General aptitude test battery: what it is and how it is used

Adolescence is, for the great majority, a critical moment in our life. This is the moment when you have to think about what you want to be when you grow up, because in two or three years you have to make an (almost) final decision.

Although everyone has vital aspirations, it is sometimes very difficult to make up their minds. This is why there are tests that allow us to orient ourselves professionally, including one the general battery of aptitude tests.

This tool has proven to be useful in helping those who do not yet know what to do with their life and, depending on their strengths, allows them to give advice. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

    General fitness test battery what is it?

    The General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) is a questionnaire that measures the skills of people and, depending on those in which it is preferable, it is recommended to train in one type or another of profession. These types of tests are used in the field of career counseling, being particularly useful for adolescents who have not yet decided on their professional future.

    The most modern version of this questionnaire includes 12 subtests, which measure 9 factors or skills. These subtests are: the comparison of names, the speed of computation, the three-dimensional space, the vocabulary, the comparison of tools, the arithmetic reasoning, the comparison of shapes, the scratching, the placement of the pins, the reversal of the pins, coupling and decoupling.

    Depending on the model behind this test battery, the fitness idea is something that is inherently held. In other words, while education can increase knowledge through content learning, people from birth are more apt to perform tasks related to one aspect or another. The general battery of aptitude tests, with that in mind, measures what is good for people, no matter what they know about it.

    For example, if this battery of tests is administered to a subject and it is found that a subject has high scores on tests that measure numerical aptitude, it can be understood that the person will be good in disciplines such as mathematics, physics and chemistry. He may have spent years doing nothing in these subjects, but having digital skills indicates that he had a very easy instinctive ability to understand these subjects.

    Historical context

    The origins of these tests date back to the last century, during World War II. The UTILITZIS (United States Employment Service) has dedicated itself to the construction of a hundred tests it aimed to measure different skills that seemed to be related to the degree of success they had in certain occupations. These first tests took into account aspects such as arithmetic, vocabulary, orientation in space …

    After carrying out several studies and evaluating the data obtained, by factor analysis, up to 9 independent factors have been established, Each of them concerned various professions. Subsequently, refining both test elements and test design, proceeded to develop the final version of the general proficiency test battery.

    This instrument was already a breakthrough at the time, because it made it possible to orient people according to their strengths in a relatively short period of time, about two and a half hours. It is for this reason that since 1945 this questionnaire has been used a lot.

    What skills do these tests measure?

    As already mentioned, the origins of this instrument go back to the last century and when the final version was obtained after using factor analysis, the following 9 skills were established.

    1. General information (G)

    It is understood by general intelligence the ability to learn everything in any context. In other words, having the ability to grasp or understand basic instructions and principles.

    Within this skill would be the ability to reason and make judgments.

    2. Verbal (V)

    Verbal ability is the ability to understand the meaning of words and to make appropriate use of them.

    This skill is essential for the language, both when formulating it, orally or in writing, and understanding the relationships between words that we listen to or read.

      3. Digital (N)

      Ability to perform arithmetic operations quickly and safely. It is a basic skill to be able to fully understand mathematics and other disciplines in which number symbols are used.

      4. Space (S)

      Spatial aptitude refers to the ability to visualize geometric shapes and be able to understand their representation both dimensional and three-dimensional.

      It is also important to recognize the relationship between an object and its movement in space.

      5. Perception of shapes (P)

      The perception of shapes is related to the ability to perceive the details of objects, as well as being able to make visual comparisons between objects and observe small differences in terms of shape, shading, length, width …

      6. Perception of the function (Q)

      Office perception refers to the ability to perceive verbal and numerical details, Noting significant differences in content or errors that need to be corrected.

      7. Motor coordination (K)

      Ability to coordinate eye movement with limbs, hands and fingers. Ability to perform safe and precise movements

      8. Manual dexterity (M)

      Ability to manipulate hands with ease and dexterity, perform movements such as placing objects or rotating them with precision.

      9. Digital dexterity (F)

      Ability to handle small objects with your fingers, quickly and safely.

      What uses does it have?

      There are several uses that can be drawn from this questionnaire, although it should be noted that all are related to the world of work. It is generally used to guide adolescents who, at the end of compulsory studies, do not know what to continue studying or what to do, this tool being a clue as to where they could go.

      The aptitude of general intelligence, as an indicator of a person’s ability to learn regardless of context and content, can be used to determine whether a teenager should continue their education upon graduation from high school. or must choose to train for jobs that require less education. Tests that deal with verbal and numerical skills also serve as useful indicators for this purpose.

      However, if the person has already decided to study something at the end of compulsory education, this questionnaire can be used to help them choose a specific field or profession.

      However, it is not only suitable for people who have not yet studied a career. It is also used to select employees who have the most appropriate skills. for the type of work for which they ask to be hired or, once inside the company, it serves to place them in departments in which they can show a certain competence.

      For example, if you are looking for work in a factory, it is expected that the employer will look for candidates with skills related to handling machines, such as motor coordination, manual dexterity and digital dexterity.


      As with virtually any test, the general battery of proficiency tests is not without its critics. The subtests that compose it, in particular those that measure perceptual aspects, seem they do not have sufficient construct validity, in terms of convergent validity. However, it should be noted that the subtests dedicated to measuring more cognitive aspects are indeed strongly valid.

      Another criticism of which it has been the subject is linked to the pillar of this questionnaire: aptitudes. Some researchers claim that the skills offered in the general aptitude test battery are too correlated, which could mean that what the different subtests of this instrument measure is the same.

      Finally, one of the criticisms he received relates to the race of subjects in the United States. Whites scored much higher than African Americans, possibly because the questionnaire is not exempt from elements that were formulated regardless of the culture of these two ethnic groups.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hartigan, JA and Wigdor, AK (eds). (1989). Employment equity tests: generalization of validity, minority issues and battery of general aptitude tests. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
      • Jaeger, RM, Linn, RL and Tesh, AS (1989). Appendix A: Summary of research on some psychometric properties of GATB. In JA Hartigan and AK Wigdor (Eds.), Equity in Employment Tests: Generalization of Validity, Minority Issues, and Battery of General Aptitude Tests (pages 303-324). Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
      • Keesling, JW (1985). [Review of the USES General Aptitude Test Battery]. A JV Mitchell, Jr. (Ed.), The Ninth Yearbook of Mental Measures (pp. 1644-1647). Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute for Mental Measures.
      • Kirnan, JP and Geisinger, KF (1984). General fitness test battery. In J. Hogan and R. Hogan (Eds.), Business and Industrial Essays: Current Practices and Test Reviews (pp. 140-157). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

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