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What is the CLA+ and what does it measure?

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) is a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution's contribution to the development of critical thinking and writing skills of its students.

The CLA+ uses a Performance Task and a series of Selected Response Questions to measure higher-order skills. And while the CLA+ allows schools to benchmark how much progress their students have made relative to the progress of similar students at other colleges, it also provides useful feedback to individual test takers. The principal goal of the CLA+ is to assist faculty, administrators and students in improving teaching and learning.

The CLA+ benchmarks progress in the following areas:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Effective writing

*Please Note: The CLA+ must be taken at one of our four M State campus locations. We do not have an online proctoring service available at this time for online students that are not able to take the test at a campus.


Why does it matter how I do on the CLA+?

Scholarships awarded by Up2U partner universities are based on cumulative GPA and the CLA+ mastery level. CLA+ mastery levels are determined by the competencies demonstrated on the CLA+ performance tasks.


What are the CLA+ Mastery Levels?


Students at the advanced level demonstrate consistency, completeness, and show a command of the English language in their response. They have a level of sophistication that is not seen in the accomplished, proficient or basic levels. Advanced students create and synthesize the provided evidence, are comfortable with ambiguity, are able to structure their thoughts, understand causality, add new ideas, and introduce new concepts in order to create or seek new evidence. They think about conditions and nuances and express finer points and caveats by proposing a conditional conclusion.

The students at this level display creativity and synthesis, while understanding the finer points in the documents. For example, advanced students will be able to synthesize the information across multiple documents and address the ambiguities in the data that are presented, such as outliers, and knowing how sample size affects outcomes. Advanced students will also be able to identify and highlight gaps in logic and reasoning.


Students at the accomplished level of mastery should be able to analyze the information provided in the documents, extract relevant pieces of evidence, and make correct inferences about this information. Accomplished students should be able to identify bias, evaluate the credibility of the sources, and craft an original and independent argument. When appropriate, students will identify the need for additional research or further investigation. They will refute some, but not all of the counterarguments within the documents and use this information to advance their argument. Accomplished students also have the ability to correctly identify logical fallacies, accurately interpret and analyze qualitative and quantitative evidence (e.g., graphs and charts), and incorporate this information into their argument. Students will be able

to correctly identify false claims and other sources of invalid information and integrate this information in their responses.
Student responses are presented in a cohesive and organized fashion. There may be infrequent or minor errors in writing fluency and mechanics, but they will not detract from the reader's comprehension of the text.


Students at the proficient level should be able to extract the major relevant pieces of evidence provided in the documents and provide a cohesive argument and analysis of the task. Proficient students should be able to distinguish the quality of the evidence in these documents and express the appropriate level of conviction in their conclusion given the provided evidence. Additionally, students should be able to suggest additional research and/or consider the counterarguments. Occasional errors in writing fluency and mechanics may interfere with the reader's comprehension of the text. Responses may be focused but loosely organized.

Proficient students have the ability to correctly identify logical fallacies, accurately interpret quantitative evidence, and distinguish the validity of evidence and its purpose. They should have the ability to determine the truth and validity of an argument. Finally, students should be able to know when a graph or table is applicable to an argument.


Students at the basic level should be able to demonstrate that they at least read the documents, made a reasonable attempt at an analysis of the details, and are able to communicate in a manner that is understandable to the reader. Students should also show some judgement about the quality of the evidence. Frequent errors in writing fluency and mechanics detract from the reader's comprehension of the text. Responses lack focus, cohesion and organization.

Students at the basic level should also know the difference between correlation and causality. They should be able to read and interpret a bar graph, but not necessarily a scatter plot or comprehend a regression analysis. Tables may be out of reach for basic students as well.


How many times do I have to take the CLA+?

Up2U students take the CLA+ performance task assessment upon entry to M State (at 0 credits), at midpoint (between 18-36 credits) and during their last semester.


Will M State help me prepare for the CLA+?

To reinforce students' coursework learning, M State offers performance task workshops which provide additional practice and instruction in mastering the core skills assessed by the CLA+. Visit the up2U Student Information Page for workshop dates and times.


Why do schools use the CLA+?

Schools participate in the CLA+ to estimate how, and by how much, they contribute to your development of higher-order skills. Collecting this information is one step in the process of improving teaching and learning.

Why do students take the CLA+?

Those of you who participate in the CLA+ will learn about your strengths and areas to improve upon. You will receive a score report, and information on how well you performed relative to other students in your class level, both within your institution and across the CLA+.

Assessment overview

There are two sections of the CLA+: the Performance Task and the Selected Response Questions.

  • All CLA+ tasks are administered online. The Performance Task contains an open-ended prompt that requires a written response. The Selected Response Questions ask you to chose the best response based on the document library provided.
  • The CLA+ tasks are designed to assess students' general higher-order thinking and writing skills regardless of their academic concentrations. These skills are not only necessary for success in college; they are important for success in the workplace and other aspects of life outside the classroom. No prior knowledge of any particular field is necessary in order to perform well.

Last modified: February 9th, 2016 at 09:58am