Why Do So Many Students Fail the ServSafe Exam?

By Capt. W. Russ Webster, USCG (Ret.)

Similar to other careers, culinary arts has standards that are supported with an exam process that establishes credibility. To culinary arts students, the ServSafe safety exam is a critical component for any serious food professional. Passing the exam is a gateway to higher wages for some and a requirement for SMCC’s two-year Culinary Arts degree. Test takers must pass the 90-question test with a 75-percent grade or higher. So, why are so many students — as many as 30 or 40 percent of them — having to take the exam more than once?

To better understand the issues, I spoke to my fellow Culinary Arts students and tracked my own successes and failures in the approach to the exam. At 62 years young and with previous schooling under my belt, Chef Rascati, the CULA 100 Food Safety course administrator, told me I could have skipped the course and just “taken the exam.” Having taken most of the CULA 100 course at this writing, I can assure readers that “I could not have passed the ServSafe exam without having been in the chef’s course.” But, I’m a baby boomer.

It’s important to note that I studied like other students over 40 — I read everything, attended every class, got a grasp of concepts, did the Pearson online practice quizzes and took ServSafe’s study test. So, why did so many of my classmates, especially millennials, have difficulty passing the class? One 20-year-old student freely admitted to me that he “just didn’t study until the night before the exam.” Several students were flummoxed by the Pearson online learning modules and ServSafe’s practice test.

My own experience with Pearson’s online “dynamic” learning module exposed a flaw in the system where if you got the question wrong, the system just kept asking you the same question until you got it right. A more valid system that tested “concepts” would replace the original question with a different but similar question in the same learning area.

My approach to learning was clearly different from the other students, who were 40 years my junior. The younger students, to a fault, relied heavily on the online practice tutorials to pass the exam. Chef Rascati had told her students, “Study this, it’s on the exam.” And, often, it was. But, answering the exam question about the minimum internal cooking temperature for hot-held macaroni and cheese meant you had to know the concept that mac and cheese fits into the grains (rice, pasta) category.

But, not every failure can be ascribed to generational learning differences and faulty online learning resources. I spoke to another chef, who made me aware that food-safety-exam “pass rates” for focused ServSafe-sponsored courses were much higher than SMCC student pass rates — as high as 80 percent. When I queried why, the answer was complex, and on some level, disturbing. The chef asked me to consider who was paying for the college course and what the motivations might be for the student versus for the outside culinary professional.

When I dug deeper, the chef explained that outside students had already been in the industry for a while, whereas most Culinary Arts students were just getting started in their understanding of food concepts. And, the outside students had added motivations to pass in many cases because a successful exam often meant an immediate bump in pay.

I’m still left with questions about responsibilities in the ServSafe exam dilemma. If the disconnect between online food safety learning resources is known, who has the responsibility to address the issue? SMCC certainly should advocate for more advanced technical resources that help new generations of learners. Pearson, the online vendor, should address the shortfall with more realistic questions provided by ServSafe. And, students should accept responsibility for knowing the concepts and doing whatever is necessary to “get it,” including forming a study group with some over-40 old farts.

SMCC Business Club Heads to the Big Apple

SMCC Business Club 1

By  Nathalie Mitchell

On Thursday, April 20, the SMCC Business Club traveled to the business capital of the world, New York City, for three days of education, sightseeing and bonding. The next morning, the club had a guided tour of the United Nations, where they observed sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council. After a morning of watching international relations in action, the Business Club traveled to Wall Street.

On Wall Street, students visited iconic sights such as the New York Stock Exchange building, Federal Hall, the Trump building and the famous statue of the “Charging Bull,” along with the newly installed “Fearless Girl” statue.

Other NYC sights visited included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial, Chinatown, the Empire State Building, and, of course, the craziness that is Times Square. Some significant walking was done throughout the club’s trip.

Funding for the trip was provided by SMCC’s Student Senate, fundraising by the Business Club and contributions by the travelers.

Participants included students Haleigh Barrett, Savannah Barnes, Erik Beaudet, Matthew Brown, Gianna Dudley, Mosa Khalifa, Bronson Kieltyka, Nathalie Mitchell, Michael Moser, Joey Mullins, Steven Ntibandetse, Hali Parsons, Celetta Richard, Ray Richard, Valerie Roy; and Business Club advisor Professor Steve Strand.

CeSIL Awards 2017: Honoring Those Who Worked for the Positive 


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By The Beacon Staff  

Students, resident-life staff, faculty and SMCC President Ronald Cantor were in attendance on Monday, May 1, for the annual CeSIL awards ceremony. CeSIL, the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, gives out these awards to honor students and club members who have shown exceptional dedication and leadership.

The ceremony opened with President Cantor, Jason Saucier, director of residential life and student activities, and Rik Sawyer, student activities advisor, welcoming the attendees and commenting on how wonderful it was to participate in this year’s awards.

While the attendance was sparse, those who attended cheerfully applauded this year’s winners as all shared in the jovial atmosphere. First, the Leader of the Pack award recipients were announced. This year’s Leaders of the Pack were:

Megan McknightJuniper Hathaway

Whitney ColeNathalie Mitchell

Nick MollScott Tresselt

Bronson KieltykaTammey Cramer

Isaac McIntireIvan Picket

Alex KennedyLindsey Faulkner

Brandon BuckJustin Cochran

Nicole-Raye Ellis

The ceremonies continued with the announcement of a new CeSIL award entitled the “Rising Star Award,” given to students who showed promise in their first year of student involvement. The recipients included:

Taylor GerrishSavannah Barns

Nova WittJim Leblanc

Victoria MargaBen Riggleman

Joey MullinsMichael Moser

The last third of the ceremony announced the winners for Organization of the Year, Program of the Year, Advisor of the Year, Res-Hall Program of the Year, and the Student Engagement Award. The respective winners were:

The Veteran’s Club

Southern Poverty Law Center on Campus

Amy Lainoff

Constant Tea

Maggie Loeffelholz


The evening ended with new Director of Residence Life, Saucier asking the Resident Assistants to sand and be acknowledge for their hard work, dedication, and knowledge of SMCC, their fellow students and knowledge of the available resources.