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Researchers at the Amsterdam Business School of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have developed an adaptive knowledge test that can be used for purposes of personnel selection.

Researchers at the Amsterdam Business School of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have developed an adaptive knowledge test that can be used for purposes of personnel selection. Companies can use the test and the underlying platform to assess the job-relevant knowledge that candidates have acquired. The knowledge test was developed as part of the project entitled Ontology-based competency matching: Bridging the Gap between Vocational Education and the Workplace (OntoHR), which has recently been concluded.

Stefan Mol and Gábor Kismihók of the Human Resource Management & Organization Behaviour group have developed an eLearning environment to determine the work-related knowledge of HBO students (students who hold degrees from Dutch institutions of higher vocational education). The system is equipped with an intelligent knowledge test that determines whether an applicant meets the criteria of a particular job profile. At present, the system is available for one particular position – IT systems analyst – and it is available in five languages: Dutch, English, German, Italian and Hungarian. In the near future, the researchers want to extend the scope of assessment for numerous positions at HBO level. They also want to further develop the underlying platform so that it can be used not only for selecting candidates, but also to reach placement decisions. The approach of Mol and Kismihók is a step towards the practical implementation of evidence-based management, the application of scientific knowledge in management practice.

Knowledge: mediator between intelligence and performance

With the OntoHR project, Mol and Kismihók want to bridge the gap between education and the labour market. Students work hard to get their degree certificate, but companies subsequently test job applicants primarily on General Mental Ability (GMA) and other (stable) characteristics. Earlier meta-analytic research shows that GMA (or intelligence) is the best predictor of job performance, regardless of which position is targeted. However, within the field of personnel psychology, an increasingly large number of experts propose that work-related knowledge is the best predictor of job performance, and that intelligent people simply acquire more knowledge more quickly. However, determining the job related knowledge of an applicant is not easy and requires more inductively oriented research. With Mol and Kismihók’s knowledge test, applicants can now be tested on all job-related knowledge they have acquired so far.


The knowledge test is adaptive and depending on the responses given goes from general to increasingly specific knowledge questions. The candidate receives a personal feedback report after the test, which lists the knowledge he or she is lacking. That feedback is given through wiki pages (open content teaching material) and will be expanded with links to specific study programmes and courses in the future.

If multiple candidates with the same previous education take this test, the system can also be used in assessing the quality of educational curricula. The strengths or weaknesses of a particular study program can be identified on the basis of these candidates’ scores.

Lifelong Learning

The research was conducted within the Leonardo da Vinci programme, part of the European Lifelong Learning Programme. The Amsterdam Business School worked in collaboration with Qompas BV (Leiden), Gruppo Dida (Italy) and Corvinno Technology Transfer Center (a spin-off company connected to Corvinus University of Budapest).