Why do grad recruiters still use the 85-year-old test?
The Watson Glaser is an aptitude test designed to assesses job candidates’ understanding and analytical abilities. It is used by a number of law firms in their training contract recruitment process. Today, we hear from one law student aspiring solicitor who thinks law firms should ditch the test altogether.
The Watson Glaser test, which claims to measure critical thinking and be an accurate indicator of performance as a lawyer, is an unnecessary hurdle for future lawyers and an inaccurate indicator of a candidate’s potential career success.
Students who have applied for training contracts and vacation schemes are all too aware that the 85-year-old test is an essential form of assessment for a number of magic circle and silver circle firms. However, whether this test is effective is another issue all together.
Having applied for numerous City-based training contracts and vacation schemes myself, this is an honest account of why I feel the test is ineffective. I believe — despite what it might claim — that the Watson Glaser is surplus to requirements.
A bit about the test. Essentially, it is used to measure cognitive abilities in professionals. This is tested through a series of statement-based questions and accounts via a written exam. A candidate is told not to use their knowledge but rather to read the given scenario and answer the questions without applying any current knowledge. This therefore allows an individual to apply their reasoning.
The test covers four key areas of ability that wannabe lawyers should have: to recognise assumptions, to make deductions, to come to conclusions and to interpret and evaluate arguments.
However most if not all of these abilities are already tested in various other assessment day activities, like group exercises, presentations and interviews. Focusing more heavily on these methods would allow individuals to have confidence in the recruitment process because decisions are not based on the outcome of a test but rather an individual’s ability to impress with their personality and interpersonal skills.
Conversely, there are essential lawyer skills which are not tested in the Watson Glaser. Sure, graduate recruiters could argue that’s why there are other assessment day activities in place to do that — but that argument does not work where a student has performed well overall but is not offered a training contract or vacation scheme because they failed the test.
I have personal experience of this. Having done several of these tests myself, I had on a number of occasions passed the online test but failed it when having a second go at the assessment days. This shows the test is somewhat unreliable because at one point my potential success is rated highly while at other times it isn’t. I was even rejected from a vacation scheme at a top international firm solely based on the outcome of the Watson Glaser test. It felt like a massive blow, and ultimately led to my disbelief in the assessment method.
When we spoke to a graduate recruiter about this law student discontent, she told us:
The thing to remember is that this sort of test should never be used as a sole measurement of success. Watson Glaser tests a person’s ability for analytical thinking. Clearly analytical thinking is an important part of any lawyer’s role. It tests how quickly and competently a person can analyse statements and deduce facts or make accurate assumptions. Clearly a lawyer has to be competent in a range of other skills including effective communication, for commercial law a keen understanding and interest in business and also to be good in team situations so they can work efficiently and effectively with colleagues and clients.
When asked specifically about how the firm would handle a situation where a candidate has performed really well in other forms of assessment but does not pass the test, she added:
When looking for candidates who most accurately match what is required for the role you are recruiting for a candidate has to be strong in all aspects of the assessment process.
While law firms continue to use this test as a good indicator of who would make it as a top lawyer, I really hope that they become more reliant on other mechanisms of assessments. Graduate recruiters should make decisions on the entire assessment day and not just one element of it, especially not the Watson Glaser, which seems to return inconsistent results. Surely, this cannot be the test that decides a person’s success in the law profession; a lawyer’s skills are not limited to how they respond to a critical thinking test.
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The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) is a popular and well-established psychometric test produced by Pearson Assessments. The test has been in formal use in the United States since the 1960s, but it gained global popularity toward the end of the 20th century. Today, the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is used for two main purposes:
- Job selection and talent management – The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is used for the assessment of managers and senior managers in a wide variety of organizations. It is also used in the selection of graduates and professionals in the fields of law, finance, and more.
- Academic evaluations – Many US students come across this test, whether in seminars or in advanced degree courses. It functions as a non-mandatory (but recommended) tool for the evaluation of critical thinking skills.
It is administered by employers as either an online test (usually unsupervised at home, or in some cases at a test center), or as a paper version in an assessment center.
The Watson Glaser test is split into five sections. The old and long variation (Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal - Form A) consisted of 80 questions that had to be completed in 60 minutes. The new and short variation consists of 40 questions to be completed in 30 minutes.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking, as applied in the Watson Glaser test, is the ability to look at a situation and assess it, to consider and understand multiple perspectives, and to recognize and extract the facts from opinions and assumptions.
Critical thinking is used in several stages of the problem-solving and decision-making process:
- Defining the problem.
