Wonderlic Cognitive Ability vs Basic Skills Test

Many people mistakenly think that the Cognitive Ability Test and the Basic Skills Test are one and the same. In reality those two tests measure completely different set of things, and should not be confused with one another.


Here are the main differences between the two tests.

Cognitive Ability Test (CogAt)

The Cognitive Ability Test measures a person’s ability to learn, adapt, solve various problems and follow a set of instructions. It does not measure whether one can read or do math problems. Of course one must be able to read and do multiplications in order to do the test, but the test itself doesn’t measure that.

The questions on CogAt include logical analogies, math problems, spatial relationships and verbal capabilities. Such questions help determine:

  • How quickly can one learn the required job tasks?
  • Can one think outside the box?
  • Will one be able to come up with solutions to problems that pop up during a day’s work?
  • Can one will be able to understand the customer’s needs and offer the right ideas?

It’s important to know such things about your potential candidate, and about the skill set he or she might have.

Basic Skills Test

In contrast, the Basic Skills Test measures one’s abilities when math and language are concerned. This test is especially perfect for entry-level jobs. Questions on the Basic Skills Test mainly include reading comprehension, and lower-level math problems.

Unlike the Cognitive Ability Test, which measures one’s ability to learn reading and math skills, the Basic Skills Test measures one’s existing skill level in these areas.

Further skills tested are keyboarding and data entry, writing skills, software capabilities (excel, power point), call center scenarios, etc. Such skills are usually needed for jobs that should be up and running right away.

When should I use tests in my hiring process?

Although it depends on the type of position you’re hiring for, you should use those tests as early as possible in your hiring process. Doing so makes sure all of the candidates have the minimum qualifications needed for the position offered.

Furthermore, doing the test before the job interview itself allows you an objective, non-biased point of view of the candidate – something which saves you both time and money.

Here are the main Wonderlic tests recommended for job applicants:

  • Prescreen Questionnaire
  • Cognitive Ability Pretest
  • Personality Test
  • Behavioral Reliability Test
  • Cognitive Ability Test
  • Skills Test

To summarize

Skills tests measure the skills and proficiencies a person already has.

Cognitive Ability tests measure the person’s ability to learn new skills, adapt to various situations, solve problems and follow instructions.


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