Why Does the NFL Use the Wonderlic Test?
While the talk of the NFL is around the exciting NFL playoffs and, there is another looming NFL event that will dominate sports media in the coming months – the NFL Combine.
Every year over 300 of the best college football players are invited to participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in which they are tested in various ways. One of the most talked about test during the Combine is how players scored on the Wonderlic test.
The Wonderlic test was created in 1936 as a short form cognitive test. Tom Landry, who was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, used the Wonderlic test to predict player performance during the 1970s and the test was quickly adopted by the NFL Combine.
Many different kinds of questions appear on the Wonderlic test including arithmetic, proverb matching and logic questions. Scores range from 1-50 with 20 being about the median score.
An example question might include something like the following.
Over the course of two weeks, David spent $210.00 on dining out, $67 on gasoline and $35.50 to get a haircut. What was her average cost per day for food?
Calculators are not allowed on the test, which makes these kinds of math problems even more challenging and irrelevant information is often thrown into questions along with distractions like the fact that David is a she.
While most questions are easier than this one, test takers only have 12 minutes to complete the 50 question test, which means questions have to be answered about every 14 seconds to complete the test on time.
You can find Wonderlic sample questions from various sources to get a sense of the difficulty of the questions and how quickly you need to work through the test to finish it on time.
Why is the Wonderlic Used?
The Wonderlic is used mostly by employers to test new applicants and their current employees. Some of the big pros of the Wonderlic test include:
It’s Reliable – Studies have shown that the Wonderlic test is an accurate measure of cognitive ability and scores on the Wonderlic correlate well with scores on the more in depth and detailed IQ test. This allows employees to understand the average Wonderlic score based on various job types. Whether or not cognitive ability translates into NFL success or really any kind of future success is a different question.
It’s Consistent – Over the years the Wonderlic has delivered consistent results. In studies, participants who took the Wonderlic test and then retook it several years later received similar scores.
It’s Fast – What makes the Wonderlic stand out from other cognitive tests is that it doesn’t take long to administer. When administering tests to many applicants you can’t expect them to spend hours of their time taking it.
Why is the Wonderlic used at the NFL Combine?
The reason why the Wonderlic test is used for NFL players is more of an open question.
If you were to ask me, I think both the NFL and Wonderlic have no reason to stop administering the Wonderlic at the NFL Combine. I’m sure the Wonderlic doesn’t mind all the media attention they get every year during the Combine.
You could argue that the Wonderlic has been a staple of the NFL Combine for over 40 years, and old habits die hard.
While this is speculative, I also imagine that the NFL doesn’t mind the debate and discussions surrounding the Wonderlic test every year. The more people talk about the Wonderlic, the more people will pay attention to the Combine which leads to more media attention and money for the NFL.
Of course you could also say that making NFL prospects take the Wonderlic is pointless, but it wouldn’t be the only time the NFL made a decision that that they argued was rational but made to help their bottom line.