Academic-Business Coalition Unveils Test Of Computer Savvy
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
Next month, liberal arts students at universities in 23 states who want to pursue a career in the high tech industry will be able to take an exam that will test their computer and problem solving skills. Those who pass will certified by the Virginia Foundation For Independent Colleges (VFIC), a bragging right likely to impress would-be employers.
Fifteen Virginia colleges that make up the VFIC teamed up with thirty corporations and human resource executives, to develop a way of testing students for skills that high tech companies are looking for in their job applicants. The coalition hopes the resulting Tek.Xam will gain the same credibility as the Standard Achievement Test (SAT) that is used to screen college applicants.
The five-hour online exam, which is taken in university computer labs with a proctor present, strives to show that a student can troubleshoot computer problems, create a website, use presentation and word processing software, analyze data, comprehend ethical issues and understand Internet basics.
"This is the first and only test we are aware of in the country or world that measures both problem solving and technical skills," Mark Warner, Chairman of VFIC Foundation and the person who came up with the idea for a common measurement of student technical knowledge, said at a Washington, D.C. press conference Wednesday.
Human resource people have been flooded with resumes and there has been no way to distinguish between candidates, Warner said.
Some 4.5 million liberal arts students will be entering the workforce in the near future, and the Information Technology Association of America says 63 percent of the jobs in manufacturing, financial services, accounting, consulting, communications and entertainment are technology-intensive.
Nearly 300 students in Virginia and Maryland have taken a practice version of the test. There has been a 30 percent pass rate so far, about the same pass rate that accountants score on the CPA exam.
On October 23, Tek.Xam will be administered to students in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
By spring, the test's creators hope the exam will be available in all 50 states.