What Is the CPAt

CPAt is an acronym that stands for Career Programs Assessment Test. The purpose of the CPAt is to test students enrolling in career schools and colleges. It can be used either to determine admissions to a particular program or to determine which students already admitted to a particular program may need additional support with some basic level skills that they will need to succeed in career college programs. CPAt helps differentiate students at various skill levels and helps schools customize their educational programs to fit the needs of each student.


The CPAt tests students in three skill areas: reading, numerical skills, and language usage. While all three of these skill areas are combined into one exam with three separate sections, schools can evaluate students’ performance on each individual section in order to determine each student’s needs. For example, one student might do very well in the numerical skills section, but might do badly on the language usage section, whereas another student might do very well on language usage but not very well in reading. Career colleges can use this information in order to furnish students with additional academic help that they need in particular areas versus attempting to use the same educational program for students with vastly different needs and skills.

If career colleges choose instead to use the CPAt as an admissions test, they can ensure that students they admit to their programs already have the necessary skills to do well and graduate from these programs. This helps career schools maintain a higher graduation rate than they would if their admissions standards were lower, because some students who do not possess the necessary skills for their programs would inevitably struggle, which would cause a few to drop out. Using the CPAt as an admissions test also ensures that career colleges can maintain a level of difficulty in their classes that does not leave more advanced students with nothing to do while instructors have to spend class time helping remedial students learn prerequisite skills.

The CPAt only takes sixty minutes. Because the exam is short, it is a quick and easy way for career colleges to determine the aptitude of their students or prospective students. Even though career colleges have access to students’ transcripts, sometimes transcripts do not portray enough information about the difficulty level of particular classes in order to adequately place students in the best programs and classes for them at a career college. The CPAt is a means for career colleges to assess all of their students or applicants on the same standardized scale.

The numerical skills section takes twenty minutes, the reading skills section takes twenty-five minutes, and the language usage section takes fifteen minutes. Each section is composed of multiple choice questions. The test is paper based; it is not currently offered on computer software. The CPAt is offered on two distinct test forms. This enables students who take the exam on different days to receive different tests. That way, colleges can mitigate any chance of cheating by students sharing information with their peers about what the questions on the test covered. However, both versions of the CPAt have an equal level of difficulty. The specific questions will vary on each version of the test, but the concepts tested will remain the same in order to ensure that all students who take the exam have a fair chance of receiving a score that accurately reflects their abilities.

One benefit of using the CPAt to assess students’ achievement and skill levels is that it enables schools to meet accreditation requirements. Accreditation means that a school has reached a level of high standards set by a professional organization. Accreditation helps both the school and its students. Accredited schools usually have a higher interest in attendance from prospective students because students who receive a degree or certificate from an accredited school know that the degree carries high value.

Tips for Taking the CPAt

You will want to do as well as you can on the CPAt, since it will determine either whether you are admitted to your career college or what classes you will be able to take when you enroll in your career college. All three sections of the CPAt are not designed to test you on particular knowledge; rather, they are designed to test your problem solving abilities and critical thinking skills.

Memorizing content will not help you study for the CPAt. Instead, you should study in ways that allow you to practice developing the skills that you will need to accurately answer the questions on the exam. For the reading skills and language usage sections, developing your skills includes reading a variety of texts over time from different subject areas. Discussing these texts with others after you read them will help you learn to think critically and analyze what you have read, and will also serve as practice for recalling the information that you read. Reading a variety of texts will also help you familiarize yourself with the punctuation and grammatical rules that you will be tested on during the language usage section of the CPAt.

Going over several mathematical concepts can help you as you review before taking the CPAt. Know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers as well as fractions and decimals. You should also know how percentages work. Practice using these operations in the proper order when you are faced with a math problem that requires more than one operation to solve. Also practice looking at word problems in order to decipher what the questions are asking and how you can best approach each problem.

