The Evolution of Psychometric Tests

Aptitude tests are everywhere nowadays. It looks like they have popped out of the blue and were artificially made popular by leading enterprises. However, while the usage of the psychometric tests is relatively young, the overall idea of making quizzes for potential workers has quite a history.

Back in the days

Certain tasks require certain skills. This dogma wasn’t a secret for people even a long time ago. You may be constantly stressing out about the upcoming audition and the number of tests that you will need to take. However, it’s nothing compared to what ancient Chinese aspiring government workers had to face. Back in 2200 BC, to become officials under the Chinese emperor people had to pass a certain set of exams. They had to excel in civil law, agriculture, finance, geography, and military affairs. And even if they got the job, they would still have to retake these tests every 3 years. Later these exams evolved and required a candidate to spend 24 hours in an isolated small room writing essays on these specific topics and also write a poem.

Towards modern times

Chinese tests were designed to evaluate a person’s ability to be good at a particular job by judging that person’s skill set. Western civilizations learned from and adopted these theories. A good example is medieval university testing in old Europe. The University of Bologna in the 13th century was the first one to implement an admission examination. This was a one-on-one oral exam with a set of specific questions. However, the official birth of modern-like aptitude tests is commonly linked to the emergence of the science of psychometrics. It was the 19th century, and this science labored over figuring out the ways to measure individual psychophysical differences. Simply put, it’s subject was a study of tests mostly used to identify mental disorders in patients. One such modified test is still in use nowadays. Three bright minds of Theodore Simon, Victor Henri, and Alfred Binet spent 15 years designing this examination routine. As a result, they created a test for the determination of “mental retardation” known as the Binet-Simon test.

The modern history broke through with a set of global wars in the 20th century. However sad the circumstance, war always was a powerful driver for innovations in sciences and psychometrics was one of them. First of all, its methods were used to select military personnel. During WWI, these tests were unofficial and were mostly personality tests used with the soldiers. Later it became more clear that such tests could determinate soldiers “mental endurance” like resistance to shell-shock. Questions like “Do you constantly have dreams about your work?” were claimed to determine if hard decisions will haunt someone’s mind long after.


Today, psychometric tests are in the biggest demand for HR. Every employer wants to ensure that his employees are apt for the job they’re hired for. Therefore, the psychometric industry evolved to allow the executives to understand how potential employee will act in certain circumstances. Examination of cognitive skills, IQ tests or general aptitude tests can yield a more precise result than just testing the person’s knowledge base or skill sets. Such an approach allowed them to know how a person will work in a team, use their skills, handle stress or even how long they will stay at a company.


The future of employment and testing is vague and yet, psychological tests are here to stay. They will keep evolving to determine how fit a person is for a particular job in a more precise way. In the long shot, it could give you a better understanding of your personality and increase your ability to plan your career and life in the most convenient way for you and your future employers.