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HEIghten® Civic Competency & Engagement Assessment

Increasingly, the importance of civic learning is being recognized by both higher education and workforce communities. A more civically literate society helps to foster democracy and a growing economy, which can result in creating a more just and fair world.

The HEIghten® Civic Competency & Engagement assessment evaluates college students’ civic learning, including:

  • knowledge of civic practices and institutions
  • skills in understanding and participating in civic-related situations
  • general attitudes, preferences and degrees of engagement in civics and civic-related activities

The assessment focuses on three key areas: Civic Competency, Civic Attitudes and Civic Participation.

Civic Competency:

Test takers respond to questions that demonstrate their:

  • Civic knowledge — knowledge of facts, concepts and principles (e.g., democratic processes, government structures, voting) across various contexts (local, national, international, and past or present)
  • Civic skills — applying analytic and participatory skills to analyze civic-related issues or scenarios (e.g., determining who won a debate) and make reasoned judgments about political and civic situations or problem-solving processes, especially in group and/or community contexts (e.g., understanding which skills are needed to win a debate)

Civic Attitudes:

Test takers self-report their reactions to realistic situations in ways that demonstrate their:

  • Civic efficacy — the belief that they can understand and influence government and political affairs
  • Democratic norms and values — the belief in basic principles of a democratic and diverse society, with a sense of responsibility to take civic action

Civic Participation:

Test takers self-report their civic and political behavior across various contexts including:

  • general participation across campus and across local, state, national and international contexts
  • volunteering across campus and across local, state, national and international contexts
  • discussion of political/civic issues on campus and social media, and with friends and family
  • personal investment in participation, such as reading newspapers, following web-based sources, listening to the radio, and watching television on national and international issues

Test Design

The HEIghten Civic Competency & Engagement assessment is administered in a single 45-minute testing session. Each test taker answers 80 questions:

  • Civic Competency (30 questions). The stimuli for all Civic Competency questions are embedded in realistic contexts (campus, local communities, state, national and international levels), and include a variety of maps, texts, graphs, tables and charts. Situational judgment questions use a combination of real data and hypothetical scenarios to measure civic skills. These questions require students to analyze a set of circumstances and evaluate or choose a correct answer or course of action.
  • Civic Attitudes (30 questions). The Civic Attitudes questions are presented as hypothetical scenarios about various civic-related issues, followed by reactions or quotations from people involved in the scenario. Test takers are asked to indicate, on the four-point scale, how they feel about each quotation. The hypothetical sets allow students to express civic attitudes through various campus and real-world scenarios.
  • Civic Participation (20 questions). The Civic Participation information is gathered through the use of multiple-selection multiple choice, single-selection multiple choice, and Likert-type questions.

Sample Questions

The sample questions provide examples of the skills measured, contexts covered and the difficulty of the questions. The sample questions and answers are for reference only. They are not actual questions currently used on the test.

Download the sample questions.

Test Review

While the HEIghten Civic Competency & Engagement assessment was developed to measure a common set of skills, judging the appropriateness of the test is an important first step in considering its use. Assessment directors and faculty members should review the test content and skill area coverage to determine whether it is consistent with your institution's expectations.

ETS provides resources to help institutions evaluate the appropriateness of our assessments.

For more information about how the HEIghten Civic Competency & Engagement assessment can be used at your institution, contact an ETS Advisor.

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