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College exit test could influence employers in hiring graduates

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College students who hated the SAT, beware: there is a new standardized exam offered in the spring to seniors with the intention of helping employers assess job candidates.

Called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, CLA+ for short, approximately 200 U.S. colleges and universities are administering the voluntary test, according to The Wall Street Journal. According to the exam’s website, it allows recent graduates to “use their verified scores to provide potential employers with evidence of their work readiness skill,” giving students something measurable to show for themselves beyond grade point average.

Lisa Kwarteng, a third-year in psychology at Ohio State, said she wouldn’t want to take the test because she doesn’t believe standardized tests accurately reflect intelligence or capability.

“I feel like in the working force, most of the skills that you learn are on the job, and employers might think standardized tests are an objective measure but it really depends on the person taking it,” Kwarteng said.

While the exam is open to all students, OSU assistant vice president of media and public relations Gayle Saunders said it is still unknown if OSU will one day offer the test to students. The cost for universities to participate in the 2013-2014 CLA+ is $7,000 for the first 200 students, and $35 per student thereafter, according to the CLA+ website.

Various colleges have signed up for the spring testing include Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio, which has been administering a previous version of the test, called the CLA, since 2005, according to Ursuline’s website, the University of Texas system, Marshall University in West Virginia and Flagler College in Florida, according to WSJ.

Created by the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit based in New York City, the 90-minute long CLA+ is based on a 1600-point scale. By asking performance-based questions, the exam evaluates critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing and the ability to critique and make arguments.

An example from a practice test on the CLA+ website include the presentation of several tables and charts related to people using cell phones while driving and then asking the test taker to list pros and cons of a proposed plan to reduce cell phone usage while operating a vehicle.

Some OSU students think the test may not always be a fair way to tell if a graduate is going to be a good fit at a company.

“I think potentially it could be a good thing or a bad thing because if you get a bad score on it, an employer may not want to hire you based off of that and even though you may not be the best test taker, you may still be a valuable commodity to that company,” said Grant Schick, a third-year in environmental science. “It could also be (beneficial) to help weed out some of the people who may not be the best fit for that job.”

In today’s competitive employment market, students might be willing to take the CLA+ in order to differentiate themselves from other college grads searching for jobs. According to a report by The Economist last year, the average college GPA increased to 3.11 in 2006 from 2.52 in the 1950s and the average number of A’s distributed by professors has increased as well, leading some to believe that grades are not the best resume-indicator of individual success and that other objective measures might be beneficial.

In addition to the Council for Aid to Education, other groups have also created tests to objectively test student performance. The Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation focused on higher education success based in Indianapolis and the MacArthur Foundation, an independent foundation based in Chicago that focuses on increasing knowledge, have both designed knowledge standardization and skill testing measures for graduates, and some companies, such as General Mills Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co., simply use their own applicant assessment tests.

For some students, however, tests such as the CLA+ may not be necessary or applicable for certain career goals. Nicole Rabatin, a second-year in actuarial science, said she does not think such a comprehensive exam would apply or relate to her specialized field.

“For me and my career interests, I have to take multiple professional exams, so that’s really important, but that obviously doesn’t apply to everyone,” Rabatin said. “I probably would never take the CLA+.”

CAE representatives did not return multiple requests for comment.

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