Wonderlic Scores

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test is the brainchild of E. F. Wonderlic. As a graduate student at Northwestern University (in the mid-1930's), he crafted the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test - a group of intelligence exams used to evaluate potential employees’ capacities in the areas of critical thinking and problem solving for a variety of occupations and industries.

What is the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test?

The latest, updated version is entitled the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test. It was released in 2007. This latest iteration of the Wonderlic Test is available online, in addition to the original printed version.

For the past 80+ years, the Wonderlic Test has been shown to be a scientifically valid assessment tool that accurately assesses a potential job applicant’s vocational aptitude. The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test assists companies and businesses in the following ways:

  • Employee Retention Rates fall.
  • Employee Productivity rises.
  • As a Personality, Motivation & Cognitive Performance indicator, the test gives valuable information to employers.
  • Employee Satisfaction improvements.

The contents of the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test fall within the confines of the psychological sub-category of Industrial & Organization Psychology. It is relevant to note that the American Psychological Association (APA) supports the use of the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test for personnel issues within many different economic sectors.

The Wonderlic Test’s Four Sections

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test is organized into four sections. Each score anticipates how a potential job applicant will perform within the job/employment field they have selected. Each test section is chosen to fulfill a specific purpose.

Wonderlic, Inc. asserts (and time has proven) that Wonderlic tests facilitate employers in determining if an applicant will be able to meet the demands the open position.

The Skills Section

The skills section was created by E.F. Wonderlic’s son, Charles, and added during the 1950s to the ever-growing number of specific Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Tests. The skills section measures a test taker's English and Math capabilities, among others. The skills section is available in several variations:

  • The Wonderlic Basic Skills Test – Evaluates the test taker's verbal & math abilities.
  • The Perceptual Ability Test – Evaluates the test taker's aptitude for details regarding alphanumeric accuracy.
  • The Wonderlic Software Skills Test –Evaluates the test taker's software use proficiency.

The Behavioral Liability Section

The Behavioral Liability section of the Wonderlic Test measures how an individual will behave in a community when faced with inevitable interpersonal challenges. This section has two parts:

  • The Behavior Risk Profile – This profile the behavioral traits of workability, neurotic behavior, and one’s level of conscientiousness.
  • The Behavior Risk Profile – This profile is similar to the first; however, it adds questions regarding productivity.

The Cognitive Ability Section

The Cognitive Ability section was added in the 1990s. This section is designed to assess a test taker's learning abilities and problem-solving skills. The Cognitive Ability Section is offered in several formats:

  • The Quick Test – Test-takers are given 30 questions that must be completed in eight minutes or less.
  • The Personnel Test–Test-takers are given 50 questions that must be completed in twelve minutes or less. Given that a test-taker must answer nearly twice as many questions, it is noted that this version offers a more comprehensive panel prediction.
  • The SLE Test – This version is most often used for admission into a medical or nursing school.

Wonderlic Cognitive Ability

Source: Wonderlic Blog

The Personality Section

The Personality section was added in the 1990s, about the time the cognitive ability section was added. The Personality section, which has been broadly accepted as an accurate predictor of one’s future job performance, is organized in two versions:

The 5 Factory Profile – This profile assesses the following personality dimensions of the test taker’s personality:

  • Emotional Stability
  • Openness
  • Extraversion Level
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

The 7 Factor Profile – This more comprehensive profile assesses seven personality traits that are generally required for customer service-related jobs:

  • Instinct and Perception
  • Trust
  • Decisiveness
  • Emotional Intensity
  • Motivation
  • Sensitivity
  • Positive Impression

For more insights into your personality, see our guide to personality tests. Also, see CollegeTotal's list of motivational quotes for inspiration.

