CBEST Practice Test

CBEST Writing Samples

Below is a sample response to each of our CBEST Practice Essays . Review these responses for an example of two high-scoring essays. These CBEST sample essays follow the template that’s in our CBEST Writing Guide . Below each example is a short commentary which explains why it is an effective essay and why it would receive a high score.


According to the CBEST Writing Score Scale, essays are given a score ranging from 0–4. This essay would receive a score of a 4. It is a well-written example of a response to a Type 1 Essay Question.

From the beginning, the essay addresses the question with a story about an obstacle the writer has had to overcome, by writing, “We all face obstacles in our lives, but there are no obstacles that are more frustrating than the ones we construct ourselves. The biggest obstacle I have had to overcome in my life is my fear of failure.” The writer chooses to discuss an obstacle that he has constructed for himself, which is a major focus of the entire response. He clearly states his main idea and maintains it throughout the rest of the response.

The following paragraphs explore the moment that the writer learned how to overcome his fear of failure. He begins by explaining (1) how this obstacle has affected him. He then describes (2) the precipitating event that helps him make a change. He finally finishes the story by explaining (3) how things have changed since he has learned to overcome the obstacle. The story is engaging, makes sense, and remains focused on addressing the essay question. The conclusion brings the story back together with the prompt and even discusses how this event will help the writer in the future.

Additionally, the writer’s style is clear, focused, and entertaining. Instead of just dryly responding to the question asked, the writer weaves an entertaining story that proves his point. He spends just the right amount of time telling the story so that it has an impact on the readers without boring them, and effectively concludes in a way that ties the response up nicely and neatly.

According to the CBEST Writing Score Scale, essays are given a score ranging from 0–4. This essay would receive a score of a 4. It is a well-written example of a response to a Type 2 Essay Question.

The introduction to the essay presents a clear thesis, as the writer declares, “I believe that people are more influenced by their environment than by their instinctive human nature.” The writer manages to focus on proving that thesis throughout the rest of the response, using several different examples to support her position.

The examples provided in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th paragraphs remain on topic, and effectively support the writer’s overall thesis. The writer discusses (1) the impact families have on a student’s success, (2) how The Lord of the Flies proves her point by telling the story of children shaped by their environment, and (3) how people are shaped by the cultural beliefs of the people around them. The logic of these examples make sense, and even though some of the analysis the writer makes is arguable, it is still convincing and effective. The conclusion brings all of the writer’s examples together to drive home the writer’s thesis statement.

Additionally, the writer’s response is focused, clear, and well-supported. The writer’s logic is easy-to-follow and convincing, and she does a great job proving her point. There are no real errors in grammar or mechanics either, which helps elevate this response to a high score.

You should now be fully prepared for the CBEST Writing Section. To review how to create high-scoring essays like the samples above, revisit our CBEST Writing Guide . For CBEST Reading and Math practice please visit CBEST Practice Test .

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cbest essay writing

How to Write the CBEST Writing Section Essays

cbest essay writing

Whatever the case may be, if you need to pass the CBEST writing section, you’ve come to the right place.

You are no doubt familiar with the rubric and the scoring criteria, so I won’t waste your time with any of that information. Instead, you and I will go straight to the meat of the matter. 

I will give you step-by-step instructions on how to write each of the essays. The first essay is personal, and the second is expository, which means it is argumentative.

So, let’s dive right in and learn how to write each of these essays on a tight timeline of the CBEST test.

How to Write the CBEST Personal Essay

First, let’s quickly discuss the main difference between the personal and the expository essays on this test.

The expository (argumentative) essay is the same 5-paragraph essay that they kind of taught you how to write in school. It is also a basic college essay in which you state an argument and support it. 

So, in this part of the tutorial, we’ll be writing a 5-paragraph personal story with a lesson that you learned from it. I will use my personal example as an illustration. 

Our Sample CBEST Personal Essay Question

“Most people have experienced a significant challenge that changed their life in some way. This challenge is usually a loss of some kind, such as a loss of health, of a job or financial asset, or of an important relationship. In an essay to be read by an audience of educated adults, discuss one such challenge and how it changed you as a person.”

Note that any CBEST personal essay question will involve some kind of a challenge, something from your past you wish you could change, or some kind of a loss. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Every Hollywood movie is structured this way. You have a character who has a problem, and she overcomes that problem, but she has to change in order to do that.

