The Wonderlic Personnel Test (also referred to as the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test) was created in 1936 by E.F. Wonderlic, who was at the time a graduate student at Northwestern University. The test was originally designed to test the overall aptitude of employees for certain jobs or tasks. The test is sometimes called a “quick IQ test” because of the short 12-minute time limit placed on the test. While it is not the same as an IQ test, it does focus on determining overall cognitive abilities in the areas of math, vocabulary, and reasoning.
While the original test has undergone many changes, including a revision in 2007 to update the questions to those more relevant to the 21st century – the main aim and the format of the test has remained largely unchanged. A number of different versions of the test have been developed to ascertain a wide range of qualities, such as personal traits, skills, cognitive ability, personality and even behavioral liability.
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Two of the more notable organizations that regularly use some version of the Wonderlic Personnel Test are the US Military and the NFL. During WWII, the US Navy began using the Wonderlic test to identify individuals possessing the right traits and skill sets to be pilots and navigators. In the 1970’s, Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry began to use the Wonderlic test to help evaluate player performance and the test is still used today as a part of the NFL combine. In fact, a simplified version of the Wonderlic test is also included in more recent versions of the Madden NFL video games.
Check out our huge list of NFL Wonderlic scores.
How does the Wonderlic test work?
Test subjects have 12 minutes to answer a series of 50 multiple choice questions that get subsequently more difficult as the test progresses. Both the limited time frame and the increasing difficulty of the questions help to determine how well a person performs and makes decisions under stress.
What is a Wonderlic score?
The Wonderlic test score is calculated very simply. For each of the 50 questions answered correctly within the allotted 12 minutes, the test taker receives one point. So, if 26 questions are answered correctly, the test taker would receive a score of 26 out of 50.
What is a good score on the Wonderlic? What is the average Wonderlic score?
20 correct answers out of 50 in the allotted time of 12 minutes is generally perceived to be the average score for the Wonerlic test. While “good” is a subjective term, to be above average one would have to score a 21 or greater on the test.
Wonderlic test score percentiles
While the Wonderlic test is not an IQ test, its results can be charted similarly to common IQ tests like the Stanford-Binet or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. Wonderlic results can be scored on a bell curve, with the highest and lowest scores representing the highest and lowest percentiles, with the middle representing the majority of scores.
A score of 16 or below represents roughly the lowest 25th percentile, a score between 17 and 26 represents roughly the middle 50th percentile and a score of 27 or higher represents the top 25th percentile, with a score of 40 or higher representing the top 1%.
A rough breakdown of scoring ranges for the Wonderlic exam could look like this
- Extremely Low: 0 to 8
- Low: 9 to 19
- Average: 20
- High: 25 to 40
- Genius: 40 to 50 correct
While it may seem like the most sought-after individuals are those with the highest Wonderlic scores, this is not always the case. In fact, it has been said that some organizations in the NFL often look specifically for players with a score towards the 50th percentile. The idea behind this being that they want players that will follow directions and be a team player, not necessarily those that will think too much for themselves. A higher Wonderlic score is perceived as being indicative of the type of intelligence that makes a player think too independently.
The exception to this rule seems to be at the position of Quarterback, where the ability to think independently seems to be of greater advantage. Several of the first round draft picks and highest producing quarterbacks in the last several years have all scored exceptionally high on the Wonderlic assessment. These include Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Carson Wentz and Blaine Gabbert, who all scored a 35 or above.
Conversely, a number of other industries also have a target score that is considered most optimal for that profession. Here are a few of the median scores for these industries or professions:
- Systems analyst – 32
- Accountant – 28
- Executive – 28
- Teacher – 28
- Librarian – 27
- Electronics Technician – 26
- Salesperson – 25
- Secretary – 24
- Electrician – 23
- Nurse – 23
- Cashier – 21
- Firefighter – 21
- Receptionist – 21
- Security guard – 17
- Warehouse worker – 15
- Janitor – 14
Validity of the Wonderlic test
Validity is measured in two ways in standardized testing. This includes reliability over time and reliability of prediction of outcomes. To determine the reliability over time, a sample pool of individuals can be tested over a period of time. If their scores remain largely unchanged regardless of changes in life circumstances and increased education then it shows the testing is being conducted in regards to traits that do not change over time.
In 1982, a study was done of 57 adults who took the Wonderlic twice over a five-year period. the test-retest reliability was reported as being 94%. In terms of overall validity, a 1989 article in Psychological Reports gave the Wonderlic a correlation coefficient of r=.87 in comparison to the similar Pearson test which scored r=.21.
A more recent article from Psychological Reports, however, showed that the Wonderlic was highly accurate at testing overall intellectual functioning, but is not as accurate at determining levels of fluid or crystallized intelligence. In other words, it is great at identifying sharp, quick-witted concrete thinkers, but not so great at measuring the intelligence of “outside-the-box” thinkers.
Where to Take the Test
Wonderlic tests have to be taken at an approved site given by a proctor. Official score copies will be administered once the test is graded. If the test is being taken for a specific job, the employer will pay the fees for the test. Fees can range from $50 to $200 depending on where the test is taken.
Practicing for the Wonderlic
What to Expect During Testing
The test taker will be asked to provide an ID to take the test and obtain their results. The test is administered and it is timed so the proctor will tell those taking the test when to begin and when to stop. The takers have 12 minutes to answer as many of the 50 questions as they can correctly. Any unanswered questions will be counted as incorrect.
What are the Wonderlic Test Types?
There are several available tests provided by Wonderlic, which are primarily administered to students or job seekers. While there are many tests provided by Wonderlic, here are several of the most popular versions.
Scholastic Level Exam
The Scholastic Level Exam (SLE) is used by schools and universities to assist with predicting academic outcomes for prospective or current students. This helps supplement other student body outcome statistics like GPA, transfer rates, student loan defaults, job placement rates, and graduation rates.
The test can be administered either as the traditional Scholastic Level Exam (50 questions in 12 minutes) or as the Quicktest version (30 questions in 8 minutes). The quicktest is not proctored and can be taken from any location, while the traditional version is proctored.
Test questions are comprised of mathematical reasoning, reading comprehension, word matching, and spatial comprehension questions.
For Job Seekers
The Wonderlic Personnel test is typically administered to prospective employees during the application process. The test provides the employer with information about a job candidate’s ability to learn, apply knowledge, understand instructions, and solve problems. The test also measures their perceived future satisfaction with a specific job, which helps a company avoid mis-hires.
Questions are administered online and the candidate has 12 minutes to complete the 50 question test. Test questions are comprised of mathematic reasoning, reading comprehension, word matching, and spatial comprehension questions.
Basic Skills Test
The Basic Skills Test is offered to both job seekers and students as a longer than typical version of the traditional Wonderlic test. It is designed for students and job seekers that will require communication and mathematical skills on an ongoing basis to succeed.
The Basic Skills test focuses on assessing math and verbal knowledge, and divides the test into 45 math and 50 verbal questions. 20 minutes is given to complete each section of the test.
Test questions are comprised of information retrieval, word knowledge, and sentence construction questions.