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The Wonderlic Personnel Test (formerly known as the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test) is a popular group intelligence test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving in a range of occupations. The Wonderlic is available in 12 different languages and is often used in college, entry level jobs, and team-making efforts. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 12 minutes. The test was developed by Eldon F. Wonderlic, while he was a graduate student at Northwestern University. The score is calculated as the number of correct answers given in the allotted time. A score of 20 is intended to indicate average intelligence (corresponding to an intelligence quotient of 100). Wonderlic, Inc. claims a minimum score of 10 points suggests a person is literate. A new version was released in January 2007 called the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test (formerly known as the Wonderlic Personnel Test – Revised), containing questions more appropriate to the 21st century; it is available both online and in printed form, whereas the original test is only available on paper. The Wonderlic test was based on another test called the Otis Self-Administering Test of Mental Ability.
Created in 1936 by E. F. Wonderlic, the Wonderlic Personnel Test was the first short-form cognitive abilities test. It was developed to measure general cognitive ability in the areas of math, vocabulary, and reasoning. Wonderlic created and distributed it as a graduate student in the psychology department at Northwestern University from his home. Regarding the time allotted to take the test, Eldon F. Wonderlic, in an article released in 1939, stated the following: "The length of the test was made such that only about two to five per cent of average groups complete the test in the twelve-minute time limit."
Originally designed to aid in employee selection, the Wonderlic Personnel Test has also been used by both the United States Armed Forces and the National Football League for selection purposes. During World War II, the Navy began using the Wonderlic Personnel Test to select candidates for pilot training and navigation. In the 1970s Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was the first to use the Wonderlic Personnel Test to predict player performance. It is still used in the annual NFL Combine as a form of pre-draft assessment. In short, it attempts to screen candidates for certain jobs within the shortest possible time. It may be termed as a quick IQ test.
The Wonderlic test is continually being updated with repeated evaluations of questions. Also, beginning in the 1970s, Wonderlic began to develop other forms of the Wonderlic Personnel some of which include: Wonderlic Perceptual Ability Tests, Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam, or the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test. There are currently 30 tests offered by Wonderlic, Inc.
Application to industrial-organizational psychology
The Wonderlic test, as a vocational and intelligence test, falls under the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. As a personnel test the Wonderlic is used to gauge an applicant's job potential, educational potential, and training potential. Six forms of this test are made available (A, B, C, D, E, and F) in which Wonderlic suggests that when two of these versions are to be used, the best combinations are A and B or D and F. However, a study conducted by psychologists Kazmier and Browne (1959) shows that neither of these forms can be regarded as directly equivalent. While there is no lack of tests that could be used in place of the Wonderlic, such as the IQ or the Mechanical Aptitude Test, it is a quick and simple vocational test for personnel recruitment and selection. The Wonderlic test has been peer reviewed by the American Psychological Association and has been deemed worthy of field applications to the industrial use of personnel testing. Other sources can be found on the database APA PsycNET.
Similar to other standardized tests, the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test presents its questions in an open response format that becomes increasingly more difficult as one progresses through the test. The types of questions that have appeared in the oldest versions of the Wonderlic test include: analogies, analysis of geometric figures, arithmetic, direction following, disarranged sentences, judgment, logic, proverb matching, similarities, and word definitions. However, the questions may take different angles depending upon the ‘intelligence’ of the question setters. Practice questions will include:
- If a piece of rope cost 20 cents per 2 feet, how many feet can you buy for 30 dollars?
- Which of the numbers in this group represents the smallest amount? a) 0.3 b) 0.08 c) 1 d) 0.33
- A high-speed train travels 25 feet in 1/3 second. In 4 seconds, the train will have traveled __?__ feet.
- A clock lost 2 minutes and 36 seconds in 78 days. How many seconds did it lose per day?
Abbreviated, unofficial versions of the test are available online. While these tests are not nearly as complex as the original Wonderlic test, nor authorized by Wonderlic, they follow many of the same concepts.
A simplified and condensed version of the Wonderlic test appears in newer editions of the Madden NFL video game series. The Madden version of the test is taken in "Superstar Mode" portion of the game, to make the game experience more realistic, although, it is now optional. The questions usually consist of basic math and English questions. For example, "If Adrian Peterson rushes for 125 yards in a game, how many yards will he have at the end of the season if he keeps up with this pace?". Players have four answers to choose from when taking this version of the test.
Central tendency of Wonderlic scores
Serving as a quantitative measure for employers, scores are collected by the employers and the applicant's score may be compared to a professional standard, as is the case with security guards or, simply, compared to the scores of other applicants who happen to be applying for the same or similar positions at that time. Each profession has its own, unique, average; therefore, different professions require different standards.
