The NFL scouting combine is primarily dedicated to evaluating physical attributes. Draft prospects are required to run as fast as they can, jump as high and as far as they can, bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible and demonstrate agility in the shuttle and three-cone drills.
But mental acuity is also put to the test with a 50-question, 12-minute exam designed to challenge one's critical thinking skills and the ability to remain cool under pressure.
This test is known as the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT), typically referred to as the Wonderlic.
If you've ever been curious how your brain compares to that of your favorite football players, you can take an unofficial practice test online at SampleWonderlicTest.com. (This site is not officially affiliated with nor sanctioned by Wonderlic, but the types of questions are similar to the real deal.)
According to Wonderlic.com, the "short-form cognitive ability test" was created in 1936 by E.F. Wonderlic. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Navy used it as a means for selecting the best candidates to become pilots and navigation experts during World War II. It has since become the go-to aptitude test for hundreds of companies around the world.
In the website's "about" section, Wonderlic boasts that the assessment has been administered more than 200 million times since its inception.
Wonderlic is most widely known for its relationship with the NFL scouting combine. Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry is often credited with putting a lot of stock into the WPT's results, starting in the 1970s, and building great rosters because of it.
Charlie Wonderlic—E.F.'s grandson and the company's CEO—spoke with Bleacher Report about the WPT's purpose.
"The test has evolved over the years, but it still does what it was fundamentally designed to do, which is measuring IQ," said Wonderlic. "The U.S. Department of Labor and our research consistently shows that it is one of the best predictors of success."
Unlike the SAT or the ACT, which can be studied for and measure how well you have mastered academia, Wonderlic said one can't do much to study for the WPT. Maybe taking a couple of practice tests would help you get a feel for how quickly 12 minutes can fly by, but you can't increase your IQ with a couple of study sessions.
However, if you did the mental gymnastics earlier to figure out that 50 questions in 12 minutes means you have an average of less than 15 seconds per question—14.4 to be exact—you'll probably do OK on this fast-paced assessment of your math, vocabulary and reasoning skills.
In case you don't have 12 minutes to spare, here are a couple of sample questions to give you a taste of what it's like. Remember, if you want to finish the test, you need to be quick. Also, you're not allowed to use a calculator, but you're welcome to do the math on a piece of scratch paper.
Q1. Counting from 1 to 100, how many 6s will you encounter?
Q2. LOST is to WOODS as _______ is to SEA?
Q3. A film plays 6 times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 9 times on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 10 times on Saturdays and Sundays. Altogether, the film plays _____ times per week?
Q4. From the following two statements, which conclusion is absolutely true?
1. None of the gardeners are tennis players.
2. All writers are gardeners.
A. Some gardeners are tennis players.
B. Writers are not tennis players.
C. Writers are tennis players.
D. Some writers are not gardeners.
So, how do you think you did?
Did you finish in 57.6 seconds or less? If not, you'll need to be even faster on the other 46 questions to beat the clock. And having taken both a sample practice test and an official one—scoring a 42 on each, thank you very much—I can verify that you get fatigued by the end and will need longer to answer the last 10 questions than the first 10. Also, seeing the clock ticking down toward zero out of the corner of one's eye doesn't do much to help with test-taking anxiety.
Correct Answers: E, B, D, B.
Now that you've had a sample, perhaps you can better appreciate how challenging the test is. Independently, the questions aren't that difficult, but the time restraint makes it hard for many people to score higher than a 20.
Though there is no official (public) database of scores, and the results aren't meant to be openly distributed, the biggest outliers always seem to get leaked.
One of the good extremes was Ryan Fitzpatrick's 48 in 2005, as he finished the test in a record nine minutes, according to Harvard Magazine. For better or worse, that score has followed Fitzpatrick his entire career. He even made a cameo in an episode of the FXX comedy The League, in which the main characters all took the WPT to "prove" who was the smartest in the group.
Here's the thing, though: Fitzpatrick has been in the league for more than a decade, but he'll never be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Conversely, Marino is regarded as one of the sport's best quarterbacks, and Gore is in the top five in career rushing yards with 14,026.
So, what exactly does the test prove? If a guy with one of the highest possible scores ended up being an average NFL quarterback while some historically low scorers are now regarded among the best in the business, what's the point?
"If a person doesn't do well, does it mean they're necessarily going to fail? No. But it is a key factor to consider in the full evaluation of the person," Wonderlic said.
Likewise, a score in the 30s or 40s doesn't guarantee on-field success. However, a higher score suggests a player should have an easier time learning playbooks and quickly figuring out in games what the opposing team is trying to do with its schemes.
In the corporate world, where one's max bench or broad jump doesn't mean a darn thing, it's easy to see how this test could provide value in evaluating candidates for a job or promotion.
In the football world, though, it seems to be one more data point for teams to consider. If two players are physically comparable and one scored 15 points higher than the other on the WPT, perhaps the team opts to draft the one who tested as a quicker learner. But it's not like anyone has suddenly vaulted from a projected sixth-round pick to the back end of the first round because he's good at doing math under pressure.
Still, you should take the test and challenge your friends to do it, too. Bragging rights are always fun. And given how many companies administer the WPT, you just might need to take one for real one day. Couldn't hurt to get an idea of what to expect.
All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
Kerry Miller is a multi-sport writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.