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Monday, September 9, 2013

Exam Ensures Grads Make the Grade

Since most new university graduates have little job experience, some employers rely on applicants’ grade point averages to gauge their performance aptitude. Now, those employers are complaining too many new grads boast high GPAs but are unprepared for work. They blame grade inflation.

In response, the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education (CAE) developed the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), intended to serve as a voluntary exit exam for college seniors. According to The Wall Street Journal, the CLA+ is supposed to size up impending graduates’ abilities in written communications, critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving—qualities needed for any position requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.

Here’s how it works: Test-takers are given a scenario with up to a dozen supporting documents such as articles, data sets, and reports. The student has one hour to write out a recommendation or evaluation for handling the scenario, based on analysis of the information in the documents. A practice set offers an example of the type of scenario and documents in the exam.

Responses are scored on a 1,600-point scale, and there’s no way for students to guess the correct answers or lobby the instructor for a better score. CAE is hoping the exam becomes an effective tool for helping employers and high-performing students to find each other. Some 200 colleges and universities apparently agree; they’ve already signed up to offer the CLA+ to graduating seniors next spring.

If the CLA+ takes off as a hiring tool, it may provide the impetus for college students to devote more time and energy to their course materials, since the exam is based on reading comprehension and analysis.

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