Soft Skills Assessment for Academic and Career Readiness

Soft Skills Assessments Help Students Achieve Their Academic and Career Goals

Are you interested in learning more about soft skills and using performance-based assessments to measure and teach these important skills?  Contact us and let’s chat about developing a program to help your students build the skills needed to succeed in school and the workplace.

Improve Students’ Employability with Soft Skills Assessments

How do we prepare students for the jobs of the future? The economy and job market are rapidly changing and will continue to change long after students graduate. Academic or industry-specific training alone is no longer sufficient for life-long success in the workplace. We can set students up today for tomorrow’s jobs — whatever they may be — by measuring and teaching soft skills.

Soft skills are a set of personal attributes and abilities that allow individuals to thrive in a professional setting. At their core, these include effectively interacting with others, communicating successfully, and being able to think critically to solve problems. Research conducted by Hanover emphasizes the need to teach students soft skills through quality assessment and instruction that includes worked examples and practice. 

To help students prepare for an ever-changing job market, schools should prioritize soft skill instruction and assessment.

Why Soft Skills Assessments Are Important

There are many ways soft skills help students perform well academically and in their professions. They give students the ability to:  

  • Build professional relationships
  • Produce high-quality work independently
  • Work and communicate well with others
  • Solve problems
  • Think critically
  • And more!

Soft skills can also improve employability. When an employer is hiring for a position, they are typically looking for candidates who can work for the company for a long time. This means the candidates need to be able to learn and grow over time, work well with others, think critically to solve problems, and show curiosity and initiative.

Skills Employers Desire Versus the Skills Students Are Learning In School and College

The digital revolution has transformed all of our lives. We enjoy increased connectivity, access to a wealth of information, and the emergence of a global community. The digital revolution has also impacted our work. Because things are so fast-paced and seemingly ever-changing, employers now seek employees who have strong soft skills. In many cases, employers view these skills as more important than specific industry knowledge or job experience and training.

A study by Oxford Economics ranked the skills most in-demand by employers when they hire new employees. Interestingly, education and training skills such as statistical analysis, profit and loss management, and computer programming don’t make it to the top of the list. The skills most in-demand include the ability to build relationships, solve problems, teamwork, collaboration, and effective communication.

Yet schools and colleges on the whole are not meeting employers’ current needs. A six-year international research study conducted by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 60% of students entering colleges and universities are not proficient in higher-order skills and 44% of exiting students are still not proficient. A global survey conducted by McKinsey in 2020 found that 90% of executives and managers are seeing (or soon expect) a skills gap in their organizations, a gap that will be a risk to the success of their company. This worrying trend is far-reaching and is becoming a severe issue in many countries, compromising productivity, growth, and even the success of businesses. 

Secondary Schools and Higher Education Institutions Can Measure and Teach Soft Skills

Assessing soft skills can be an effective way to identify students’ strengths and areas of needed growth with critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication — soft skills most in-demand by employers.

Research published in the European Journal of Education shared key findings of the international study conducted by CAE and OECD, including that it is feasible to reliably and validly measure soft skills in a cross-cultural context. Additionally, researchers found that assessment of these skills is necessary for colleges and universities to ensure that their programs are graduating students with the skills needed for career success after graduation. 

Students (n=120,000) from higher education institutions in six different countries — Chile, Finland, Italy, Mexico, the UK, and the US — were administered CAE’s Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) between 2015 and 2020. This performance-based assessment is designed to measure proficiency with critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication. Students entering a higher education program on average performed at the Developing mastery level of the test while exiting students on average performed at the Proficient mastery level. The amount of growth is relatively small (d = 0.10), but significant, pointing to the fact that explicit instruction of soft skills and ongoing measurement of progress in building these skills is an effective way to prepare college graduates for success as they seek employment.

{Guide} Future Careers Are Built in Today’s Classrooms

Are your students prepared for their careers? Download this guide to view in-demand and emerging careers alongside the soft skills you can help your students develop to prepare for success in these jobs before they graduate. 

Get Started Using a Soft Skills Assessment Tool

Educators who understand the importance of soft skills and are ready to start assessing and teaching these skills to students should consider CAE’s suite of products. We offer performance-based assessments, instructional materials, practice models, and professional development. Our tools are designed for middle/high school students as well as postsecondary students. 




