I am a former pro hooper. I took the Wonderlic ‘IQ’ test to see what the NFL Draft hopes face.


I sat down in my bean bag chair, a glass of scotch with a really big ice cube in my hand like a gentleman, and opened my laptop. “Avengers: Endgame” was playing on TV, but not loud enough to distract me from my task. I clicked the link in my email and settled in to take my first written test since 2006. It was time for me to step into the world of an NFL prospect … and figure out once and for all my intelligence via the Wonderlic.

On reach the landing page of the site, which warned that it was essentially the Wonderlic but not exactly the Wonderlic, I was greeted with a short description of what to expect.

“You will be offered 50 questions of varying format and difficulty. You have 12 minutes to take the test, but time flies, so don’t waste too much time on a single question. At the end, you receive a badge with your score and the NFL player you scored best. You can embed it on your personal website, blog, or share it on your favorite social networking site! “

The site called the Wonderlic an “IQ test,” which got my competitive juices flowing. I think I’m pretty darn smart, but I don’t finish the New York Times crossword cleverly. I thought my 1300 SAT score reflected what I would be doing here; that my “Wonderlic” score would be amazing and that I could write afterwards that this stupid and meaningless test that new NFL players have to pass is as stupid and meaningless as I expected.

The first problem was a long and complex mathematical equation. When I say complex I don’t mean it was difficult, but it was clearly something that would take a few steps to understand. I’m great at doing math in my head, if I say it myself then I did my usual process and found an answer. On the next one. Same case. Very confident in my answers. The questions were honestly difficult, but I was confident that I understood everything correctly. Then I saw my score.

“You scored 19. You did better than former NFL player Eddie Lacy, who got a 17.”

Oh my god damn it. I don’t know Eddie Lacy personally. I have no idea who Eddie Lacy is at all. But when I saw my score and his score, my first thought was to blame him. I said audibly, “F — k Eddie Lacy.”

Then shame set in. This score was an affront to everything I stand for. It was an affront to my mother, my very good public education, the University of California, my ancestors and the fictional country of Wakanda. A “19” is insulting. I quickly searched on Google for the average test score. The resulting answer? At 21. I got two points lower than John Doe. I found another site called beatthewonderlic.com and it clearly showed that most employers who use Wonderlic require at least a score of 23; my score qualified me to be a “skilled craftsman” or a “security guard”. Now i’m sitting feeling unemployable like fk in my fucking apartment looking for answers. I disabled “Avengers”. I threw away my glass. I texted people “WYD” just to hear something from someone else come out of my head about this 19.

I finally found information that gave me hope. It turns out that I only answered 19 questions in total. In fact, I answered all the questions well, but I was working way too slow. This is due to not understanding the test and not having taken a test for so long that I forgot how they worked. If you want to complete all 50 Wonderlic questions, you need an average of 14 seconds per question. Here, I was like Alan who was counting the cards in “The Hangover” doing my best to make sure every angle of the answer was perfect, when I should have worked with a lot more urgency. I resolved to take the test again a few days later and try to find strategies to go much faster.

I spent time on BeatTheWonderlic.com. I watched a Youtube video with a very clumsy man who again explained the test. I realized that there are many resources that will teach you how to pass the test, but you have to pay for this information. No one gives away the secrets of Wonderlic for free. (Presumably, incoming draft picks are aware of this top-secret advice.) Responded in under five seconds, so I should trust myself more and keep moving.

Fast forward to Sunday night. I have the Dodgers-Padres game, and it’s in the extras. I decide it’s a good time to take the test again because I’m excited about the game. I cut the TV off because we’re not going to be relaxed this time around. I put up my Spotify playlist called “Song Song Songs” which includes tracks from Of Monsters and Men, San Fermin, and Regina Spektor. All the soft things. I grab a pen, notepad, and a gallon-sized jug of water and sit down at a real desk ready to get down to it. I’ve set my phone’s timer for 12 minutes so that I can occasionally take a peek and check if I’m going too fast or too slow (but mostly too slow).

I go. This time, I don’t bother to check my answers completely. If a question is between two choices, I go there right away with my instincts. At one point, I check my phone and see that I still have four minutes left. I’m on question 38; I had already doubled the number of questions answered. Now I feel like it again: in my research I had read that only 3-5% of people actually answered all 50 questions. With 28 seconds I come to the last question, which happens to be football related.

“A quarterback threw for 1,654 yards in five games. How many yards will he throw in 15 games? I’m doing just enough math to get the last two digits, 62, and see if any of the choices end with those digits. It does. I click on this response and the test ends as soon as my alarm goes off. I answered all 50 questions.

Again, without further ado, my score is displayed on the screen … 43! I literally jumped out of my chair and screamed “fuck king yeah” so loud I’m pretty sure the neighbors were wondering who was having sex next door. I circled my living room punching the air and calling the test all kinds of names. I checked the table to see what job I now qualify for: scientist! Your boy went from janitor to scientist in two days like “Half Baked”. I wrote and deleted a tweet saying I wanted to call Johnson & Johnson to help them improve their vaccine. And then I sat down to write this story. [Ed. Note: For comparison’s sake, Cal legend/”Jeopardy” nerd Aaron Rodgers allegedly scored a 35, Niners Hall of Famer Steve Young allegedly achieved a 33 and current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got a 29.]

Now that my adrenaline is gone, I realize how crazy it is that every NFL player is forced to pass this test. (This year has been an exception due to pandemic limiting NFL combine participation.) Why? No seriously. Why? This test has nothing to do with anything on the football field. And if the “answer” given by NFL executives is that you have to be good at processing information, then I would say the opposite: being so good at processing information could make you overprocessor. Over-thinking is a huge detriment to athletes in most sports. I don’t understand why that would be a good thing in football.

I can’t speak to what it’s like to be an NFL quarterback, but I’ve known great players in the NBA and abroad. Sure, they’re relatively smart, but most aren’t geniuses. What makes them really great is literally the feel and the instinct. In fact, being a genius doesn’t make sense in most sports. I was at camp for the New Jersey Nets with Josh Boone and Shawne Williams, both of whom scored 1400 in the SAT. Has it ever mattered? Instinct is essential in the sport and if it wasn’t, Yale would have to produce a Steve Nash every year. Why does Eddie Lacy have to take this test? Why would an NFL running back need to know which edges of a folded cube are touching?

Not to mention that any standardized test that ignores racial bias is a joke. The NFL is made up mostly of black players, and every study since the studies began has shown that standardized tests favor white Americans so much that the scores of most non-white people should be rejected. They don’t exactly reflect that person’s ability to be successful at the same rate.

Of course, yes I personally be excited about standardized testing, but that’s because I’ve always been good at standardized testing. In third grade this kid named Christian and I used to run around to see who could finish our math tests first because we love this shit. Being good at the tests only proves that you are good at taking the tests. In no way does this mean that you can throw a soccer ball, run with a soccer ball, or catch a soccer ball. Frank Gore apparently scored a 6 on the Wonderlic and he’s an all-time running back. Ryan Fitzpatrick has one of the highest Wonderlic scores of all time and he’s not Tom Brady.

So it turns out that I wasn’t that far from my original prediction: The Wonderlic is an archaic and meaningless exercise. What I have really learned is that I am very sensitive to my intelligence. To that end, with a little focus, yeah, I’m still this guy to take tests. Plus, Eddie Lacy and I are building up our muscles.

Most importantly, the Wonderlic is dumb and whoever he uses as his hiring medium is probably an idiot.

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