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Students in Penn State's School of Hospitality Management have exceeded the national average on a rigorous examination that demonstrates their ability to read, interpret and make decisions about the most widely used monthly report used by hotel managers to track the performance of hotels around the world — the STAR report.

The 16 Penn State students who took the exam — known as the STAR exam — earned an average of 82 percent, and all Penn State students received a passing grade of over 70 percent. The national average was 72 percent. The students were enrolled in the course, "Hospitality Real Estate," which is taught by John O'Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. The students trained for and took the exam as part of the course. They took the exam and learned their scores in late December 2012.

"Employers are seeking employees who have a thorough understanding of the STAR reports," said O'Neill. "The STAR exam is a way to evaluate students' understanding of and ability to work with these reports. Students who pass the exam earn a certificate that demonstrates their competency in this important area."

The STAR exam, which is sponsored by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, was created in 2012 by STR Global, the company that issues the STAR reports, as well as by faculty members from Penn State and other participating universities. STR Global's chairman and co-founder, Randall Smith was named the 2011 Hospitality Executive of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society.

According to O'Neill, the exam is still being piloted at a handful of universities, including Penn State, but the goal is for it to become widely used.

"Most hospitality schools don't yet offer training for and the ability to take the STAR exam," he said. "But in time, the exam will become the standard method for evaluating whether a student has learned this particular body of knowledge. Employers will be looking for the STAR certification on prospective employees’ resumes."