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.
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.
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. Some sample test questions include questions like:
- -41 + 13 equals:
- Tom and Chad stand on the equator, 12 meters apart. Chad walks 6 meters due East and Tom walks 6 meters due west. How far apart are they now?
- Taylor is going on a road trip that is 600 miles long. Her friend recommends that she buy engine oil A because it will save her 60 cents in gas for every 20 miles of the trip. Oil A, however, will cost $35. Is it worthwhile for Taylor to buy the oil if she has a coupon for $10 off the price?
- Do the word refrain and retain have opposite or similar meanings or no relationship?
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 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%.
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.
Today, a number of different organizations from Fortune 500 companies to the NFL all utilize the Wonderlic to determine a wide variety of qualities they are looking for. In some cases, they are looking specifically for very high scorers and in others, they are looking for individuals to score in very specific ranges. The scores themselves are not necessarily indicative of a “good” or “bad” candidate, but rather one that does or does not possess a very specific set of skills and traits an employer might be looking for to fill a certain position.
This site is not associated in any way with Wonderlic, Inc. the official provider of the Wonderlic test. Our sample quizzes are merely designed to offer a similar experience and test scenario. The scores you receive on our practice tests may not accurately reflect the score you’ll get on the real test. That said, we do feel this is good practice for the Wonderlic test whether you’re taking it for job preparation, school, or just to compare your Wonderlic score to famous athletes.