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Are online aptitude tests worth it? Add to ...

The Question:

Which online aptitude test would you recommend for someone in their twenties looking at which course of study to pursue and the type of work they would be most suited for?

The Answer:

There are a plethora of online aptitude tests. These tests or assessments can help you with the process of information gathering and self-discovery but they should not form the only basis for your decisions regarding your career choices and decisions regarding educational pathways and courses of study.

People are often looking for the “fast food” answers for everything these days including educational and career choices. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could simply go online and take an aptitude test and know what career was right for us and what line of studies to follow in order to prepare for those careers? It is not that simple and easy according to career and academic coaches and counsellors. The results of aptitude tests only provide part of the bigger picture with respect to choice of academic and career paths.

Career and academic guidance counsellors, coaches and psychologists will indicate that there are questions about the validity, reliability and standardization of most online aptitude tests. They point out that one should not one should not trust any aptitude or career assessment test without a career or guidance counsellor or coach’s interpretation and guidance.

There are many online aptitude tests available for one to take for free or for a fee. Some will indicate what your career interests and aptitudes are and suggest possible careers and/or courses of study. Others will give you information on your personality type and how well suited it is for particular career choices.

Katherine Hansen, in an online article entitled “Online Career Assessments: Helpful Tools for Self Discovery” points out that there has been only one research study done on free career assessments on the internet, in 1999 by Laurel W. Oliver and Jason S. Zack. The study conducted in 1998 was already out of date by the time it was published in 1999 due to the fact that some online assessments no longer existed and other newer ones weren’t covered in the study. The researchers concluded the 24 online free career assessments they studied were neither good nor poor. Among the problems identified by the authors were most sites did not list names or qualifications of the test developers; there were limited and varying interpretations available for test results; and there were reliability and validity concerns compared to more standard career assessments.

Online tests can be used as tools for self-discovery according to Hansen. She points out that Richard N. Bolles, author of the many popular editions of “What Colour is Your Parachute?”, indicates that one can take a number of these assessments and see if the results support or contradict one another. Trust your intuition. If the results and the career suggestions do not fit for you then you can likely discount them. Share this information with your career or guidance counselor or coach.

Some assessments that you may want to consider are the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory (also known as the SCII of the Strong Campbell) which reveal career preferences based on interests; the Myers Briggs test and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which gives career options in terms of Myers Briggs personality types; the Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential (MAPP), which provides a prioritized list of career options based on interests, temperament, and aptitude; and the vocational assessment known as the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS). Hansen provides her subjective opinion on these and numerous other assessments in an online assessment review table available at http://www.quintcareers.com/

With respect to free online aptitude tests the usual indication is that you get what you pay for.

Online or other assessments can be used as supplementary information in discussions with a career or guidance counsellor. They should not replace the guidance of a career counsellor or coach.

Bruce Sandy is Principal of Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts:careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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