Baffoe: I Took The Stupid Wonderlic Test
By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) “Stupid” is a subjective word. We apply it to people we want to put down. We use it to dismiss something, often ironically because we don’t understand it or it frustrates us. Sometimes it means “genuinely useless.”
In a few months, a bunch of former college football players will get their chance at really big money. For some reason, though, impacting how much money some of those guys will make will be a standardized test — the Wonderlic. Some NFL brass use the Wonderlic as a gauge for how a player’s ability to answer pretty irrelevant, non-football-related multiple-choice math and vocabulary questions will translate to field somehow. That’s pretty stupid. “Genuinely useless” kind of stupid.
Though we’ve all known of the Wonderlic for years and it has been used on potential professional players since the 1970s, I’ve never heard of a good explanation as to why they have to take it. The ability to absorb a playbook would seem the most logical in an otherwise illogical exercise. I’ve seen a lot of standardized tests, and not a one would I consider apt for measuring football aptitude.
A study done in 2009, one of multiple that show the Wonderlic is inane for NFL prediction, suggested that, “NFL performance on the football field was only found to have a statistically significant correlation with Wonderlic scores among two positions: tight end and defensive back. Correlations were statistically negligible across all other positions. (Yes, even QB.) In other words, with the exception of TEs and DBs, a player’s Wonderlic score (high or low) gave no predictable projection for their eventual productivity as an NFL player. It was worthless.”
And now for the funny part. The study also concluded that, “Tight ends and defensive backs showed a negative correlation,” meaning a lower score by someone at either position meant a greater likelihood of NFL success.
So the test is stupid and bad and flawed and worthless, and the only reason we ever really hear about it is because we relish freaks, both the physical and mental ones. So when a guy gets a super high score (like former Bengals punter Pat McInally, the only player to score a perfect 50), he gets feature articles done on how smart and mysterious he is. And when a guy scores really low (Frank Gore, Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne all scored in the single digits) we gawk and unconsciously get to feel better about ourselves because we’re smarter than a millionaire.
(What we don’t talk about is how the Wonderlic company itself says that a single-digit score implies illiteracy, and yet a guy with one was somehow enrolled in college classes, Mr. and Mrs. NCAA Sanctity, but whatever.)
In fairness, several general managers don’t take the Wonderlic scores seriously at all, and many only care about the really extreme scores as a way to maybe ask more questions about a guy (and, yes, especially high scores are red flags to some just like low ones are) but not necessarily omit him from a draft board.
So when I saw Tuesday night that the test could be taken online, I just had to know what it involved (and my vanity demanded I know how NFL-considered smart I am). It and other standardized tests don’t measure extenuating factors like if a guy has a cold or his dog died yesterday or he’s is sitting in a booth at a pizza joint near the end of a seven-hour shift losing precious test time by taking notes on some of the questions, but at least this one wasn’t determining anything about my future.
Fifty questions, mostly multiple choice of basic math and vocabulary skills, and you only get 12 minutes to complete it, which first of all is an insanely short amount of time for anyone. The site offering the test introduces it with an option of the full exam or a three-minute sample, telling you to “pick your poison,” so that seemed legit. Almost immediately into the test, I realized the questions were of the high school type that for some sad reason factor heavily in determining if and where a kid can go to college.
One question asked me for a synonym of “tenacity” followed by four choices. I know that the correct answer is “chutzpah,” but I also know that I did not know that at age 20, and I’m not an NFL prospect ushered and coddled through his academic life and/or who just happens to come from an environment that would never expose him to a word like chutzpah, which has to be about 90 percent of the draft class. How stupid is that?
Another question asked me the meaning of an underlined word in a sentence. There was no underlined word, but there was a bolded one, so I went with that. Then there was the questionable question that had me take a number, add another number to it, then multiply by another number, then divide, then subtract, and I had to answer with what the “sum” is. But “sum” deals only in addition, so was I just answering the first command or giving the final number?
Also puzzling was a question asking for the “larger” number in a sequence of four, but when comparing three or more things the appropriate word is the superlative “largest,” so my suspicions about the exam and the exam host have me questioning the merits of this test even more now.
I completed 43 of the 50 stupid questions, and I know that the vast majority of draft prospects don’t come close to answering that many. My score? It was 38, which the site comforted me with by saying I beat Andrew Luck by one point.
Tons of red flags surround me, I guess. Blaine Gabbert scored a 42. Wait, Blaine Gabbert beat me by four points? The average score is 20, more or less equivalent to a 100 IQ.
Blaine #$%^ing Gabbert?
Screw this test. It’s so stupid.