Cover: The Use of Standardized Scores in Officer Career Management and Selection

The Use of Standardized Scores in Officer Career Management and Selection

Published Mar 8, 2012

by Anny Wong, Kirsten M. Keller, Carra S. Sims, Brian McInnis, Abigail Haddad, Kate Giglio, Nelson Lim


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The U.S. armed forces have long recognized the importance of selecting and promoting the most-qualified individuals to serve as officers. Standardized test scores have helped military leaders assess, with a fair degree of reliability, the leadership potential and future performance of a large number of individuals at once. The authors of this report find that the U.S. armed forces use a combination of 19 standardized tests for the purpose of selection into officer commissioning programs, assignment to career fields, and commissioning. The tests generally fall into two broad categories: those that gauge level of knowledge or aptitude and those that gauge level of physical fitness. As for promotion, the authors do not find evidence indicating required use of standardized test scores. This report provides an overview of how these tests are used as part of a broader selection system for each of the services at different points in an officer's career. The report also provides a discussion of key issues that should be considered when using standardized tests, including the relationship between a particular type of standardized test, aptitude tests, and racial and ethnic group differences, which could affect minority representation within the officer corps.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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