In your personal essay, you are essentially doing the same. Your 5-paragraph structure becomes your 5-act movie. Let’s break it down into paragraphs.

CBEST Personal Essay Structure

Paragraph 1

In the first paragraph, you want to immediately answer the posed question. This will also mean that you are stating a problem that you had in the past. Describe the outer world problem.

Paragraph 2

Here, you reveal your inner world problem. This is something psychological about the situation. Think – there is a flat tire and there is a “story of the flat tire.” You also describe the situation in more detail, providing more context. 

Paragraph 3

Describe what you did to overcome the situation. This is about what you did in the outer world and what challenges or problems you encountered. 

Paragraph 4

You realize that something needs to change for you to get the result. Something in your mindset had to shift. 

Paragraph 5

Describe how you finally achieved the result, what lesson or lessons you learned, and how you changed as a person. 

Please note that this structure is an approximation. You are simply telling a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. 

Also, keep in mind that if your story is somewhat simple, you can write only four paragraphs. That is okay, too. 

And now, let’s write an essay, using this template. Notice how this sounds familiar in terms of a Hollywood movie or any good story you’ve ever heard or read. 

CBEST Personal Essay Example

“One fine April evening many years ago, during an exercise routine, I made a wrong move and twisted my body in an unusual way. I heard a loud pop in my left knee and fell on the floor, writhing in pain. As it later turned out, I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament, a major stabilizing ligament in the knee. I now walked with a limp and had intense pain whenever I tried to extend my leg or when stepping onto a sidewalk. I was 30 years old, and I had a trauma that changed the way I walked. 

That injury did not just affect my physical body. I also became very stressed out about the situation. Doctors told me I needed an operation. But when I looked up the procedure on the internet, I realized that it involved cutting off parts of my leg, drilling holes in my bones, and fixing things with screws. I really did not want that done to me. But it seemed I had no other options. I was very scared, despondent, and was even becoming depressed. 

After months of looking for solutions, I came across a clinic in Europe where they treated joint diseases. It was located in a nice spa town, so I figured I needed a break from it all and had a chance to heal my leg at the same time if I went. So, I bought airplane tickets and packed my bags. I spent a couple of weeks in that town, all the while being treated at the clinic. But I saw no results. My hopes were being crushed. However, I met an interesting person there who suggested that I should look for an active way to achieve healing rather than trying to find someone to “do it for me.”

Key Points about this Essay

Key Takeaways and Tips

Your personal stories are fascinating.

If you really think about any of your personal stories, you’ll find that there is always more under the surface. 

Something happened, but why did it happen? What was a possible hidden cause?

As an exercise, just sit back and think of one of your stories of adversity and triumph. And by following the 5-paragraph structure, just retell that story to yourself. 

You’ll find that the structure I gave you helps bring out things that perhaps you never noticed before. Your stories are dramatic and interesting. 

Every good story involves an inner shift.

Rocky can only gain the respect of others if he first gains self-respect. 

In my story, I had to shift from the idea of being healed by someone to the idea of taking my healing into my own hands. 

The structure is only a guideline.

You can find elements from the 5-paragraph structure in any of your personal stories. So, just use those elements you can identify. 

But try to find as many of them as you can:

Any CBEST personal essay question is about adversity and triumph.

If you’re asked to describe a time you disappointed a loved one, this is a dramatic story. It’s about the disappointment, how it resolved, and what you learned in the end.

If you’re writing about a personal loss or challenge, this is a drama. You started at a low point, fought through obstacles, and triumphed. You definitely learned something.

If you have to write about something in the past that you could change, that’s a dramatic story. Why do you wish you could change it? Because it was some kind of a loss. 

In other words, the 5-paragraph structure that I gave you will work for any essay prompt you get on the CBEST test.

It’s time to move on to the CBEST argumentative essay. 

How to Write the CBEST Expository Essay in 5 Steps

Writing a CBEST expository essay is a 5-step process:

Our Sample CBEST Expository Essay Question 

“Amit Kalantri once said that ‘great losses are great lessons.’ In an essay intended for educated adults, state whether you agree or disagree with Kalantri’s observation. Support your argument with logical reasoning and specific examples.”

I deliberately chose a prompt that is very similar to our personal essay question. You’ll see that the ways we write the personal and the expository essays are very different.

Let’s shoot for 400 words in this essay. This makes for an easy way to judge how much to write in each paragraph, as I’ll show you in a minute.

