The Wonderlic is an institution within an institution. Its name recognition as a test of cognitive ability is deeply intertwined with the NFL and the annual nationally-televised mass job interview it conducts, the Combine. On the Wonderlic home page is a link to its history with the NFL.
But, to repeat a question that’s raised more often every year, does the Wonderlic really tell you anything about whether someone can play?
"I can basically tell you, from what we see," said University of Louisville business school professor Frank Kuzmits, "it’s a huge waste of time and money."
MORE: Paxton Lynch scores low (18) on Wonderlic
It’s not a unanimous opinion. While the NFL plans to review its entire Combine procedure, including its four-decade relationship with the Wonderlic Personnel Test, both the testing company and its most famous client are still comfortable using it.
However, other academics who have studied the Combine — while not as blunt as Kuzmits is — are as definitive about the lack of direct connection between that test and NFL success.
To be fair, though, says Michael Callans, Wonderlic’s vice president for research and development, teams are fully aware that they don’t paint a complete picture, and aren’t supposed to. They put the players’ test scores in proper perspective, no matter how much the scores get blown out of proportion by others.
"Most of them recognize it as one point of evaluation in helping them decide how this person fits into their organization," Callans said. "Clearly the athleticism is the most important factor. But (the score) adds value. For fans, it’s probably hard for them to process all the complexities that go into evaluating an individual."
Yet, like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and bench-press reps, the Wonderlic score is easy to digest.
Even if, technically, no one except the properly-authorized team personnel even knows the exact score, contrary to popular belief. Not even the players know, for instance, says Bills Pro Bowl center Eric Wood.
"They never deliver you the score, not right there or not after they find out," Wood said. All he knows of his own score is that he was in the 30s out of a maximum of 50. During preparations for the 2009 draft, he said, a scout told him that he had been a "30-30-30" player: reps, vertical and Wonderlic.
And the scores that are always leaked — against NFL policy, even though there appears to be no consequences for doing it — can’t be trusted, either.
"One time, coming back from Indianapolis to Chicago (Wonderlic’s headquarters are north of the city), we heard on the radio that a prospect had gotten a particular score," Callans recalled. “We knew it was wrong, because that particular test was in the back seat of the car."
After peeling away all the myths and misperceptions, however, this much seems apparent: The Wonderlic, with its sterling reputation for testing a certain type of intelligence in job-seekers at hundreds of companies since the 1930s, indicates very little about football players.
Even their intelligence, or at least the kind needed to succeed in the NFL.
MORE: Feats and photos from the 2016 Combine | NFL Combine records
"Our results showed that, even with quarterbacks, there’s really not a linear effect," said Dr. John W. Michel of Loyola (Md.) University’s Sellinger School of Business. Michel, with Brian Lyons of Fresno State and Brian Hoffman of Georgia, have published several research papers and articles dating back to 2005 about whether the Combine in general and the Wonderlic specifically predict NFL success.
"We’re not knocking the Wonderlic test. It’s been one of the most solid predictors of job performance across all disciplines,” Michel said. “But non-traditional jobs like football player wouldn’t fit into that; it’s just more appropriate for more traditional-type jobs.
"You would be looking to test for fluid intelligence, reactive, real-life intelligence. Can you react to a situation, can you solve problems on the fly? Looking at crystallized intelligence isn't really appropriate for the job."
Kuzmits, along with the late Arthur J. Adams, his colleague at Louisville, published multiple research results on the same syllabus since 2008. In their study that year published at the sports psychology online journal “Athletic Insight” was this passage:
"(I)t is surprising that the NFL has not adopted a more sophisticated approach to the measurement of cognitive ability and other psychological measures for combine participants. While the validity and reliability of the WPT in traditional employment settings has been established, the instrument does not appear to have utility in the professional football arena."
Kuzmits said that their studies showed that a far more obvious factor predicted NFL success than the Wonderlic or any of the Combine results.
"The most valid test for any employment situation, regardless of the industry, is called the job-sample test," Kuzmits said. In the case of the NFL, he added, "it’s called college football."
Kuzmits said that the idea to look into the Topic actually came from having Wood in one of his classes late in his college career, before the pre-draft merry-go-round began. Wood mentioned he would be attending the Combine soon, he recalled, “and I said, ‘That’s interesting. How effective is it?’
"He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Does anybody know?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.'"