Median score by profession
- Systems analyst – 32
- Chemist – 31
- Electrical engineer – 30
- Engineer – 29
- Programmer – 29
- Accountant – 28
- Executive – 28
- Reporter – 28
- Teacher – 28
- Copywriter – 27
- Investment analyst – 27
- Librarian – 27
- Electronics technician – 26
- Salesperson – 25
- Secretary – 24
- Dispatcher – 23
- Drafter – 23
- Electrician – 23
- Nurse – 23
- Bank teller – 22
- Cashier – 21
- Firefighter – 21
- Clerical worker – 21
- Machinist – 21
- Receptionist – 21
- Train conductor – 21
- Craftsman – 18
- Security guard – 17
- Welder – 17
- Warehouseman – 15
- Janitor – 14
Average score in the NFL by position
Though used in a variety of settings, the Wonderlic test has become best known for its use in the NFL's Scouting Combine. According to Paul Zimmerman's The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football, the average score of a NFL player according to position is the following:
- Offensive tackle – 26
- Center – 25
- Quarterback – 24
- Guard – 23
- Tight end – 22
- Safety – 19
- Linebacker – 19
- Cornerback – 18
- Wide receiver – 17
- Fullback – 17
- Halfback – 16
Some notable players who scored well below the average include:
- Darren Davis - 4 (Undrafted, later played Canadian Football)
- Morris Claiborne – 4 (first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, lowest score ever known by an NFL player)
- Mario Manningham – 6 (third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft)
- Frank Gore – 6 (third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft)
- Vince Young - 6 (third overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, Young was re-administered the test the following day and scored a 16)
- Tavon Austin – 7 (first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft)
- Terrelle Pryor – 7 (third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft)
- Carlos Hyde – 9 (second round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft)
- Travis Henry – 9 (second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft)
- Sebastian Janikowski - 9 (first round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft)
- Charles Rogers – 10 (second overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft)
- Jeff George – 10 (first overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft)
- Darrelle Revis - 10 (first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft)
- Keyshawn Johnson - 11 (first overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft])
- Cordarrelle Patterson – 11 (first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft)
- Ray Lewis – 13 (first-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Hall of Fame inductee)
- Simeon Rice - 13 (third overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft)
- Lamar Jackson - 13 (first-round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft)
- Jim Kelly - 15 (first round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, Hall of Fame inductee)
- Donavan McNabb - 15 (second overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft)
Some notable players who scored well above the average include:
- Tom Brady - 33 (sixth round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft)
- Steve Young - 33 (first round pick of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft)
- Luke Kuechly – 34 (first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft)
- Aaron Rodgers – 35 (first-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft)
- Jonathan Ogden - 35 (Fourth overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft)
- Sam Bradford – 36 (first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft)
- Colin Kaepernick – 37 (second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft)
- Andrew Luck – 37 (first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft)
- Tony Romo – 37 (undrafted in 2003)
- Josh Allen - 37 (first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft)
- Matthew Stafford – 38 (first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft)
- Eli Manning – 39 (first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft)
- Alex Smith – 40 (first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft)
- Carson Wentz – 40 (first-round, second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft)
- Calvin Johnson – 41 (first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft)
- Ryan Nassib – 41 (fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft)
- Blaine Gabbert – 42 (first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft)
- Eric Decker – 43 (third-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft)
- Greg McElroy – 43 (seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft)
- John Urschel – 43 (fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft); began working on a PhD in math at MIT in 2016
- Matt Birk – 46 (sixth-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft)
- Ryan Fitzpatrick – 48 (seventh-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft; finished test in a record nine minutes)
- Ben Watson – 48 (first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft)
- Mike Mamula – 49 (first-round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft; second highest score ever reported)
- Pat McInally – 50 (fifth-round pick in the 1975 NFL Draft; only player known to have gotten a perfect score)
Predictor of success in the NFL
John P. Lopez of Sports Illustrated proposed a 26–27–60 rule to predict a quarterback's success in the NFL (at least a 26 on the Wonderlic, at least 27 college starts, and at least 60% pass completion) and listed several examples of successes and failures based on the rule. A 2005 study by McDonald Mirabile found that there is no significant correlation between a quarterback's Wonderlic score and a quarterback's passer rating, and no significant correlation between a quarterback's Wonderlic score and a quarterback's salary. Similarly, a 2009 study by Brian D. Lyons, Brian J. Hoffman, and John W. Michel found that Wonderlic scores failed to positively and significantly predict future NFL performance for any position. Donovan McNabb, whose 14 score was the lowest of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, had the longest and most successful career.
The Lyons study also found that the relationship between Wonderlic test scores and future NFL performance was negative for a few positions, indicating the higher a player scores on the Wonderlic test, the worse the player will perform in the NFL. According to McInally, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft, George Young told him that his perfect score caused him to be selected later than he would have otherwise. McInally speculated that "coaches and front-office guys don't like extremes one way or the other, but particularly not on the high side. I think they think guys who are intelligent will challenge authority too much." Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com agreed with McInally:
Scoring too high can be as much of a problem as scoring too low. Football coaches want to command the locker room. Being smarter than the individual players makes that easier. Having a guy in the locker room who may be smarter than every member of the coaching staff can be viewed as a problem – or at a minimum as a threat to the egos of the men who hope to be able when necessary to outsmart the players, especially when trying in some way to manipulate them.