The language usage section of the CPAt only has two options for each answer. You will read up to twenty sentences and each sentence will contain an underlined portion. You have to answer whether each underlined portion is correct or incorrect. If you are not sure of an answer, you still have a fifty percent chance of answering the question correctly if you guess. You only have fifteen minutes to answer sixty questions in the language usage section of the CPAt, so you will have to work quickly. Plan a pacing strategy ahead of time to make sure you can complete this section of the exam. You may wish to skip questions you are not sure of and come back to them later, but be sure you have allowed yourself enough time to do this.

All of the questions on the reading skills section of the CPAt are multiple choice. You will be able to choose between four possible answers. While more than one answer may appear correct, there will only be one best answer. You will need to decipher which choice best answers the question being asked if more than one choice seems to technically be correct. As with any multiple choice questions, you can use the process of elimination to help narrow down your choices of choosing the correct answer. If you are not completely sure of the answer to a question, read the possible answer choices and see if any are definitely incorrect. If you can eliminate one or two answer choices as incorrect, you will increase your chances of answering the question correctly when you take a guess between the remaining answer choices.

The questions on the numerical skills section of the CPAt are also all multiple choice questions. However, each question will have five possible answer choices, whereas the questions on the reading skills section of the CPAt only have four possible answers per question. Sometimes one of the answer choices will be “not given.” You should select “not given” if none of the other four answer choices are correct. You can use the process of elimination to answer questions on the numerical skills portion of the exam, too.

The Day You Take the CPAt

Taking any standardized test can be stressful. When you prepare to take the CPAt, studying and practicing the concepts tested on the exam are only part of getting ready to take the test. You also need to be sure that you are physically and mentally prepared to do your best on the exam.

In order to be physically prepared for the exam, you should be sure to eat a good breakfast or lunch before you take the test to ensure that you are not distracted by hunger. Make sure you eat a meal that contains protein instead of one that is high in sugar. Sugar could cause you to feel energetic and then crash later, whereas protein will give you lasting energy and will not leave you feeling dilapidated in the middle of the exam.

Also make sure you get plenty of rest before the exam. Try to get a good night’s sleep for a few nights before you take the exam, and be absolutely sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before you take the exam. Taking the exam when you are tired could make concentration difficult and cause you to inadvertently answer a question incorrectly when you would otherwise be able to decipher the correct answer.

Allow yourself time to arrive early for the exam. This will eliminate extra stress caused by rushing. Allowing extra time will also account for anything unexpected, such as traffic delays or other unforeseen issues that could cause you to be late. Also, your college may require examinees to go through a formal check-in procedure, so you should allow plenty of time for this as well. Check with your college about how early you need to arrive for the CPAt in order to go through check-in.

Aside from familiarizing yourself with a potential check-in procedure, you should check what other rules and regulations your college has for students taking the CPAt exam. Rules and regulations will vary from college to college, but there will likely be some variation of common regulations. For example, many items will likely be prohibited from the exam room. These will include study materials and electronic devices that make noise or can be used to communicate with other people. You should avoid bringing any of these items, because there may not be a secure place to store them while you take the exam. Check with your college for a complete list of items that are not allowed in the test room.

You will also likely have to bring some items with you that you will need to take the CPAt. Many colleges may require you to show a current piece of photo identification before you are allowed to sit for the exam. You also may need to bring your own number two pencils to fill in your answer sheet. Some college may provide pencils for you to use, but you should check ahead of time so that you do not show up for the exam without the necessary materials.

Many colleges will have equipment on hand that can score the exams immediately, so you will know if you passed the CPAt several minutes after you complete the exam. Your should receive a score for each of the three scored sections of the exam, which are language usage, reading skills, and numerical skills. Your college will also provide information about how the scores are used. If your college uses CPAt scores to determine the classes that different students need to take, your next step will be to determine what classes you need to take to complete your program. Depending on how you do on the CPAt, you may be required to take some additional math or language arts classes before diving into the content that relates to your particular career program. These classes are designed to ensure that you have the skills you need to be successful.