Psychometric Innovations: Classic Learning Test
by Noah Tyler
by Noah Tyler
When the SAT was founded in 1926, it helped to level the playing field for excellent students who lacked the pedigree to attend Ivy League colleges. It allowed the very best students to rise to positions of leadership and influence in business and politics, regardless of background. At its best, standardized admissions testing can help to identify and replenish the intellectual talent needed to serve the next generation.
Unfortunately, college admissions testing has changed a great deal since its inception. The SAT and ACT are currently the only major tests on the market—thereby influencing public school curricula and students’ studies. In fact, the architect of the Common Core Standards personally helped spearhead the New SAT. Over time, the SAT and ACT have grown in similarity, following educational trends to test standardized achievement benchmarks, rather than each student’s academic potential.
Within this milieu, the Classic Learning Test (CLT) was developed as a response to parents of students unable to showcase their abilities on the dominant college entrance exams. Roughly 20% of parents in the U.S. (10% private, 6%charter, 4% homeschool) have sought deeper, richer forms of education for their children. And, many were confounded to find that the only path from the growing range of high school options to the incredible diversity of American colleges and universities passes through what is essentially a Common Core achievement test. CLT was founded to give students another path.
This doesn’t mean a test of Greek, Latin, and trivia from late antiquity. The CLT is classic in the sense of putting the most valuable ideas in human history in their rightful place. Having high school juniors study 800-page books full of passages on the naked mole-rat and the video game industry as preparation for an extremely high-stakes test is an enormous wasted opportunity, and it sends students the wrong message. The CLT tells the next generation that their most important test will be full of the most influential thinkers—from Aristotle to Avicenna, Dante to Darwin, Kierkegaard to Kant—and that time spent on the careful reading of classic texts will be a soul-enriching experience
Moreover, the test experience is superior. CLT is 40% shorter than the ACT and SAT. It’s also administered online using a device of the student’s own choosing, which allows for same-day test results and free, immediate sharing of scores with any college. In post-test surveys, students report that the CLT is more challenging than the SAT or ACT, yet an overwhelming majority find the test experience less stressful. Many even indicate that they find the CLT to be enjoyable. To date, 20% of the nearly 10,000 CLT takers report that the CLT will be the only admissions test they plan to take.
In addition to the hundreds of test-optional schools that consider CLT scores, 130 colleges and universities use the CLT as a vital part of their admissions process, actively recruiting those who have taken the CLT. In addition, several honors colleges and Ivy League schools—where the majority of applicants score within the margin of error of a perfect score on the SAT and ACT—have expressed interest in the CLT because its rigor provides meaningful distinctions between candidates at the highest level. No student to date has scored perfectly on the CLT, thus leaving room for truly exceptional students to demonstrate their abilities.
Humans do marvelous things when given the freedom to choose and the power to innovate. The field of education has experienced a flourishing of options over the last 20 years, and the Classic Learning Test happily continues this trend, innovating to remove barriers for students and those with deep convictions about the formation of young people.
When I started looking at the characteristics of high achievers, I found that they had lots of things that made them special, but grit emerged as an important common denominator, whether you’re talking about a prima ballerina, a grand chess master, a mathematician, or a writer.
When the SAT was founded in 1926, it helped to level the playing field for excellent students who lacked the pedigree to attend Ivy League colleges. It allowed the very best students to rise to positions of leadership and influence in business and politics, regardless of background.
The liberal arts, which teach us to consider at the same time the huge and the tiny, are the antidote par excellence to this microscopic approach. Moreover, the liberal arts teach about the human things—what we especially need to emphasize in an age of mechanism and simulation.
Virtue is the flagship publication of the Institute for Classical Education. It disseminates stories, ideas, research and experiences in classical education to readers across the nation, helping them pursue the classical ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.