Job performance (i.e., success in the NFL) also includes deviance. A 2016 study found that the Wonderlic significantly predicted future arrests — referred to as criminal off-duty deviance — in NFL draftees.
In 1982, Carl Dodrill conducted a study in which 57 adults were administered the Wonderlic twice over a five-year period. In the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Dodrill reported that the test-retest reliability for the Wonderlic was .94.
In 1956, Weaver and Boneau reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology that two of the five forms, A and B, that were published at the time were harder than the others which caused scores on those forms to be significantly lower than scores obtained on forms C–F. Concerning these observed differences, Weaver and Boneau state: "This accords with the history of the development of the test. Forms D, E, and F are made up of items selected from the Otis Higher, while A and B were developed later and include types of items not found in the Otis." Those findings, seemingly, invalidate the claim that those forms were equivalent or consistent. E. N. Hay made a similar observation as well. Hay found that form F was significantly easier than Form D. Furthermore, Kazmier found Form B to be the most difficult of the five forms and, thus, recommended that it "not be regarded as directly equivalent to any of the forms." Kazmier also found Forms D and F to be significantly different from each other and recommended that these forms be regarded as inequivalent. In a study of the Wonderlic's test-retest reliability, conducted in 1992, Stuart McKelvie "concluded that conscious repetition of specific responses did not seriously inflate the estimate of test-retest reliability." To put it simply, one's memory of some of the answers does not significantly affect one's score on the Wonderlic.
In an article written in Psychological Reports, T. Matthews and Kerry Lassiter report that the Wonderlic test "was most strongly associated with overall intellectual functioning," which is what it is purported to measure. However, Matthews and Lassiter did not find the Wonderlic to be a successful measure of fluid and crystallized intelligence, and they stated that "the Wonderlic test scores did not clearly show convergent or divergent validity evidence across these two broad domains of cognitive ability." In academic testing, the Wonderlic test has shown high correlations with aptitude tests such as the General Aptitude Test Battery.
The tests are divided into four different sections: cognitive, skill, personality, and behavioral. The scores are predictors of the possible conformity that a potential employee has within the field for which they are applying. Each test has a different number of questions and time requirement, and either can or cannot be administered via computer.
First created in the 1950s by Wonderlic's son, Charles F Wonderlic Sr., the skills test measures an individual's skill in areas such as math or English. There are three types of skill tests: Perceptual Ability Test, Wonderlic Basic Skills Test, and Wonderlic Office and Software Skills Tests. The Wonderlic Perceptual Ability Tests measures an individual's ability to answer numerical and alphabetical details with accuracy. The Wonderlic Basic Skills Test measures one's mathematical and verbal capabilities. Wonderlic Office and Software Skills Tests test a person's computer proficiency and use of basic software.
Cognitive Ability (Wonderlic Personnel Test & Wonderlic SLE)
Released in the 1990s, the Wonderlic Personnel Test measures an individual's capability of solving problems and learning. The Wonderlic Personnel test is divided into two different forms of test: the Wonderlic Personnel Test - Quicktest (30 questions in 8 minutes) and the Wonderlic Personnel Test (50 questions, 12 minutes). The Wonderlic Personnel Test-Quicktest differs from the Wonderlic Personnel Test in that it is not proctored giving employers a general idea of the potential applicant's cognitive ability. The Wonderlic Personnel Test is a much more comprehensive test.
Behavioral Liability is a test assessment for individuals to gauge that individual's potential in engaging in counterproductive or unethical behaviors within a community. Divided into two sections: the Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile and the Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile Plus. Each test measures an individual's liability within the group, e.g., theft. The Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile test an individual's three behavior traits: neuroticism, agreeability, and conscientiousness. The Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile Plus is similar to the Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile, however the Wonderlic Behavioral Risk Profile Plus contains additional questioning including background disclosures and productivity results.
The Wonderlic Personality tests measure personal characteristics that are widely accepted as being predictive of a candidate's expected job performance. Wonderlic claims that using the Wonderlic Personality Test to select individuals whose traits are aligned with the demands of the position, employers can improve employee productivity, employee satisfaction and customer service while reducing recruitment costs and employee turnover.
Added during the 1990s, the Wonderlic Personality Test contains two sections. The Wonderlic Five-Factor Personality Profile and the Wonderlic Seven-Factor Personality Profile. Using five primary dimensions of an individual's personality, the Wonderlic Five-Factor Personality Profile using five primary dimensions of tests an individual's personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability/neuroticism, and openness to experience. These are essentially the same constructs as the Big Five personality traits, also known as the Five Factor Model.
The Wonderlic Seven-Factor Personality Profile tests individuals on seven dimensions different from the Wonderlic Five-Factor Personality Profile: emotional intensity, intuition, recognition motivation, sensitivity, assertiveness, trust, and good impression. The Wonderlic Seven-Factor Personality Profile test is oriented more for customer service employees.
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