Aptitude Tests- Where did they come from?

The history of the aptitude tests goes back centuries to when a need to assess someone’s ability first arose. There always seems to have been some form of aptitude test to assess specific skills. Go back many centuries BC. There you will find many of the greatest soldiers written about in battles had specific skills. And so tests to measure aptitude have developed over time and have become more specific and accurate.

Today these tests can cover verbal, physical and mental skills. Here you will learn here how they have become so effective.

So who was the first one to create an aptitude test?

In truth, the answer is not known, primarily for one simple reason. That reason is the definition of the word ‘aptitude’. Today it may be clearly defined as “a natural ability to do something”. However, centuries ago, the need to establish ability was very limited.

In addition, there has long been confusion between ability and intelligence. Often you can be very intelligent, but useless in practical terms. You can be great at sport, but not good academically. With the choice of careers available, knowing early on what you are good at is important.

The first known test was described as an intelligence aptitude test. However it differed greatly from those tests of today. The history of the aptitude tests officially starts with Sir Francis Galton. He produced the first test in the early part of the 19th century. Unfortunately Galton’s tests were mainly physical and sensory.  Today they are more mental or cognitive in content.

As a result, Galton’s test results didn’t stand up to major scrutiny.

The other problem with early aptitude testing is that they were designed to identify mental weakness. As with any test, if you have a specific target in mind, the test can be adapted to that task. Consequently, those who performed exceptionally well were ignored. This changed late in the 19th century when Messrs Stanford and Binet combined resources.

Like Galton, their early work involved mentally handicapped persons. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, their intelligence scale, the Stanford-Binet Scale, was published. This became adapted over the next few years. In 1916, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was introduced. This was the first test based on theoretical knowledge. This scale was adopted to help create the Army Alpha and Army Beta tests for mental capability. These two army tests were based on two scales. The Alpha test was for those who were competent English speakers. The Beta test was designed for those who were not skilled at using English.

Both tests were not designed to test comprehension of the English language. They were designed to test comprehension in a far broader scale. Until they were declassified, these were the principal skill tests used in the USA. Interestingly, it was in the early 1920’s, when the Alpha and Beta tests were declassified.

After this, the history of aptitude testing gets more interesting. A multitude of other and newer tests appeared. It would seem that it was at this stage the usefulness of the tests had been fully discovered. Finally, in 1926, these initial tests were modified in to what became the first SAT test.

History of the Aptitude tests gather momentum!

In the mid-1930’s the US Employment Service commissioned research into the aptitude of people. The research created over 100 tests. These tests were for the 100 most common types of employment at the time. The United States Employment Service then analysed the results.

It was a consequence of these tests that more general tests could be created. In the end they produced 12 specific tests which concentrated on 9 particular aptitudes. In 1947 these tests became known as the GATB (General Aptitude Test Battery). Later, in 1983, these tests were further updated.

History of the aptitude testing then shows that a differential aptitude test was developed. This was divided up in to three principal sections. These were the GAB (General Abilities Battery). Then there was the TAB (technical Abilities Battery).

The GAB was intended for recruitment staff up to junior management level. The TAB was intended for those recruited to technical management. Finally there was the DAT for Guidance. This was intended for school leavers and general career guidance for adults.

The tests discussed above were developed in the USA. However their methods are applicable worldwide. These test have been used in the UK and Europe as well as the USA. They are seen as the most comprehensive form of aptitude test available.


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