How much do your ethics weigh?

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May 22, 2008 by 8junebugs

“I’m more than a number.”

“I don’t test well.”

“These exams are culturally biased.”

What if you were tested — and your grad school application was judged — on things you didn’t learn in school? Things like creativity, resilience, and integrity. Sure, some professions test you on ethics, but those are the professions with legal implications.

Like law. And medicine.

But what if you want an advanced degree in physics or literature or buiness? To get into grad school, you will probably have to take a standardized exam. If you’re applying to a quality school with a selective admissions process, you may have to take a computer-adaptive test. But chances are you’ll take your exam on a computer, seeing the same questions in the same order as everyone else, and your results will give a school a vague impression of your skills and abilities. If that and your transcript and your work history show some promise, you may get interviewed to find out about other qualities.

Creativity. Resilience. Integrity.

Or…Non-Cognitive Qualities.

No longer will that subjective opinion about your interview (“I’m too nervous to interview well!”) carry as much weight, my friends. Now, the people holding your future earning power in their hands can place you in a Personal Potential Index. They can pin the tail on your intrinsic value, plot you against other applicants, and make a decision based on a number.

Because, if it’s a number, it must be a valid metric, right?

Nope. Sorry. Until I see the science behind this, “anecdotal evidence” isn’t going to do it for me. There are painfully brilliant and diligent people in the high-stakes testing industry that have studied this option for years and come back every time with the same answer: you cannot accurately, reliably, predictably measure non-cognitive qualities. Every test has its limits, and a standardized test of the intrinsic value someone can bring to a school, a profession, or a company is bound to fall drastically short of expectations.

Bring on the validity studies.

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