General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB)

General Aptitude Test BatteryThe General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) is a work-related multiple-ability assessment developed by the U.S. Employment Service (USES), a division of the Department of Labor. The following sections review the historical development of the GATB; the primary characteristics of the most recent measure, the Ability Profiler; and the current usage and availability of the Ability Profiler.

Historical Development of the GATB

In the mid-1930s, the USES initiated a program of aptitude test research, resulting in approximately 100 ability tests designed to predict success across a wide variety of occupations representative of the U.S. labor force at the time. The USES then examined a set of these tests through a series of factor analyses, ultimately identifying 12 tests measuring nine aptitudes. GATB edition B-1002 comprised these 12 tests and was published in 1947 in two forms (A and B). Two additional forms (C and D) were subsequently published in 1983. State employment service offices used the GATB for vocational counseling and applicant referral, and high schools, technical schools, universities, labor union apprenticeship programs, vocational rehabilitation agencies, and other authorized agencies used the battery for vocational and career counseling.

In the late 1980s, a review of the GATB by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences raised a number of concerns, and, subsequently, the battery went through several important changes in development. The concerns of the NRC included aesthetics, speed of completion, scoring, and susceptibility to coaching. The result of the revision process comprised GATB Forms E and F, now referred to as Ability Profiler Forms 1 and 2, respectively. These forms represent the current operational versions of the battery and are designed exclusively for vocational counseling, occupational exploration, and career planning.

Characteristics of the Ability Profiler

The Ability Profiler, comprising 11 separately timed tests, measures nine work-related abilities:

  1. Verbal Ability: ability to understand the meaning of words and use them effectively in good communication when you listen, speak, or write
  2. Arithmetic Reasoning: ability to use several math skills and logical thinking to solve problems in everyday situations
  3. Computation: ability to use arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve everyday problems involving numbers
  4. Spatial Ability: ability to form pictures of objects in your mind
  5. Form Perception: ability to quickly and accurately see details in objects, pictures, or drawings
  6. Clerical Perception: ability to quickly and accurately see differences in detail in printed material
  7. Motor Coordination: ability to quickly and accurately coordinate eyes with hands or fingers when making precise hand movements
  8. Manual Dexterity: ability to quickly and accurately move hands easily and skillfully
  9. Finger Dexterity: ability to move fingers skillfully and easily

There are three options for administering the Ability Profiler. First, all 11 tests can be administered in approximately 2.5 hours. This option is preferable for individuals exploring all occupations, including those requiring psychomotor abilities. Second, the 7 paper-and-pencil tests can be administered in approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. This option is preferable when individuals are not exploring occupations requiring manual or finger dexterity. Third, the 6 non-psychomotor tests can be administered in approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. This option is preferable when individuals are not exploring occupations requiring psychomotor abilities. For all options, examinees must (a) be at least 16 years old, (b) read English at a sixth-grade level or higher, and (c) not have taken any form of the Ability Profiler or GATB within the prior six months.

Extensive research generally supports the reliability and validity of earlier GATB forms. For instance, numerous studies indicate the GATB instruments demonstrate acceptable test-retest reliability (most estimates are greater than .70), convergent validity, and at least modest correlations with ratings of job performance, although the evidence is often stronger for the cognitive aptitudes (e.g., Verbal Ability) than for the perceptual (e.g., Form Perception) or psychomotor (e.g., Finger Dexterity) aptitudes. Although there is less evidence to date for Ability Profiler Forms 1 and 2, reliability and construct validity analyses also support the use of these forms.

Current Usage and Availability of the Ability Profiler

The Ability Profiler is currently in use as part of the Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Career Exploration Tools. The O*NET is an extensive computerized occupational database of both job and worker characteristics. The O*NET Career Exploration Tools consist of a set of instruments designed to help individuals identify their work-related abilities, interests, and values, as well as to find the occupations that best correspond to individuals’ attributes. The Ability Profiler instrument compares the individual’s profile of abilities obtained from the Ability Profiler tests to similar ability requirement profiles of each O*NET occupation. Occupations with profiles closely matching the individual’s profile (as reflected in the correlation between profiles) are suggested as promising areas for further career exploration.

The Ability Profiler and supporting documents (e.g., score reports, user’s guide) can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office or downloaded from the O*NET Resource Center Web site. Although certification is not required to administer the Ability Profiler, training should be given; the O*NET Resource Center Web site also provides training materials. Furthermore, users are allowed to modify or extend the Ability Profiler tool to develop customized products, but they must do so in accordance with the terms of the O*NET Developer’s Agreement.

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  1. Hartigan, J. A. and Wigdor, A. K., eds. 1989. Fairness in Employment Testing: Validity Generalization, Minority Issues, and the General Aptitude Test Battery. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  2. McCloy, R., Campbell, J., Oswald F., Rivkin, D. and Lewis, P. 1999. Generation and Use of Occupational Ability Profiles for Exploring O*NET Occupational Units. Raleigh, NC: National Center for O*NET Development.
  3. Mellon, S. J., Daggett, M., MacManus, V. and Moritsch, B. 1996. “Development of General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) Forms E and F.” Pp. 1-58 in GATB Improvement Project Final Report, edited by R. A. McCloy, T. L. Russell and L. L. Wise. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.
  4. Segall, D. O. and Monzon, R. I. 1995. Equating Forms E and F of the P&P-GATB. Monterey, CA: Navy Personnel Research and Development Center.
  5. S. Department of Labor. 1970. Manual for the USES General Aptitude Test Battery, Section III: Development. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  6. S. Department of Labor. 2002. O*NET Ability Profiler Administration Manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.