CPACE- Written Exam

California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, or CTC, administers the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination, or CPACE, to assess people who would like to work in school administration. 
The CPACE qualifies candidates for such careers to ensure they fulfill the requirements for a California Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. 

What Is the CPACE?

The CPACE is given in lieu of a candidate’s completing a postgraduate school administration program. The CPACE consists of two parts, one written section focused on content and one on performance. The written or content subtest includes 70 multiple-choice questions that test a candidate’s knowledge about school leadership, how to apply that knowledge, how to analyze problems, and how to perform tasks related to educational administration. The content section also features three “focused constructed response assignments,” which are written assignments in which the candidate must take a school problem or task and come up with strategies to deal with it. The performance section of the CPACE includes two “performance modules,” in which the candidate reviews exhibits of a teacher’s instruction or a school’s leadership. The candidate then writes an analysis of the teacher's effectiveness or the leadership. The candidate must earn a passing score on both the content and performance sections of the CPACE. A candidate may register for both sections together or for one or the other separately.

What Topics Are Covered in the CPACE?

The CPACE focuses on six topic areas. All of the following topic areas will be tested in both the written or content section of the test and will also factor into the performance section of the test as well.

Visionary leadership

The visionary leadership topic tests the following four areas of competency in about 12 multiple-choice questions.

  • Developing and articulating a vision of teaching and learning for a school
  • Developing a shared commitment to that vision among all members of the school community 
  • Leading by example to implement that vision 
  • Sharing leadership with others in the school community 

Instructional leadership 

The instructional leadership topic tests the following four areas of competency in about 14 multiple-choice questions.

  • Promoting the implementation of K–12 standards, pedagogical skills, effective instructional practices, and student assessments for instruction 
  • Evaluating, analyzing, and providing feedback on the effectiveness of classroom instruction 
  • Demonstrating understanding of the school and community context
  • Communicating about schoolwide outcomes and goals

School improvement leadership 

The school improvement leadership topic tests the following four areas of competency in about 12 multiple-choice questions.

  • Working with others to identify student and school needs and developing a growth plan 
  • Implementing change strategies based on current, relevant theories and best practices 
  • Identifying and using available resources to implement the plan 
  • Instituting a collaborative, ongoing process of monitoring and revising the plan based on student outcomes 

Professional learning and growth leadership 

The professional learning and growth leadership topic tests the following three areas of competency in about 11 multiple-choice questions.

  • Modeling lifelong learning and job-related professional growth 
  • Helping teachers improve their individual professional practice 
  • Identifying and facilitating a variety of professional and personal growth opportunities for faculty, staff, parents, and others

Organizational and systems leadership 

The organizational and systems leadership topic tests the following three areas of competency in about 11 multiple-choice questions.

  • Understanding and managing the complex interaction of all of the school's systems 
  • Developing, implementing, and monitoring the school's budget 
  • Implementing California school laws and other relevant regulations 

Community leadership 

The community leadership topic tests the following two areas of competency in about 10 multiple-choice questions.

  • Community leadership 
  • Representing and promoting the school's accomplishments and needs 
  • Involving the community in helping achieve the school's vision and goals 

How Is the CPACE Scored?

A passing score is 220 on each portion of the CPACE. 

You must achieve the passing score at a single administration of the exam; you cannot combine results from different sessions. Test results should be received within five weeks of testing. 

How Long Does the CPACE Take?

The written or content portion of the CPACE takes about three hours and 15 minutes and the performance section takes about four hours. You will also need 15 minutes to complete a nondisclosure agreement and exam tutorial. If you take a break, that time will count as part of your total testing time.

Can You Bring Anything to the CPACE testing center?

You are not allowed to bring cell phones, electronic communication devices, recording devices, or anything with an on/off switch. CPACE also prohibits the following items: Calculators and calculator manuals; handwritten or printed materials; packages and bags of any kind; hats or headwear; food, gum, or drinks; slide rules, rulers, translation aids, or highlighters; and unauthorized medical devices. You will be asked to store personal items—including jewelry, watches, wallets, and purses—outside the testing room.

How Much Does the CPACE Cost?

The content section of the CPACE costs $294 and the performance section of the CPACE costs $358.

When and Where Can I Take the CPACE?

The CPACE is offered during three testing windows per year and you can register for your appointment on the CTC website. The test is administered at Pearson VUE locations in California and worldwide.

How Can I Prepare for the CPACE?

That’s a great question.  We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.

  1. Do yourself a favor and study.  Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try.  Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping.  All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance.  If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
  3. Get a study guide or set of flashcards.  Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam.  Below you’ll see links to both!

Study Guide



Last Updated: June 26, 2023