How To Assess For GCA (General Cognitive Ability) - Atomic Hire Blog
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How To Assess For GCA (General Cognitive Ability)3 min read

February 1, 2019 3 min read


How To Assess For GCA (General Cognitive Ability)3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The use of General Cognitive Ability as a predictor of job performance is one of the most important methods for candidate assessment. Neil Schmitt (2014), a psychologist from Michigan State University, produced a relevant research paper in which his conclusions state; “cognitive ability measures should predict performance outcomes in most, if not all, jobs and situations”. Therefore, understanding how to effectively assess for GCA is invaluable knowledge for any recruiter or interviewer aiming to provide an efficient hiring strategy.

general cognitive ability

Cognitive Ability Test

Sometimes known as a general intelligence assessment (GIA), a cognitive ability test is the best-proven method for GCA assessment. This tool is used to measure general intelligence, divided into categories such as analytical thinking and mental agility.

In terms of accuracy, a cognitive ability test has a 0.51 correlation coefficient for predicting job success, while having a correlation coefficient of 1.0 would mean it’s a perfect predictor. Therefore, a test of this accuracy,, which in comparison to an unstructured interview (0.18), is a very effective method. Laszlo Block, formerly the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, suggests the best predictor of job performance is a work test sample, while the cognitive ability test is a close second.

To begin creating a cognitive ability test, a baseline is needed, which is generally best obtained by performing the test on current employees. This process produces an initial benchmark for comparison.

After a benchmark is found, traditional cognitive tests are usually standardised for ease of distribution to a large applicant pool, however there are other versions available for more specific assessment methods.

GCA Test and Applicant Selection

Revelian, an Australian-based company specialising in data-driven human behaviour insights, for example, use Linear-On-the-Fly-Testing (LOFT), a randomised question method whereby the questions increase in difficulty and will be random for each participant, therefore maintaining individuality. A test of this kind is said to include up to 51 verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning questions, and should take about 20 minutes to complete. This more randomised method would be more effective for a smaller applicant selection due to the production of more unique results.

Whereas, if a large number of applicants are in need of assessment, a more standardised format would aid the efficiency. Thomas, a global provider of people assessment tools, has designed a General Intelligence Assessment (GIA) to test an individual’s speed of processing information and ability to learn and develop new skills. They state that the GIA will “enable you to identify potential leaders, those that can think on their feet and the people better suited to methodical problem solving”. An assessment like this is effective when assessing a variety of skilled candidates.

When it comes down to the results, some tests will take an average of all correct answers to provide a finalised value, while others will separate the scores of each mental ability (verbal, reasoning, mathematical etc.). These different methods are generally dependant on the specifics of the applied role. Therefore a hiring manager or recruiter can design an evaluation strategy based on the complexity of the role responsibilities.

Research suggests that high cognitive ability can benefit decision making, problem-solving and shows an intelligent approach to complex tasks. However, you must always remember that a cognitive ability test is only one part of candidate assessment. Combining a work test sample, cognitive ability test, behavioral assessments, and a structured interview provides the most effective strategy for predicting job performance.

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