NOTE: This is one really long article. However, it is exhaustive and the most informative of anything I have found written online. So, if you want detailed descriptions of the tests and what they mean and advice as to whether to spend the $675 for the test, it may be worth your time…
INTRODUCTION TO JOHNSON O’CONNOR TESTING
As part of my journey in choosing a new vocation, I decided I would make an investment in an aptitude test in order to make a responsible well considered decision for my future. I chose the test given by the Johnson O’Connor Research group for a few reasons. One, I have a friend who took the test and was pleased with his results. Also, I read the book written by the “laboratory” research and it made a lot of sense. The group has been around and doing testing since the 1940’s so that led me to believe that they must have a good track record with helping people.
The idea that forms the framework and philosophy of this testing is that:
- Each of us are born with certain aptitudes that remain relatively unchanged in us overtime, i.e., some people are inherently better with numbers than others and always will be.
- Individuals with unused aptitudes can become unhappy and get a feeling that they are not doing what they were “born” to do.
- If your natural aptitudes match your interests, you are more likely to be satisfied with the work you are doing.
- According to their research over the last 60 or so years, your vocabulary is a HUGE determinant in whether you are going to be successful in life.
Aside from the vocabulary aspect noted above, this makes sense as a way of looking at why some people are fulfilled in their work and others aren’t. For example, if you are in a career where you are constantly struggling to maintain the pace that your co-workers are operating at, you will suffer emotionally and mentally. It will feel more like drudgery after a while to you, while they may feel like it is easy enough and they can’t imagine why anyone could possibly struggle. In terms of vocabulary, it later became much clearer to me why one’s mastery of language has such a bearing on success. According to J.O., the following are the apparent reasons:
- Communicated intelligence is often more important than actual intelligence, because intelligence that can’t be communicated, rarely gets used. It is harder to express yourself and be a leader with a poor grasp of the English language.
- Perception matters in organizations. If you can’t communicate, it is very difficult for someone to grasp your actual abilities without taking time from their busy schedules to spend significant amounts of time with you to see what you can actually do. It is just a fact of life. Perceived intelligence can often be more important than actual intelligence, because of one’s ability to communicate.
Anyway, I took the tests. I scheduled the process over two days and it took a total of 7 hours. Some tests were very frustrating to me, because I hate NOT being able to do something. One test was re-arranging odd shaped blocks to fit back into a cube. The instructions seemed easy enough, but I was struggling, got flustered, couldn’t focus, felt embarrassed, became angry with myself, etc. The instructor sensed this and she kindly said it is normal to be frustrated, because often aptitudes mirror each other. For example, if someone is great at abstract thinking, they usually aren’t great at structural visualization. When you are testing in an area you have a low aptitude in, you usually get frustrated. This to me is very important, because it means that if you don’t like something in REAL LIFE, you probably shouldn’t do it unless you really need the money. She also said something very important: Too many aptitudes can be a curse (better than having none at all though – look on the bright side), because very few jobs will be able to accommodate them all, and you will quickly become unsettled / unsatisfied and want to change careers. It is better to have relatively few aptitudes and be very HIGH in those that you do have. That made me feel a bit better and I continued with a better attitude.
At times it was actually fun, depending on the test I was taking. In retrospect, I tended to score higher in the tests that I enjoyed. In essence, that is what the process is about anyway.
THE JOHNSCON O’CONNOR APTITUDE TESTS
Let’s delve into the categories of aptitudes the test covers, the actual aptitudes, and how they are tested:
Note: In my opinion, knowing know how the tests work or not will have relatively little effect on your test scores. You can’t really study for these tests.
• Visual Perception
o Graphoria – The ability to do clerical work / office work. Accountants and book keepers are often high in this aptitude and it is tested by seeing how fast you can compare two columns of numbers and determine with each row of numbers is exactly the same. You are tested on speed and accuracy.
