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Competencies: Key Ingredient for Creating the  Right Aptitude Test for Every Job Role

Written By Romila Kanchan

Cognitive intelligence is one of the strongest indicators of work performance. In fact, studies show that these two are 84% correlated. This is why 80% of Fortune 500 companies make use of cognitive assessments to screen applicants.

You may be wondering how is it so. How is cognitive intelligence correlated so highly with job performance?

Let’s start by understanding what cognitive intelligence means-

Definition of Cognitive intelligence


Cognitive intelligence is defined as the combination of verbal, numerical and spatial abilities which includes visualizing, use of memory, word fluency, verbal relations, perceptual speed, induction and deduction (Sternberg, 1996).


As you can clearly see, the abilities that define cognitive intelligence are very commonly used in every job role in the world. A human being cannot perform any task, even the most basic mechanical tasks, without cognitive intelligence.

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Any job in the world involves carrying out a task. Performing any task involves usage of cognitive intelligence. Hence the high correlation between cognitive intelligence and work performance.

The next question that arises is-

How do we measure cognitive intelligence?

Definition of Cognitive Competency


In order to measure cognitive intelligence, we need to identify the cluster of abilities or skills, in the form of which it manifests itself. These skills and abilities cluster is called a ‘cognitive competency.


It should be noted that high cognitive intelligence does not always result in high job performance. This is because, a candidate might be good in certain cognitive competencies, but unless those competencies are required to perform well in his/her job, their high cognitive intelligence will not result in achieving success at work. This is why it’s important to identify the cognitive competencies that are needed in a job role before creating a cognitive assessment for the same.

However, the type and level of cognitive competencies that are required to perform a job differ from a job role to job role.

Click Here to Explore Mettl’s Exhaustive Cognitive Competency Library

There are two types of cognitive competencies: Fluid and Crystallised.


Fluid Intelligence Vs Crystal Intelligence


In order to accurately identify if a candidate has the required cognitive abilities to perform well in a job role, we need to identify the cognitive competencies required in every possible job role in the world. To simplify this herculean task, we have grouped all existing job roles on the basis of the type and level of cognitive competencies required to execute them.

All the cognitive competencies that are required in a particular job role defines the competency framework for that job role.

Does it mean that we need to create a cognitive framework for each job role?


We cannot possibly create a competency framework for each job role in existence. So we decided to explore if there are certain job roles that require the same cognitive abilities and would therefore have the same competency framework.

Our research yielded that – ‘yes’, there are! 

All jobs that require the same set of cognitive competencies to succeed at work, are part of one Job Family or Job Level.
job roles that require the same cognitive abilities. For example, Customer Service, Receptionist and Sales Executive all require basic communication skills and performing the same kind of task day after day.

Can all job roles be clubbed in several groups (Job Levels) and if yes how?

Our studies made us conclude that jobs can be clubbed together in the same group if the nature of the jobs is the same.

Nature of the job:

A job may require an employee to perform the same task at low/medium/high frequency and volume or perform different tasks at low/medium/high frequency and volume. The task could be easy/moderately difficult/complex, and it could have a low/medium/high impact. These factors determine the nature of the job.


The type and level of cognitive competencies required to complete tasks associated with a particular job role is dependent on the nature of the job.

Based on the different natures of job roles, we have created a framework – Mettl’s Job Role Categorization Framework, to identify job roles that are similar in nature and hence require the same type and level of cognitive competencies to perform job related tasks.

Click here to know how Mettl bases its Aptitude Tests on Cognitive Competency  Frameworks

Mettl’s Job role categorization framework has identified five different pools of job roles that differ from each other in the nature of the job and the cognitive competencies required. We call this pool of job role as a ‘Job Level.’ Each Job Level contains job roles that are similar in nature and require the same set of cognitive competencies to perform them. In other words, there is one cognitive competency framework for each Job Level.

Mettl’s Framework for job categorization takes into account three core competencies: Information processing, Solution generation, and Decision making.

  • Information Processing: Refers to a person’s proficiency is carrying out numerical, analytical and critical reasoning
  • Solution Generation: Refers to a person’s ability to think out of the box by making use of creativity and abstract reasoning competencies
  • Decision making: Refers to a person’s ability to solve problems and take well thought out rational and accurate decisions.
Core cognitive competencies

It also takes into account two factors pertaining to each core competency: frequency and level.

  • Frequency: How many times in a day does an employee need to make use of a particular competency
  • Level: How difficult are the tasks involving the use of a particular competency, which will determine if an employee needs to have basic knowledge of competency or be proficient in it.

Mettl’s Job Categorization Framework

Mettl's Job Categorization Framework

Using this framework, we can categories any job role in one if the five Job Levels. Based on which the cognitive competencies needed in that job role can be identified to create a competency framework.

Cognitive Competency Framework for Job Levels

As discussed before, we have grouped all existing job roles into 5 levels and created a competency framework for each job level depending on the level and frequency at which core competencies are used in a particular job family.

The five job levels are:


And below you will find the competency framework for each Job level


Job level wise Mettl cognitive competency framework

Effective Cognitive Assessment Creation Toolkit

Creating effective cognitive assessments that can accurately identify the right talent for each job role requires 4 things:

  • Identifying cognitive competenciesCognitive assessment creation toolkit
  • Creating competency frameworks
  • Deciding question types
  • Testing the accuracy of the assessment

Having created a cognitive competency framework that can be molded to identify the cognitive ability demands of any job role, we have successfully completed the 1st and 2nd step of creating effective cognitive assessments.

Once we identify which type and level of cognitive abilities are required in a specific job role, we create a question bank that contains questions on all the different cognitive abilities included in the competency framework for a particular job role.

The question type (MCQ, Guesstimates, case studies, etc.) is dependent upon the competency we are trying to assess. For example, case studies are a great way to assess decision making and problem-solving competency. Similarly, MCQs are effective for numerical and verbal ability assessment, whereas guesstimates are useful for assessing analytical thinking.

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Once the assessment has been created for a particular job role, its effectiveness in selecting the right talent in an organization needs to be tested. To have a cognitive assessment adept in identifying the right talent, we fine-tune three parameters: The assessment mean score, difficulty index, and discrimination index.

To read more about how to test the accuracy of cognitive assessments Click Here

After all,’s been said and done, the key takeaway is-

Getting hoodwinked by the razzmatazz talks of candidates during interviews, which are carefully worded to hide their skill gaps is not acceptable in this cutthroat business environment.

Employee knowledge and skills are the backbone of an organization. The ability to learn and apply knowledge and skills to succeed at any job role is what cognitive assessments measure. The more accurately they are able to measure a candidate’s cognitive intelligence, the better quality talent an organization will end up with.

As Deloitte puts it, - “In the war for talent, the battle is over, and talent has won.”

Top talent is spoiled for choice. They are limited, and they are wanted. The faster you identify and onboard them, the better, as they are not available in the market for long.

Effective cognitive assessments provide organizations with the power to quickly and effectively differentiate the real talent from the fake one.

Board the train to organizational success with effective cognitive assessments.









Topics: Aptitude Test

Originally published May 08 2019,updated November 18 2019

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