For the many college students struggling with the numerous standardized tests that have become requisites in almost all steps of academic life – the SAT, ACT, LSAT and MCAT, to name a few – there may soon be another acronym to add to that list.
The Educational Testing Service, which writes and administers the familiar SAT exam and others such as the GRE, is coming out with another way to measure students’ ability by testing their use of technology. The Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment will be administered to college students for the first time next semester.
John Fitzpatrick, ETS’s director of higher education, stresses that for now, the ITCL Assessment should not be seen as yet another burden for students. He said the test is meant to be an overall gauge of how well certain groups of students — such as a class of freshmen or students within an academic department, can use computer technology, rather than an individual assessment of skills.
“For now, the test is an overall outcomes assessment and is not really that useful to individual students,” Fitzpatrick said. “It will start out as an overall assessment of a group of people — of more use to planners than students.”
He said the test scores will be used primarily by university departments and businesses which need an idea of where their students and employees stand when it comes to using web browsers, instant messaging programs and spreadsheets.
However, within a year of its debut, the ITCL Assessment, or some variation of it, may end up playing a significant role for college students applying to graduate schools or seeking employment. “The test will become an opportunity for students to prove their proficiency in using computer technology,” Fitzpatrick said.
For students looking to transfer from a two-year community college to a four-year university, the test scores will be especially useful. They will be a way for the transfer student to show the larger university that they will not be left behind in a classroom largely reliant on computers, Fitzpatrick said.
The exam itself is taken in a closed-off room with only a computer, a pad of paper and a pencil. Students will have two hours to complete 16 tasks that mirror real-life problems and require a technological solution. For example, test-takers will need to transfer a given set of data to a legible spreadsheet or research a topic online.
The University’s admissions office, for its part, has not yet taken notice of the test. “At this point, the admissions office has not really heard much about this test, so it is not high on their list of concerns,” said University spokeswoman Julie Peterson. But if the test becomes more mainstream, the admissions office admits that the scores may be a good way of measuring a student’s potential.
Jolene Schaefer, a freshman in the school of nursing has memories of taking the SAT still fresh in her mind. She realizes the important role that technology plays in her field of nursing, but she said she does not think that the ITCL Assessment should be an indication of potential success. “I think you can be a good nurse without being technologically savvy,” she said.