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Testing for Your Future

The CLA+ is a voluntary test that’s a tool which allows students to market themselves to future employers.

Elizabeth Hoyt

October 09, 2013

Testing for Your Future
Standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT, aim to measure your knowledge before you enter college and often times, in order to enter college. Similarly, there’s a new trend on the horizon: post-college testing of graduates to assess how much you’ve learned for your future employer to evaluate. It’s called the Collegiate Learning Assessment (referred to as the CLA+) and it’s intended to provide perspective, basically a grade, for your critical thinking skills.

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Unlike college entry exams, however, the CLA+ is a voluntary test utilized as a tool which allows students to market themselves to future employers. The Council for Aid to Education is behind the creation of the new exam. The test “has the potential to be a very powerful tool for employers,” said Ronald Gidwitz, one of the group’s board members. If employers have ever felt blinded by good grades or an embellished resume, this is one way to ensure a candidate actually has the skills to back up their knowledge.

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Studies show that, for many employers, that’s the case. According to a 2010 survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only one in four employers believe that two or four year colleges are doing a good job to prepare students for the global economy – a number that’s quite alarming.
Nowadays, a graduate’s GPA seems to have less significance because employers find that they do not directly correlate to job success.

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Many employers, for example, utilize their own assessment programs for job applicants. This would be a way of streamlining the process for all employers and potential employees, alike. The CLA+ will be open to anyone (whether they’ve actually graduated from a four-year college or have just taken some online courses), takes 90 minutes and will be graded on a 1600-point scale. Scores will be available to students in the case that they’d like to share with a future employer. The cost of the test will be $35, though many schools are offering to pay the one-time fee. The exam format was created and based off of an exam utilized by 700 schools in order to grade themselves and gauge how well their students are learning. The test is not comprised of subjects but, rather, assesses aspects of learning such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, document literacy and writing and communication skills. As a result of the assessment, the hope is that prospective employers will be able to better judge the skills of a recent graduate. This isn't the first test of its kind. Through a survey given by the Educational Testing Service, it was found that more than a quarter of businesses were utilizing the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) to assess job applicants’ skills. As a result, the Educational Testing Service, developer of the GRE, announced earlier this year that two certificates will be made available that will reward high marks on the Proficiency Profile – the area that assesses a student’s critical thinking, reading, writing and math skills. Additionally, the ACT has a National Career Readiness Certificate which measures similar skills. Even President Obama has called for the federal government to create and implement a ratings system that can assess a college’s performance based on the outcomes and achievements of its graduates. Students should think of these exams as new tools or opportunities that can validate their skills upon graduation.

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