HR Guide to the Internet:
Personnel Selection: Methods: Work Sample Tests

Work Sample Tests: Designed to have high content validity through a close relationship with the job.

Work Sample tests are based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is observed behavior under similar situations. These tests require the examinee to perform tasks that are similar to those that are performed on the job.

  • high reliability
  • high content validity since work samples are a sample of the actual work performed on the job
  • low adverse impact
  • because of their relationship to the job, these tests are typically viewed more favorable by examinees than aptitude or personality tests
  • difficult for applicants to fake job proficiency which helps to increase the relationship between score on the test and performance on the job
  • Work Sample tests use equipment that is the same or substantially similar to the actual equipment used on the job
  • costly to administer; often can only be administered to one applicant at a time
  • although useful for jobs where tasks and duties can be completed in a short period of time, these tests have less ability to predict performance on jobs where tasks may take days or weeks to complete
  • less able to measure aptitudes of an applicant thus restricting the test to measuring ability to perform the work sample and not more difficult tasks that may be encountered on the job


Job Analysis Critical for identifying the content of the job from which samples will be developed. The Critical Incident Technique would be useful for identifying job duties/tasks that, if sampled on the test, would result in high predictive validity (criterion related validity).

High Content Validity The test should be constructed with the intent of developing a highly content valid test. The content validity is build into the test.

Equipment If specific equipment is used by incumbents on the job, try to incorporate all or some of that equipment on the test. Of couse, the safety of the applicant should take precedence over use of dangerous or unfamiliar tools or machines.

Types of Work Sample Tests

  1. Work-Sample Tests of Trainability These are tests through a period of instruction when the applicant is expected to learn tasks involved in a work sample. The work-sample tests of trainability are suitable for untrained applicants with no previous job experience. The predictive validity of this technique is low relative to other techniques and there is evidence the validity of the instrument may attenuate over time.
  2. Simulation of an Event These tests present the candidate with a picture of an incident along with quotations from those involved. The candidates then respond to a series of questions in which they write down the decisions they would make. The test is scored by subject matter experts.
  3. Low Fidelity Simulations These tests present applicants with descriptions of work situations and five alternative responses for each situation. Applicants choose the responses they would most likely and least likely make in each situation.
  4. Work-samples Applicants perform observable, job-related behaviors as predictors of criterion performance. It is not feasible to adapt certain work behaviors for testing. Work samples often are not conducive to group administration and, therefore, were dropped from consideration because of concerns regarding test security.

Validating Work Sample Tests

  1. Content Validity The most direct relationship between the test and job would be shown through content validation. The tasks and duties performed on the test would be compared to the tasks and duties performed on the job. The test should encompass significant (in quantity or in importance) tasks/duties of the job.
  2. Criterion Validity To measure this validity, you must first determine what criteria will be used. Two common forms of criteria are:
    • Supervisory ratings of the incumbent's job performance. The disadvantage of using supervisory ratings as criteria is that they typically lack sufficient reliability to be used for statistical analysis. The reliability of these measures is attenuated by rater errors such as 'halo' or 'leniency'. These ratings alto tend to lack the variability necessary to show a correlation between predictor and criterion.
    • Production measures such as quantity or quality of work. Production measures are not available for some jobs.
    The predictor measures used with work sample tests include:
    • Number of work samples completed (using a time limit)
    • Time to complete work samples (using a limit on the number of work samples to be completed on the test)
    • Number and type of errors

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