More on skills tests v’s psychometric tests – declarative and procedural knowledge

Declarative and procedural knowledge

There are several different ‘ways’ of knowing things and of acquiring knowledge.  Two of the main ways are declarative and procedural knowledge.  Declarative knowledge is knowing that – i.e.,  factual knowledge and information – for instance that Sir Edmund Hilary climbed Mt Everest.  Procedural knowledge is knowing how – i.e., knowing how to perform activities – like playing tennis.

This distinction gives us another way of thinking about skills tests and psychometric tests.

Skills tests and psychometric cognitive tests tap different types of knowledge

While there is some overlap, psychometric cognitive tests mostly tap declarative knowledge.  They assess the things we know, have learned, can describe or can figure out by using our knowledge and learning.

Skills tests tap procedural knowledge.  They assess the things we can do, like type or use MS Word effectively.  According to Prof John Anderson, all knowledge starts out as declarative information.  So to use the typing example, when learning to type it is first necessary to learn facts about the keyboard and where to place your fingers.  Putting the facts in to practice is how procedural knowledge is gained.  It is not possible to learn skills properly without practising them.  Over time, this becomes automatic, so that a typist no longer thinks about the facts but can do the task effortlessly.  In fact, if a person was asked to explain facts about typing while they were doing so, it would slow them down.

As stated earlier, there is overlap.  Some of what is assessed in skills tests will be facts about programs and some of the novel, fluid tasks in the psychometric tests will draw on procedural knowledge.

Want to know more about our psychometric and skills tests?  Our psychologists would be happy to tell you.  Contact us to find out more today.