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2 min read

Why are Cognitive Ability Tests timed?

Jul 28, 2021 6:17:41 PM

When using a Cognitive Ability Test to assess your candidates ability, there are two different types of maximum performance test; speed and power:

Why are ability tests timed?

Speed Test vs Power Test

What is a Speed Test?

In a speed test the method needed to reach the answer is often clear and the scope of the questions tends to be limited. As standalone items, the questions appear relatively simple. The amount of correctly answered questions in a given period of time is the measure of ability in a speed test.

What is a Power Test?

Compared to a speed test, a power test utilises a smaller number of more difficult items. The required method is not made clear and therefore the test is in the candidate’s ability to work out how to solve the problem. Time limits on power tests tend to be generous. 


Why are cognitive ability tests timed?

Our cognitive ability tests are measures of power, rather than speed. This means that we provide candidates with generous time limits so that they have the opportunity to perform at their best, rather than measuring how quickly candidates can answer a series of questions. 

Research has demonstrated more positive perceptions of the testing process when candidates sat power tests compared to speed tests. In line with our candidate is king philosophy, our tests use generous time limits to avoid adverse impacts due to excess anxiety, and promote a positive image for the clients that use our tests. 

Furthermore, power tests can be argued to be fairer to candidates for whom the language of the assessment is a second language, since they are not forced to read and complete questions within a tight time limit. In order to measure maximum rather than typical performance of cognitive ability, even power assessments do still need to have a time limit. While the questions are designed to be challenging, with unlimited time most candidates would be able to work out the correct answers. 

Time limits mean that we are measuring candidate’s cognitive ability in a standardised way, looking at their ability to process information within a set time period. Furthermore, with no time limits at all we would also open the assessments up to huge amounts of potential cheating and collusion from candidates. 

How are time limits set?

The time limits on our ability tests have been set based on the completion times of 100's of previous candidates, during the trialling and development of the assessments.

Time limits are based on the average time taken to complete each form within an ability test meaning that time limits are not always numbers rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 minutes. 

Our time limits are also reviewed in line with our regular assessment research and development of ability tests, headed up by our Science and Technology team. As our assessments have been designed to measure power rather than speed, candidate completion time isn't considered when calculating sten scores. This information is available in ability test reports for your reference, along with the average completion times for that assessment.


If you are interested in finding out more about our Cognitive Ability Tests then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and one of the team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Topics: Assessments
Ryan Inglethorpe

Written by Ryan Inglethorpe