Wood didn’t recall the conversation. He did recall that, as the Wonderlic people and the NFL has always said, that it’s not a test a prospect can study or prepare for. Just as important, he said, he hasn’t seen the one-to-one link between high scores on any test and learning what needs to be learned in football.
"There have been guys I’ve played with who didn’t have high grades or test scores or anything like that, and they’re just bright in football, bright in the meeting room," Wood said. "And I’ve known brilliant guys who can speak multiple languages but can’t memorize the playbook."
MORE: Is the Combine America's most-watched cattle call?
And then there are players like his former Bills teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick, now with the Jets and for years the go-to name in the NFL for smarts, because of his Harvard education and a reported 48 on the Wonderlic.
Yes, Wood said, Fitzpatrick is that smart.
"His intelligence really helps his game. He problem-solves really fast, he dissects things on the field really well," Wood said.
But, he added, “He’s not just all-brains. He’s got tangible abilities that are pretty rare — a really quick release, strong arm, fast, tough."
Also … he might not have gotten that 48 that’s attached to his name. Or the 49 or 50 that also have been reported.
"He’ll tell you that he left one question blank," Wood said. "So whatever they say he got, it definitely wasn't a perfect score."
If the NFL draft is a meat market, the NFL draft combine is where the beef is weighed and measured. Beginning today in Indianapolis, and for several days, our future Sunday heroes will take a full physical, sit for X-rays, face an interview, bench press 225 pounds for show and dough, jump broadly and vertically, and run the 40.And, of course, they'll take the Wonderlic. (Click here, and you can take it, too.)
The Wonderlic is an IQ test with only 50 questions -- it's a short version of the longer test routinely given to kids. Players have just 12 minutes to take it, and most don't finish. But, in fact, the average NFL test-taker scores a little above average.
The first questions on the test are easy, but they get harder and harder.
An easy question: In the following set of words, which word is different from the others? 1) copper, 2) nickel, 3) aluminum, 4) wood, 5) bronze.
A tougher one: A rectangular bin, completely filled, holds 640 cubic feet of grain. If the bin is 8 feet wide and 10 feet long, how deep is it?
Some teams consider the test results critical. Others say they dismiss the results, except for players who score at the extremes. What's an extreme? Well, former Bengals punter and Harvard grad Pat McInally scored a perfect 50 -- the only NFL player known to do so -- while at least one player, it is rumored, scored a 1. Charlie Wonderlic Jr., president of Wonderlic Inc., says, "A score of 10 is literacy, that's about all we can say." If that's the case, more than a few pros are being delivered the Books-on-Tape version of the playbook.
But players scoring too high are also suspect. If a player is smart, his potential to be a smartass increases exponentially.
E.F. "Al" Wonderlic invented the test as a Northwestern grad student in the psychology department in the 1930s. The test was first given to potential NFL draft picks by a handful of teams in 1970, and it quickly became a popular combine tool because, like everything else at the predraft workout, it put a number on performance, and it did it quickly.
|Some teams consider the test results critical. Others say they dismiss the results, except for players who score at the extremes. What's an extreme? Well, former Bengals punter and Harvard grad Pat McInally scored a perfect 50 -- the only NFL player known to do so -- while at least one player, it is rumored, scored a 1.|
Each year, about 2.5 million job applicants, in every line of work, take the Wonderlic. The average NFL combiner scores about the same as the average applicant for any other job, a 21. A 20 indicates the test-taker has an IQ of 100, which is average.
Some people disagree with the whole idea of IQ testing because they believe the tests are culturally biased and inaccurate. But Charlie Wonderlic doesn't make grand claims for the score derived from his test. "What the score does is help match training methods with a player's ability," he says. "It could be a playbook -- what is the best way to teach a player a play? On the field, the higher the IQ, the greater the ability to understand and handle contingencies and make sound decisions on the fly."
In general, says Wonderlic, "The closer you are to the ball, the higher your score."
This assessment roughly corresponds to the averages revealed, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, by an NFL personnel man in Paul Zimmerman's "The New Thinking man's Guide to Pro Football," which are:
Offensive tackles: 26
Tight Ends: 22
Middle linebackers: 19
Wide receivers: 17
The average scores in other professions look like this:
Bank teller: 22
Clerical Worker: 21
Security Guard: 17
Ready to try your hand at it? Click here to take the test.
