Psychometric Tests – Is It Time to Test The Testers?


I happened to land on a workplace testing company’s site the other day, and there was an Inductive Reasoning Test offered to try for free. Having nothing better to do at that moment, I clicked the button.

The test and a brief description of what to do appeared. I was totally confused. The instructions said to pick the next pattern in the series. Below were several boxes, each with 4 symbols, each box with either a different pattern of symbols, some with symbols other boxes didn’t have … you’ve seen this kind of set-up many times. Thing is, I was expecting a verbal test. But I went along with it.

After staring at it for a few minutes, I started to see how some of the symbols were ordered, and eventually chose one that seemed to me would be next according to the pattern I noticed. I won’t tell you whether I chose correctly or not, because it isn’t the point.

What’s the point? That this test doesn’t test inductive reasoning aptitude – not that I could see any reason to test that anyway. We use inductive reasoning so much, everyone must have an aptitude for it. You know, start with a specific, or a few specifics – I know three Martians and they all smell funny, therefore all Martians smell funny – and come to a generalized (in this case, over-generalized) conclusion. Which, of course, can’t be proved. The scientific method uses inductive reasoning – hopefully more carefully than in my example.

The test is incorrectly labeled. It doesn’t test for inductive reasoning. It could be used to give an idea of aptitude for mathematical induction, which actually uses deductive reasoning and can be proved. But if you were hiring someone that needed that kind of skill, say your business is in the computer sciences or engineering areas, your candidates would have already taken geometry, calculus and know all about inductive math. They wouldn’t really need to be tested for aptitude, would they? They’d know this test isn’t what it says it is.

If you were hiring a researcher, a great inductive math aptitude score masquerading as a great inductive reasoning score wouldn’t be very helpful.

I decided to go back on line to see if this was an isolated incident. Sad to say it isn’t. This miss-labeling is widespread. To make matters worse, I even found so-called inductive reasoning, symbol groups to choose from and all – under the heading of Verbal Reasoning Test. This is not good news for job hunters looking in the communications area who aren’t so hot in math.

To be fair, I did find the same test a couple of times listed under analytical reasoning, which would be a little closer. But, for sure, there are some folks out there in psychometric testing land who aren’t clear on at least a few key concepts.

When is a verbal reasoning test not verbal reasoning test? When it’s a inductive reasoning test that isn’t an inductive reasoning test. Oh, and just in case this little gem is kicking around in school testing – heads up! Too bad the most common names and descriptions for reasoning methods weren’t taught back when we took grammar – it’d be handy to know what to call what we’re already doing – and this kind of little mix up wouldn’t happen.

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