College seniors already feel the pressure of trying to bolster their resumes with real-world experience and keep their grades up, all in hopes of finding a great job once their degrees are in hand. But they now might have one more hurdle to conquer before full-time employment — a college exit exam.
According to The Wall Street Journal, seniors at 200 U.S. colleges will take the Collegiate Learning Assessment, or CLA+, next spring. Employers are tired of college graduates with good grades and impressive resumes being lousy employees, and the college exit test could provide a way to more accurately judge a grad’s job readiness.
The CLA+ ”is a performance-task based assessment that measures your critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and written communication skills,” according to a practice test. It provides students with a real-world scenario and asks them to problem-solve using additional information. The test is scored on a 1600-point system, like the SAT was previously. The CLA+ was first launched in 2000 by the Council for Aid to Education.
“For too long, colleges and universities have said to the American public, to students and their parents, ‘Trust us, we’re professional. If we say that you’re learning and we give you a diploma it means you’re prepared,’” Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, told The Journal. “But that’s not true.”
And with grade point averages on the rise, the test could separate prepared graduates from students who simply knew how to master the requirements of a college course. As The Economist reported at the end of last year, the average GPA increased from 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006. And the numbers of A grades awarded at four-year colleges has increased too, jumping from 15 percent in 1960 to 43 percent. It could be a sign that students are getting smarter, or it could indicate that colleges aren’t rigorous enough.
“I think at some point everybody has been fooled by good grades or a good resume,” Michael Sweeney, a senior vice president at architecture firm HNTB Corp., told The Journal.
The CLA+, and other tests like it, could pose a risk for colleges, however. If exit tests gains widespread usage and a school’s students consistently perform poorly on the tests, colleges once thought as excellent education institutions might lose some of their credibility.
But graduates who are willing to take another test could get an edge on their peers by taking the exit exam.
“It kind of sucks that an employer can’t trust your GPA, but that’s the way it is right now, so this also an opportunity,” Cory LaDuke, a 21-year-old senior at St. John Fisher, told The Journal. “It’s another way to prove yourself.”
And with youth unemployment at 11.6 percent in July, many graduates are desperate for any means of securing a job — even if it means taking one more test.