Successfully passing the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (often referred to as CSET) is an important step on the road to becoming a teacher within the public elementary, middle, and high school system in the state.
For many prospective teachers, eager to enter the profession after years of investing in their education, understanding how to pass the CSET the first time is top of mind.
As with all exams, carefully setting the groundwork around how to study for the CSET is the key to delivering a successful outcome. With this in mind, use the following eight tips to help guide your CSET prep.
How to Pass the CSET
- Set or Review Your Objectives: Deciding which CSET to take (there are currently 40 to choose from) will determine where your career in education takes you. While you may have always considered teaching as an option while studying in college (you may even have an education degree) it is only when taking the CSET that you actually commit to the area of education you wish to work in. This will, of course, depend on your particular professional interests and qualifications. The CSET Multiple Subjects Exam is taken by candidates hoping to attain multiple subject (elementary education) and education specialist (special education) teaching credentials. CSET Single Subject Exams, such as English or mathematics, are used to assess mastery of specific material for the single-subject (secondary) teaching credential. Be clear on what you want to achieve so you can determine which tests you need to take.
- Familiarize Yourself with the Test: A comprehensive range of study guides, including test content, CSET practice test questions, score scales for written assignments, computer-based testing tutorials, annotated bibliographies, and test results explanations are available on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website. Take your time to read through all of the content and familiarize yourself with the structure of the test, taking note of any areas you feel need special attention for your CSET prep. This is particularly important when considering your approach for CSET multiple subject test prep, which may or may not have any correlation to your original area of study for your bachelor’s degree.
- Speak with Your Peers: Take the opportunity to speak with your peers (college friends, recently qualified teachers, etc.) about their experiences when studying for and taking the exam. They may be able to provide valuable tips about study aids and strategies that helped them pass the examination. They may also be happy to pass on (or sell cheaply) their study materials, helping you keep the cost of studying down. If you don’t have access to a network of peers in the education industry, there are a lot of online resources and websites like YouTube that offer a wide range of content about preparing for the exam. When using online resources, it is important to compare multiple sources to make sure that the information you are getting is factually accurate.
- Build a Study Plan: Begin by determining a reasonable timeline. These are not tests you can cram for at the last minute. Starting your preparation 1-3 months ahead of the actual test date is a good idea. Your plan should focus on all the key areas of study. Review everything you need to tackle based on the research you conducted about the test in general, the specific tests you are taking, and any information you may have gotten from your peer network. This is also the perfect time to ensure you have access to all the study materials (books, notes, web links, etc.) you need during your CSET prep. Once you start studying, you don’t want to waste any time trying to hunt around for necessary resources.
- Set Aside Time for Study: Finding the time to study can be a challenge, particularly when you have other things going on in your life (work, family, etc.) but it is vitally important that you dedicate quality time to your CSET prep. Try to create a study schedule that you can stick to and find a space where you can focus on how to study for the CSET without interruption (or, at least, with minimal interruption) and with good WiFi access. Remember, you’ll retain more information if you work at a comfortable pace, instead of trying to cram all of your work into a shorter and more intense period of study. At the end of the process, you want to feel confident in your ability to pass the CSET. On the other hand, stressing out about lack of preparation won’t be conducive to exam success.
- Practice: Take as many practice exams as you can to familiarize yourself with the content and the demands of the test. The more you know ahead of time, the more comfortable you will feel on the actual test day.
- Set Aside Time for Yourself: Sometimes studying doesn’t quite go to plan and you hit a brick wall. When this happens, take a break. Some students find that a little exercise (a short walk or a quick bike ride) can alleviate exam stress and clear a space in your mind to re-engage with your studies in a much more productive manner. Finding the perfect work/life/study balance can be difficult, so be kind to yourself. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your friends and family understand that this test preparation is very important to you and a high priority. A little extra support and logistical help can make all the difference.
- Enroll in a Structured Course: Many prospective teachers find it beneficial to enroll in a structured course designed to help them study for the CSET. National University offers convenient CSET preparation courses delivering proven strategies for passing both the Single Subject CSET in English, Social Sciences, and Mathematics and the Multiple Subject CSET. These classes are taught by credentialed, subject-matter experts who are on hand to answer all your questions.
There is no secret strategy to learning how to pass the CSET. Success is the result of preparation, hard work and practice. How will you prepare?