Under state law, Utah students are tested in grades 5, 8 and 11. Students who want college credit must pass Advanced Placement Exams. Then to enter college, students face entrance exams.

Now the Utah State Board of Regents is considering another level of testing, a regents' exam.Results would have no bearing on a student's status in the state's nine colleges and universities. Instead, test outcomes would be considered a measure of a school's effectiveness, among other indicators.

"It's as much as anything an exam for the institution," said Board of Regents Chairman Charlie Johnson.

Although the exam is still in the early discussion stage, some regents believe the exam could be administered at the end of the freshman, sophomore or junior year of college, depending on the testing instrument.

Johnson said the idea surfaced earlier this month during a two-day meeting at Dixie College, where the regents launched a yearlong planning effort.

Addressing the Joint Liaison Committee Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said the testing proposal was born out of a perception that the state's higher education system needs to improve its credibility with legislators, the public and students.

Mike Peterson, associate commissioner for academic affairs for the Utah System of Higher Education, said the College Assessment Accountability Program provides a test tied to the American College Test. The test is administered in a student's sophomore year and measures general education attainment.

The test examines proficiencies in math, social science, science and writing, he said.

John Watson, vice chairman of the Utah Board of Education, puzzled over another layer of testing.

"I'm sitting here wondering what's the point?" he queried.

Johnson, reverting to business terminology, replied, "The point is, are we adding value to that student?"

Business representatives to the Joint Liaison Committee nodded in agreement.

Other indicators that could be considered are students' pass rates on professional licensing exams and graduate school entrance exams.