College and Career Readiness

Since 2002, CAE’s performance-based assessments have been measuring students’ essential college and career skills – which are predictive of positive college and career outcomes – and providing valid and reliable insights to educators and students.

Essential college and career skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and effective written communication are the skills that hiring managers value most above and beyond specific content knowledge (Hart Research Associates, 2013).

However, these skills are often not explicitly measured, nor taught as part of college curricula, nor are they reflected on a college transcript. While content knowledge is a requisite part of a student’s education, it alone is insufficient for a student to thrive academically and professionally (Capital, 2016; Hart Research Associates, 2013; World Economic Forum, 2016; Rios et al, 2020).

Top Skills Employers Seek

% of managers who feel recent college graduates lack:

  • Critical Thinking 60% 60%
  • Problem Solving 60% 60%
  • Attention to Detail 56% 56%
  • Communication 46% 46%
  • Writing Proficiency 44% 44%
  • Public Speaking 39% 39%
  • Interpersonal Skills/Teamwork 36% 36%

Essential Skills Are in Demand, but Lacking

Oral and written communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills are in high demand by employers.
Rios et al (2020)

The core work-related skills with the greatest growth in demand across all industries include cognitive abilities (e.g., logical reasoning, cognitive flexibility, quantitative reasoning), system skills (e.g., judgement and decision making), and complex problem solving.
The Future of Jobs, The World Economic Forum (2016)

93% of survey respondents agree that a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.
Hart Research Associates (2013)

Higher Education Retention and Graduation Rates Can Be Improved

Graduation Rates
Source: Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups, NCES (2019)

Only 41% of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, and only 60% earn a bachelor’s in six years.

NCES (2019)

And, among all students who enrolled in college for the first time in fall 2017, only 62% were retained at their starting institution in fall 2018.

NSC (2019)

CAE’s Authentic Assessments Are Predictive of Positive Outcomes

Entering students who perform better on CAE’s assessments are more likely to have higher cumulative GPAs at the end of their senior year when compared with traditional college entrance assessments (Zahner et al., 2012).

Students who perform better on CLA+ are more likely to have positive post-college outcomes as measured by employment, salary, and graduate school enrollment (Zahner & James, 2016).

Students who perform better on CLA+ are more likely to have higher evaluations from their managers and advisors (Zahner & Lehrfeld, 2018).


Helping Students Succeed

Many students are entering college and their careers at a disadvantage. By helping students improve and showcase their critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills, CAE helps students improve their academic and career outcomes.

CAE data chart 2
1CLA+ data from Fall 2013 (AY14) through Spring 2019 (AY18)

60% of entering students are not proficient in essential college skills – yet these skills are predictive of positive college outcomes.

44% of exiting students are not proficient in essential career skills – yet these skills are predictive of positive post-college outcomes.

CAE engages in rigorous research to further the study of educational assessment, guide our assessment design, and ensure that our solutions meet the needs of educators and students.

Below is a select sample of CAE’s research papers and conference presentations:

Predictive Validity

Performance-Based Assessments

Motivation & Engagement


If you’re interested in other CAE research, below is a link to a select chronological list of papers, presentations, and reports of CAE’s research initiatives since 2005.