What is the Army General Classification Test?

Introduction

The Army General Classification Test (AGCT) has a long history that runs parallel with research and means for attempting the assessment of intelligence or other abilities.

Background

World War I and World War II created the need for this type of testing and provided a large body of test subjects. The early emphasis (World War I) was on determining the level of literacy (Alpha test) amongst a heterogeneous group. Illiterates were given another test (Army Beta); some enrolees were interviewed. Subsequent testing targeted aptitude in order to better fill roles, such as those provided by officers who obtained commissions from other than the United States military academies, or to meet the need for increasingly complicated skills that came along with technological progress, especially after World War II.

As with other measurement attempts, the AGCT ran into controversy during the era of the Vietnam War. Yet, the requirement did not abate, leading to improvements in the application and use of the standard testing methodology.

The modern variant of this test is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) that was first administered in 1960.

Many high IQ societies, such as Mensa, can map their entrance requirements to early AGCT scores. The AGCT was of interest to researchers due to the broad nature of the testee domain (1.75 million men took the original test). The Triple Nine Society accepts a minimum qualifying score of 157 (raw) for membership in its ranks, but only if the test was taken prior to 1976. Also, the TNS accepts a minimum qualifying score of 74 from the similar Naval General Classification Test (NGCT), but only from the years 1954-1977.

A composite score derived from elements of the Army ASVAB is called “General Technical”, usually abbreviated “GT”, and if you scored 136 or higher before prior to 1980 Mensa will accept the result as proof of being in the 98th percentile.

The Army Alpha and Beta Intelligence Tests

Intelligence testing plays a very important role in how school psychologists and special educators evaluate and assess children for placement in special education programmes. Many Educational systems in the modern society use the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children to assess the intellectual functioning of children. However, just because intelligence testing is a phenomenon in the education world, the creation of intelligence testing was not intended for educational use. Rather, the first intelligence tests were created during World War I to screen the thousands of soldiers being recruited by the United States Military.

Robert Yerkes and a committee of six representatives developed two intelligence tests; the Army Alpha test and the Army Beta test to help the United States Military screen incoming soldiers for “intellectual deficiencies, psychopathic tendencies, nervous intangibility, and inadequate self-control”. The Alpha test was a verbal test for literate recruits and was divided into eight test categories, which included: following oral directions, arithmetical problems, practical judgements, synonyms and antonyms, disarranged sentences, number series completion, analogies and information, whereas the Beta test was a nonverbal test used for testing illiterate or non-English speaking recruits. The Beta test did not require those being tested to use written language, but rather the examinees completed tasks by using visual aids. The Beta Intelligence test was divided into seven subtests, which included:

  • Test 1- assessed the ability of army recruits to trace the path of a maze;
  • Test 2- assessed the ability of cube analysis;
  • Test 3-assessed the ability of pattern analysis using an X-O series;
  • Test 4- assessed the ability of coding digits with symbols;
  • Test 5- assessed the ability of number checking;
  • Test 6-assessed the ability of pictorial completion; and
  • Test 7- assessed the ability of geometrical construction”.

Overall, the Army Alpha and the Army Beta tests were designed to find the mental age of military recruits and to assess incoming recruits for success in the US Military by testing one’s ability to understand language, to perform reasoning with semantic and quantitative relationships, to make practical judgements, to infer rules and regulations, and to recall general information. The Army Alpha and the Army Beta tests were heavily criticised for being biased and for not predicting the actual success of incoming soldiers. Nevertheless, Robert Yerkes’s innovations in standardised testing and the use of psychometrics to calculate those standardised tests are still seen in intelligence testing today.

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