Tenth graders at Hillsdale Academy ranked third nationally in scoring on the CLT10, the official preparatory exam for the Clas­sical Learning Test. The CLT is a stan­dardized test geared toward the cur­riculum taught in clas­sical schools.

David Diener, head­master of Hillsdale Academy, is also on the board of aca­demic advisors for the CLT. He said although the Academy’s goal is never to simply produce high test scores, he and the instructors at the school are proud of their stu­dents’ per­for­mance on the CLT10.

“The purpose of Hillsdale Academy is not to make stu­dents smart; it’s to help them be good,” Diener said. “But we’re incredibly proud of our 10th graders’ accom­plishment on the CLT10 and the national recog­nition that Hillsdale Academy has received due to our stu­dents’ per­for­mance.”

The CLT10 is com­pa­rable to the PSAT that many high school stu­dents take in prepa­ration for the SAT. The CLT was founded in 2015 as an alter­native to main­stream stan­dardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. The Clas­sical Learning Test’s official website states that “The CLT is the most accurate and rig­orous measure of rea­soning, edu­cation, and aca­demic for­mation.”

“The basic idea is the test matches the kinds of things that our stu­dents learn,” Diener said. “The premise is that testing drives cur­riculum . As the college board has con­tinued to align itself with the common core, what happens is schools have to adjust what they teach to prepare stu­dents for those tests.”

Instead of using classroom time for preparing for a test that has its own stan­dards and content, the CLT’s goal is to reflect what stu­dents in clas­sical schools are learning in the classroom. As a result, Diener said the 10th graders at the Academy who had the third-highest scores on the CLT10 spent little to no time in the classroom preparing for the exam.

“We don’t spend time preparing our stu­dents for stan­dardized tests,” Diener said. “The goal of clas­sical edu­cation is to cul­tivate human beings who are equipped to live wise and vir­tuous lives. High test scores are not our goal; high test scores are a byproduct of the excellent edu­cation in the clas­sical liberal arts that our stu­dents receive.”

Kiera Weldon, a 10th grader at the Academy, said the CLT10 took less than two hours to com­plete and was taken on com­puters.

“This is only the second year we’ve taken it at the school,” Weldon said. “We found out a week before we would need to get our com­puters and create an account. But we didn’t know much about it.”

Despite the non-focus on preparing for the exam itself, Weldon said she felt well-pre­pared for the material covered on the test because of the things she’s been learning in the classroom at the Academy.

“It really played a big part, espe­cially in the grammar and reading analysis parts,” Weldon said. “We start pretty young with grammar and it becomes pretty ingrained in our writing. The reading and analysis is some­thing we practice daily and reg­u­larly, so that came pretty nat­u­rally for us.”

Diener said the reading pas­sages on the CLT aren’t the same ones that show up on the SAT. Whereas the SAT includes con­tem­porary and ide­o­logical texts that aren’t part of the cur­riculum at clas­sical schools, the CLT incor­po­rates foun­da­tional texts that include phi­losophy, the­ology, and ethics.

“These are core texts in our tra­dition that deal with various aspects of our human con­dition,” Diener said. “What it means to be a human being, what it means to live in com­munity, what’s right and what’s wrong, and what it means to live well. Those ques­tions are not showing up on SAT pas­sages.”

While the CLT is just four years old, Diener said the list of col­leges that are accepting the scores as part of their admis­sions processes is growing. Hillsdale College is one of 135 col­leges and uni­ver­sities listed on the CLT’s website that have adopted the test as an accepted admis­sions exam.

“The goal is that stu­dents in clas­sical schools have a test that allows them to demon­strate the aca­demic skills and knowledge that they’ve gained,” Diener said. “CLT is very aggres­sively trying to demon­strate to col­leges the impact this test can have for them.”

In addition to the content-rich alter­native the CLT pro­vides to the SAT and ACT, another advantage of the test is its scoring system, which cor­re­lates to the SAT and ACT, but better dif­fer­en­tiates the upper end of scores, according to Diener.

The CLT is not limited to stu­dents in clas­sical schools, and home­schooled stu­dents as well as stu­dents in private and public schools can take the test online. Scores are returned to stu­dents the same day they take the exam.