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New ETS Exam Measures Students' Non-Academic Skills

College Student

May 22, 2013

Academic readiness is one factor that can help students succeed in college, but it is not the only one. Other non-academic skills -- such as the ability to engage with professors and keep organized -- matter, too. Though these skills have traditionally been difficult to test for, a new online assessment tool may change that.

On Monday, Educational Testing Service released SuccessNavigator, a "holistic" online assessment that evaluates college students' proficiency in a number of non-academic skills. According to ETS, the 30-minute, non-proctored test measures four factors that "most directly influence" student success: commitment, self-management, academic skills and social support. Note that the academic skills portion of the exam identifies behaviors that promote academic success -- it does not assess knowledge.

Steven Robbins, director of research innovation at ETS, told Inside Higher Ed that the new assessment could be used in conjunction with other placement exams to help colleges identify remedial track students who exhibit key non-academic characteristics that could help them pass regular college-level courses. Inside Higher Ed notes that some researchers have dubbed this collection of attributes "grit."

Remedial education has been an important topic among academics these last few months. According to Inside Higher Ed, recent research suggests that two of the most popular placement tests -- COMPASS and ACCUPLACER -- may be inappropriately placing too many students into remedial courses. Unfortunately, only one in four students taking such courses receives a college credential within eight years.

Melinda Mechur Karp, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, told Inside Higher Ed that "[i]t makes sense to try [SuccessNavigator] because we know the traditional methods aren't working." Karp studies non-academic skills' impact on college completion and suggests that testing for those traits "broadens the notion of what it means to be college ready and college successful."

According to ETS, students who complete the assessment receive a comprehensive report that predicts their first-year GPA range and probability of retention. It also includes a personalized action plan with course acceleration recommendations for students receiving high marks in areas such as math and English as well as other specific steps students can take to improve their odds of completing college. Robbins told Inside Higher Ed that once the assessment has been taken, a separate report is automatically sent to students' advisors.

"The customized score report is unlike any other score report from ETS, providing advisors with details that can help them give more informed advice," said David Payne, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of ETS's Higher Education Division, in a press release. "With a detailed action plan for each student, advisors can more efficiently and effectively guide students to success."

Inside Higher Ed reported that colleges pay $5 for each student's assessment. The assessment, which will be available over the summer, can be used either to evaluate skills among incoming students or to track progress among existing students.


Compiled by Aimee Hosler

Sources:

"ETS Launches the SuccessNavigator Assessment to Improve Student Success and Retention Rates at Colleges Nationwide," prnewswire.com, May 20, 2013

"Introducing the new SuccessNavigator Assessment," ets.org, 2013

"Motivation Matters," insidehighered.com, May 20, 2013, Paul Fain

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