Raven’s APM and Watson-Glaser: Comparing Two of the Best Cognitive Assessments

When you think of assessing cognitive ability, two names come to mind in the crowded pre-employment marketplace: Raven’s™ Progressive Matrices and Watson-Glaser™ Critical Thinking Appraisal. Both are feature-packed assessments with versatile administration and reporting capabilities and can be administered in US, UK, Australian, and Indian English, Spanish, French, and Dutch. Let’s learn more about when to use each one!

Getting to know Raven’s and Watson

Raven’s™ Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) is among the best nonverbal assessment tools available which makes it a great choice for multilingual workforces. It is designed to measure an individual’s ability to perceive and think clearly, make meaning out of confusion, and formulate new concepts when faced with novel information. People that score well on Raven’s are often described as being good “problem solvers” and “quick learners.” The nonverbal aspect of the APM minimizes the impact of language skills on performance on the assessment, which makes it ideally suitable for use across languages. For this, the APM offers the ideal combination of predictive power and cultural flexibility.

The Watson-Glaser™ Critical Thinking Appraisal is the leader in assessing critical thinking ability and predicting performance in fast-paced positions requiring high-level thinking and analysis. It measures a combination of critical thinking attitudes, knowledge, and skills. More specifically, it tests an individual’s: 1) the ability to recognize the existence of problems and an acceptance of the general need for evidence in support of what is asserted to be true; 2) knowledge of the nature of valid inferences, abstractions, and generalizations in which the weight or accuracy of different kinds of evidence are logically determined; and 3) skills in employing and applying the above attitudes and knowledge. Watson-Glaser is an extremely popular assessment used worldwide to assess decision-making skills and managerial readiness.

How would you compare these assessments?

Raven’s APM and Watson-Glaser can be compared in terms of the types of reasoning they assess. The APM measures inductive reasoning, in which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not entail it (i.e., they do not ensure its truth). Induction is a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances. More simply, inductive thinking is when you arrive at a conclusion on the basis of some evidence (e.g., All the squirrels I’ve seen have furry tails. Therefore, all squirrels have furry tails). Comparatively, the Watson-Glaser measures deductive reasoning, where arguments move from given statements (premises) to conclusions which must be true if the premises are true (e.g., All apples are fruit. All fruit grows on trees. Therefore, all apples grow on trees.). In this form of reasoning, the premises of the argument ensure its truth or falsity

When should you use each assessment?

Both assessments measure types of cognitive abilities, so either can be used with a high degree of confidence for predicting a candidate’s job performance. The Raven’s APM may be more useful in contexts where a measure of cognitive ability is needed but language and/or cultural differences may be an issue. Raven’s items consist of graphics arranged in a matrix, whereas the Watson-Glaser’s items include more detailed written passages that require one to delineate subtle nuances to arrive at the correct answer. Thus, the Raven’s APM is often used for complex jobs such as IT professionals and engineers that require a high level of reasoning ability but not necessarily a high level of verbal fluency and comprehension. In contrast, the Watson-Glaser is often used for jobs such as lawyers, teachers, salespeople, nurses, and managers in any field, where reasoning is important and a high level of verbal fluency and comprehension is necessary for successful performance.

In addition, since the Watson-Glaser evaluates critical-thinking skills that can be improved with training, it is likely to be useful for evaluating the baseline of an employee’s level of critical thinking before they enter a professional development course or workshop.

The verdict

Both assessments are among the industry’s most proven pre-employment tools and are increasingly used for employee development (with a full suite of critical thinking training programs offered based on Watson-Glaser). Use Raven’s APM when you want a great measure of cognitive ability across cultures when you don’t want language skills to influence scores. Use Watson-Glaser when the job requires a high level of verbal fluency and decision-making responsibilities. These assessments are among the best at helping you identify and develop talented individuals ready to succeed in the 21st century and advance in your organization.

Contributors: John Trent and Chad Fife