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Situational Judgment Tests

Situational judgment tests (SJTs) present applicants with a description of a work problem or critical situation related to the job they are applying for and ask them to identify how they would handle it. Because applicants are not placed in a simulated work setting and are not asked to perform the task or behavior (as would be the case in an assessment center or a work sample), SJTs are classified as low-fidelity simulations.

SJTs measure effectiveness in social functioning dimensions such as conflict management, interpersonal skills, problem solving, negotiation skills, facilitating teamwork, and cultural awareness. SJTs are particularly effective measures of managerial and leadership competencies.

SJTs can be developed to present scenarios and collect responses using a variety of formats. One alternative is to present a situation and then ask respondents to answer several questions about the situation. More often, SJTs present a new situation for each question. To respond to this type of SJT item, applicants may be asked: a) what they would do in the particular situation, b) what they would be most and least likely to do in the situation, c) what response is the best response among several options, d) what response is the best and second-best among several options, or e) what would most likely occur next in a certain situation or as a result of a certain decision.

SJTs can be presented in either a linear or interactive format. With a linear format, all respondents are presented with the same questions and in the same order. With an interactive (usually computer administered) format, SJTs can be structured according to a branching process in which the scenarios and response options presented later in the test depend on how applicants responded to questions presented earlier in the test. SJT questions and alternatives are typically based on critical incidents generated by subject matter (i.e., job) experts. Scores are based on subject matter experts' judgments of the best and worst alternatives.


  • Validity - The tasks and activities described in the SJT scenarios are very representative of the tasks and activities found on the job (i.e., they have a high degree of content validity) and performance on the tests moderately relates to performance on the job (i.e., they have a moderately high degree of criterion-related validity)
  • Face Validity/Applicant Reactions - Applicants often perceive SJTs as being very fair (i.e., the tests have a high degree of face validity)
  • Administration Method - Possible to administer in paper and pencil, computer-based, or video-based format
  • Subgroup Differences - Subgroup differences are typically moderate; Racial differences in test scores may be smaller than those typically observed for cognitive ability tests
  • Development Costs - Generally, developmental costs are less than high-fidelity alternatives (e.g., assessment centers) and depend on costs related to use of subject matter experts
  • Administration Costs - Administration costs are typically low when delivered via paper and pencil, but may be more costly via computer or video; No special administrator expertise is needed
  • Utility/ROI - High return on investment if you need applicants who possess a high level of social and interpersonal skills upon entry into the job; If the skills measured by the tests can be learned on the job or are not highly critical, then the return on investment will be significantly lower
  • Common Uses - SJTs can be developed for a variety of jobs, but are typically used for managerial positions or other jobs requiring effective interpersonal interactions


(See Section VI for a summary of each article)

Hanson, M. A., Horgen, K. E., & Borman W. C. (1998, April). Situational judgment tests (SJT) as measures of knowledge/expertise. Paper presented as the 13th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Dallas, TX.

McDaniel, M. A., Morgeson, F. P, Finnegan, E. B, Campion, M. A., & Braverman, E. P. (2001). Use of situational judgment tests to predict job performance: A clarification of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 730-740.

McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., & Nguyen, N. T. (2006). Situational judgment tests for personnel selection. Alexandria, VA: IPMA Assessment Council.

Motowidlo, S. J., Dunnette, M. D., & Carter, G. W. (1990). An alternative selection procedure: The low-fidelity simulation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 640-647.

Motowidlo, S. J., & Tippins, N. (1993). Further studies of the low-fidelity simulation in the form of a situational inventory. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 66, 337-344.

Weekley, J. A., & Jones, C. (1999). Further studies of situational tests. Personnel Psychology, 52(3), 679-700.

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