Cognitive Ability Assessments

Cognitive ability assessments identify the candidates with the right abilities and potential to succeed in the role

The ability to solve complex problems, make decisions, and use sound reasoning are among the most critical competencies needed by today’s workers. Cognitive ability assessments are robust tools that reveal an individual’s reasoning, logic, and ability to work with information and can accurately predict potential for success.

Cognitive Ability Assessments
SHL Experiences

SHL’s cognitive ability assessments comprise multiple-choice items that measure various mental abilities, such as verbal and numerical ability, reasoning ability, and reading comprehension. Some cognitive ability assessments measure distinct abilities (e.g., verbal, numerical), while others measure a combination of different abilities to provide a measure of general mental ability.

Cognitive Ability Assessments

SHL Verify

Identify the candidates with the right abilities and potential to succeed in the role

SHL Verify Interactive

Our new innovative cognitive ability assessment suite

Skills Assessments

Measure specific skills and knowledge areas to understand candidates’ individual strengths and weaknesses and assess job readiness


Interactive job-specific simulations place job applicants in realistic settings to objectively evaluate their skills


Why is cognitive ability testing important?

Cognitive ability assessments can accurately predict the likelihood of success in virtually every job – from entry-level to executive. Employees higher in cognitive ability learn new processes faster, identify problems earlier, generate novel solutions to problems, and are more creative. While cognitive ability is important at all levels, research has shown that the higher the job level, the more important cognitive ability becomes. SHL offers a suite of valid and reliable cognitive ability assessments called Verify. There are global cognitive ability tests included as well as tests of specific abilities ranging from Deductive Reasoning to Mechanical Comprehension.

What is the most widely used cognitive assessment tool?

Some companies choose to design their own tests, but most use tests from third-party vendors like SHL that employ psychometricians, industrial/organizational psychologists, user experience experts, and code developers with expertise in designing tests specifically for the pre-employment selection context. The SHL Verify suite of cognitive ability tests is available in 40 languages, has normative comparison groups ranging from entry-level to executive leadership, covers 10+ different facets of cognitive ability, employs computer-adaptive functionality, and is used millions of times per year.

What is included in a cognitive assessment?

The format, question type, user experience, and content can vary widely across cognitive ability tests depending on the purpose of the test and what it is designed to measure. The most traditional cognitive ability questions present the examinee with a piece of information that might be a graph, table, picture, or paragraph, ask the examinee a question, and then present several options from which the examinee chooses the correct answer. Some cognitive assessments involve constructed responses, or when the examinee is asked to write out their answer rather than selecting it from a list of options. Other cognitive assessments can involve sorting cards or completing puzzles. Cognitive assessments for pre-employment selection commonly involve “gamification” and have candidates manipulate information on a computer or mobile screen using drag/drop and touch functionality rather than selecting answers from a list of options. The goal of these assessments is to be more engaging for the candidate and increase fidelity, or the degree to which the test looks like the job for which the test is being used. To get a better idea of what is included in SHL’s cognitive ability assessments, practice a variety of psychometric test types at our test preparation and career center.

How is cognitive ability tested?

Cognitive ability can be tested in many ways. Question type and format is highly dependent on who is using the test, what it is designed to measure, and how results are being used. It is important that cognitive ability tests use questions targeted at the specific facet of cognitive ability measured. A test of Verbal Reasoning shouldn’t ask candidates to complete math problems. A test of perceptual speed and accuracy shouldn’t allow candidates all the time they want to answer questions. At SHL we conduct construct validity studies when we develop new tests of cognitive ability. Construct validity means that scores on a test should relate to other tests of the same ability and should not relate to tests of other constructs where no theoretical relationship exists, like Inductive Reasoning and Customer Service Skill.

What is involved in a cognitive assessment?

A good cognitive assessment will have five main features:

  1. Cognitive assessments should have detailed, yet succinct instructions on how the examinee is to answer the questions provided in the test.
  2. Examinees should have the opportunity to practice in an untimed and unscored environment. Practice tests ensure that examinees understand what questions will look like on the test and how they are expected to answer.
  3. The cognitive test itself should be valid and reliable with questions presented in a format that is easy to interact with. The test should be an appropriate length that matches the use of the test.
  4. Examinees should have the option to take a break if needed. Sometimes there are distractions or technical issues that would impact an examinee’s score if they were forced to continue the test in one go.
  5. The test should provide a meaningful output that is useful for decision making. Cognitive ability tests are typically normed against specific populations (e.g. college graduates) so that meaningful comparisons among examinees can be made.

SHL cognitive ability tests have all of these features. It is important that candidates feel well prepared for cognitive ability tests to ensure that their score is an accurate reflection of their true ability.