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Key Distinctions Between the Wonderlic Exam and an IQ Test

by Louise W. Rice

One of the responsibilities of an employer is to find the most suitable employee that will perform the task. In this case, evaluating his cognitive ability and disposition towards the job is essential for finding the most qualified candidates for the position.

That’s where pre-employment tests come in; they allow employers and hiring managers to gauge a potential employee’s suitability for a position. However, several pre-employment tests are available at present. The most common is the Wonderlic Exam and the IQ Test.

So, what are the differences between these two?

What Is a Wonderlic Exam?

The Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test,  formerly called the Wonderlic Personnel Test, was first developed in 1936 by Eldon F. Wonderlic while attending his graduate studies on Psychology at Northwestern University. 

Due to its popularity and effectiveness, it was updated and divided into four different exams, namely:

  • The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test
  • The Wonderlic Basic Skill Test
  • The Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam (SLE)
  • The Wonderlic Perceptual Ability Test

The Wonderlic exam is one of the most popular pre-employment examinations available. It measures an applicant’s verbal, numerical, and logical capacities relevant to the job they’re applying for. 

This tool is also helpful for employers to see how applicants handle the challenges and pressures they encounter at work. This reflects the applicants’ capacity to respond to daily work routines, adapt to any transitions, and solve the problems they face in the workplace.

What Is an IQ Test? 

In contrast, an IQ test was designed to measure someone’s intellectual ability. Like the Wonderlic exams, IQ tests cover various topics like logical reasoning, understanding, and problem-solving.

Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon developed the Classical-Modern IQ test in France in 1904. There are numerous types of IQ tests these days, but the most commonly used are the following:

  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  • Differential Ability Scales
  • Universal Nonverbal Intelligence
  • Peabody Individual Achievement Test
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test
  • Woodcock-Johnson III Test of Cognitive Disabilities

Key Distinction of a Wonderlic Examination and an IQ Test

So, how are the Wonderlic exam and an IQ test different? Here are some of their fundamental differences:

1. Duration 

Wonderlic tests have a highly limited testing time. In this case, the Wonderlic Personnel Examination was designed originally to have 50 questions covering math, logical reasoning, verbal aptitude, and analytical ability. However, it’s administered quickly, typically taking only twelve minutes. 

On the other hand, a standard IQ test’s coverage may range from a 50 item test to a hundred questions or even more. However, participants are usually allotted a more extended time to finish this type of exam. They generally have an hour or so to complete a standard IQ test.

2. Complexity

The Wonderlic exam’s questions are also generally shorter and less complex. However, this doesn’t mean they’re easy; participants will still need to think carefully about their answers when taking this exam. 

On the other hand, IQ tests typically cover a broader set of questions, and the topics vary from exam to exam. As a result, IQ tests are more likely to have longer and more detailed questions than a Wonderlic exam.

3. Costs 

Since a Wonderlic exam tends to be less complex and shorter, it means fewer costs for the employer. Aside from that, Wonderlic test scores can be easily and immediately interpreted. 

On the other hand, an IQ test can cost an employer more due to its higher level of complexity and broader coverage. This can also entail a more extended evaluation time for employers. They may also need a psychometrician to interpret the results. 


Regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s essential for employers to gain more detailed insights into their potential employees’ abilities, aptitudes, and attitudes. That’s why having the right tools to help you evaluate these aspects more holistically is crucial.

After all, having the best tool won’t just help you find the right candidate for the position, but it can also help reduce the costs and time needed to do so.

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