B+P Insights: Assessment of mental abilities

Assessment of mental abilities – an important predictor of successful performance

When it comes to testing professionals and managers in recruitment process, usually different personality tests are used. They measure the most favourable preconditions that a person has for management-related activities as well as less developed personality aspects. It helps to choose support strategies to contribute to overall successful performance already in advance.

Besides personality traits, there are other aspects that can serve as significant predictors of performance. In some professional groups, they are even better predictors of performance than personality tests (it is true, for example, with IT programmers). These are mental abilities tests, that measure general cognitive abilities or provide an assessment of several general ability aspects (e.g. verbal, numerical, special abilities) to predict an employee’s potential, adaptation and learning ability and job performance in very different professions.

General mental ability implies analytical skills as well as adaptation and learning abilities or the potential to acquire skills and knowledge (an individual’s responsiveness to new information and learning abilities resulting from a relevant training or provision of a suitable context). General ability tests are above all suitable for personnel selection concerning positions that do not require specific professional skills, to determine the candidate’s general potential to rapidly acquire the skills and knowledge required for that job.

Verbal ability, which is manifested in good linguistic comprehension, is the ability to identify different meanings inherent in verbal information, and fast and efficient manipulation of words. An example of an individual with a very high verbal ability is sales manager.

Numerical or arithmetical ability describes the skill to use numerical information fast and efficiently, to solve mathematical equitation and to calculate fast and accurately. An example and an individual with a very high arithmetical ability is an IT programmer.

Spatial ability is described by efficient and speedy recognition of spatial objects, visualisation of objects and spatial orientation. An example of an individual with a very high spatial ability is an architect.

A high level of general mental ability implies that the individual’s mental abilities have developed equally – an individual is a versatile person in terms of general abilities. An individual with high level of general mental abilities has a potential advantage over those whose abilities have been manifested in one area only. The knowledge of individual’s ability profile allows for more precise description of the individual’s ability to learn something new, adapt to new requirements, communicate his/ her thoughts to the audience and fulfil tasks fast and precise.

Mental ability tests measure the level of actual abilities using specific, standardized tasks, they are not based on self-image and opinion about self, like it is with personality tests. There are no lie scales needed because it is quite impossible to fake abilities. Nevertheless, the results can be influenced by testing environment, health condition and level of stress.

The maximum level of one’s abilities is predicted by genes; will we acquire the maximum – depends on environment and development possibilities we have had during our life. This means that it is important to know the actual level of abilities because it is stable and is not raiseable by learning activities like it is with knowledge and professional skills.[1]



Katri Vintiša

Executive Consultant, Birn+Partners Latvia

E: kv@birn-partners.com | +371 2659 9119

Share this on...
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn