Wonderlic Personnel Test

Wonderlic Personnel TestThe Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT) is one of the most widely used tests of general cognitive ability (g). A recent search of an automated database located over 1,000 references to the WPT. The current form is the result of more than 60 years of research and development. Wonderlic Inc., the WPT’s publisher located in Libertyville, Illinois, states that the test is used by business and government organizations for evaluation of applicants for employment and training. Both paper-and-pencil and computer-administered versions of the test are available. Equivalence of the administration methods has been substantiated by research. There are also large print, Braille, and audio versions for special needs populations.

There is a well-written test user’s manual with documentation that contains important criteria used to judge the merits of the test. Wonderlic acknowledges the more than ample research on the efficacy of general cognitive ability as a predictor of important occupational criteria. The user’s manual also notes that the WPT does not measure non-cognitive constructs such as interests, motivation, or personality.

The WPT forms have 50 questions constituting a wide variety of content areas, including verbal, numerical, and spatial. In keeping with good professional practice, the questions are arranged in order of increasing difficulty, and the publisher states that a sixth-grade reading level is sufficient for test comprehension and completion. Knowledge of basic mathematics, U.S. monetary units and currency, and frequently used units of measurement (e.g., foot, yard) are required. Administration of the paper-and-pencil version takes about 20 minutes. The exact testing time is 12 minutes; the other 8 minutes are for administrative procedures such as distributing forms, answering questions, providing instructions, and collecting the forms. There are guides for the proper administration, age adjustment, and retesting on an alternate form. Complete scoring instructions and a single overall score are provided. The publisher can provide scoring, if desired.


Several measures of reliability are reported. The publisher has been careful to identify the type of reliability such as test-retest, KR-20, or alternate forms. Depending on the study cited, the reliability has ranged from 0.73 to 0.95. The publisher also addresses the question of test score differences by reference to the Probable Error of Measurement (PEM), also called the standard error of measurement. PEM estimates for the WPT are given as between 1.3 to 1.8, and interpretations of differences are provided.


The WPT user’s manual presents a thorough discussion of the fair use of tests and the WPT in particular. It is recognized that assessment of test fairness and fair use of tests is a complex and statistically sophisticated issue. External researchers are cited as having found the WPT, as a professionally developed cognitive ability test, to be free of bias.

Score Tables

Numerous tables are provided, including population norms. The 1992 normative population includes 118,549 participants and is available as number-right scores. Among the useful tables is one showing the score distribution in the adult working population, high school graduates from 16 to 30, and college graduates aged 20-30. Number-right scores and their cumulative percentiles are provided. Tables are included that show the effects of sex, age, and education on test scores. Tables also show score distributions and effects for ethnicity for Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. There are interpretive guidelines for various classes of occupations as well as scores achieved by samples of applicants for numerous occupations ranging from “packer” to “attorney.” In addition, there is a table with suggested minimum test scores for selected occupations. However, the knowledgeable counselor or human resources specialist will remember that these are just suggestions, and both legal and scientific rigor requires the development of appropriate minimum scores for the situation.


The WPT user’s manual shows the results of numerous validation studies. Construct validity is addressed by providing correlations with other tests. The manual includes information on tests the WPT has been correlated with, the citation of source studies, and the provision of information about sample size. Tests with which the WPT shows a high correlation are well characterized as tests of general cognitive ability such as IQ tests and achievement tests. The WPT shows an especially high correlation with the Wechsler individually administered IQ tests. Adding to the construct validity, there are low correlations reported with measures of personality, social judgment, interest inventories, and emotional adjustment. This provides a proper nexus of correlations for a construct validation.

Empirical validations also are reported, and the sample size is shown for each study. For each of the validity coefficients, the business occupational category such as General Office, Blue Collar, or Supervision is provided. Specific positions are reported, ranging from bank tellers to utility crew, and from first-line production supervisors to bake shop managers. Validity studies are also cited for the non-­business categories, including Decision Processing, Engineering, and Professional. Validity coefficients also are provided for Vocational Training Programs.

Criteria, validity coefficients, and a citation are given for each study. Criteria range from annual pay increase to the supervisor’s rating of performance. Validity coefficients are reported in the form of correlations. The validity coefficients tabled in the user’s manual are consistent with studies of other similar tests and are in the expected range in the many meta-analyses of general cognitive ability as a predictor of training and job performance.

Language Versions

The WPT has been translated into several languages. The most useful may be the Spanish language version, which has gone through translation from English and other development activities. The publisher has conducted research and development activities so that the Spanish version has evolved into a measure equivalent to the English version.

The WPT is a well-documented, widely used measure of general cognitive ability. It is available in both electronic and paper-and-pencil forms in several languages. The WPT is appropriate for both theoretical and practical applications. Furthermore, the WPT has demonstrated that solid psychometric properties (reliability, validity, fairness) and norms are available for many subgroups.

See also:


  • Wonderlic, E. F. 2000. Wonderlic Personnel Test and Scholastic Level Exam User’s Manual. Libertyville, IL: Author.