Preparing to Take the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test

The Wonderlic Test is not exactly the kind of test one can study for; however, a Wonderlic test taker is encouraged to sufficiently prepare for the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test. This includes learning how the test is delivered. It also includes a dedicated commitment to preparing. The easiest way to score well on the test (which just might be the factor that lands you the job), is to take advantage of these free practice tests:

Wonderlic’s Scoring Methodology

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test follows a very specific format; however, the Wonderlic group test is available in more than ten languages.

The Wonderlic test taker must answer 50 multiple-choice questions in twelve minutes or less. Each correct answer adds one point to your final score, and the questions become more challenging as you progress through the test.

According to Wonderlic Inc., the Wonderlic score is calculated based upon how many questions were answered correctly in the given time limit of 12 minutes. Unanswered questions are scored as zero. It is widely known that:

  • A Wonderlic test taker of average intelligence (i.e. an IQ of 100) is represented by a score of 20 points.
  • A Wonderlic test taker who scores a minimum of10 points is considered literate.

Logically speaking, then, the scope of Wonderlic scores would fall as follows:

  • The Highest Wonderlic Test Score – One would achieve the highest score (50 Points) by answering all of the questions correctly in the 12-minute allotted time.
  • The Lowest Wonderlic Test Score– One would score the lowest score (0 Points) by providing incorrect answers to the questions he or she had time to answer.

Mensa Scoring vs. Wonderlic Scoring

Mensa is an organization for those who possess an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) that falls within (or above) the 98th percentile of the entire population. The Mensa organization, with its profound interest in intelligence testing, has taken the time to correlate how your Wonderlic Score relates to one’s IQ.

Check out which Wonderlic scores place a test-taker in a position to be eligible for membership in Mensa.

The Wonderlic Score’s Ability to Predict an NFL Player’s Performance

Historically, the National Football League's (NFL) players were selected in a yearly draft based on their high school/college football careers and their physical abilities/talents. However, sometime during Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboy’s hey-day of the 1970s, he thought it would be helpful to utilize the Wonderlic Test to evaluate a draft prospect’s mental acuity and personality traits to decide which candidate would fit best with the team. The Wonderlic test is still utilized as a part of the National Football League’s Scouting Combine – a 7-day event where potential NFL hopefuls (who have been invited) have a chance to showcase their talents while head coaches and football scouts watch in real-time.

Understanding how the Wonderlic Score correlates to a successful NFL career is more complex than one would think. For example, while a head football coach may want their players to be intelligent, a head coach needs to remain cognizant of the fact that intelligent people are more likely to challenge a coach’s authority. This type of ‘challenging behavior’ is typically counterproductive to the management of an NFL team. This is just one example of the many crosscurrents NFL coaches must overcome.

After many years of use, the NFL has accumulated enough data to learn that:

  • The best Wonderlic scores do not necessarily predict a positive career within the National Football League
  • The lowest scores do not necessarily predict an unsuccessful future within the National Football League

Average Wonderlic Scores by NFL Position

The celebrated Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman published The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football in 1984. This publication was a follow up to Mr. Zimmerman’s The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football – a guide noted as the finest book of its kind by the legendary, if not cheeky, broadcaster, Howard Cosell.

The book was written to emphasize how the grueling competition in the game of football impacts a person's personality, and vice versa.

According to Mr. Zimmerman’s renowned football guide, the average Wonderlic score for the varying NFL professional positions, calculate as follows:

Football Position Average Wonderlic Score
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

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test has become so ingrained in modern football culture that an altered version of the test is available in the NFL’s wildly popular Madden video game. It can be found in the Superstar part of the video game.

The Take-Away

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test is a time-tested exam that can be used for many different jobs, in as many different industries. And while the Wonderlic Test was initially created for business personnel, its proven benefits are a great addition to evaluating potential candidates for the National Football League, and even for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Some argue that the Wonderlic Test is a quick Intelligence Quotient Test; with results obtained in lightning speed. However, it seems more appropriate to view the Wonderlic Test as a simple assessment exam that you just might for employment now, and in the future.


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