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Getting tested for your dream job

You’ve taken the SAT, the ACT, the GRE — now there could be yet another test before you get that dream job.

The problem, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Doug Belkin, is that employers are finding that a college degree is no longer a guarantee that a graduate knows anything.

“Part of the issue is they don’t really know what they’re getting from college graduates when they graduate. There has been so much grade inflation over the past 30 years or so that a kid who graduates with a 3.7 (grade point average) – it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve done that much work, that they’re that intelligent, because the letter grade that’s most common on college campuses is an A,” says Belkin.

It got this way because a lot of colleges are being run more like cruise ships than rigorous academic institutions. Belkin calls it “The Corporatization of the United States University” and said it’s a business model. Students are treated like customers you want to make happy.

Even more so, the parents paying for college are like the customers. They’re paying a lot of money to send their kids.

“So it’s been easier to give kids better grades – and that’s what’s been happening.”

So next spring, seniors at about 200 U.S. colleges will take a new test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, designed to “provide an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills.” (Take a practice test)

“Some of this was driven by corporate America who spent a lot of money helping employees get better at these skills. If they find kids coming out of school who are good at them already, then it’s going to save them money,” said Belkin.

And it won’t look like those other standardized tests.

The idea behind the CLA is measuring how information is synthesized – not specific areas of knowledge, but how students can use information to help make decisions in an age when you can pretty much Google everything. The test asks what you could do with that information.

“How you understand it, how you synthesize it and eventually innovate with what surprises you by industry,” said Belkin.

The new test would also provide a consistent way to assess students who take online courses and if it catches on, might eventually replace the college degree.

A survey three years ago showed that only one in four employers think that two and four-year colleges are doing a good job preparing students for the global economy.

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