What you need to know about the Wonderlic Personnel Test™

Student taking the Wonderlic Personnel Test™.

The Wonderlic Personnel Test™ (WPT™ or WPT-R™) is a 50-question multiple-choice test. It covers mainly general knowledge in math and English, but also evaluates your ability to reason and use logic. You are not allowed to use a calculator during the test, but you may use scratch paper and pencil to work math problems or sketch out ideas for the logic-based questions.

You probably know the answers to all of the questions on the Wonderlic® test, but you may not have dealt with the subjects in a while. Practicing with sample questions and reviewing some basic skills should give you a step up to a good score.

Determining the exact percentage of questions from each concept area that will be present on your Wonderlic® test is difficult. Various sources quote sometimes differing numbers, so here is what we have. This is only an estimate based on current information:

  • General Knowledge/Quick Recognition: between 20% and 40%
  • Logic Questions: between 5% and 20%
  • Verbal (English) Skills: 40% (according to all sources)
  • Math (Word Problems): between 20% and 40%

The WPT™ has a shorter version called the Wonderlic Personnel Test—Quicktest™ (WPT-Q™), which is of similar design but contains only 30 questions. This short form of the WPT™ is sometimes used as a screening procedure before an interview or to qualify a candidate to take the longer test version. The WPT-Q™ is not proctored, and you will probably be asked to take it online at home. Then, if your score is sufficient, you will be called in to the employer to take the WPT-R™, described above.

What are the costs?

There should be no cost to you for taking a Wonderlic® test as it will be part of the interview process. Your prospective employer will tell you if any payment is required.

What should I bring?

Calculators are not allowed for any form of this test. You will be allowed to use scratch paper and pencil for notation/calculation purposes, however. Otherwise, you should check with the hiring personnel to determine what other items might be necessary and/or forbidden at the testing site.

How is it scored?

Each question on the WPT™ (50-question test) is worth one point, and each question on the WPT-Q™ is worth 1.66 points. So, if you were able to finish either test and got all of the questions correct, your score would be 50. However, according to the Wonderlic® company, the average score on these tests is 20.

The definition of a “good” score depends on the position for which you apply. Average scores for different professions range considerably: 32 for a systems analyst, 27 for a copywriter, and 15 for a warehouse person. And there are many other professions listed with varying average scores. Here is a list of some common occupations and the Wonderlic® score typically required for hiring in that position.

The person hiring will receive a test report showing your score and where it falls on a continuum that labels candidates based on their scores. The candidate designations are, from low to high, as “not recommended,” “cautionary,” and “pursue.” So, if your score was 31 and scores from 27 to 50 are labeled “pursue,” you would be labeled “meets requirements” and the company would be encouraged to seek an interview with you. If you had scored below 27 by just a few points, the company would be urged to use caution when considering you for a position. For scores considerably below the target range, the form would discourage the company from bringing you in for an interview.

What kind of job can I get?

In today’s busy world, employers want hirees who can “think on their feet,” relying on a broad array of general knowledge. Hiring managers use applicant screening tools to help them zero in on the right job candidate more quickly. One of these tools involves testing applicants before proceeding with, or as part of, the interview process. There are a variety of tests used for this purpose, many of them published by Wonderlic®. The test most widely used for hiring decisions is the Wonderlic Personnel Test™, also known as the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test™.

You may not have much notice before you take this test so, if you are (or soon will be) in the job market, it couldn’t hurt to become familiar with how the Wonderlic® test works. This could make all the difference in how well you score because the test is not so much an assessment of things you know as it is of how fast you can address different types of questions and choose the correct answer. Knowing the question types and having previous practice with them can only help boost your score.

*Note: There are numerous Wonderlic® tests, so be sure you are preparing for the right one. If the test you are asked to take is called the “Wonderlic Personnel Test™” (WPT™) or the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test™, you’re in the right place to prepare.

Am I eligible?

You will normally only have one chance to take the Wonderlic® test, although there are a few companies who grant a second chance. Sometimes, the test will be the first part of an interview or given before the interview begins and failure to attain a certain score can bring the interview, and your job chances, to a halt.

