Students taking their education to the next step after they finish their undergraduate program have no shortage of options to choose from. Looking at law school? Take the LSAT. Thinking about medical school? Try the MCAT. Pursuing an MBA? Graduate programs recommend the GMAT. Most other graduate programs accept GRE scores when considering admissions.
But what are your options when you're looking to jump right into the work force upon graduation? Sure, GRE covers a broad range of skills and is considered the de facto collegiate standardized test. But it can cost test takers up to $200.
Students may find that the new kid on the block, the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+), is the better option, one that students should be more exposed to.
The CLA+ was designed with employers in mind as a standardized examination that assesses a graduating student's critical thinking skills. A study by Hart Research Associates found that 93 percent of employers agreed that a candidate's ability to think critically, communicate clearly and solve problems is more important than their undergraduate major.
Surprise, the CLA+ tests and assesses those skills.
More than 75 percent of employers surveyed wanted colleges to place more emphasis on skills like critical thinking and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
It's not that the CLA+ will significantly alter a curriculum in say, the communications program at Virginia Tech. It can, however, provide a benchmark for how job-ready students are after receiving their degree, and provide insight on areas the department can improve.
Tech already does a version of this with the Senior Exit Survey, asking graduating students questions about their experience in their programs and considering the results to make changes. In comparison, offering the CLA+ can achieve similar results while giving students tangible information about their skillsets that can be passed on to employers.
Exam scores shared with employers could end up being critical to a company's selection process. When they are looking at virtually identical candidates the only difference between them may well be the CLA+. At $35, the new exam is a much cheaper alternative to the GRE and other collegiate exams, while still providing useful feedback.
Considering that a wide range of career opportunities exist without the need for graduate level study, and that many graduates take positions in fields only scarcely related to their field of study, the CLA+ would be an excellent step toward proving to employers that a candidate can handle a workload that they aren't familiar with.
Yes, it may be daunting to dive into yet another standardized test that a student hadn't planned on taking in the first place. The benefits outweigh the doubts by a hefty margin however, simply by giving that student the opportunity to be a more attractive choice to an employer.
With some universities already on board (University of Texas and Marshall University among others), Tech and its students would do well to emphasize and embrace the CLA+, especially if graduate school isn't in a student's future. The exam can help improve programs, and help a recent graduate get a job.