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Do Career Aptitude Tests Work For Teens?

Updated on November 14, 2013
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If you're a teenager, then you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of career choices available to you. It's a great big world out there, full of wonderful experiences just waiting to happen. But for seniors in high school or freshmen in college, it can be difficult to choose which career path to follow.

The good news is that there are many tools designed to help you select the perfect career to match your skills and interests. One of these tools is the career aptitude test, which is commonly used by high school guidance counselors. A career aptitude test isn't a crystal ball, but it can give you a better idea of which academic disciplines suit you best.

What is a career aptitude test?

A career aptitude test is a series of questions designed to evaluate your best career path. These kinds of tests are commonly worked into highschool curricula, especially in career studies courses. A career test doesn't just evaluate your academic abilities. It also looks at your interests, values, and core beliefs about where your life is headed.

The test usually consists of a series of multiple choice questions with simple answers. Many popular aptitude tests also contain declarative statements with yes/no answers. As for length, a career aptitude test may be as short as twenty questions. Some of them, like the Princeton Review test, takes only five minutes, but an in-depth evaluation could take close to an hour.

As for the content of the test, it varies greatly. You can expect to answer questions about how you learn, how you interact with your friends and loved ones, and how you see your career progressing. Many tests will also evaluate whether you like to follow the rules or forge your own path.

Before you take a career aptitude test, spend some time in quiet reflection. Although we're all accustomed to talking about our hobbies, it's more uncommon to think about our personalities. Ask yourself: are you a leader or a follower? Do you tend to wear your heart on your sleeve? While many of the questions can be answered quickly, some need a little more introspection. There's a lot of great career advice out there, but the most important thing to remember is this: in order to pick the right career, you first need to know yourself.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. | Source

History of the test

This may come as a surprise, but the definition of a "career" as we know it today is only half a century old. The same goes for career aptitude tests. They only became popular following the introduction of the National Defense Education Act in 1958. This act, which was created under the leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was designed to encourage more American students to go to college.

A post-secondary education hasn't always been standard practice in North America. Until the mid twentieth century, the number of college attendees was relatively small. However, by the late 1950s, more and more families could afford to enroll their children in school. That number doubled again between 1960 and 1970.

In response to the burgeoning ranks of college students, career tests became more popular after 1950. These days, they're offered in the traditional paper format, as well as online. Over the past two decades, they've also become more common among non-teenagers, such as adults who are embarking on a second career.

Research on career aptitude tests

Unfortunately, there's no finite evidence that career aptitude tests always work. Many studies, however, prove the effectiveness of certain types of career tests.

One of these is the True Colors test, which divides different personalities into four "color groups." Depending on how you answer the questions, you'll be assigned a color based on a personality trait. Blue is compassionate, orange is spontaneous, green is conceptual, and gold is responsible. You can use this information to decide which discipline suits you best, like business, the arts, or the medical sciences. While the True Colors test is a bit broader than other personality tests out there, it's one of the most common and trustworthy evaluative tools.

Another excellent personality test for teenagers is the Myers-Briggs test. This one evaluates four different categories of your personality: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. At the end of the test, you'll be given a label consisting of four letters (ie. INFJ or ENTP) which describes your relationship with each of these categories. Don't be fooled by the unusual design-- this test is scientifically proven to help you discover potential career options. For example, if you score strongly in introversion and feeling (the letters IN and F in the label), then you probably enjoy helping others. According to the test, you may enjoy a career in public service, like a teacher, nurse, or counselor.

To learn more about the Myers-Briggs test, take a few minutes to watch the video below.

Don't be overwhelmed by the paperwork involved in career testing-- it is definitely worth it!
Don't be overwhelmed by the paperwork involved in career testing-- it is definitely worth it! | Source

The bottom line

There are many other career tests on the web, but beware-- not all of them are trustworthy. Yes, career aptitude tests have been used to guide teenagers for the past fifty years. However, like any evaluative tool, they are not fool-proof.

To make sure you're getting the most out of a career test, keep these three things in mind:

Honesty

Career aptitude tests can be a great boost to your confidence. They're designed to highlight your strengths, not your weaknesses, and they may make you see what's already there. But in order to take full advantage of a test, you need to be honest in your answers. Don't respond how you think you should, but according to how you actually feel. This will make your test results much more accurate.

Realistic expectations

A career aptitude test can give you a good idea of what path to pursue, but it won't guarantee success or happiness. Those things only come after weeks, months, or even years of hard work. You should view your career test results as a road map for future success, but be prepared to put in the required legwork to achieve it.

Flexibility

According to national statistics, the average worker will change careers up to fifteen times. Whatever a career aptitude test says about you, remember that your interests and skills will continue to evolve. You may find that the career which suited you as a young professional is no longer enjoyable by your 30s or 40s. And that's OK-- seeking out new opportunities is an important part of today's dynamic workplace. Keep an open mind when reviewing your test results and understand that flexibility is never a bad thing.

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