The Wonders of The Wonderlic Test


Professional football players are assessed in many different ways by teams and the league when entering the NFL. They gauge the momentum and explosiveness of a 40-yard dash, examine how quickly a player can change direction at high speeds with a three-cone drill, and test strength and endurance with their weight and reps on a bench press. However, that only covers the physical traits of a player’s game. When they want to know if their brains match the brawn, they turn to one test: the Wonderlic.

You’ve heard the name of this test, but what it is and how teams and the league use it to evaluate players remain a mystery to most people. Beyond that, which players are MVPs with their scores, and who couldn’t make the practice squad with their result? We’ve demystified the Wonderlic, and now it’s your turn to learn about it and then test your mettle to learn your score.

How would you do? Find out now!

Before reading up on the history of how the NFL has made use of the Wonderlic, and if it translates into professional success for players, take our version of the Wonderlic to see how you compare with actual NFL players.

Which player do you compare with? Let’s dive into the history of the wonderful Wonderlic test to see how this test first came about and how it is used to measure performance on today’s fields.

What is the Wonderlic?

The Wonderlic, which is both the name of the test and the company that created it, contains questions that “assess cognitive ability as a part of athlete evaluations since the 1970s.” More specifically, the NFL uses the Wonderlic Personality Test (WPT-R). This assessment focuses on the abilities of the test taker to learn new information, reason out problems, and follow instructions provided.

This isn’t about seeing a player’s ability to recite Shakespeare or solve physics problems. It’s about their ability to make lightning-fast decisions that can directly impact the outcome of a game. Would they be able to step up to the line, read the coverage, audible out of the play, and execute a perfect pass under pressure? Performance on the Wonderlic should give us an understanding of who should be more successful in these high-pressure situations.

Does success with a No. 2 pencil translate to professional success?

With over 40 years of results, there have been studs and duds when it comes to Wonderlic scores. There has been a perfect score (just one in total), and there have been players looking for a redo after setting new low scores. If you want to see perfection, look no further than Pat McInally, former wide receiver and punter for the Cincinnati Bengals (1976–1985). McInally is the only known player to achieve a perfect score on the Wonderlic, but some current players have come fairly close.

Two current players – New York Jets’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Baltimore Raven’s tight end Benjamin Watson – both were just two points shy of lining their scores up next to McInally’s. Receiving a 48 out of a possible 50 on the Wonderlic is still an impressive feat. But would they be your first pick during your fantasy football draft this year? Players that might, like Super Bowl champion and league MVP Aaron Rodgers, put up performances worthy of recognition regardless of a lower Wonderlic score (35).

On the low end, turning in the worst scores we could find, were the five-time Pro Bowler and running back for the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Gore, and the Dallas Cowboys’ 2012 first-round draft pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne. Their scores, 6 and 4 respectively, didn’t stop them from being team contributors.

So while a high score is a great mark and accomplishment, the best performers on the test haven’t always been the MVPs on the gridiron. This test is just that – a single datum point to be compared with a multitude of different results. It simply helps teams make the most informed decision when drafting a pick.

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