-6969 6869 (this row is wrong)
• Divergent Thinking
o Ideaphoria – The ability to produce a rapid stream of thoughts. This is tested by giving a person a sentence / question such as, “How would your day be different tomorrow if the world ran out of water?” You are to write down as many ideas you have about this as rapidly as you can in a given amount of time. People who score high in this may go into advertising, for example
o Foresight – This indicates how much you focus on the present versus how much you think about the future. It is an aptitude for seeing possibilities and is tested by showing you an abstract picture and having you write down as many things that it reminds you of as rapidly as possible in a short period of time. The more you can write down, the more future oriented you are and vice versa.
• Convergent Thinking
o Inductive Reasoning – This test measures the ability to see quickly a common element among heterogeneous ideas, observations, or facts. Basically, you are shown five or six random pictures, with three of them having something round in them, like a ball, the sun, etc. You have to be able to quickly point out three pictures with similarities. This is scored on speed. Doctors high in this aptitude can readily diagnosis symptoms correctly.
o Analytical Reasoning – This tests an ability to organize concepts, to arrange ideas in a logical sequence or classification. Basically, you are given shapes with information on them and told to arrange them correctly. This would be useful for instance, if you wanted to be a software engineer.
o Number Series –This is tested by giving someone several pages of numbers that are patterns. You have to recognize the pattern and fill in what the next number would be. For example:
-2, 4, 6, 8, 10 ________ (the next answer is 12, each number goes up +2)
o Number Facility – This is the ability to perform arithmetic quickly. It is a simple multiplication test involving circles with numbers on them that you have to arrange to come to the correct answer.
o Structural Visualization –, I can’t remember this one.
o Wiggly Block – This test measures the ability to put together wiggly shapes back into the form of a cube. It tests your mechanical ability.
o Paper Folding – This test measures your ability to think in three dimensions. You are basically given an illustration where a piece of paper is folded every which and a hole is punched through it. You then have to unfold it in your mind and document where all the holes would be once the paper is unfolded.
o Tonal Memory – This tests your ability to remember tones. For example, some people can hear a song once and remember it forever.
o Pitch Discrimination – This is a test where you hear sounds and have to say which sounds were higher or lower.
o Rhythm Memory – This is a test where you are given two rhythm sequences and have to tell whether they differ or are the same and if they differ, which beat caused the difference.
o Memory for Design – During this test, you are shown a design on a screen for a certain period of time. The screen goes away and you are left with a piece of paper with just the dots. You have to draw the lines from memory and correctly connect the dots. Architects may score well in this as well as in structural visualization.
o Silograms – This is a test that measures your ability to learn words or languages. You are given a series of “marshian” made up words and corresponding English words. They are then taken away and you are given a sheet of paper with the marshian words. You have to fill in the corresponding English words. You have to do this three times with the exact same pairs of words to see how quickly you can learn.
o Number Memory – This tests your ability to remember numbers. You are rapidly given 6 digit numbers and are tested to see how many you can remember. The same numbers are given three times and each time you have to write as many down as possible. The more you get right each time, the higher you score.
o Observation – You are given 30 seconds to memorize a bunch of random drawings of items on a page. You are then told to flip the page and alert the instructor as to what is different. Each page, something changes. This tests ability to observe. A home inspector would use this in his or her career.
• Color Vision
o Red-Green Vision – This tests whether you are color blind
o Color Discrimination – This tests whether you can see small variations in colors. You are given 30 or so beads each slightly varying in color and ask to order them from darkest to lightest.
o Finger Dexterity – This tests your ability to work quickly and accurately on small things with your fingers. You are told to pick up pins as quickly as possible and complete a task with them. This is required to be a good factory worker, for instance, in an electronics assembly line.
o Tweezer Dexterity – This tests your ability to work with small tools. You are given tweezers and told to use them to pick up pins and perform a task as quickly as possible. This aptitude is important for dentists and surgeons.
• Personality – You are given a series of words and told to say the first word that comes into your mind. People who are objective answer in a certain way, i.e., they may tend to just say the opposite of the word they heard, while people who are subjective think of something much more creative. Objective people tend to work in groups or with people. Subjective people tend to value autonomy. They are more individualistic. You score on a scale with this test, with some people being somewhat in the middle. If you are in the middle, you should probably consider careers for more subjective people.
• English Vocabulary – You are tested at the beginning of the session to determine your level. Then, you are given a second test to determine your overall proficiency.
RESULTS, FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS:
I think this was worth it for me and people who are going through a process of self-discovery. However, my final assessment is that it will likely tell you what you already somewhat probably knew about yourself. For instance, it wasn’t a huge shock to me that I was extremely high in ideophoria and vocabulary. What this test is definitely good for is confidence. It gives you the confidence to explore and think about yourself and the time to do it in a structured manner. Even the person who went over my results with me admitted to me that what this test does for most people is give them emotional permission and confidence to do something else.
I was pleased with my results meeting with the counselor. I found out that I scored extremely high the tests ideaphoria, silograms, and vocabulary. In his description of the characteristics of a person with my aptitudes, there were genuine moments where I thought, “wow, how could he be that accurate after just meeting me????” The counselors comments were so relevant that I first wondered if he was relating the results of my test to the dream career survey I filled out prior to the testing, and just telling me what I wanted to hear. I have concluded that this was not the case, because he later told me that several of my dream careers were not for me. Below are the “dream careers” I wrote down:
- Project Manager
- Leader / CEO
- Creative Development
- Member of think tank
- College professor
- Journalist / Interviewer
- Sales / client manager (here I indicate that I am introverted)
They used this information above, along with my aptitudes to recommend the following careers:
- Advertising, marketing, public relations
- Small Specialty Business
I appreciated that he was bold enough to tell me some items on my dream job list were not ideal for me, namely sales, management or executive function in a large company. I was considering exploring these careers, so this has saved me a lot of time. I agree with him as well. I think a lot of times people like the idea of what a life would be like in those careers given the prestige, money, and freedom they can offer, but the day to day is what I realized I need to be focused on. As a CEO, would it be great to give a moving speech to a company and motivate people? Yes. How about constant reviewing of spreadsheets and reports, i.e., the daily grind of operational execution? Not so much.
I learned that my “subjective” personality requires autonomy. I now see that I need to harness my high ideaphoria and vocabulary rather than see them as a hindrance (hence this blog).
So in the end, I think this test was worth it to me, even though my results weren’t exactly all surprising.
For people who are approaching career change with trepidation, this test can really be a confidence booster. Since you are being measured against thousands of other people, you can discern whether you really do have an aptitude for something or if it is all just in your head. If you are going through a period in life of self-reflection and trying to get your arms around who you really are and what you are good at, this may be good for you.
A few more final thoughts…
I think that all college age kids should take this test before choosing a major. Parents spend too much money on college for kids to go in clueless and making decisions about being lawyers based on TV shows and what their friends are doing. $675 may be a lot of money, but how about that extra semester, because your kid realizes finance just isn’t a good fit.
The fact that I will be able to save time and close some doors that I was considering walking through made this well worth it for me. There is only so much time in life. The faster you can get on the tracks with mental clarity and moving towards a great long-term career the better.
I wish I had taken this a long time ago. I would have chosen a different career path. Everyone says, oh you got great experience in accounting. The truth is that I would have gotten great experience in anything I did and I would still be building on that experience. If you are struggling for direction, this may help you. If you don’t have the money, consider getting requesting money towards it for Christmas or a birthday. It could be the gift that keeps on giving.
Before you take the test, consider researching what the aptitudes are (above), do some self-reflection, and obtain candid feedback from family members and friends who know and care about you enough to be honest. Many of my friends already mentioned some of the “recommended careers” to me.
Any questions on my experience, please feel free to drop me a note. Good luck!