Interpreting Your Score in a Pre-employment Cognitive Ability Test

Welcome to the complete A-Z, candidate-friendly guide to pre-employment cognitive ability test scores! Below we will review the important terms and facts that you should be aware of when taking a cognitive ability test as part of a hiring process. We will answer frequently asked questions about scores and refer you to important links that provide further information about the subject. Let’s start…

Cognitive Ability Test Score Terminology


Raw Score

The number of correct answers you got on your test.


How you perform on each sub-section of the test, namely numerical, verbal, and abstract reasoning. Subscores alone will not determine your performance a the cognitive ability test.

Percentile Score

Your score benchmarked against a group of pre-tested candidates. A percentile score will appear in percent form and will indicate what percentage of the population scored lower than you on the same test. E.g. a percentile score of 50, means you scored higher than 50% of the population of candidates within a norm group.

Stanine Score

Stanine means standard nine. It is a way to scale scores on a nine-point scale, instead of the popular ten-point scale. Stanine scores range from 1 to 9. Each stanine represents a group of percentile ranks. Here is how Stanine and percentile scores relate to each other:

Stanine Percentile Rank Description
1 1-3 Very Low
2 4-10 Below Average
3 11-22 Below Average
4 23-39 Average
5 40-59 Average
6 60-76 Average
7 77-88 Above Average
8 89-95 Above Average
9 96-99 Very High


Generally speaking, they are less frequent than percentile scores. Tests that use stanine scoring: Cubiks’ Logiks General (Intermediate).


Norm Group

A norm group is a sample of pre-tested candidates who share a certain characteristic and whose scores were aggregated to create a benchmark. Norm groups could be segmented by profession, industry, geography. Examples of a norm group could be the general population of employed workers or managers.

Speed vs Accuracy

Speed-accuracy balance is another measure of performance and provides additional insight into people’s abilities and thinking style. Some test publishers use the accuracy-to-speed ratio to create a Caution meter, which tells the employer whether speed was prioritised over accuracy.

Here is an example from Saville Consulting’s score report. On page 4 you can see that an entire section of the score report focuses on Test Taking Style:

Speed vs accuracy score (Saville Consulting)

Image excerpt, taken from Saville Consulting, Source.


A low Caution score, which means speed was prioritised over accuracy, cannot by itself determine your success in a cognitive ability test.

Finding the Average Score of My Test

You’re probably curious to know what are the score distributions of the test you’re about to take. Most test publishers don’t provide this information off-the-shelf. But average scores per test are usually given to employers as part of marketing communications.  You just need to dig in a little bit to discover these facts. We’ve done part of the work for you in the table below, and if to quote the British Psychological Society:


Psychological tests are designed so that on average, people in the group they are intended for would get about 50 per cent right”. (source, page 5/24)


Here are the average scores of known cognitive ability tests:


Test Name # of questions Time limit (minutes) ~Average Raw Score
Wonderlic 50 12 21
PI Cognitive Assessment 50 12 20
Logiks General (Intermediate) 50 12 20
CCAT 50 15 24
Revelian 51 20 22


Is There One Cut-off Score on a Cognitive Ability Test?

The answer is no. Firstly, each test provider has slightly different score distributions. Thus, when you’re looking to find a cut-off score for your own assessment, make sure you’re looking at data that pertains to your own test.

Secondly, a cut-off score (AKA target score) depends on the job position and the employer’s hiring decisions. It is best to have a look at the following resources to learn about recommended score ranges for different jobs as listed by the leading cognitive ability test providers:


Negative Scoring

The majority of cognitive ability tests do not reduce points for incorrect answers or unmarked answers. It is better to guess a question than leaving it blank, even if you’re risking a lower Caution score (your speed to accuracy ratio). 

Cognitive Ability vs IQ

Pre-employment cognitive ability test publishers claim that their assessments do not measure IQ. However, there is a strong correlation between the two, and some cognitive ability test (e.g. Wonderlic) do have cross-reference tables between their scores and IQ scores.  

Your Rights as a Candidate

Nowadays, there is a general consensus about employers’ and test publishers’ need to be transparent and fair in regards to utilizing pre-employment assessments. However, legislation and regulation regarding the use of cognitive ability tests in pre-employment selection may change from one country to another and it is therefore imperative that you take a pro-active approach prior and during your selection process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your rights as a candidate, and make sure to be familiar with the local institutions and regulatory bodies in the field of psychological testing. Notable institutes in this field include:

As for Candidates with disabilities, if you suffer from a disability, you should feel free to contact, flag and request answers regarding the accommodations your future employer provides for your condition.

At least according to the United Kingdom’s Disability Discrimination Act, employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate any particular needs a disabled person might have. This excellent guide by the OPP will explain everything you need to know about disabilities and cognitive ability testing.