Assessment tests explained for new, confused students

By Jerreck McWilliams, Contributing writer

A familiar conversation topic among students at Southeastern is the Mid-level Assessment Tests, largely because the method of selecting examinees seems to border on the realm of mythical to the average Southeastern student.

The assessment tests are discovered by most SE students midway through their first or second semester, when most of them are either taking it or hearing about others taking it for the first time.

Figuring out why the tests are taken is something most of them can easily do on their own.  If they cannot, upperclassmen are usually happy to point out that the data collected from the tests is used to determine “how smart we are,” in the words of SE student Kevin McClure.

This fact was confirmed by Bridgette Hamill, the administrative assistant for Academic Affairs and the assessment test coordinator, although her choice of words was slightly different.

Hamill stated that the assessment tests or CAAP (Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency) tests are administered by the Office of Academic Affairs in order to collect information for the ACT, which they use to evaluate the material on the ACTs taken by high school students.

She also stated that there are three tests administered by the math, science and English departments, which they use to evaluate the effectiveness of their curriculum.

However, the fact that SE students must take the CAAP tests is not what is bothering or confusing.  It is the process used to select which students must take the test that causes unrest during every midterm.

Many students complain about taking the test several times over their college careers when they believe they are supposed to take it only once.

Hamill admitted that while “we try to avoid selecting students who have taken a test before,” the odds are very likely that many will take the test at least once and often twice before they graduate.

The high likelihood of an SE student having to take a test is due to the fact that roughly 600 students are selected every testing period: 120 for each of the three tests administered by Academic Affairs, and 100 for each of the three tests administered by the math, science and English departments.  With 4,000 students on campus, the chances of a few of them taking two or more tests is high.

A short poll among 32 SE students asking how many CAAP tests they have taken revealed some interesting facts.  The average number of tests taken per student was 0.82.

Many of those polled were freshmen who had yet to take a test. Those who had experience with the assessments were a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors who averaged two tests over their college careers.