"Closer Look" will be a regular Page 2 feature, exploring a hot sports Topic in greater detail.
Legend has it that Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was one of the first National Football League coaches to employ the Wonderlic Personnel Test to assess players' cognitive ability. By 1970 several teams were using the 12-minute, 50-question test to evaluate potential draft picks.
E.F. "Al" Wonderlic (EB32, G34) created the short-form assessment of cognitive ability as a psychology graduate student at Northwestern. He and his wife began distributing the test from their apartment in Chicago in 1937. By 1961 more than 5 million people had taken his test.
Today, Charlie Wonderlic Jr., the founder's grandson, runs the firm in Libertyville, Ill. As part of its expanded human resources products and services, Wonderlic Inc. prints the revised WPT in 14 languages for more than 7,000 businesses worldwide — including the NFL.
Every year several hundred potential draftees take the standardized test as part of teams' player evaluation. The test, which includes multiple choice and open response questions on math, practicing comprehension and spatial reasoning, provides an idea of a player's general intelligence and helps teams assess learning and problem-solving ability.
— Robbie Levin (J12)
Ever wonder how you'd score on the Wonderlic? Here's your chance to find out.
Report: Manziel got 32 on Wonderlic
Johnny Manziel reportedly scored a 32 on the Wonderlic test at the NFL scouting combine, potentially boosting his stock among NFL franchises considering selecting the former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner with their first-round pick.
See how you score on some examples from a Wonderlic IQ test.
Set your clock for five minutes, don't peek at the answers, and ... oh, yeah, run the 40 and deliver us some bench-presses first, would ya?
The Wonderlic Personnel Test ™
WPT ™ demo Questions
1. Look at the row of numbers below. What number should come next?
2. Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one:
|1. true,||2. false,||3. not certain?|
3. Paper sells for 21 cents per pad. What will four pads cost?
4. How many of the five pairs of items listed below are exact duplicates?
|Nieman, K.M.||Neiman, K.M.|
|Thomas, G.K.||Thomas, C.K.|
|Hoff, J.P.||Hoff, J.P.|
|Pino, L.R.||Pina, L.R.|
|Warner, T.S.||Wanner, T.S.|
5. RESENT RESERVE • Do these words
1. have similar meanings, 2. have contradictory meanings, 3. mean neither the same nor opposite?
6. One of the numbered figures in the following drawing is most different from the others. What is the number in that figure?
7. A train travels 20 feet in 1/5 second. At this same speed, how many feet will it travel in three seconds?
8. When rope is selling at $.10 a foot, how many feet can you buy for sixty cents?
9. The ninth month of the year is
|1. October,||2. January,||3. June,||4. September,||5 May.|
10. Which number in the following group of numbers represents the smallest amount?
11. In printing an article of 48,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 1,800 words. Using smaller type, a page contains 2,400 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in smaller type?
12. The hours of daylight and darkness in SEPTEMBER are nearest equal to the hours of daylight and darkness in:
|1. June,||2. March,||3. May,||4. November.|
13. Three individuals form a partnership and agree to divide the profits equally. X invests $9,000, Y invests $7,000, Z invests $4,000. If the profits are $4,800, how much less does X receive than if the profits were divided in proportion to the amount invested?
14. Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one:
|1. true,||2. false,||3. not certain?|
15. A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?
These are demo test questions and are intended for demonstration purposes only. The Wonderlic Personnel Test is published by Wonderlic, Inc.
3. 84 cents
7. 300 feet
8. 6 feet
14. not certain
15. 40 years old
"Closer Look" will be a regular Page 2 feature, exploring a hot sports Topic in greater detail.
While most NFL prospects flex their muscles on the field at the NFL Combine to try and dazzle scouts, a their brains will come under a different kind of scrutiny with the Wonderlic test.
The Wonderlic test is similar to an IQ test, created in 1936 by E. F. Wonderlic to measure general cognitive ability in math, vocabulary and reasoning. It was used by the Navy during World War II to determine candidates for pilot training and navigation.
Tom Landry, a two-time Super Bowl champ as head coach of the Cowboys and innovator of the now-popular 4-3 defense, started using the Wonderlic test in the 1970s to evaluate players. With the success Landry had, many teams began to follow suit, and now it's regular practice in the NFL for draft prospects to take the test.
