Are aptitude tests actually helpful?
April 6, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Are aptitude tests worth taking? Specifically, the aptitide test administered by the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation for $600. I would like to know if it would be a worthy investment or an expensive disappointment. If it was the latter for you, what was an effective alternative? I'm a 23 year old guy, about to (re)start my college career and tired of working retail, if this helps.
posted by Giggilituffin to Education (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You haven't said what your goal would be in taking an aptitude test.

As for alternatives, consider taking the JVIS test, which tests your interests/preferences and tells you what university majors and occupations tend to be filled with people whose interests and preferences are similar to yours. Here's a sample report (click all the nexts to see the different parts).

It's only $20, so if that would fit your needs, I can't imagine this other test is 30x as good for 30x as much money.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:59 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I did their test and so did my husband.

I found it valuable and insightful. And interesting.

Do you have any more specific questions? I agree it would be helpful to know what your goal is in taking an aptitude test. Tell me more and I'll try to give you helpful info. Feel free to memail me too.
posted by hansbrough at 6:00 PM on April 6, 2011

Sorry, I hit post too soon -- I meant to add that if you're about to go back to school, JOC will be helpful in navigating that, figuring out what kind of academic environment will suit you, how to study most effectively for you, etc. Also they might give you some fresh insight into why your retail jobs haven't worked for you to help you figure out what kind of thing might work better.
posted by hansbrough at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2011

I'm a research assistant in cognitive neuroscience. Another individual at my workplace swears by the accuracy and validity of Joseph O'Connor testing. She invited someone from the organization to come and give us a "sales demo." Speaking as someone involved in (a fairly unrelated kind of) cognitive testing, the demonstration struck me as extremely unconvincing.

Also, the person who's a great fan of this assessment battery is neither particularly good at what she does, nor does she seem to get particular pleasure out of it.

My vote is on "not worth the expense."
posted by Nomyte at 6:08 PM on April 6, 2011

I asked about this back in 2004. Didn't take the test, though, so I don't know whether it would have been worth it. But at least they're still in business, so they don't seem to be a fly-by-night operation.
posted by spacewrench at 6:18 PM on April 6, 2011

Response by poster: I did take the JVIS test recently and found the results to be helpful as to what majors or occupations to actually pursue and what other factors would influence my enjoyment in those pursuits.

If a $20 test on subjective interests is that helpful, how insightful could $600 test on objective abilities be?

My understanding of aptitude tests is that they measure an individuals innate strengths. This, combined with a follow-up discussion involving interests etc could help direct a path of 'least resistance' through an educational or career track.

Is this the kind of knowledge stuff I would learn to recognize over time or worth paying for?
posted by Giggilituffin at 6:55 PM on April 6, 2011

My husband and several of my friends have taken it, with varying results. With 2 of them, it completely changed their lives:

One friend was a restaurant manager. Now he does something with databases; he says it's boring to talk about, but it's a really satisfying job for him, and he never would have considered it otherwise.

My husband took the test and discovered why he always struggled as an artist (low ideaphora), and that he would make a great software engineer. He didn't think he was any good at school, but you know what? He's in his 3rd year studying toward his BSSE, making a 4.0, and loving it.

Other friends have had less success. Some aren't in a flexible life stage, so they can't go back to school/switch careers/become a fighter pilot. In particular, one friend took it and discovered he had aptitudes in the middle percentiles pretty much all the way down. Nothing stood out, so there wasn't a clear path for him. He found this rather frustrating.

So, YMMV. But for us, it was a fabulous investment.
posted by hishtafel at 7:25 PM on April 6, 2011

I did the Johnson O'Connor test after I had been teaching high school math for a few years and feeling like I wasn't in the right career. I didn't make any big life changes because of it (I still work in education, though I don't teach), but I don't at all regret the money or time spent. My results had a big effect on the way I see myself and how I define what I'm good at or not good at, and helped me understand why some things appeal so much to me while other things frustrate me to no end.

(I do sort of wish I could make some big life changes based on some of the results, but I'm basically too scared to change to a totally new career...if I had taken it in college or just after college, however, I might have felt differently.)
posted by violetish at 8:23 PM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: When I took it, the fee covered the testing and then a detailed explanation/discussion of results PLUS another follow-up discussion a year after the test. That was great because by a year later, I was in a completely different situation (I took the test during my senior year of college; a year later I was several months into my first job and ready to start moving into a slightly different version of that job, and the follow-up appointment did help me define that). Also, in addition to the aptitude tests, they did an interest inventory; part of the discussion was trying to find the intersection between my aptitudes and interests.

I think JOC is most helpful (in the sense of directing you toward a career path, etc) for people who discover they have a few very high aptitudes, a few low aptitudes, and the rest average. When you end up with most of your scores in all the same range as hishtafel's friend, you, well, end up in that person's situation where a clear path does not emerge. I also scored in the same range in all but two of my aptitudes, and although that was a bummer (because I felt life would be easier if I had a clear directive), it wasn't really a surprise. I still found the discussion and analysis helpful in defining what I need to have going on (in a job or just in my life somehow).

I was sort of surprised that I had high scores in some areas, but it wasn't earth-shattering, eureka-inducing, omg-I-have-to-become-a-____-now kind of information. It's more subtle and I think does come up for you for years later. My test was almost 10 years ago (!!), and I do think and talk about and use the information from that experience on a regular basis still as I continue to define my work and life.

