Software Engineers Have What It Takes

It is no surprise to our test administrators that successful software engineers, experts in designing and writing computer programs, tend to score high on tests for spatial thinking, reasoning, numerical traits and memories. We recently had the opportunity to test sixty of these computer professionals selected to form a design group to work on an urgent, high-priority project. This selective sample corresponds with our prior experience of identifying the aptitudes for computer programming and systems analysis. Here are excerpts from that report on this study:

Compared to the population of Foundation examinees, the software engineers scored significantly higher on fifteen of the twenty tests.... These include six of the seven tests in which computer professionals had obtained high scores in the previous study: Graphoria, Wiggly Block, Analytical Reasoning, Inductive Reasoning, Memory for Design, and Number Memory.... As the comparisons are narrowed to regular examinees who report overall satisfaction with their work in engineering or computer fields, the number of differences diminishes...the aptitudes of software engineers seem to be largely the same as those of other engineers and computer professionals.

The relationships between the aptitude measures and levels of satisfaction with the software engineers' job activities were generally in the expected directions. For instance, those who most enjoy writing code and debugging programs tend to score lower on Ideaphoria and higher on Number Memory and Memory for Design than those who derive less enjoyment from these activities. High scores on Analytical Reasoning may also be related to enjoyment of coding. The engineers who most enjoyed creating the overall specifications that guide the writing of specific programs scored significantly higher on Analytical Reasoning and English Vocabulary, and averaged more than ten percentiles higher than others on eleven of the tests. Those who enjoyed tasks such as mentoring and training, technical leadership, and project leading tended to score lower on Structural Visualization tests.

Although most individuals in this study had degrees in computer science or electrical engineering, almost 20% had no formal training in computers, being self-taught or trained on-the-job. Some of this latter group did have extensive training in math; one even had a Ph.D. in physics.