Thomas’ Aptitude assessment

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Thomas’ Aptitude assessment

Aptitude has been widely acknowledged as the most important predictor of job success. The Thomas Aptitude assessment is a cognitive ability assessment that can help to predict how quickly an individual will take to get to grips with a new role or regime.

What is an Aptitude Test ?

An aptitude test is a way to measure an employee’s or applicant’s ability to carry out a role within a business. It focuses on testing problem solving, communication, numerical and analytical skills. In short, an aptitude test will test a candidate’s skills for a specific role or duty.

Aptitude tests give hiring managers and HR teams the tools to assess a candidate’s suitability for a role based specifically on their skills and abilities. Because the tests are graded on this criteria, it helps identify the right person for the role that is available. Being able to understand how a candidate will perform tasks or knowing how they will react to different situations is, of course, a huge advantage.

Mainly carried out over online platforms, some organisations may choose to invite you into a workplace to carry out these tests – it depends on each business’ recruitment process.

Why use the Thomas Aptitude assessment ?

Measuring the aptitudes of a candidate helps you to understand if that individual will be able to quickly grasp the requirements of the role. It can give you an insight into whether they have the capacity to adapt to new challenges, and if they would be suited to drive change through your organisation.

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This insight makes it easier to select the right candidate for the role by placing an objective filter on their ability, regardless of their IQ score, qualifications, and past experience. That’s not to say that IQ, qualifications and experience are unimportant, but they’re not the best predictor of potential performance in a role.

It’s widely acknowledged that not everyone excels at school, and that results from standard national exams or industry-accepted tests aren’t the best way to understand an individual’s capabilities, the level of challenge they need to keep them stimulated and committed, or whether they will respond well to development activities.

Research by the American Psychology Association inc. Frank L. Schmidt & John E. Hunter (1998) reviewed 85 years of research and found that higher cognitive ability, or aptitude as it is also called, as measured by the Thomas Aptitude assessment, is directly linked to higher employee productivity and performance in role.

GIA measures a person’s mental horsepower and gives you a prediction of their potential to grasp a new role or respond to training by answering questions such as :

  • Can the individual cope with the mental demands of the job?
  • How quickly this person can learn?
  • Could this person be a high flyer?
  • Is this person a problem solver?
  • How quickly this person retain new skills & procedures?

Background & Theory

The Thomas Aptitude assessment (also known as the General Intelligence Assessment, or GIA), was developed over 15 years by Dr Peter Dann in the Human Assessment Laboratory at the University of Plymouth. Thomas integrated the assessment into its product suite in 2006.

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Intelligence has been defined as having fluid and crystallised components (Horn & Cattell, 1966):

Fluid Intelligence (pure processing speed) – basic intellectual processes of manipulating abstract concepts, generalisations and logical relationships (Carroll, 1993). Fluid intelligence is used to solve new problems, use logic in new situations and identify patterns. Crystallised Intelligence (learnt factors) –verbal, mechanical, and numerical ability etc. Crystallised intelligence is the ability to use learned knowledge and experience.

The Aptitude assessment is designed and theoretically underpinned by Carroll’s taxonomy/classification of cognitive abilities components of ‘g’, which is general intelligence (Spearman’s & others’ general factor of mental performance). However, the assessment is concerned much more with fluid intelligence and the use of procedural rather than declarative knowledge, by measuring elementary cognitive abilities (perceptual speed, verbal reasoning etc.). This assesses what we have termed trainability rather than ‘IQ’.

The Aptitude assessment looks at an individual’s speed of processing information and ability to learn and develop new skills. The General Intelligence Assessment is used for a variety of purposes: recruitment, retention, development, management, identifying training needs, career guidance, succession planning and benchmarking.

The Aptitude assessment was first developed as a way to measure cognitive abilities and trainability of Armed Forces known as the British Army Recruitment Battery (BARB). As the assessment continued to develop, the Human Assessment Laboratory used the potential of computer technology to pioneer the research and development of item-generation whereby test items are automatically produced to create an extremely large number of different but equivalent forms of the same test (Irvine, Dann & Anderson, 1990). GIA, along with a paper-based version, was developed from the same theoretical principles and resources as BARB. Thomas International integrated the paper-based version into its product suite in 1993 and GIA in 2006.


The Thomas Aptitude assessment consists of five online tests of simple cognitive abilities (i.e. abilities that rely on processes such as thought, language, decision making, learning and memory).

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Each of the five tests has one type of task and all the questions in a given test are of an equal level of difficulty. The individual’s score is then determined by the speed and accuracy of their responses. Scores are then compared to a sample population (the norm group) to determine whether the scores are lower, higher or in-line with the majority of that population.

Although the overall score measures ‘trainability’, each of the five tests measures a specific cognitive function (detailed below):

Perceptual Speed: This test measures the perception of inaccuracies in written material, numbers and diagrams, the ability to ignore irrelevant information, the ability to recognise similarities and differences, and error checking. It tests the speed of semantic encoding and comparison.

Reasoning: This test measures the ability to make inferences, the ability to reason from information provided and to draw the correct conclusions. This test assesses the ability of an individual to hold information in their short-term memory and solve problems.

Number Speed and Accuracy: This is a test of numerical manipulation and a measure of basic numerical reasoning ability. It measures the degree to which an individual can work comfortably with quantitative concepts.

Spatial Visualisation: This test measures the ability to create and manipulate mental images of objects. This test correlates with tests of mechanical reasoning, and assesses an individual’s ability to use mental visualisation skills to compare shapes. It relates to the ability to work in environments where visualisation skills are required to understand and execute tasks.

Word Meaning: This test assesses word knowledge and vocabulary. It assesses the comprehension of a large number of words from different parts of speech and the ability to identify the words that have similar or opposite meanings. It assesses the ability to work in environments where a clear understanding of written or spoken instructions is required.

Reliability & Validity

The Thomas Aptitude test has been subject to rigorous scientific testing to determine its reliability and validity as a psychological assessment. Various research studies have shown that the GIA is a consistent and valid measure of trainability.

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The GIA is registered with the British Psychological Society (BPS) after it was audited against the technical criteria established by the European Standing Committee on Tests and Testing, part of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations.

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