In CLT, Standardized Testing

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article about a new competitor to the SAT and ACT generated a lot of buzz. Additionally, it generated a lot of questions to us. The questions were mostly variants of, “Should my student take it?”

First, let’s be clear on a very important point. We are always happy to talk to you one on one about your particular situation. Furthermore, we offer complimentary assessments for even more in-depth, one-on-one conversations. So, while we are going to summarize our thoughts on the Classic Learning Test (CLT) here, we remain happy to talk to each of you individually.

What is the CLT?

The CLT is a relatively new standardized test that just launched in December 2015. Naturally, it clearly wishes to compete with the ACT and SAT. As of this blog post date, just over 150 US and Canadian universities accept it. The test is differentiated by its approach. It proudly boasts its name is a reference to classic authors and ideas from Western Civilization. states, “The CLT emphasizes intellectual aptitude and achievement and moral reasoning, rather than a specific field of study.”

The CLT Advantages

The CLT believes it has several attractive qualities that make it superior to the ACT and SAT. Here are the ones that we really like:

  1. Shorter test time. The CLT only takes 2 hours to complete.
  2. The test is online. There is no paper with the CLT. Test takers need not worry about erasing answers, pencils needing sharpening, etc.
  3. No calculator required. Unlike the “no penalty for guessing” they tout on their site, (there is no penalty for guessing on either the SAT or ACT), this is actually an advantage in our opinion. In real life, we use calculators and spreadsheets for complex math. Therefore, the CLT math is more about quantitative reasoning.
The CLT Disadvantages

Of course, the CLT has some disadvantages as well. Some of these are due to its status as a new test with far fewer takers. For instance, there isn’t a plethora of test prep material available. Furthermore, there are fewer test centers. Those test centers aren’t as standardized either. Some centers will provide devices for taking the test. Others will require the student to provide the device. (Which is generally an iPad or laptop.)

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention our dislike of the CLT scoring system. The CLT has six scores (115 through the top score of 120) that correlate to better performance than the “perfect” score of 1600 on the SAT and 36 on the ACT. We believe this is extremely unnecessary. This makes it much harder to achieve a “perfect” score on the CLT. We also believe the difference between the 114 (the score that calibrates to the 1600 SAT and 36 ACT) and the 120 is indiscernible for the admissions offices. At some point (below the 120 CLT score) the applicants have clearly demonstrated they clear any college’s academic qualifications hurdle.

Do We Like the CLT?

Absolutely! We are always in favor of competition and innovation. If colleges are going to require standardized tests, we would like them to accept as many different tests as possible just for this very reason. This is also why we hope more colleges — and more selective colleges — begin accepting the CLT.

Should You Take the CLT?

Unfortunately, we do not yet recommend our clients consider the CLT unless at least one of their reach schools accepts it. It is only accepted at just over 150 colleges in the US and Canada. That is going to severely limit most applicants’ college choices. Furthermore, most of these schools are not overly selective. As a result, we find it hard to believe the vast majority of applicants wouldn’t be able to get a reasonable enough score on the ACT and/or SAT to be competitive at these institutions.

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