I think if you liked the other test you took, you would probably have a good experience w/JOC. As to whether it's worth $600 to YOU, I really don't know. I mean, I don't regret buying it at all, but if you're expecting a specific/particular outcome and you won't feel you'll have gotten your money's worth without that, I would definitely try to define that ahead of time and call up the testing center and ask them whether they feel they can provide that to you. If insight into objective abilities is what you're after, well, that is what they provide, but whether that insight is $600 worth for you personally is impossible to determine in advance, I think.
posted by hansbrough at 8:41 PM on April 6, 2011

I took the test. I haven't found it that useful for me. It was fairly accurate. I'm a high ideaphoric, lots of ideas, hard to keep the brain on track on any one thing for long, very creative. It hasn't really changed my career track that much except that I realize I'm much happier in positions where there is room for change and latitude to do it than in lockstep positions with tight hierarchies.
So, it might help you define what's a really bad fit but may not change your career arc, or something along those lines.
posted by diode at 9:03 PM on April 6, 2011

I did the Johnson O'Connor tests 20 (!) years ago. I too was floundering in the world of retail and needed direction. They suggested three careers to look at that I had never thought of. I chose one of those to pursue and had a happy and fulfilling experience for fifteen years.

When life circumstances changed and forced a career change, I went back to their report which helped me to work out what Plan C would be. As a bonus, the testing also turned up a learning disability which explained to me why I had always had so much difficulty in school. In the summation discussion they gave me ways to work around this, and suggested the types of schools that would be good learning environments for me in the event that I chose to go back.

It changed my life, and I still pull out and refer to the report now and then.

Feel free to memail if you want more information.
posted by lunaazul at 9:23 PM on April 6, 2011

I took the JOC test a few years ago. I think it's a useful battery of tests, and they draw useful conclusions, though relatively broad ones. They won't point you to specific careers, but rather to broad classes of jobs (e.g., "engineering or medicine"). The counseling at the end had some helpful advice.

I thought at the time that the test would be most helpful taken before or during college. (I took it in my mid-30s.)

The catch, of course, is that $600 is a lot of money to most people and you simply cannot predict whether it'll change your life or not. If I were a reasonably affluent parent, I wouldn't hesitate to pay for it for my kids.
posted by mvd at 1:38 AM on April 7, 2011

I took the tests over 30 years ago and I am really glad that I did. Not so much for career advice, but more for learning how my aptitudes distinguish me from others. I guess the main thing I got out of it was learning where I was really weak (relative to the rest of the test taking population) so I could stop beating myself up about things for which I had/have no aptitude.

I highly recommend them to anyone who can afford them.
posted by okbye at 7:38 AM on April 7, 2011

I took the JOC about 30 years ago too. It felt very helpful. It boosted my confidence in my many strengths, which was nice. But I also remember that it explained about some weaknesses that til then I didn't even understand were characteristics that a person *could* have, so that was very useful too.
posted by Ellemeno at 8:47 AM on April 7, 2011

I am not suggesting that this is a substitute, but I remember having similar realizations when I read the book What Color Is Your Parachute. It gave me some clarity and confidence on what does and doesn't fit me and appeal to me.
posted by Ellemeno at 8:52 AM on April 7, 2011

Best answer: I believe Giggilituffin got the JOC recommendation from me in a memail message (prompted by this comment of mine on a related topic thread). My comment here might not be very useful to him, but I do think it's worthwhile to address some of the responses in this thread with my own experience.

I think hansbrough has it right when he says that the JOC test is probably most helpful when people have a few high or very high aptitudes that stand out above the rest. This was certainly the case for me, and also for my dad. We've both had great results and (obviously) recommend the JOC test to others.

I disagree with mvd about not getting specific career recommendations. JOC recommended two very specific (and very different) career choices to me. However, if mvd's results didn't show a few very high aptitudes, it stands to reason that JOC might not have recommended specific career paths in his session.

To adress the cost of the session: my testing and analysis session spanned roughly 12 hours total, and a follow-up session is included, say another hour. $600 / 13 hours is roughly $50 an hour. The time spent testing and discussing was useful - I wasn't sitting in waiting rooms or making small talk. In hindsight, it seems reasonable to me. Obviously it's not cheap, but for me, the results were very much worth the expense. I think chances are slim that you'll think you got ripped off, if you approach it as a learning experience.
posted by hootenatty at 6:28 PM on April 10, 2011

Response by poster: If anyone is still following this, I recently took the JOC series of tests and can say that it warrants the $600 for my particular situation. The 12 hour battery of tests is coupled with a brief skills or aptitude self-evaluation that doesn't affect final scores, as well as job interests that you hold. It was clear to me that even though I knew I held some aptitudes, there are others I was unaware of.

So, even though I am not extremely surprised by what my aptitudes are, the testing and the summary that follows is comprehensive and offer valuable insights into the kinds of roles, schools, and hobbies that would mesh well with personality, work ethic, and inherent strengths.

As a result, I am now looking into a few different career paths, with the confidence that I do have what it takes to make the costs of education and stress of job-changing worth it.
posted by Giggilituffin at 10:32 PM on June 16, 2011

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