CSET Foundational – Level General Science exam

The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) Foundational Level – General Science (known as CSET: Science Subtest I: General Science) examination is required for all candidates seeking licensure in general, introductory, and integrated science for grades K through Eight in the state of California.


Educator candidates in the state of California must meet basic eligibility requirements before registering for the Science Subtest I examination. Eligibility includes completion of a baccalaureate or higher program at an accredited university, successfully meeting basic skills requirements, registration on the online system of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), and payment of the application fee appropriate to the licensing request (initial, renewal/re-issuance, or certificate of clearance). The application fee is separate from the test registration fee.

Test design

The Science Subtest I examination consists of two subtests. However, for credentialing in Foundational-Level General Science, the candidate is required to take and pass the first subtest only. Effective 1 August 2020, both subtests must be taken and passed to obtain the credential.

Science Subtest I is a four-hour computer-based test (CBT) consisting of 100 multiple-choice and four constructed-response (essay) questions. The multiple-choice questions utilize a variety of methods to introduce information including tables, graphs, equations, and passages. You will have four possible answers to choose from, with only one appropriate answer. The constructed-response questions are typed into the response box, written on a response sheet and scanned, or a combination of both methods.

A scientific calculator and a periodic table are provided to each test taker.

The purpose of the Science Subtest I examination is to assess your ability to demonstrate and apply the knowledge you have gained throughout your education to effectively lead your students through the next generation science standards for California public schools, K – 12.

The Science Subtest I, Foundational-level General Science examination consists of four domains:

  • Domain I: Scientific practices, engineering design and applications, and crosscutting concepts – 33 multiple-choice questions, and one constructed-response question.

In this domain, your understanding of scientific, engineering, and crosscutting concepts is examined through your knowledge and application of the scientific process. The skills required for this domain include investigation, observation, modeling, analysis, practical application, constraint identification, impact analysis, and determining solutions from viable options.

  • Domain II: Physical Sciences – 23 multiple-choice questions and one constructed-response question.

In this section, your understanding of the following is evaluated: the structure and properties of matter, chemical reactions and biochemistry, motion and stability, forces and interactions, wave applications, energy, and electricity and magnetism.

  • Domain III: Life Sciences – 22 multiple-choice questions and one constructed-response question.

Life Sciences require your understanding of the following: the structure and function of cells, growth and development of organisms, ecosystems, heredity, and biological evolution.

  • Domain IV: Earth and Space Sciences – 22 multiple-choice questions and one constructed-response question.

In this domain, your knowledge and ability to relay information to your students is evaluated. Topics include the Earth’s materials, tectonics and system interaction, weather and climate, natural resources and hazards, and the Earth’s place in the universe.

Registration, scheduling the exam, and cost

Registration for the exam is on the California Educator Credentialing Assessments website. New users will establish an account, returning users will log-in to their existing account. You can register for your exam at any time online, seven days a week. All examinations are conducted at an authorized testing center, with facilities located nationwide.

This examination is offered by appointment, year-round, Monday through Saturday (holidays excluded). Payment of the $133.00 testing fee is made online via credit or debit card.

A confirmation email is sent to you with test date, location and time once your registration is completed. Your examination appointment will include four hours for the test and 15 minutes to complete pre-test activities and a computer tutorial. Print out your confirmation email and take it with you on test day.

Test Day

It is expected that you arrive at the testing center 15 minutes before your appointment time. Present your current, government-issued identification to the test center staff. Take care that your identification is valid (not expired), and matches your registration. After your ID is verified, your digital signature is collected and a palm scan and/or a digital photograph may be taken.

After you complete the pre-test activities, you are escorted to your testing station. A scientific calculator, periodic table, pen, and erasable sheets are provided. You are not allowed to bring in any supplies to the testing facility. Everything needed to complete the exam is provided to you.

Your test time does not include breaks. After you have answered all of the questions on the exam, and if time remains, review your answers before submitting your test for scoring.

Exam scoring and results

Multiple-choice questions are scored either correct or incorrect, and the section’s score is based on the number of correct answers. Constructed-response questions are scored by at least two California educators utilizing a standard scoring template. 80% of your score comes from multiple-choice questions.

Your scaled score is determined by your raw score and the weighting of each section (multiple-choice and constructed-response), and the score required to pass is 220.

Your test results are sent to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and any institution or office you authorize to receive your results. You will receive a full results report that contains your passing status, diagnostic feedback and scaled scores (if you did not pass).

How Can I Prepare for the CSET Foundational – Level General Science Test?

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: August 15, 2019