in California — and it can seem like a daunting task.

Covering a range of subjects including math, history, and social science, the purpose of the CSET Multiple Subject exams is to assess if an educator has the knowledge and competency to teach elementary school or special ed children. There is no secret to passing the CSET: you need adequate preparation and good study habits to succeed on these tests. But with time and commitment, preparing for the CSET Multiple Subject exam is not as daunting as it may seem. Need some guidance on how to get started preparing? We’ll cover some important things you need to do to get ready to pass this exam and join the ranks of our amazing California teachers.

What is the CSET Multiple Subject Test?

The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) were developed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in 2003 to verify the basic skills proficiency of prospective teachers in the subjects that they may teach in their career. Instead of focusing on a single subject, the CSET Multiple Subject Test covers the variety of subjects that educators are expected to teach in an elementary level or special education classroom. Candidates for teacher credentialing in the state of California must verify their basic skill proficiency before any credential, certificate or permit will be issued, so it is very important to prepare for these exams thoroughly.

This exam is comprised of three subtests that cover a number of core topics. Each subtest has to be taken and passed separately:

  • Subtest I : Reading, Language & Literature; History & Social Science
  • Subtest II : Mathematics; Science
  • Subtest III : Visual & Performing Arts; Physical Education; Human Development

You can choose to take all three subtests in a single sitting, or split them into three separate test sessions on different days. When determining which test schedule suits your needs, keep in mind that the time limit for each subtest varies depending on how you choose to take them. If taken separately, examinees are given three hours for each of the first two subtests, and two hours and 15 minutes for the third one. If you choose to take all the tests in one session, you’ll have a five-hour testing window to work with. Any time taken for breaks, by the way, is considered as “testing” time.

If you feel like you need extra time to complete these exams, it may be in your best interest to take each one separately. Some teachers also choose to take the tests separately to allow more time for preparation in between each one. The best choice is the one that works best for your schedule and study time. Remember, though, that you have to pass all three tests to get your credentials.  You do save a little money if you take all the tests in one session: each of the three subtests separately is $99, while combining them into one session will cost $247. You’ll need a passing score of 220 on each subtest and test results are available within five weeks of your test date.

What to Expect with the CSET Multiple Subject Exam

Over 90% of each subtest consists of multiple-choice questions for which there will only be one correct answer. The remaining questions are constructed-response questions where the answer is written out by the examinee and scored by at least two qualified California educators using a standardized procedure developed for these exams.

Constructed responses are scored on the extent to which a response fulfills the three main principles: purpose, subject matter knowledge, and support. For these responses, you are expected to focus on explaining your answers thoroughly, with evidence that supports your knowledge and demonstrates your full understanding of the subject.

It may seem obvious to say that you must thoroughly review the subjects that will be included in the exam, but it really is key to achieving a passing score. For instance,

  • For Subtest I, it is crucial that you review and have knowledge of California history, as well as essential topics in American and World history.
  • For Subtest II, while you will be provided with a standard, four-function on-screen calculator, you will need to know what formulas to use in what instances.
  • For Subtest III, you must be able to apply knowledge of cognitive, social and physical development of children.

The examinations are criterion-referenced, meaning they are designed to measure knowledge and skills in relation to an established standard. Studying for the CSET Multiple Subjects is more than memorizing facts. While knowing the information is critical, being able to explain and educate in concepts such as phonemic awareness or the food chain is even more important, especially when it comes to the constructed response questions.

National University offers preparation courses for many CSET single subjects, such as CSET Math and CSET English, as a part of the Division of Extended Learning program. To help you prepare for your CSET Multiple Subject Test, we also provide a prep course bundle that allows students to review a variety of proven strategies while going over all the subtest content included on the exams with a credentialed expert in that field.

Checklist For Preparing for the CSET Multiple Subject Test

But how hard is the CSET Multiple Subject Test, really? Professionals who have passed the test differ in how they describe its difficulty. Studying adequately and effectively seems to be the greatest differentiator when it comes to how hard a student found the test. It is often recommended that you spend between one to six months studying for the exams.

Creating a study plan can make reviewing for the CSET Multiple Subject test a lot easier. It helps you maintain a focus and a discipline when it comes to thoroughly reviewing all the subject areas.  It can also be helpful to talk to others who have taken the tests and ask for ant advice on helpful strategies they used to prepare.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Schedule your exam (or exams, if you’re planning on taking each subtest separately) early and pay attention to deadlines with your degree program.
  • Make a study plan. Outline what you should be reviewing, key concepts, and plan on studying for at least one to three months.
  • Decide when you will be studying and write out a week-by-week or day-by-day schedule to focus your studying; avoid being too restrictive (i.e. leave some room for adjustment if you find that you still are struggling with a certain topic).
  • Choose where you will begin studying: maybe at home, or your local library. Having a set area for studying will aid you in creating a habit over the next few weeks or months to incorporate studying into your daily schedule. Avoid areas where you could be distracted easily and do not try to multitask while you’re studying. Multitasking only decreases your focus and you’ll have to study even longer.
  • Familiarize yourself with the structure of each exam, such as the language used in questions and how many questions to expect so that you are more comfortable on the actual test day.
  • Take a practice exam and identify the areas that need improvement or certain questions that you had trouble with and write them down. Taking practice tests actually protects your brain from the negative effects of stress.
  • Realistically determine the subjects that you know well and what you need to focus on as you study over the coming weeks.
  • Register for a preparation course if you feel like you need the extra help!
  • Review study guides and materials available through CTC’s website.
  • After spending several weeks studying, retake the provided practice exams and see how you have progressed and what you may need to focus on for the remainder of the time you have before your exams are scheduled.
  • Take care of yourself! We all have very busy lives, but it is important to make sure that you are maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. REM cycle sleep is critical while studying for exams. This is the time during your sleep cycle that your brain will be storing the information that you’ve studied that day; without it, you will have a more difficult time recalling that information during the exam. Eating the right foods and drinking enough water to keep your brain and your body fueled is also important.
  • Remember to take breaks. Consider giving your brain a rest the night before. Sleep is a lot more important at that point than trying to cram any more information into your head. In fact, cramming for these tests is not a good strategy.
  • Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled start time and bring government-issued identification (such as a passport or driver’s license).

To learn more about preparing for the CSET, please view our teacher education credential programs page.

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