We can help you create a program to build students’ soft skills that includes:

  • Measuring students’ soft skills
  • Using the soft skills data to inform instruction and tailor interventions
  • Integrating explicit instruction of soft skills across curricula
  • Supporting educators with quality professional development

Get started building students’ soft skills today to support their future academic and career goals.

Measure Students’ Soft Skills Using CAE’s Higher-Order Skills Assessments

CAE’s College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+) for secondary education and Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) for higher education measure student proficiency in critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication.

Schools, districts, and higher education institutions can conduct a baseline assessment of entering students to better understand where they are regarding these soft skills and where to best apply resources, instruction, and interventions. Assessments can be re-administered throughout the year, and at the start of each new school year, to monitor progress and measure growth with soft skills.

How Do CCRA+ and CLA+ Work?


Students are situated in real-world scenarios that require the application of critical thinking, problem-solving, and written communication skills.


Using supplied reference materials, students must organize information, define the problem, address issues, and recommend and defend a course of action.


Student scores reflect a range of plausible and effective response strategies — a process that, by design, mimics real-world decision environments.

Our performance-based CCRA+ and CLA+ soft skills assessments provide insightful, nuanced evidence of students’ competencies in these areas so they can work to develop essential soft skills.

Take a look at these sample performance-based assessments to see how they place students in real-world scenarios and ask them to use soft skills to recommend a solution.

Preview CCRA+ (Grades 6–12) & CLA+, (Higher Education)

Utilize Soft Skills Assessment Data to Take Action

Our soft skills assessments provide actionable insights to support student growth. We offer reports for individual students as well as institution reports that show school-wide soft skills trends. 

Take a look at our report offerings.

Student reports provide each student with a summary of their results, detailing which soft skills they’re strongest in and which have room for growth. These data can be used as a roadmap to guide students and educators in charting a course to develop the skills needed to achieve their academic and career goals.

CAE Student and Institution Reports

Institution reports provide an overview of a school, district, or higher education institution’s scores, how the scores compare to CAE’s validated, normed sample, and which soft skills should be prioritized for instruction. Educators can use these data to plan instruction and target interventions that will better prepare students for their futures.

Our data reports make it easy for educators to take action on soft skills assessment data by using it to:

  • Identify school-wide trends and also specific students who need additional supports
  • Understand students’ strengths to inform your instruction and intervention strategies
  • Implement your plan to meet their specific needs and prepare them for future success

Here are some examples of how the data can be used to support student growth:

State, district, and school leaders can use the data to:  

  • Identify overall mastery of soft skills and student growth across grade levels 
  • Compare student scores to CAE’s extensive national data sample
  • Measure the effectiveness of instruction and interventions
  • Track goals for the district’s strategic plan and for students’ college and career readiness

Teachers, counselors, and academic advisors can use the data to: 

  • Gain insight into students’ strengths and opportunities for growth
  • Create targeted intervention and supports
  • Guide classroom instruction

Students and families can use the data to:

  • Identify their competence in soft skills
  • Evaluate how they compare to peers in their institution and across CAE’s national sample.
  • Develop a plan to build soft skills

Teach Students Soft Skills with CAE’s Instructional Materials

CAE’s soft skills instructional materials, activities, and practice performance-based assessments will help students build the essential skills they need to succeed now and in the future. 

Here are a few examples of our instructional materials:

Classroom activities for middle and high school students include a range of activities that can be woven into your curricula and will help students build their problem-solving, critical thinking, and written communication skills.

Future-Ready Classroom Activities Guide

Instructional materials provide students with real-life scenarios where they have to apply soft skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and information analysis to address a problem and provide a solution.

Support Educators with Soft Skills Professional Development

CAE provides quality professional development to ensure educators are able to build students’ soft skills. Our customizable support gives educators the tools and data needed to develop courses, programs, and supports to improve their students’ soft skills and prepare them for success after graduation. We offer a range of training formats, including: 

  • In-person or virtual training sessions
  • Ongoing support and coaching
  • Workshops to help you use your soft skills data to guide instruction and interventions

Our soft skills experts are here to support your institution and ensure your soft skills assessment and instruction program is a success.

Learn More About CAE’s Soft Skills Assessments

Schedule a demo to learn more about our secondary and higher education soft skills assessments and instructional materials. We’ll walk you through our soft skills assessment tools and chat about how CAE can help you prepare students for academic and career success.