Aptitude Tests for Children

What are aptitude tests used for?

Students taking test in classroom Credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Martin Barraud
Students take a test in a classroom. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Since the early 20th century, aptitude tests have been used to measure abilities, talents, motor skills, reasoning and even artistic ability. Schools use aptitude tests for various reasons; beyond assessment, aptitude tests help to round out a child's profile. Older children may benefit from aptitude tests that can help them transition to schooling post-high school. As children grow, the kinds of aptitude tests they take change.

IQ Tests

Some of the most well-known aptitude tests are the assessments loosely known as IQ tests. Despite the multitude of IQ tests to be found online, only licensed psychologists and psychometricians should administer an IQ test to assess your child's capacity for learning. The most common IQ tests are the Stanford Binet Intelligence Test and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). Schools use these tests to help decide which children may benefit from special programs.

IQ tests use prior learning, problem-solving, memory and reasoning to determine the capacity of the child to learn. IQ tests, unlike other aptitude tests, do now measure artistic or musical ability or creativity in general. The tests have also been criticized for cultural bias: children of lower socio-economic backgrounds and children of racial minorities have been shown to perform poorly on IQ tests, regardless of intelligence.

Aptitude Tests vs. Achievement Tests

Parents shouldn't be confused between achievement tests and aptitude tests. Aptitude measures the ability of a student to acquire a set of skills or training by measuring the student's natural talents and inclinations. Aptitude tests may also be designed to give students an idea of the kinds of careers for which they may be best suited or find most fulfilling.

Unlike achievement tests, aptitude tests do not measure subject areas in school and cannot be studied for. Achievement tests measure what students have learned during the school year; aptitude tests are used to measure potential ability to learn.

Aptitude Tests for Elementary School Students

For young elementary school students, aptitude tests are often used to gauge students' suitability for special programs, such as gifted and talented classes or for special education. Elementary school students may encounter the Modern Language Aptitude Test, for foreign language talent, and the Stanford Educational Mathematics Aptitude Test, for mathematics.

Aptitude Tests for Middle School Students

Middle schoolers may take aptitude tests to qualify for gifted or special ed programs, as elementary school children do. In addition, middle schoolers may see tests for career aptitudes. One of these is the Differential Aptitude Test, which tests students on verbal reasoning, numerical ability, clerical speed and accuracy, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning, space relations, spelling and language usage.

The OASIS test, for Occupational Aptitude Survey and Interest Schedule, is another common test for students of this age.

Aptitude Tests for High School Students

High school students may take aptitude tests to determine career interests and possible career paths for post-secondary education. Those who may have interests in the armed services may take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery; another vocational aptitude test is the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test and the Differential Aptitude Test

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