Step 1. Take a stand

This is a very simple and easy step in which we simply decide whether we agree or disagree with the statement and write it as a complete sentence.

You’ll notice that most choices whether to agree or disagree are really easy to make. They kind of “beg” for either a positive or a negative answer. 

“I agree with Kalantri’s statement that great losses are great lessons.”

And we’re done with step 1. 

Step 2. Write the thesis statement

The thesis statement must include not only your main point but also your supporting points. For a 5-paragraph essay, you always want to have three supporting points or ideas.

Each of these supporting ideas will correspond to a body paragraph of your essay. To find the supporting points, you must ask yourself why you agree (or disagree) with the statement in the prompt.

When coming up with these three reasons, make sure that they are different from one another. 

Now that we have our reasons, let’s write out a complete thesis statement. We can simply copy and paste our main and supporting points together and make sure they flow:

Our Complete Thesis Statement

We now have a complete thesis statement that is also our outline. Note in the diagram below how we will distribute the 400 words across paragraphs. 

cbest essay writing

And we’re ready for the next step. 

Just so you know, I wrote a detailed tutorial on how to write a thesis statement , in case you want to master this skill. 

Step 3. Write the Support (Body of the Essay)

Each paragraph must proceed from general to specific. The first sentence in a body paragraph is called a lead sentence (or a topic sentence). It is the most general sentence in the paragraph.

The next most general part of a paragraph is some kind of an explanation why we believe this statement is true.

And finally, the most specific part of a body paragraph is an example.

Here’s what an overall structure of a body paragraph looks like:

cbest essay writing

Losses make people think, and great losses make them think a lot. Comfort tends to relax people, and when people are relaxed, they simply do not need to think. But as soon as a loss has occurred, the person’s significance, security, or even livelihood may be threatened. To quote Tony Robbins, “When people succeed, they tend to party. When they fail, they tend to ponder.” I remember when I lost 80% of my income in the crash of 2008. That loss made me think and look for ways to compensate and establish better financial security in the future. 

Losses reveal people to themselves, and personal revelations are the greatest lessons. It is a well known phenomenon in psychology that a crisis is a very powerful way to make a person see something in her life that was hidden theretofore. This is illustrated very well in the Wizard of Oz. Each of the characters who accompanied Dorothy to Emerald City thought he lacked a quality. But by dealing with a crisis, they eventually realized that they actually had the courage, the brain, and the heart. I know that this happens in real life because it was not until I faced a financial crisis that I found out that I had the strength and courage to start again in the face of difficulties. 

And we’re done with the body. Please note:

It’s time for the next step. 

Step 4. Write the conclusion

Writing the conclusion for the CBEST expository essay is really easy. All you need to do is simply restate what you already said – in different words. That’s all.

Use the same structure as the thesis statement. But use synonyms and paraphrase so that your conclusion doesn’t sound like a copy of the thesis statement.

Just use your thesis statement as reference. Let’s do it.

This conclusion is 58 words long, which is perfect for our overall word count. And it does what it should do – it restates the main and the supporting points using different words and phrases. 

By the way, I wrote a detailed tutorial on how to write conclusions , if you want to dig a bit deeper into this skill. 

Step 5. Write an introductory sentence

This introductory sentence will be the very first sentence of your essay. To write it, you need to take a step away, zoom out from your main point and provide a perspective. 

In other words, in this sentence you explain why what you’re about to argue is important. 

As you read the paragraph, can you hear how the first sentence introduces your main point really nicely? 

The first sentence is just a way to “get into the subject.” How do people usually react to great loss? They freak out. But they shouldn’t, and here’s why. 

And guess what – we’re done writing our CBEST argumentative essay! It has 416 words of high quality persuasion. 

I hope this was helpful!

Now practice a little and go ace that test.

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CBEST Writing Examples: Test Questions, Tips, and Dates 2023

The CBEST Writing exam is a critical step in achieving your goal of becoming a teacher in California. It assesses your writing abilities and is mandatory for obtaining a teaching certificate. To give yourself the best chance of passing, it's important to start preparing now. Don't miss this opportunity to take your career to the next level, read on to learn more about the test and how to prepare for it effectively.

The page will include the following:

How Is Your Writing Evaluated?

Let’s dive in.


If you are looking for a different test, or are not sure which test is relevant for your position, please  contact us , and we will do our best to ensure you get the most accurate preparation for your upcoming assessment.

