How to Write an Expository Essay for the CBEST Exam

Expository writing is found in magazines and newspapers - two mediums all students are familiar with.

Standardized tests are designed to measure the performance of students in the areas of skill development. The California Basic Educational Skills Test is designed to evaluate the skills necessary for California's future educators. The writing portion of the exam seeks to determine whether the person being tested can adequately express their thoughts in a written manner. The exam consists of two essay questions, a personal narrative and an expository essay. An expository essay is a nonfiction, informative piece of writing that is often found in newspapers or research reports. The expository portion of the test evaluates the student's ability to write coherently, factually, objectively, and error-free both in execution and mechanics.

Determine the objective of your written response. Every essay question has an indication of what type of response is necessary. Ask yourself what the essay topic really represents and what the most important information a reader needs about the topic. The CBEST exam questions will focus on information or events that have some relevancy to education in the state of California or to education, students or teachers in general. Expository pieces seek to inform, so you will need to determine the information that is relevant to the topic.

Outline your points or facts in order of importance. Take what you know about the topic and sketch out a brief outline. The best way to do this is by asking the "W" questions: who, what, where, when and why. These questions should be answered within your essay with clarity and authority. Do not put something in your essay unless you know it is truthful and keep opinions out of the essay. Write any important facts in the proper place in your outline.

Write your essay. Start with an introductory paragraph that includes the main topic of the essay and give a quick summation of the issue and any definitions that are relevant. Each successive paragraph should be dedicated to the next point you are wanting to make. Keep the paragraphs limited to one major point per paragraph and any details that support that major point. If you switch points, switch paragraphs. End your essay with a summarizing or concluding paragraph.

Proofread and correct. Review your essay for any errors such as punctuation or grammar. The CBEST exam evaluates essays on mechanics as well as content so ensure your piece is as error-free as you can make it. Check your essay's structure for clarity and flow. Are you points clear and does each paragraph logically move to the next point? Is every sentence relevant to your topic? Is your topic and concluding paragraph engaging? Does the entire piece inform your reader of the issue? Is the piece free of opinions? Does it sound logical and believable? Have you identified the heart of the matter or the basic components, then made those components clear to your reader? The exam will weigh all of these factors before awarding a score.

  • Expository writing is free of opinions so if any sentence starts with "I believe" or "I think", etc. remove it and replace with one that has clear factual information.

Georgia Dennis has been writing since 1995, specializing in the areas of education, behavioral sciences, canine behaviors, human resources and language development. Her work has been published in literary journals, magazines and in print. She is also suspense novelist. Dennis is pursuing her Bachelor of General Studies, with an emphasis in writing and psychology, from Indiana University.