Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Mar 2010

Wonderic scores for NFL players

The NFL uses the Wonderlic test at the combine to measure intelligence. On the web I learned that the test is a quick and dirty substitute for a true intelligence test. It takes twelve minutes and has 50 multiple choice questions with three or four choices. Each correct answer is worth one point. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer. The conversion algorithm is IQ_Score = ( 2 * Wonderlic_Score ) + 40. 20 converts to 100 on the IQ scale, or average intelligence; 40, or 140 after conversion, is the genius cutoff; 10 indicates illiteracy.

A number of scores have leaked over the years, most recently Tim Tebow's 22. Vince Young famously scored six, though I'm guessing he has a learning disability.

I completed some of the Wonderlic samples online, as a quick and dirty way to estimate my Wonderlic score. They are easy to find. The test isn't hard, but it is fast. Ben Watson, who used to play for my local team, is rumored to have scored 48. That is a hard number to hit. I tried, but I only "scored" in the low to mid 40s. I am pretty certain that anyone scoring 48 is very bright.

Somewhere I read that the average score for computer programmers, which is my profession, is 29. At 25, the best scoring position in the NFL is offensive tackle.

The problem with the scoring system is that the minimum score, the score for randomly choosing answers, is between 13 and 14. I haven't seen an actual Wonderlic test, but I do know that most questions have four choices and some questions have three choices. If every question has four choices, the minimum score is 12.5; If 41 questions have four choices and nine have three choices, the minimum is 13.25; If 32 have four choices and 18 have three choices, the score when choosing randomly is 14.

So, to make the calculations easy, let's say 13 is the minimum score for the test, as long as you complete the test, and each choice is worth 0.25 points. For each question, you receive 0.25 points for answering it and an additional 0.75 points for answering it correctly.

I don't know how or even if the Wonderlic people norm their test (as intelligence tests are normed), but the conversion formula seems unlikely to be accurate. Tim Tebow received 22 points, 13 points in virtue of completing the test and 9 points from 12 correct choices. Terry Bradshaw, who supposedly scored 14, looks like he was choosing randomly. In any case, answering 10 of 50 questions non-randomly and correctly is all that one needs to score 20, or of average intelligence. That's a pretty low bar. The Wonderlic is measuring something about intelligence. I buy that someone scoring 48 is much brighter than someone scoring 18. But I need evidence that 20 is the same as 100 on an actual intelligence test.

Posted by: mbmxyz on 16 Mar 2010

2 replies , Last at 23 Mar 2010, 12:09am by Phil Osopher

Re: Wonderic scores for NFL players
by loanneP :: Fri, 03/19/2010 - 12:09am

It is important to pass the Wonderlic test to be an NFL player. The Wonderlic Personnel Test is a basic skills and intelligence test, essentially a condensed version of an IQ test – most football players score about a 20, and a 10 means basic literacy. It's good point if you get high score on that test.

Re: Wonderic scores for NFL players
by Phil Osopher :: Tue, 03/23/2010 - 12:09am

Doubt the conversion is accurate at all for IQ to Wonderlic

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