Saturday, November 07, 2015

How to utilise Aptitude tests to help your child

This blog is based on the article Dick Bolles has written about usefulness of vocational tests. He is the author of a best seller, "What color is your parachute". It is a good summary of the usefulness of aptitude tests and how to benefit from them. In an earlier blog, we had discussed the technical aspects of Aptitude tests.


Here are some of his key observations on the vocational tests:

1. Psychology Experts in “Testing and Measurement” know that tests are notoriously flawed, unscientific, and inaccurate. For instance, even if the test characterises you as 'left brained', you may still possess many of the characteristics of 'right brain' too.

2. No tests can measure a person; it measures the 'group' to which you belong to. This means that you 'may' be sharing some of the characteristics of the group. Sometimes you 'really' share most of the characteristics, sometimes you share very few. For instance, if your tests show that you are 'logical' person, you may share some of the traits of the 'logical person' such as analytical ability, left-brainness and so on. But you may not share other equally important characteristics.

3. Many vocational tests have an inbuilt algorithm to narrow down the option. Each time you answer a question, the tests narrow the option. For example, if you say, “I do not prefer to work with people,” the test will reduce and/or eliminate many of the jobs which are people-oriented. Or if you say that you are 'not interested in service jobs', it will remove the jobs in hospitality and other related industries, although not all the jobs in hospitality are 'service oriented'

How to therefore utilise aptitude tests

Given these drawback of tests, here are some of the smart suggestions that the author has made

1. Never use tests to 'confirm' a path

Because of the inherent unpredictability of tests, students should never use tests to 'narrow the choices', or to 'reduce the alternatives'. Many 10th class students in India, on the other hand, use tests to 'confirm' a selected path of Engineering or Commerce. 

2. Use tests instead to broaden the horizon

Because the tests cannot give a definite answer to the 'vocation', it is better to use them to generate more options before one arrives at a final decision. Infact, a good career planner uses more tests to explore more options. They look for clues or suggestions from the test results, rather than for a definitive answer . 

Because tests pigeon-hole a student in a family, it is important to use the clues of the 'family characteristics' that the test results offer.Tests offer therefore new ideas and suggestions to what one is. They point to some hidden clues which did not get surfaced earlier. 

3. Give tests in presence of an experienced counselor 

Because test results have to be interpreted and used to broaden the horizon, it is a better to give test in presence of an experienced counselor. An experienced counselor is more likely to give you more suggestions from the test results than an inexperienced counselor. 


Tests are good to increase the possibilities one has. And if one takes tests to increase the possibilities, one must be smart in using them. For instance, if one understands the native abilities one had, and the different work-environment they can be used, one is more prepared to explore different options. The author in the above mentioned article also mentions some of the tests that one can take.