Assessing ability: Untangling the current and future of skills and cognitive assessments

In an HR context, ‘ability tests’ (or ability psychometrics) assess skills development and learning in the workplace, and can also be used to select for specific job roles which require a particular skill set. It is common practice for employers to use ability tests for selection; it can be an efficient way of sifting through candidates at the early stages of recruitment and a useful means of identifying the cognitive ability of ‘high potentials’.

However, it is important to select the right tests for the right context, and to ensure that the assessments are not only a good fit for the job role but also give the candidates a fair chance. At Hogrefe we publish a wide range of tests which assess different abilities across the working lifespan.

Hogrefe offers six ability tests for use in selection and development, which represent a comprehensive view of cognitive ability and skills.

While we highlight some of the advantages of each below, we invite you to visit our comprehensive ability test overview for more information.

What is assessed?

These tests assess different elements of ability including:

  • verbal reasoning
  • comprehension
  • numerical reasoning
  • non-verbal
    • perceptual reasoning
    • spatial ability
    • mechanical understanding
    • attention

Of course, the advantage of non-verbal tests is that they do not require understanding of language and they avoid cultural bias. The BOMAT and DESIGMA, which are both matrix tests, and some of the IST-Screening tests (those assessing figural intelligence) are examples of this.

For specific skills, the BOMAT assesses complex logical reasoning, the d2-R measures attention and the MTVT and one component of the PPM-R test for mechanical or technical skills.

All of Hogrefe’s ability tests can all be assessed via an online platform with access to different norm groups and they vary in length – from the d2-R which takes just 10 minutes to complete, to the longer test batteries such as the PPM-R and BOMAT which can take upwards of one hour. The PPM-R is made up of different modules that can be selected according to need.

For some of the more technical or specific high-level job roles, it is essential to use an assessment which is longer and more complex in order to more effectively differentiate between candidates – and of course, it is always a good idea to pair ability tests with other assessments according to need (personality, leadership, decision-making and more).

How will ability assessments be used in future HR?

How ability tests will be used in the future depends on technological advancements, scientific discoveries and societal changes. Advances in neuroimaging technology like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) could allow for cognitive tests to be combined with real-time brain activity monitoring. This might offer deeper insights into cognitive processes and help refine assessments.

In a similar way, cognitive tests could move further into the digital realm, incorporating gamification elements to engage users and make testing more enjoyable for some. As wearable devices become more sophisticated, they could play a role in monitoring cognitive functions over time. These devices might track brain activity, eye movement, heart rate variability and other physiological markers, providing a comprehensive picture of cognitive health.

Ability tests could become more personalised and adaptive, tailoring questions and difficulty levels based on an individual's cognitive profile. This could provide a more accurate assessment of a person's strengths and weaknesses. As well as this, tests could be used to identify areas of cognitive strength and providing strategies to improve cognitive resilience and skill.

Ability tests could become more culturally and linguistically adapted to ensure fairness and accuracy across diverse populations. This might involve creating tests that are less reliant on specific cultural or language knowledge.

Ability tests could incorporate AI algorithms to analyse large amounts of data and identify subtle cognitive patterns, through helping in the early detection of cognitive decline or suggesting personalised interventions. This would have great utility with an ageing workforce and help to support employees, with the ability to track changes in cognitive functions over an individual's lifespan and provide insights into cognitive aging and development.

Finally, with the increasing use of personal data in cognitive assessments, concerns about privacy, data security and potential misuse of information might become more pronounced. Striking a balance between effective assessment and protecting individuals’ data rights will be crucial.

It is increasingly important to approach these developments with ethical considerations and a critical eye in order to make the best decisions in selection and to support employees’ development, as well as focussing on improving cognitive health and wellbeing.

For more on Hogrefe’s ability and other HR assessments.