Why does it matter?

Your score on the Wonderlic Personnel Test™ can be the difference between you being seriously considered for a job and being sent home, without a chance. But it isn’t so much a test of how smart you are. Instead, it really measures how well you can “play the game” of deciphering the questions and ignoring any pressure the time limits may give you. Remember, almost no one actually finishes this test, so concentrate on doing your best and don’t let stress eat up your thinking space!

What salary can I expect?

You are well aware that different positions garner different salaries. If an employer has more than one job open, a higher score on the Wonderlic® test just might qualify you for the higher-paying job or make it possible for you to start with higher than an entry-level position. And even if there is only one job opening now, your higher score could be noted by the human resources people as a sign of advanced capability.

When is it available?

You will be notified by a prospective or current employer if you need to take any of the Wonderlic® tests. They will give you directions about how to access the test you need to take. The WPT-Q™ (shorter version) is not proctored, and you will probably be directed to take it online at home. The full length WPT™ or WPT-R™ is usually administered on the job site and is proctored. Your human resources contact will tell you when and where to take this test.

Tips & Tricks

We cannot stress this point enough: Time management is key to achieving the best score possible on this test. The Wonderlic® time limit allows 14 seconds to spend on each of the 50 items on the Wonderlic® test, if you were able to complete the entire thing, which very few people do. Regardless, you’ll want to do anything that helps you manage to answer more questions correctly. Here are a few ways to save those precious seconds.

  • You can at least rule out some answer choices in math problems, if not find the right choice, by just working quickly with the last digits. For example, if you needed to multiply the numbers 45 x 17, you know your first step would be to multiply 5 x 7 and get 35. This means that the last digit of the answer has to be 5. Therefore, you can rule out any answers that don’t end with 5. The same thing applies to adding 46 + 163. You know the last digit of the correct answer has to be 9. This type of quick scanning will help avoid time spent on working out the entire problem. It may not point out the right answer, but it will certainly eliminate one or more wrong ones.

  • When you take a computer test, it will not be possible to cross out answers you’ve eliminated on the computer. If you are allowed time with your scratch paper before the test starts and you are permitted to write on it, go ahead and write five answer choices: A B C D E a number of times on that paper. Then, when you come to a question where you need to eliminate choices to find the answer, you can cross them out on the paper. This will save you time.

  • While you shouldn’t employ “guessing” as your primary method of finding answers, there are times when you can make an “educated” guess about the correctness of an answer choice. For example, if the question asks you to find the average of the numbers 36, 43, and 84 and one of the choices is 83, you’d be able to cross that one off immediately…it just doesn’t make sense for the average of those three numbers to be that high.

  • When people have trouble with the Wonderlic Personnel Test™, it is usually not because they don’t have the knowledge needed, but because they aren’t accustomed to thinking about things that the questions ask. There are tricks to this thinking process and we give many of them in our study guides, so take advantage of those.

  • When you read a question and your immediate thought is, “This is going to take me a long time,” your best practice would be to skip that question. Every question is worth the same number of points and almost no one completes all the questions. You’d be better off tackling more of the “quick” questions than spending a lot of time on one lengthy question. And, you can always go back if you have time at the end of the session. If you finish early, there is a prompt on the online test to do this.

  • If possible, take at least several practice tests before you take the actual Wonderlic® test. This will get you accustomed to the types of questions and enable you to relax and concentrate on answering as many as possible, quickly on test day.

Time Allowed

Candidates are given 12 minutes to complete the regular Wonderlic Personnel Test™ (50 questions) and 8 minutes to answer the questions on the quick version of the test (30 questions). The time element is inserted for a purpose: employers want to know how well you can think quickly or when under pressure. The ability to work quickly will be quite an asset in terms of obtaining a higher score. But take note that only an estimated 2%–5% of people actually finish the test in the allotted time. Your takeaway from this should be: It is desirable to work as quickly as you can to correctly answer as many questions as you can.

Practice using our expertly crafted questions!