General Aptitude Test Battery

The General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) was developed by the U.S. Employment Service (USES) for use in occupational counseling, primarily by national agencies and in state employment offices. The measure was published in 1947, revised several times, and discontinued in 2002. The battery assessed multiple cognitive, perceptual, and psychomotor abilities as preferred rather than general mental ability when classifying people into jobs. (It is at variance with a competitor battery, the Differential Aptitude Tests, and other similar batteries by virtue of its inclusion of perceptual and psychomotor abilities.) The primary goal of the GATB was to match employee abilities to specific jobs. USES validated the test against some 66 occupational groups in five job families, only a small percentage of those for which it could be used.

GATB Form A was used operationally in 1947 with Form B, which was used for validation research and retesting. These forms were changed over the years. In 1983 Forms C and D were introduced. Spanish-language and nonreading versions were also available during that time period. Some reviewers during the early years of the GATB found the test manual lacking information needed for proper test administration, although the manuals for later forms were improved.

The GATB consisted of 12 separately scored and timed subtests that were used to compute nine aptitude scores. Test administration did not require a professional and took 2.5 hours. The test was appropriate for individuals in Grades 9 through 12 or for those in the workforce. Subtests included Name Comparison, Computation, Three-Dimensional Space, Vocabulary, Tool Matching, Arithmetic Reasoning, Form Matching, Mark Making, Place (a pegboard test), Turn (another pegboard test), Assemble, and Disassemble. The sub-tests involve both verbal and quantitative reasoning and both verbal and performance measures. Some subtests were highly speeded and were appropriate for clerical positions. Aptitude scores are computed; most commonly used are cognitive (including general, verbal, and numerical aptitudes), perceptual (including spatial aptitude, form perception, and clerical perception), and psychomotor (including motor coordination, finger dexterity, and manual dexterity) composites. The meaningfulness of the tests comprising the measure was thoroughly considered; it was found that the cognitive subtests demonstrated reasonable construct validity in terms of convergent validity, the perceptual measures were substandard in this regard, and there had been too little research on the psychomotor measures to make an overall judgment. Some criticized the test because the aptitude composites are too highly intercorrelated. That is, some believed that the separate cognitive subtests of the GATB all measured the same thing or qualities that were so highly correlated as to be lacking discriminant validity.

The test was extensively used and researched in both employee counseling and selection, especially in state employment offices. In counseling settings it was probably best used in conjunction with a vocational interest inventory so that abilities and interests could be considered simultaneously. Its use was both widespread and controversial enough that the fairness of its uses was studied and published by the National Academy of Sciences, as described in Hartigan and Wigdor. The primary issue related to group differences, often a concern for general ability tests. Because Whites scored better on the cognitive subtests than did Blacks by approximately one standard deviation, the National Academy of Science panel called for adjustments to scores depending on group membership, a highly controversial practice, or the use of within-group percentile scoring. Although such a practice is controversial, it eliminates very little of the test’s utility for predicting job success, yet it provides a more diverse workforce. Also, concern had been raised over the use of the GATB’s requiring relatively high levels of reading and arithmetic calculations with educationally and culturally disadvantaged persons. Furthermore, the original norm groups were limited by being both quite small and entirely male. The job classification system on which the test was based was also quite dated. The group differences coupled with the decline in unskilled and clerical positions probably led to the decision by USES to discontinue publication of the test early in the first decade of this century.


  1. Hartigan, J. A., & Wigdor, A. K. (Eds.). (1989). Fairness in employment testing: Validity generalization, minority issues, and the General Aptitude Test Battery. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
  2. Jaeger, R. M., Linn, R. L., & Tesh, A. S. (1989). Appendix A: A synthesis of research on some psychometric properties of the GATB. In J. A. Hartigan & A. K. Wigdor (Eds.), Fairness in employment testing: Validity generalization, minority issues, and the General Aptitude Test Battery (pp. 303-324). Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
  3. Keesling, J. W. (1985). [Review of the USES General Aptitude Test Battery]. In J. V. Mitchell, Jr. (Ed.), The ninth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 1644-1647). Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.
  4. Kirnan, J. P., & Geisinger, K. F. (1984). General Aptitude Test Battery. In J. Hogan & R. Hogan (Eds.), Business and industry testing: Current practices and test reviews (pp. 140-157). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

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