Where did the ‘situational judgement test’ come from, and where is it going to?


There has been a small explosion in the research done into ‘situational judgement tests’ (SJT) for employment selection (Weekley and Ployhart, 2006). SJTs present applicants with work-related situations and possible responses to the situations. There are broadly two types of instructions (reviewed by McDaniel et al., 2007). Behavioural tendency instructions ask respondents to identify how they would likely behave in a given situation. Knowledge instructions ask respondents to evaluate the effectiveness of possible responses to a given situation. Tests assessing an individual’s judgement concerning work-related situations have had a long history in the psychological assessment literature (McDaniel et al., 2001). For example, during World War II, Army psychologists attempted to assess the judgement of soldiers (Northrup, 1989). These judgement tests consisted of scenarios with a number of alternative scenarios. Solutions rested on the person’s ability to draw on his common sense, experience, and general knowledge, rather than logical reasoning.


In an influential study by Chan and Schmitt (2002), data from 160 civil service employees were analysed, with a view to demonstrating the validity of the SJT in predicting overall job performance as well as three performance dimensions: task performance (core technical proficiency; problem analysis, written communication, oral communication), motivational contextual performance (job dedication; motivation to perform, motivation to learn, motivation to work hard), and interpersonal contextual performance (interpersonal facilitation; conflict resolution, negotiation, teamwork and co-operation). Chan and Schmitt (2002) also felt that situational judgement tests provided incremental validity over prediction from cognitive ability, personality traits, and job experience.


Previously, Huffcuttt and colleagues (2001) had attempted to elucidate the most suitable construct categories. Their constructs included mental capability, knowledge and skills, basic personality traits, applied social skills, interests and preferences, organizational fit, and physical attributes.Recently, Christian, Edwards and Bradley (2010) argue that many studies have failed, however, to report the constructs actually measured in SJTs. A construct-level focus in the situational judgement test literature is therefore lacking. Christian and colleagues (2001) found that situational judgement tests most often assess leadership and interpersonal skills and those situational judgement tests measuring teamwork skills and leadership skills have relatively high validities for overall performance.


There has been an increasing drive to standardising these tasks. For example, the LR SJT has questions in written format. There is inevitably a difference for oral questions, or SJTs in video format (it is claimed that video SJTs have more subtle nuances involving social cognition or emotional intelligence which can be picked upon). Also, the questions can potentially vary in scenario length (longer scenarios tend to have more detail), and how scenarios are profession-specific (for example, type of firm, law/medicine/business). Finally, the questions can vary in format. In the LR SJT, and for example in the 2010 and 2011 Clifford Chance SJT, you have to pick one best out of the options given. In some tests, rather, you may be required to rank your choices in order of preference.




Chan, D, Schmitt, N. (2002) Situational judgment and job performance. Human performance, 15(3), 233-254.


Christian, MS, Edwards, BD, Bradley, JC. Situational judgment tests: constructs assessed and a meta-analysis of their criterion-based constructs. (2010) Personnel Psychology 63: 83-117.


Huffcutt, AI, Conway, JM, ROTH, PL, Stone, NJ.. (2001) Identification and meta analytic assessment of psychological constructs measured in employment interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology 80: 897-913.


McDaniel, MA, Hartman, NS, Whetzel, DL, Lee Grubb III, W. (2007) Situational judgment tests, response instructions, and validity: a meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology 60, 63-91.


McDaniel, MA, Morgeson, FP, Finnegan, EB, Campio, MA, Braverman, EP. (2001) Use of situational judgment tests to predict job performance: a clarification of the literature. Journal of Applied Pyschology 86(4), 730-740.


Weekley, JA, Polyhart, RE. (2006) Situational judgment tests: Theory, management, and application. Mahwah, NK: Erlbaum.

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