Move Over SAT and ACT: The CLT Is Here!



Artemis Took, Journalist

’Tis the season for sharpening #2 pencils, doing some last-minute cramming, and eating an unusual number of apples. Yes, the time of college admissions tests is upon us, and many students this fall are preparing for the well-trodden SAT and ACT. This year, however, a fresh path beckons: the CLT.

The CLT, or Classical Learning Test, is offered by the Classical Learning Initiative. Founded in 2015, the Classical Learning Initiative seeks to reintegrate moral values into test-taking; as their website states, “Even scientific laboratory discoveries can have moral and ethical implications, from the atomic bomb to genome editing. The term ‘value-neutral’ is an oxymoron in this context.”

Anne Marie Malone, director of the CLT for the Central Region of the United States, wrote, “The CLT was designed to really measure college readiness – and to use texts that reflect the scope and complexity of Western tradition. Many of the texts chosen will have important ethical implications.”

The CLT has three sections: reading, writing, and math. The reading and writing sections have students analyze passages from famous thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and Dostoevsky, not shrinking from excerpts that mention religious influences and contain broad philosophical statements. The math section contains the usual concepts such as geometry and trigonometry, but takes the nowadays-unseen step of forbidding calculators.

How do the CLT, the SAT, and the ACT compare? The differences between the SAT and ACT are more about the mechanics of the tests. Former Williamsburg Academy journalist Katrina Arnell pointed out that the biggest difference between the SAT and ACT for her was that the older version of the SAT took off points for incorrect answers, whereas the ACT did not. She stated, “Calculating whether or not to hazard a guess is nerve racking.”

No, the CLT does not take off points for incorrect answers. Comparing the CLT with the former tests is, however, more than just an issue of scoring; the CLT takes a more traditional approach in its questions. According to Ms. Malone, the CLT’s difficulty varies depending on students’ style of education. “Students who have followed a Common-Core aligned curriculum will find the SAT more in line with what they have been taught. But for students who have studied using a more traditional approach to education, the CLT will be a challenging but rewarding exam.”

It is important to note that so far only certain colleges accept the CLT. The CLT’s website provides this list of colleges, which tend to share the test’s leaning towards more traditional aspects of learning such as the liberal arts.

Difficulty aside, some have questioned the ability of purely academic tests to truly judge college readiness, and as Ms. Arnell pointed out, “A student’s character, ability to improve, and willingness to work hard are just as, if not more important, than their ability to punctuate a sentence correctly.” For now skeptics must settle for cramming and #2 pencils, and hope that the CLT ushers in a new era of tests which analyze more than just student analytical abilities.

Note: The registration deadlines for the next CLT is December 28, so if you would like to try a new style of admissions test, register online at As extra incentive, a full scholarship for tuition, room, and board awaits for the first student to earn a perfect score. As Ms. Malone wrote, “The time is right for the CLT, and we are thrilled to help match great schools with great students.”

Sources Classical Learning Initiative. 2016. Web. 25 October 2016.

Malone, Anne Marie. Personal interview. October 21, 2016.

Arnell, Katrina. Personal interview. September 14, 2016.