Can spatial aptitude tests help predict your success as an engineer?


Do you enjoy taking these tests?  I know I do.

On reviewing results from similar types of spatial aptitude tests, the results are basically: men test better than women, and those who test well make good engineers.  This may be so (my sister, however, did well on these tests—she happens to be an electrical engineer), but I am interested in knowing if these tests can determine how good an engineer you might be, or if we can somehow use spatial tests to help us improve our abilities as engineers, or if this is just the way we
are wired.

After extensive research (okay, I spent about 30 minutes Googling), I could not find any research on this.  I would be very interested in knowing if the winners of the SolidWorks World Model Mania contest would also test higher than other
engineers at special tests.  I wonder if we could expand our engineering skills by taking more tests.  Could those who do not test well on such tests improve over time?

Any professors doing research on these topics: I would enjoy hearing from you. And to all of the SolidWorks users out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Leave them in the comments section below.

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks
  • Very interesting prospect that you brought up. I am wondering if it is properly labeled as “spatial aptitude testing” or would it be better called “pattern analysis” but it does start an interesting topic. Bye the way, I was never all that good at these. 🙁

  • You might want to look at the article titled The Psychology of Insight in the April 2013 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine. This article mentions that the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test is a predictor of engineering student success (and study can improve PSVT scores and hence academic achievement).

  • scotttraylor

    There’s actually a lot of research related to mentally manipulating objects, such as the cube folding exercise above, or the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test, and many other spatial tests, that can help build strength in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) Sheryl Sorby of Michigan Technological University has a number of papers and exercises to help struggling engineers in their freshman year of college. David Uttal from Northwestern also explores spatial abilities in middle schoolers and engineering. Nora Newcombe from Temple University also has a great wealth of research on women and spatial abilities. -Scott Traylor, @360KID