Cognitive ability relates to how quickly and accurately you can process information. Information can be presented verbally, numerically or in spatial and abstract forms. The Thomas General Intelligence Assessment (GIA) measures your cognitive aptitudes and abilities across five areas: Reasoning, Perceptual Speed, Number Speed & Accuracy, Word Meaning and Spatial Visualisation. This section will explore some of the different types of cognitive ability tests, but first we will look to understand what these tests measure and how they are scored.
Cognition is the word that psychometrics experts and psychologists use for describing thought processes. Your cognitive ability encompasses your thought processes that lead to your speed of information processing. This means looking at how quickly you can move from perception and acquisition of knowledge, to retaining it, organising it around your existing knowledge and then being able to take those concepts and apply them again in a different situation. This is related to your problem-solving, analytic and reasoning skills.
When you take a cognitive ability test, the test will likely be timed. You will also find that your score is given to you as a percentile ranking. This gives you an idea of where your score sits against a particular population, selected as a comparison sample. For example, if you score in the 36th percentile, this means that your score was the same as or better than 36% of the population that you are being compared against. This sample population or norm group could be either the UK working population, or a role or industry specific norm group.
There is debate over whether the norm group should be role or industry specific, for example if the norm group you are being compared against should be a population of people that work in human resource management. However, this does not take into account all of the differences that there will be between companies and types of HRM. Instead, a more broad working population allows you to understand more about the performance of an individual in comparison with all that work in the UK.
There are a wide range of cognitive ability tests, some of which include:
- Verbal reasoning – problem solving from concepts presented in language
- Numerical reasoning - problem solving from concepts presented in numbers
- Abstract reasoning – problem solving from visual concepts and images
- Mechanical reasoning – making sound judgements using basic principles of science and mechanics
- Logic and logical reasoning – Making sound judgements and problem solving using logical thinking
- Spatial ability – your ability to manipulate 2D shapes and visualise 3D concepts
- Verbal ability – Comfort and skill with language e.g. spelling, grammar, synonyms, analogies, written instructions
- Quantitative ability – comfort and skill with numbers e.g. decimals, fractions, percentages, number sequences, basic arithmetic, charts and graphs
- General Intelligence Assessment (GIA) – speed of processing new information and applying it to what you already know
These cognitive ability tests can help to show an employer, school or coach how quickly you will pick up a new job or task, how well you will be able to make appropriate decisions in a timely manner, whether you will be able to cope well with situations that are new to you or more complicated and whether you can exercise sound reasoning and provide suitable solutions to problems.
Ultimately, these cognitive ability tests can give a strong indication of likely overall job performance, as well as identifying areas that require development and coaching. Sometimes cognitive ability tests can be used in schools, to give teachers an idea of where to focus teaching. Cognitive ability can predict both job and academic performance.