A memory-based exercise?

April 24, 2022

Is aptitude testing fulfilling its purpose?

— Image: Courtesy of The Critical Reader
— Image: Courtesy of The Critical Reader


he NAT, the GAT, the GMAT, the MCAT, the ECAT are some of the examples of aptitude tests designed to judge the competence of the applicants before admission to a college or appointment for a job. Unfortunately, none of these truly represents what aptitude testing is, from a psychological perspective.

Psychologists are of the view that gauging a person’s aptitude is a thorough exercise of checking his mental compatibility for a profession or subject, rather than solely making him rote-learn and reproduce a few well-known facts about the subject. In our country, aptitude assessment is a total memory-based exercise where a candidate is made to cram the entire intermediate course, page-by-page, for the entry exam of a top-ranking medical or engineering college. They are required to be proficient in secondary school mathematics i.e. division or multiplication of decimal numbers and other basic stuff which has nothing to do with a field like medicine. General knowledge section asks about events and landmarks recorded decades before the test taker was born.

The results of such tests are a complete waste of government’s resources. About 90 percent of students, predominately girls, who qualify the test with flying colours fail to serve as competent doctors when they enter practical life. They are reluctant to move to remote areas where medical practitioners are desperately needed. Many high achievers collapse in college laboratories when they are directed to dissect and cut through a cadaver.

The same is true for the employment tests and aptitude assessments conducted as a gateway to post graduate studies.

I request the test setting authorities to revise the entrance exam pattern with the purpose of making it more practical and better at ability judgment.

Technology is pacing forwards with every passing day, and spreadsheets and other accounting software have rendered even the digital calculators outdated. Testing authorities ask the candidates to tuck their heads into secondary level addition/subtraction and to memorise the meaning of idioms from Shakespearean English. What type of candidate do you expect would be serving you after such a test?

In my view, as well as of a renowned psychologist, employment tests should be subject-specific. Candidates should be well equipped in table work such as composing formal letters and applications.

The English portion, in current aptitude tests, follows an old method of gauging literary ability, called the “direct method.” This approach has been debunked by European countries and America which now favour the “indirect method” of language learning and testing. This encompasses more written practice replacing the outdated exercise of memorising the present, past, future tenses etc. Now that native English speakers have switched to the indirect method of teaching and testing language, why are we following the century old system?

Furthermore, a “multiple choice” exam is only capable of judging 40 percent of an individual’s competence. Remaining 60 percent is his/her writing power, vocabulary use and ‘facing the crowd’ style. The current system of testing fails to acknowledge this fact.

I request the test setting authorities to revise the entrance exam pattern with the purpose of making it more practical and better at ability judgment. Otherwise, we will be left with a handful of “theoretical” degree holders knowing nothing about the application of their specialised knowledge in today’s era of science and technology.

The writer is an ACCA global place winner (second in the world and first in Pakistan), and an author, currently serving as an executive accountant in a reputed public sector organisation

A memory-based exercise?