Selection Tests FAQ

Arizona Department of Corrections uses Selection Tests to measure the fitness of job applicants to a particular role. This series of Frequently Asked Questions will clarify how these tests are applied in the department and how you can prepare for them.

What are selection tests?

A selection test is a standardized method for assessing the amount of job-related knowledge, skill, and ability that a person possesses. The person (the job applicant) is assigned a score based on performance on the testing procedure. The assessed knowledge, skill, and ability are those that are important for performing the job. A selection test is usually not a general test of intelligence or aptitude. A selection test is targeted for a specific job or part of a job. A test for the job of a maintenance mechanic may be entirely different from a test for an accounting technician. These jobs require different sets of knowledge, skill, and ability. One selection test may not cover all of the knowledge, skill, and ability required for a job. Therefore, often times, more than one test is used and scores are combined. The following are some examples of the common types of selection tests. Work Sample Tests or Simulations:A test that asks the applicant to perform a simulated job task. A typing test is an example of this type of test. Written Multiple Choice Tests: A test that asks the applicant to pick the best choice of four possible responses to a series of questions about job knowledge; such a test may be used for company procedures, technical procedures, or other types of job knowledge. Oral Board Interviews: A test where a panel of interviewers asks questions about job-related situations or past behavior, in which standard scoring techniques are used. Training and Experience Evaluations: A test where the applicant’s experience and education are assigned a score, based on the quality of their match with job tasks or job-related knowledge, skill, and ability. Assessment Centers: A test where applicants perform exercises that simulate job tasks, usually supervisory or management tasks, such as group problem solving, handling performance problems, analyzing unit procedures or problems, presenting information, etc. The applicant is observed by trained assessors who record and rate the applicant’s behavior.

How are they developed?

The job incumbents identify the tasks that are most important for job performance and the knowledge, skill, and ability required to perform the tasks.

The first step in developing a selection test is to study the job for which the test will be used. The job must be studied to identify the knowledge, skill, and ability needed to perform the job tasks. First, the test developer collects preliminary information about the job. This can include interviewing job incumbents, reading job and position description documents, observing workers performing their jobs, conducting group interviews, or using other sources of information about the job. The purpose of this initial information gathering is to develop a list of job tasks that are performed and a list of knowledge, skill, and ability required to perform the tasks. After these lists are developed, the test developer typically conducts a survey of the job incumbents to have them review and evaluate the lists. The job incumbents identify the tasks that are most important for job performance and the knowledge, skill, and ability required to perform the tasks. This process is called a job analysis, and it is sometimes completed well in advance of test development. Once the job analysis is completed, the test developer develops a test plan. The plan shows what knowledge, skill, and ability will be measured, and what selection procedures will be used. The test developer designs this plan to sample as closely as possible the knowledge, skill, and ability needed for the job. For example, for the job of a clerk typist, a typing test might be used to measure typing skills; a written, multiple-choice test might be used to measure knowledge of English grammar and punctuation; and an oral board interview might be used to measure public contact and interpersonal skills. Once the test plan is developed, the test developer develops the actual test content. If a multiple-choice test is to be used, items may be written and/or reviewed by subject matter experts (job incumbents). Oral board questions, if used, are developed by job incumbents in sessions facilitated by the test developer. Care is taken in this process to make the tests developed as job-related as possible.

What are their benefits?

Frequently, hundreds of job applications are received. hiring persons and letting them try a job for several months is very expensive. Selection tests help to minimize the favoritism that can occur in any organization.

There are several important benefits to using selection tests, both for the organization and for the job applicant. It is often difficult to determine a person’s job skills before they begin a job. The best selection test would probably be to have a person actually perform a job, be observed by a trained rater, and receive an objective performance rating. However, organizations cannot hire everyone who applies for a job and try them out. Frequently, hundreds of job applications are received for a single job opening. In addition, hiring persons and letting them try a job for several months is very expensive to an organization, i.e., several persons may be dismissed, costly errors in job performance may be incurred, expensive job training may be invested, etc. For these reasons, it is necessary for the organization to find a way to predict, as much as possible, which candidates will be successful performing a job before they are hired. One of the most common methods for making this assessment of a person is the traditional "unstructured" job interview. Unfortunately, much research indicates that this selection method does not reliably predict future job performance. Interviewers often ask different questions, and evaluate applicants using different standards. To control this problem, psychologists have researched and developed structured, objective selection tests. The types that are commonly used are listed earlier in this document. Statistical studies support the superiority of selection tests over more subjective methods for predicting future job performance. So, what is the advantage? A valid test, used for a job classification with frequent hiring, will save the organization millions of dollars over its life by providing workers who are more productive. What about the applicants? The applicants benefit from selection tests by having a fair assessment of their job qualifications and fair competition with other job applicants. Selection tests help to minimize the favoritism that can occur in any organization. In addition, by obtaining feedback about test scores, applicants can obtain valuable information to help plan their future development and training.

What does my test score mean?

If you did not pass the test, it does not necessarily mean that you are not qualified to perform the job.

There are several items to consider when interpreting your test score.

Your test score reflects your job-related knowledge, skill, and ability at the present time; your score can improve with additional training, experience, or education.

A raw score that seems low may actually be a good score. You need to evaluate your score compared to the group of all persons who tested, and assess whether your score is below average, average, above average or high. Some tests are difficult, and a low raw score may still be above average when compared to the applicant group.

You need to determine what knowledge, skill, and ability your test score relates to. This is usually apparent from the content of the test. Your score may represent only your skills relating to part of the job. For example, your score may indicate you have a good knowledge of department policies, but it may not relate to your supervisory skills. Supervisory skills may be assessed with a different selection procedure and a different test score.

If you did not pass the test, it does not necessarily mean that you are not qualified to perform the job. Frequently, passing points on examinations are based on the number of anticipated openings and the number of applicants needed to fill these openings. When large numbers of applicants apply, the passing point may be quite high and preference is given to the most highly qualified. Although you did not pass, you may still be able to perform the job at an acceptable level.

The test score you received is the "best estimate" of your job-related knowledge, skill, and ability. It is an estimate and not every test score will accurately reflect your skills. For example, if you were very fatigued when taking the test, due to studying all night, or for other reasons, your score may be lower than your actual level of skill. Or, if you have never taken a test before, lack of "practice" taking tests may affect, to some degree, your test performance.

How can I improve my test score?

If you have taken a selection test and wish to improve your score, here are some tips that may be helpful:

  1. Learn everything you can about the position you want.
  2. Take specific classes to develop knowledge and ability (classes in supervision, inmate management, crisis intervention, etc.).
  3. Read reference materials about the subject matter (supervision, communication, professional, occupational books, etc.).
  4. Volunteer for projects related to the target job (temporary supervision, policy development, etc.).
  5. Talk with individuals in the target job in order to gain more details and insight about the position.
  6. Try to envision the tasks that a typical employee in the target job actually performs.
  7. Study the Department's written instructions, particularly those that relate to the responsibilities of the target job.
  8. Review the study guide materials provided for the written test or any relevant materials in the resource library at your institution, if available.
  9. Compose and answer some interview questions you might expect.
  10. Read books about test taking skills to familiarize yourself with the type of test you will be taking.
  11. Obtain feedback about your test score so that you know the areas where additional training may help.

Central promotional Register is dedicated to providing the best possible selection tests and fair and equitable selection procedures. It is our mission to provide a productive workforce while providing an objective and impartial selection and promotional system. We welcome feed back about our selection processes, and we encourage applicants to review the results of their testing efforts.