Graduating Hillsdale College seniors on average scored in the 99th percentile for the third year in a row on a national standardized exam, the college announced on Tuesday.
Fifty students in the class of 2018 were among the 113,924 students nationally who took the Educational Testing Service’s Proficiency Profile, a general education assessment that the college uses internally and for accreditation purposes. Hillsdale students, on average, scored in the 99th percentile overall and in each of the seven subsections.
“Our students are among the top in the nation when it comes to these basic skills,” said Director of Institutional Research George Allen. “This is consistent. Year over year we’re getting the same results.”
Hillsdale’s average score 480.2 of 500 points compared to the national average of 447.0. Although the Hillsdale students taking an exam had a higher average GPA than last year’s (3.51 to 3.47), they scored slightly lower overall (last year’s was 482.4) and in every subsection except the social sciences than the class of 2017.
“The change has been so small, it’s not even significant,” Allen said. “There’s not a large enough change to be of interest.”
The lowest score from Hillsdale was 437, ranked in the 32nd percentile. The highest was 498, ranked in the 99th percentile.
Senior Maria Theisen said the exam was not particularly challenging.
“I did not by any means think the exam was a breeze, but I felt it was doable,” she said. “Most questions were relatively easy to figure out if I made sure to follow all instructions. Due to my liberal arts background, I was able to approach questions I was unfamiliar with.”
The Proficiency Profile tests students from liberal-arts colleges, state universities, and other institutions of higher education on critical thinking, reading, writing, math, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Hillsdale students scored lowest in writing with 121.9 of 130 and highest in reading with 126.9.
Senior Sarah Kilgore said she enjoys taking standardized tests and that she found this one fairly easy. The results, she said, show the strengths of a liberal-arts curriculum.
“It shows that we’re competent, which is great,” she said. “It only tests you in a certain number of areas, which we are required to take classes in. Because of that, we are refreshed and know what we should know.”
College accreditation requires a general assessment component. With changes in the core curriculum three years ago, the college had to come up with a new assessment for this requirement, and it chose the Proficiency Profile. Hillsdale also uses a sophomore self-assessment survey and essay comparisons between freshman and sophomore year for this component.
General assessments help the college to determine if it is lagging anywhere and put forth efforts to pick up any slack, Allen said.
“It’s a dashboard on the car,” he said. “Most of the time everyone’s fine, but sometimes you have to check something out.”
The exam results come as the college awaits its official re-accreditation report from the Higher Learning Commission, Hillsdale’s accreditor.
Allen said the committee that visited and assessed Hillsdale recommended to the commission that it re-accredit the college without any major changes.
“We have a reasonable expectation that we will be re-accredited,” Allen said. “There’s been no indication of an unfavorable response.”