For job applicants, many selection assessments can now be taken on mobile devices. However, field research has found that mobile users score lower on general mental ability (GMA) tests than non-mobile users. New research (Brown et al., 2022) finds that this problem may not be due to differences in the testing environment itself (e.g., mobile users have more distractions). Instead, the score differences may be due to the type of people who choose to take mobile versus non-mobile tests when given the option.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The researchers analyzed data from over 75,000 job applicants who had taken one of Wonderlic’s GMA tests between December 2019 and June 2020. Interestingly, they found that mobile device use was more common among applicants who had lower educational attainment and were applying for more conventional, realistic, lower-complexity jobs (e.g., janitors, laborers). Applicants with higher educational attainment and who were applying to higher complexity jobs (e.g., analysts) were less likely to use mobile devices when taking the GMA test.
In their analyses, they initially found that mobile device users did indeed score lower than non-mobile users on the GMA test. However, once they controlled for the difference in platform, these differences were dramatically reduced. Thus, the authors conclude that the reason scores differ on mobile versus non-mobile devices is likely due to differences in the individuals who prefer each platform, not the nature of the devices.
Overall, the study results suggest that applicants do not perform worse just because they took a GMA test on a mobile device. Thus, mobile testing may be an effective way for organizations to deliver GMA tests in a fair way. Further, expanding the use of mobile tests may help for selecting job candidates in lower complexity or entry-level positions.
Brown, M. I., Grossenbacher, M. A., & Warman, Z. (2023). Self-selection as an explanation for general mental ability test score differences between mobile and nonmobile devices in observational studies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 108(7), 1190–1206.
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