- Selecting the relevant information to solve the problem.
- Recognizing the assumptions that are both written and implied in the text.
- Creating hypotheses and selecting the most relevant and credible solutions.
- Reaching valid conclusions and judging the validity of inferences.
These skills are necessary for the many professions in which you must be able to evaluate evidence thoroughly before making a decision. This is particularly the case in the law field, as lawyers need to read and evaluate large amounts of documents.
Watson Glaser Test Questions
The Watson Glaser test is divided into five sections, and each section has its own question type that assesses a particular ability.
Section 1: Inference
In this section, you are asked to draw conclusions from observed or supposed facts. For example, if a baby is crying and it is feeding time, you may infer that the baby is hungry. However, the baby may be crying for other reasons—perhaps it is hot.
You will be presented with a short text containing a set of facts you should consider as true. Below the text is a statement that could be inferred from the text. You need to make a judgement on whether this statement is valid or not, based on what you have read.
You are asked to evaluate whether the statement is true, probably true, there is insufficient data to determine, probably false, or false.
Section 2: Recognizing Assumptions
In this section, you are asked to recognize whether an assumption is justifiable or not. Here you are given a statement followed by an assumption on that statement. You need to establish whether this assumption is made in the statement or not.
You are being tested on your ability to avoid taking things for granted that are not necessarily true. For example, you may say, "I’ll have the same job in three months," but you would be taking for granted the fact that your workplace won't make you redundant, or that that you won’t decide to quit and explore various other possibilities.
You are asked to choose between the options of assumption made and assumption not made.
Section 3: Deduction
This section tests your ability to weigh information and decide whether given conclusions are warranted. You are presented with a statement of facts followed by a conclusion on what you have read. For example, you may be told, "Nobody in authority can avoid making uncomfortable decisions." You must then decide whether a statement such as "All people must make uncomfortable decisions" is warranted from the first statement.
You need to assess whether the conclusion follows or the conclusion does not follow what is contained in the statement.
Section 4: Interpretation
This section measures your ability to understand the weighting of different arguments on a particular question or issue. You are given a short paragraph to read, which you are expected to take as true. This paragraph is followed by a suggested conclusion, for which you must decide if it follows beyond a reasonable doubt.
You have the choice of conclusion follows and conclusion does not follow.
Section 5: Evaluation of Arguments
In this section, you are asked to evaluate the strength of an argument. You are given a question followed by an argument. The argument is considered to be true, but you must decide whether it is a strong or weak argument, i.e. whether it is both important and directly related to the question.
Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test Results
Once you have completed your test, the five sections are marked, and your result is set out against the three keys to critical thinking. These three areas look at your comprehension, analysis, and evaluation skills:
- Recognize assumptions – the ability to separate fact from opinion
- Evaluate arguments – the ability to analyze information objectively and accurately, to question the quality of supporting evidence, and to suspend judgement
- Draw conclusions – how you decide your course of action
Who Uses the Watson Glaser Test?
Below is a table of the most popular companies and organizations that utilize the Watson Glaser exam. Outscore the competition with JobTestPrep's PrepPack™ and ensure your success today.
|Companies & Organizations|
|Payless||PepsiCo||Caesars Entertainment||Care Services|
|Bird & Bird||Macy's||Wright Tool||Ameren|
Why Is Critical Thinking Important to Potential Employers?
Critical thinking is important to potential employers because they want to see that when dealing with an issue you are able to make logical decisions without any emotion involved. When making decisions, being able to look past emotions will help you to be open-minded, confident, and decisive.
Watson Glaser Practice
The Watson Glaser test is frequently used in recruitment processes as critical thinking ability is considered one of the strongest predictors of job success. This is because all professions require the ability to question, analyze, and make decisions, often under pressure.
Though official test publishers claim there is no way to prepare for the Watson Glaser, our experience shows that pre-exposure to critical thinking concepts, combined with comprehensive practice, creates awareness of the types of analytical skills required for this test, thereby increasing individual performance.
JobTestPrep offers a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal preparation package, customized to the high level of critical thinking found on the Watson Glaser test. It will walk you through each of the five sections to ensure you have mastered all the necessary skills prior to taking the test. Also included are two full-length practice tests to help you feel ready and confident on test day.
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- Two full-length Watson-Glaser–style tests
- Additional 290 Watson-Glaser–style practice questions
- Normalized test scores per position
- Comprehensive explanations and solving tips
- Study guides for inferences, deductions, interpretations, arguments
- Video tutorials
- Secured payment
- Immediate online access
- Exclusive to JobTestPrep