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Colleges Offer Exit Tests to Determine Job Readiness

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Monday, 26 Aug 2013 12:55 PM

Seniors graduating next spring at 200 colleges nationwide can take a voluntary test to prove their real value to employers, who say grade point averages are no longer an accurate assessment of how an employee will succeed at a job.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), an SAT-like examination, is part of a movement aimed at finding new ways to assess graduates' skills, as employers express growing skepticism about the real value of college credentials, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Grade point averages, or GPAs, have been getting higher for years. A 2012 study exploring the grades of 1.5 million students found that the number of students getting "A's" nearly tripled between 1940 and 2008. The study's co-author, Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University geophysics professor, said the higher grades mean a college diploma has become more about "social class than an indicator of academic achievement."

Some companies are already relying less on GPAs to determine potential job success. Teach for America, for example, says grades are just one factor used to weed through the 60,000 applicants for 5,900 teacher positions in rural and urban school districts.

The Council for Aid to Education, which created the CLA test, said the 90-minute exam is based on one already used by 700 schools to grade themselves. Chris Jackson, director of partner development for the Council, said the test measures creative thinking, document literacy, analytical reasoning, writing, and communication skills.

The test is available to any graduating student, even those engaged in online courses only, and in many cases the schools may actually pick up the $35 fee for taking it. Students are encouraged to share their exam results with prospective employers.

Other established testing companies are also introducing new tools to test students' readiness for the job market. ACT, a non-profit that administers college admission examinations, offers a National Career Readiness Certificate to measure a graduate's skills.

In addition, Educational Testing Service's Graduate Record Exam now includes two certificates in its Proficiency Profile, which is used to assess critical thinking, reading, writing, and math.

More than a quarter of businesses are already using the GRE to evaluate job applicants, said ETS Vice President David Payne.



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