What Is the Classic Learning Test?
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
- The Classic Learning Test is an alternative to the SAT and ACT and is accepted by over 200 mostly private and religious colleges and universities.
- In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill allowing public schools to administer the test.
- The test may soon be accepted by public universities in Florida.
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation last May making Florida the first state in the country to allow public schools to administer the Classic Learning Test (CLT), many high school students may have been left scratching their heads.
What’s the Classic Learning Test?
The classically based college entrance exam that was started in 2015 by former private school educator Jeremy Tate. Until the Florida law was signed, it was primarily used by students who are home-schooled or attend private schools.
Now, a massive student population will have the option of taking the CLT.
Florida's new law also green-lighted the test to be included as an option, along with the SAT and ACT, for the state's Bright Futures Scholarship Program, which high school students can use to fund their college education if they stay in-state.
Additionally, according to the Tampa Bay Times, a committee of the state Board of Governors, most of whom are appointed by the governor, approved the CLT as an option for all 12 schools in the State University System. The full board will take a final vote later this summer, and approval seems likely.
With more than 1.7 million high school students taking the SAT and roughly 1.3 million students taking the ACT in 2022, the CLT has steep competition in the college entrance exam arena.
Here's what students and parents need to know about the Classic Learning Test.
The Classic Learning Test
Since its launch in 2015, over 100,000 CLT tests have been conducted, according to Taryn Boyes, director of marketing for the Classic Learning Test.
The exam consists of three sections: verbal reasoning, grammar and writing, and quantitative skills. The CLT costs $54 to register, can be administered online or in person, and takes approximately two hours to complete.
Results are delivered to the students within a couple of weeks and can be shared with partner colleges for free.
One of the largest differences between the CLT and more traditional college entrance exams is the assessment's use of classical texts, including works from Shakespeare, Aristotle, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King Jr.
"We draw a lot of our reading content from great books from authors … it is essentially a compilation of what are largely recognized as primary historical texts and literature that has greatly impacted Western culture," Boyes told BestColleges.
"We believe that these beautiful, meaningful, and interesting reading passages really lend a lot to the testing experience because students come away from the exam thinking about greater ideas and excited to learn more about a certain topic or passage that they encountered."
Clay Daniel, founder and co-owner of Clayborne Test Prep and Tutoring, says that classic literature and historical texts are a highlight of the exam.
"It doesn't feel like you're just taking a multiple-choice test because, in the process, you might be comparing the work of Plato and the Federalist Papers, and really thinking about the interplay between the two. It's kind of a rich experience, taking the test, which isn't something that you normally associate with standardized tests," he told BestColleges.
Compared to the SAT and ACT
Barbara Leventhal, an independent educational consultant at the Florida-based JRA Educational Consulting, says that the CLT is similar to the SAT and ACT in most areas, with the biggest difference being in the types of passages used on CLT exams.
"If you were choosing to take the Classic Learning Test, you could use any ACT or SAT prep materials because the core of the skills that are tested are the same," she told BestColleges.
"You still need to know how to read a passage quickly. You still need to understand core math concepts, [and] answer quantitative questions. The difference is that the literature for the Classic Learning Tests, maybe, for example, a speech by the Pope, and then students need to interpret that."
Boyes says that the CLT is more accessible to students from a variety of educational backgrounds, due to how the test is structured. It also saw a boost in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic since tests can be proctored remotely.
"Typically, the ACT and SAT reflect Common Core curriculum, which is in public schools, but that's not the curriculum that private schools or home-schoolers are often using. So those groups are at a disadvantage when it comes to those college entrance exams," she said.
"Overall, the CLT is reflective of a more holistic education … not being focused on doing test prep for a very niche type of question or niche test, but instead reflecting [if] the student has an overall command of English grammar and math."
Scoring also differs between the three exams, with CLT scores ranging from 0-120. The ACT has a score range of 1-36 and SAT scores range from 400 to 1600.
Boyes says that higher range scores are usually in the 90s or above, although they can vary depending on the educational background of the student.
"[Average scores] differ a lot across home-school versus private school versus public school groups," she said. "We have found that home-schoolers tend to have a higher score than the average group. But anyone can do well on the CLT, it's not restricted to certain students."
"Communication of Values"
Currently, the University of New Mexico, Christopher Newport University, the University of South Florida, and the New College of Florida are the only public schools that accept CLT scores, the latter of which adopted the exam shortly after DeSantis signed the legislation in early May.
In a statement, New College interim President Richard Corcoran said the CLT would help the school reach and welcome "students from all walks of life."
"Not only is this a tremendous opportunity for New College, but with the growing popularity of the CLT among Florida homeschoolers and classically educated students, we believe this is an exciting step for educational choice and freedom in our state as well," he said.
Additionally, two members of the board of trustees for New College, Christopher Rufo and Mark Bauerlein, also serve on the CLT's board of academic advisors.
Daniel, who also serves as a board member for the CLT, says that the exam allows parents and students another choice that may align with their values more than traditional college entrance exams.
"No test is truly value-neutral: In the selection of passages that you put in there and in the way that you organize your test, there's going to be some communication of values," he said. "The CLT recognizes that fact and it's a great fit for students and families who want a test that kind of conforms to their educational choices [and] to the values that they have expressed."
What Students Should Know About CLT
Leventhal says that students who are interested in attending a college or university that accepts the CLT should consider taking the exam. However, she cautions students from assuming that a school they would like to attend accepts CLT scores without researching it first.
"In Florida, schools will accept [the CLT] along with your SATs and ACTs. But out of Florida, we don't know yet. No other states have talked about it. So just like when kids take dual enrollment, I always tell them you should look before you bank on that because a lot of colleges outside of Florida don't accept those credits," she said.
Leventhal added that Florida is in a "moment of rapid change" and expects the number of states to accept or reject the CLT to change in the future. But for now, students should research which testing option is best for them.
"For all students and families, having another choice, another option for testing for students to put their best foot forward is always a positive."