The Army General Classification Test
Of World War II

As the United States moved into World War II, the Army developed new mental tests to aid in the classification of recruits into jobs. At the time that the Army General Classification Test (AGCT) was developed, psychologists in the military personnel research sections considered that "intelligence do not measure native mental capacity. They measure actual performance on test questions. A test is a fairly valid measure of the native capacities which underlie the abilities tapped by its questions when every one tested has had equal opportunity and equal incentive to develop the abilities measured" (Zeidner & Drucker, 1983, p. 34).

As interpreted by Zeidner & Drucker (1983), both long time members of the Army's personnel research activity, "the Army psychologists' World War II position was that the test scores represented nothing more than an index of measured abilities at the time the test was taken" (p. 35).

The purpose of the AGCT was to serve as a measure of "general learning ability" that could be used to assign new recruits to jobs.

The AGCT Test

As indicated in Figure 5, p. 26, the Army General Classification Test (AGCT) included four subtests:

The Vocabulary Test, required knowledge to select the correct response regarding the meanings of words in the person's long term memory.

The Arithmetic Test, required knowledge of mathematics as well as language-based knowledge to comprehend the words in the word problems. These types of problems are heavily dependent on efficiency of information processing in working memory, too.

The Block-Counting Test, emphasized the use of literacy as graphics display processing and required visualization to imagine the presence of obscured blocks.

Because the Army of World War II had to draw upon a primarily inexperienced young adult population and train recruits in a wide variety of technical and administrative fields, as well as mechanized combat jobs, the AGCT was validated as a classification instrument by correlating scores on AGCT with grades in training courses. This seemed consistent with the interpretation of the AGCT as a measure of "general learning ability." Indeed, in content, the AGCT (Figure 5, p. 26) resembled measures of schooling, such as reading vocabulary ("verbal" ability) and arithmetic computation and word problem solving . Only a measure of "spatial analysis" was included that differed from school-based achievement tests. Given that the AGCT so much resembled a measure of past school learning, it is not surprising that it was found to correlate reasonably well with achievement in Army schools.

As in World War I, scores on the subtests of the AGCT were combined into a total score, and recruits were assigned to "grades" based on their total scores. High scoring recruits, "rapid learners" were assigned to Army Grade I, next highest were Grade IIs, then "average learners" in Grade m, "below average" in Grade IV, and "slow learners" were assigned to Army Grade V. With the Selective Service Act of 1948, an entire mental category, Army Grade V, comprised of some 8 percent of the young, white, male population, was excluded from service (Wool, 1968, p. 66). This was the first time that a statutory mental (literacy?) standard was set for military service.


Joseph Zeidner and Arthur J. Drucker (1983). Behavioral Science in the Army: A Corporate History of the Army Research Institute. Alexandria, VA: U. S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Harold Wool (1968). The Military Specialist: Skilled Manpower for the Armed Forces. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press.

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