Over time, players have benefited from taking the test while others never even got to sniff the NFL because of it. Here's a look at the best and worst reported scores in NFL history.
MORE: Wonderlic scores by current players, from Tom Brady to Ryan Fitzparick
The only known player to get a perfect score on the Wonderlic test came from Harvard and played primarily on special teams (though he was used occasionally as a wide receiver and hauled in five TDs throughout his career). Go figure. McInally was chosen in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Bengals and appeared in one Pro Bowl and one Super Bowl. He also completed 3 of 4 career passes for 81 yards. Consider him an Ivy League Taysom Hill.
Mamula's tale is a cautionary one for NFL GMs. The Eagles were so impressed by his Wonderlic scores and his combine performance they traded up to select him seventh overall, ahead of Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Mamula played six seasons and never made a Pro Bowl.
Curtis posted the highest recorded Wonderlic score by a wide receiver in NFL history and was selected in the third round in 2003 by the Rams. He played eight seasons, compiling 253 catches for 3,297 yards and 20 touchdowns.
It's no surprise that Fitzpatrick, another Harvard product, wound up on this list. He's certainly seen some highs and lows throughout his career, playing for eight different teams since being drafted by the Rams in 2005. But 15 seasons later, "Fitz Magic" is still going strong.
Watson posted the highest Wonderlic score for a tight end back in 2004, catching enough interest for the Patriots to select him with the 32nd pick in the first round. Watson won a ring his rookie year in Super Bowl XXXIX, though he only played one game before getting injured and missing the rest of the season. He won the Bart Star in 2018 with the Ravens and has played 16 seasons in the NFL.
MORE: Tom Brady's NFL Combine performance, revisted
Coming off a National Championship at Texas, expectations were high for Young coming into the league, though some were concerned about his low Wonderlic score. Still, the Titans gambled on him by taking him third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. The gamble didn't pay off, though. In six seasons, Young threw 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.
Gore's poor Wonderic score might have had a negative impact on his draft stock, as he was selected 65th overall in the third round by the 49ers in 2005. It doesn't look like it ever affected his productivity, though; he's accumulated 15,347 yards and 79 touchdowns in 15 seasons. He currently stands third in all-time rushing yards in NFL history, just 290 yards behind Walter Payton.
Davenport was projected to be a late-round prospect with developmental upside in 1999. Then the North Carolina QB scored a 6 on his Wonderlic test and went undrafted, never making it onto an NFL roster.
Another player who never played a down in the NFL, "Pig" Prather had a bad reputation for blowing coverages, and to NFL GMs, his poor Wonderlic scores seemed to reflect poor decision-making skills on the field as he went undrafted in 2001.
Davis rushed for 3,763 yards in four seasons at Iowa State. Then he scored a 4 on the Wonderlic exam at the 2000 NFL Combine and went undrafted, eventually going on to play four seasons in the Canadian Football League before being cut.
While most players with low Wonderlic scores have seen teams shy away, the Cowboys actually traded up to get Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In eight seasons, he's managed seven interceptions and 265 tackles. He sat out the first four games of the 2019 season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy, but still won his first Super Bowl ring as a member of the Chiefs despite being inactive for the game.
Claiborne's score should come with an asterisk, as he was later reported to be diagnosed with a learning disability.
MORE: NFL mock draft 2020
The average score for the Wonderlic test is 20 out of a possible 50, according to Wonderlic Inc. The test is timed and composed of 50 questions, with one point awarded for each correct answer. A person who scores a 10 or above is considered literate, while anything lower might suggest illiteracy.
While the average score on the Wonderlic is 20, the definition of what is a good score on the Wonderlic test varies. Often times, the quality of the score can be equated to the types of position or job an applicant or test taker is pursuing. Here's a look at average scores by job title:
|Job Title||Average Wonderlic Score|
Based on data gathered from wonderlictestsample.com (which is not a complete aggregation of all Wonderlic scores from NFL combines, but does include scores from 622 different players), here's a rough look at the average score for NFL prospects by position.
It might come as a surprise to some that the big hog mollies on the offensive line had the highest average score, narrowly edging out tight ends, though it makes sense if you consider all of the blocking schemes they have to learn and blitzes they have to read. Quarterbacks come in a respectable third, while linebackers, defensive tackles and defensive ends all come in with above average scores.
Want to see how you compare to NFL players? Try taking a sample Wonderlic test.
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