What Is CBEST Writing Exam?

The CBEST writing exam consists of two sections that measure your writing ability. The first topic asks you to analyze a situation or statement. The second section asks you to describe an experience you have had.

Test Instructions

Make sure you address all of the points raised in the initial paragraph and only write about the topics presented. Use specific examples to support generalizations. Take the time to read the content of the paragraph before you start writing, and build a mental plan in your mind.

Write an original response, without copying or paraphrasing anyone else's or some other work.

The responses you provide will not require any specialized knowledge.

How Long is the CBEST Writing Test?

The length of the CBEST writing section is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

CBEST Writing Examples and Topics

To practice read the following CBEST essay writing examples and topics and choose some for practice, the test will include a time limit so give yourself about 45 minutes to write an appropriate essay.

Writing example 1: Are you in agreement or disagreement with the following statement? Dogs are man's best friends. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Writing example 2: It has been said, "The key to success is to stop talking and start doing." Compare and contrast success gained from correct planning and consulting with other people with success gained from doing the work. In your opinion, which strategy is more important? Why?

Writing example 3: "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." Do you agree or disagree with the quotation above? Use specific reasons and examples to explain your position.

Writing example 4: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I learn". Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Writing example 5: Learning about the past has no value for those of us living in the present. Do you agree or disagree? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Writing example 6: Which habit is most important to be successful in today's world? Choose one skill and use specific reasons and examples to support your choice.

Writing example 7: What are the important characteristics of a good father or mother? Over time, have these qualities changed in your culture or remained the same? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Writing example 8: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "In this life, we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love." Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Writing example 9: There are many people who prefer to work for themselves or own their own businesses. Others prefer to be employed by someone else. Is it more appealing to you to be self-employed or work for someone else? Break down your decision into specific points.

In order to determine the score for the CBEST Writing Score Scale, the following characteristics of written performance are evaluated.

Rhetorical Force: How clearly the central idea or point of view is expressed; the coherence of the writer's argument.

Organization: The author's logical flow of ideas and the clarity of his or her writing.

Support and Development: The quality, depth, and specificity of supporting information.

Usage: How carefully and precisely the words are chosen in the writing.

Structure and Conventions: A writer's ability to avoid errors in syntax, paragraph structure, sentence structure, and mechanics (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization).

Appropriateness: The writer's approach to the topic and the way language and style fit the audience and purpose.

CBEST Writing Tips

The CBEST Test has a scoring system that ranks each essay from 1-4. A "4" is a well-written essay that effectively communicates a whole message to the intended audience.

To communicate your message effectively keep in mind the following tips:

CBEST Writing Test Dates

You can set a date for your CBEST writing test through the following Pearson Vue link. Fill in the location closest to your home and a suitable date, and it will show you the closest test centers.

If you're interested in online proctoring here are the official dates for 2023

cbest test dates

How to Practice for the Writing Section of the CBEST?

Prior to the exam, write at least three or four full practice essays. Choose writing prompts formats that are similar to the one you might receive on the CBEST, rather than just writing samples about anything you want.

There will be very specific criteria that examiners will be looking for, so even if you're an excellent writer, you should make sure you're able to write in the way they expect.

Go over the 'how is your writing evaluated' section and make sure you cover all the key parameters.

Is the CBEST writing test hard?

The difficulty of the CBEST writing test can vary for different individuals. Some may find it challenging due to poor writing skills or familiarity with the test format, while others may have an easier time with proper preparation and practice. Ultimately, it is subjective and can depend on the individual's abilities and level of preparation.

What is the average CBEST writing score?

The writing section scores range between 4 and 16, and they are scaled to provide a more accurate representation of the student's performance, with an average range of 20 to 80.

Related Teacher Prep Pages


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  3. CBEST Writing Samples

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  5. How to Write the CBEST Writing Section Essays

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  6. CBEST Writing Examples: Test Questions, Tips, and Dates 2023

    The CBEST Test has a scoring system that ranks each essay from 1-4. A "4" is a well-written essay that effectively communicates a whole message to the intended

  7. CBEST Writing Tips

    Taking this practice test is one way to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you could be asked on the CBEST Writing subtest. Comparing your essays



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  10. Preparing for the CBEST Writing Section

    Assisted Online Resources & Links ❖ Please find a few online resources below to prepare for your CBEST: ○ CBEST Essays: Sample Essays & Essay Guide for