History of the Wonderlic Test

The history of the Wonderlic test involves a past that includes aircraft carriers, football players and others; it is also the most famous test for cognitive ability in the world.


1930–1940

  • F. Wonderlic revealed the world’s first short-form cognitive ability test called the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT).
  • He became the first Director of Personnel for Household Finance Corporation.
  • Applied Psychology published E.F. Wonderlic’s studies on the scientific analysis of job applicant abilities as a continuing business practice.
  • During World War II, the U.S. Navy used the WPT to select candidates for pilot training and navigation.
  • Douglas Aircraft Corporation worked with Wonderlic to solve problems involving employee placement and training.
  • The Conference Board published E.F. Wonderlic’s second study on the scientific analysis of job applicant abilities as a continuing business practice.

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1950-1960

E.F. Wonderlic and Associates, Inc. was established.

  • They published the first normative study of job applicant test scores.
  • The second normative study of job applicant test scores was published, setting the standard for the publication of WPT data that comes out every ten years, and continues to this day.
  • Charles F. Wonderlic Sr. (son of E.F.), became the second generation of Wonderlics to lead the growing organization. He also added the Hay Battery of clerical and psychomotor tests.
  • The Civil Rights Act created legal employment standards to avoid discrimination based on race, origin, or religion. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is established.

1970-1980

  • Wonderlic published the third study of job applicant test scores, this time by job title, nationality, and race. Today, these studies remain the best resource for examining the questions of testing with fairness and validity. Wonderlic’s studies have demonstrated that the WPT measures employee job performance potential without regard to nationality or race.
  • The Dallas Cowboys began using the WPT to forecast player performance. The test is still used today by the NFL in their annual Combine, as a pre-draft assessment of player’s mental skills.
  • Wonderlic addressed the needs of postsecondary trade and technical schools by revising the WPT for education. This new test, called the Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam, is one of the most popular student assessments on the market today.
  • Charles F. Wonderlic, Jr. takes over company leadership. Under his guidance, the company experiences rapid growth and expansion of the products and services offered.
  • Carl Dodrill published a study of the WPT in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychologists. This study found that the WPT was an accurate measure of full-scale adult intelligence. In April of 1983 and February of 1998, he also published follow-up articles examining the long-term reliability of the WPT as a measure of intelligence.
  • The fourth study established the relationship between median job applicant scores and minimum scores required for acceptable job performance.
  • The results of validity studies on the Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam were published in the Wonderlic article “Admissions Testing in Vocational and Technical Training Schools.”
  • The Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam was approved by the American Council on Education as a valid predictor of vocational training success.

The Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam was also approved by the U.S. Department of Education for Title IV Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) testing.


1990-2000

  • The fifth decennial study from Wonderlic was released, expanding upon the relationship between median job applicant scores and minimum scores required for acceptable job performance.
  • The Association of Test Publishers was established, with Wonderlic as a founding member.
  • The Wonderlic Basic Skills Test “Ability-to-Benefit” (ATB) was approved by the U.S. Department of Education for ATB testing. They adopt many of Wonderlic’s ATB program procedures in their new regulations.
  • They added new tests, including the Personal Characteristics Inventory (PCI)and the Comprehensive Personality Profile (CPP).
  • They came out with PhonApp and WebApp.
  • They published their decennial WPT study that looks at trends in comparison with previous studies.
  • Wonderlic Online was introduced, allowing customers to track candidates, securely administer and score tests on the Internet, and make quicker hiring and admissions decisions.
  • They released a revised version of the original WPT called the WPT-R, which updated the questions and scoring.
  • Wonderlic Data Exchange became available to clients, allowing for perfected data sharing between Wonderlic Online and external databases.
  • Wonderlic’s Director of Research and Development Operations was appointed to the Department of Education’s Committee for Negotiated Rulemaking. He guided the committee in establishing ATB testing’s new regulations.