NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Developing A Test For Common Sense

May 24, 2000

From time to time, highly successful and even brilliant people emerge from the ranks of notoriously poor test-takers. Winston Churchill is a prime example. Can educators develop a test which will reveal their hidden strengths?

The University of Michigan's Business School is trying to do so. It wants all applicants to take the new test in addition to its standardized test.

Rather than measuring for verbal, math and analytical writing skills as the traditional Graduate Management Admissions Test does, the "Successful Intelligence Assessment," as the experimental test is called, concentrates on leadership skills and the ability to produce results even amid ambiguity.

  • It leads students through an elaborate series of business scenarios that present hypothetical financial statements, press releases, news articles and other information.
  • It then poses a central problem and asks students both open-ended and multiple-choice questions.
  • The test aims to gauge who is able to learn from mistakes, handle changing situation and cope with less-than-perfect information -- the same challenges working people face everyday.

The effort is aimed at avoiding the pitfalls of such tests as the Scholastic Assessment Tests -- which some educational psychologists have argued for years are too narrow.

Source: David Leonhardt, "On Testing for Common Sense," New York Times, May 24, 2000.


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