Evaluation of Tests of General Cognitive Ability

Subject: Education
Pages: 9
Words: 2416
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: PhD


Employers pay much attention to the employee selection in order to contribute to the organization’s performance and refer to the potential benefits of hiring talented and skillful people. The right choice as a result of the completing the successful employee selection process is the guarantee of the business’s potential progress. That is why, much attention should be paid to predicting the employee’s job performance in order to address the organization’s demands. On the other hand, there are many situations when employees are selected to complete the training session or to take the higher position in the organization.

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The focus on the employee’s potential performance becomes the challenge for the managers who need to conclude about the person as suited or not for a particular job position. At this stage, managers choose to assess the person’s general cognitive ability in the context of the workplace (Scott & Reynolds, 2010, p. 67). To conclude about the effectiveness of general cognitive ability tests to select employees for training and particular job positions, it is necessary to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of these tests, determine the circumstances to use the tests, focus on the potential adverse impacts, and to analyze the concrete cognitive ability tests used in the workplace.

Although the practice of using general cognitive ability tests in the workplace is comparably new, these assessments provide managers with the important information on the employees and applicants’ potential job performance.

The General Use of Cognitive Ability Tests in the Workplace: Advantages, Disadvantages, and the Potential for Adverse Impact

Today, cognitive ability tests are actively used in the workplace because they can be easily conducted, and the results are characterized by the high level of accurateness. To discuss the candidate’s appropriateness for the certain job position or training session, it is necessary not only to focus on the person’s specific skills and job-related knowledge but also on the general cognitive ability of the candidate because the individual differences in the employees’ performances and their learning potential depend on the general cognitive ability (Eisenbraun, 2006, p. 17; Scott & Reynolds, 2010, p. 64). That is why, to assess the employee’s cognitive ability to predict the further performance and effectiveness, managers and employers choose to use the general cognitive ability tests.

The potential advantages of using the general cognitive ability tests are in the opportunity to focus on the complex picture related to the candidate’s cognitive ability. Thus, these tests usually consist of a range of questions which aim to measure the person’s ability to understand and learn quickly, think logically, use reasoning, demonstrate the reading comprehension, and the ability to work with the numerical data. As a result, the manager can assess the candidate’s performance in relation to many cognitive spheres.

That is why, the main advantage of the test is in assisting to conclude about the person’s ability to perform complex jobs and tasks. The next advantage is in the fact that the results are easily interpreted in the wide context of jobs, and the manager can assist the candidate without references to the concrete sphere (Scott & Reynolds, 2010, p. 67). Using only an online version or paper and a pencil, the assessor can receive the reliable results because the test is discussed as highly valid.

However, there also disadvantages in using general cognitive ability tests which are associated with the fact that race and ethnic minorities can experience difficulties with understanding the question instead of demonstrating the low levels of their cognitive ability. For instance, Black and Hispanic subgroups can be “more restricted in range on cognitive ability tests” (Berry, Cullen, & Meyer, 2014, p. 22).

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This disadvantage is closely connected with the problem of the adverse impact. The role of the adverse impact is important while discussing the differences in the candidates’ results which are affected by their race, ethnicity, or gender. One more disadvantage is that it is rather difficult to set the scores while assessing the general cognitive ability, and the whole test can be often more time-consuming in comparison with the other specific tests used in the workplace.

Circumstances Associated with Using a Test of Cognitive Ability in the Workplace

General cognitive ability tests can be used in the workplace under the range of certain circumstances which should be discussed in detail. It is appropriate to use cognitive ability tests when it is necessary to assess the candidate’s general cognitive ability and conclude about the candidate’s performance potential or about his or her appropriateness to join the training sessions. To conduct the assessment, it is necessary to provide the candidate with the individual assessment form. The fact that the cognitive ability tests are well-standardized contributes to increasing the test’s validity (Scott & Reynolds, 2010, p. 74).

The answers can be presented in the written form or with the help of electronic resources. The use of general cognitive ability tests is appropriate when it is necessary to predict the performance’s success for the current employees taking the higher positions or when it is necessary to decide about the necessary training and development activities (Ackerman, & Kanfer, 2009, p. 163). The next situation of using the test in the workplace is associated with the necessity to screen applicants. The manager can choose to conduct the assessment individually or in a group while providing the candidates with the test forms to fill in. The standard of the test allows using easy schemes to state the score related to the candidates’ mental ability.

Nevertheless, there are situations and circumstances when the use of a test of cognitive ability in the workplace cannot be appropriate. The general cognitive ability tests are not useful when it is necessary to concentrate on assessing the candidate’s specific quality, knowledge, and skills. The general results on the person’s mental ability cannot provide the necessary information. Thus, hiring the employee for a position of a programmer, it is more reasonable to conduct the interview and assess the candidate’s competence with the help of the test tasks.

The test of cognitive ability is not effective when it is necessary to avoid race or gender prejudices (Scott & Reynolds, 2010, p. 72). From this perspective, the circumstances preventing from the use of the general cognitive ability tests are limited, but they should be taken into consideration by managers.

Description of Wonderlic Personnel Test, Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test, and General Aptitude Test Battery

Wonderlic Personnel Test is the standard test of general cognitive ability used in the workplace. The theoretical framework associated with the test is based on the idea that the test can assess how the candidate can learn, adapt to the situations, focus on decision-making, and solve problems. Wonderlic Personnel Test which consists of 50 questions is actively used in the employee selection process because it can provide the information on how it is appropriate to match people with the job positions in order to contribute to their work potential. Furthermore, Wonderlic Personnel Test can be used in a group, and this fact makes it useful for the hiring process to optimize the selection activities. As a result, the target population of the test is often applicants or job seekers.

Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test is one more test which is actively used in the employee selection process. The test’s framework is based on the idea to assess the candidate’s cognitive ability in relation to such aspects as reasoning, spatial aptitude, numeric aptitude, verbal aptitude, clerical perception, and form perception (Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test (WAC-AT), 2014). Managers use this test while assessing the applicant’s ability to work in a variety of work situations, and the target population is the entry position specialists and applicants.

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General Aptitude Test Battery was designed and proposed in 1947 to assess the employees’ aptitude and learning abilities. The test is based on the assessment of nine aptitudes. The assessment composed of 12 tests is actively used to decide on the job rotation and person’s suitability in relation to the concrete job position (General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), 2014). The target population is mainly specialists in different spheres and applicants.

Tests’ Reliability, Validity, Administration Considerations and Costs

While discussing the effectiveness of using the general cognitive ability tests in the workplace, it is necessary to pay attention to the tests’ reliability as the ability to prove the tests’ results with the empirical data or researches; validity as the ability to measure the constructs and variables most accurately and effectively; administration considerations as the discussions associated with the appropriateness of using the certain test in the concrete situation; and the costs as the resources spent by the conductor or administration to complete the assessment while using the concrete test (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. 12).

Wonderlic Personnel Test can be discussed as rather reliable because the assessment was developed in 1936, and then the effectiveness of test results was supported with references to many researches and studies on the topic of test’s suitability for the work environments (Wonderlic cognitive ability tests, 2014). Furthermore, the test can also be discussed as highly valid because it effectively measures the persons’ intellectual functioning, and this task is the main purpose of the test. It is rather easy to administer the test while choosing the electronic or written variants of the test. The overall cost of administering the test is comparably low because no skilled administrators are necessary to be invited to conduct the assessment.

Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test is also comparably reliable because it is developed to be used in the workplace, and the test’s reliability was checked by many researchers who chose to revise and improve the test. While discussing the validity of the Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test, it is significant to state that the test’s task is to measure the person’s ability to demonstrate his or her general knowledge appropriately to the context and situation.

The predictive validity of the test is extremely high because assessing the person’s cognitive ability in six spheres, and the conductor receives the opportunity to assess the individual’s use of logic reasoning adequately. Administrators can use set 50 questions in all the industry and workplace contexts rather effectively (Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test (WAC-AT), 2014). Furthermore, the associated costs are low because there are no additional materials necessary for the assessment

General Aptitude Test Battery is the reliable assessment of the employees’ general cognitive ability because the test was developed in 1947, and it was revised several times with the focus on the appropriate studies’ findings. As a result, the current version of the test can be discussed as reliable and useful to answer the managers’ questions about the selection of employees to take the new position within the organization. Validity of the test is based on the fact that General Aptitude Test Battery is the specific assessment which assesses intelligence in relation to nine spheres, while providing the most valid related to the person’s aptitudes.

Administers focus on this test when it is necessary to assess groups and individuals while, accentuating a range of aptitudes. It is possible to use paper and a pencil and conclude on the degree of the person’s ability to adapt to the new work situation (General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), 2014). That is why, the costs associated with conducting the test depend on the price of the revised version of the test and on the provision of paper and a pencil to fill in the blanks.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Tests and the Recommendations on the Appropriate Use

The advantages of using Wonderlic Personnel Test are in the opportunity to provide the reliable information on the person’s learning abilities according to 50 questions. However, the test has such disadvantages as the high level of biases related to assessing the representatives of racial and ethnic minorities (Roth et al., 2013, p. 1; Wonderlic cognitive ability tests, 2014). To use Wonderlic Personnel Test, it is possible to recommend the use of the online and written variants of the test. Nevertheless, the use of the test cannot be discussed as necessary when it is important to assess the person’s traits and qualities which are other than the prediction of the individual’s further performance.

Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test is advantageous for the user when much attention is paid to assessing the learning abilities while depending on the general cognitive ability. The test is highly effective to screen applicants for the certain job position. Disadvantages are in the necessity to conduct the 50-item assessment (Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test (WAC-AT), 2014). The assessment is effective when it is recommended to be used for predict the employee’s success in the workplace, and the tests cannot be used for determining the relationships among general and specific abilities typically assessed by other tests (Higgins, Peterson, Pihl, & Lee, 2007, p. 298).

The advantages of General Aptitude Test Battery are in providing the results based on the hierarchical model of the cognitive ability. As a result, the person can demonstrate the results regarding nine areas of aptitudes. The disadvantages are in possible biases against the minorities. General Aptitude Test Battery is the best choice to be used in the selection process while focusing on the particular individual who is well-suited to obtain the concrete job position in the organization. It is not recommended to use the test when it is necessary to receive the concrete results on the employee’s skills instead of referring to generalizations (General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), 2014; Quenk, 2009, p. 54).


The employee selection process can be discussed as the real challenge for managers and employers who need to focus on selecting the personnel in order to contribute to the organization’s performance and receive the opportunity to gain the potential benefits. To predict the employees’ performance and ability to learn it is necessary to refer to such tests of general cognitive ability as Wonderlic Personnel Test, Work Applied Cognitive Ability Test, and General Aptitude Test Battery.

There are many situations when employees are selected to complete the training session and to take the higher position in the organization, and these assessments help the managers focus on the individuals suited for the certain positions. Having analyzed the assessments’ advantages and disadvantages of these tests while determining the circumstances to use the tests and the potential adverse impacts, it is possible to state that general cognitive ability tests are effective instruments to conclude about the person’s potential performance, and the tests’ validity depends on providing stable results without references to the setting.


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