Take the plunge 'DAT' way

A.B. Moideen Kutty A.B. Moideen Kutty

THE DECISION to choose the right career path is not an easy one for youngsters just out of school. While making this decision they are under parental and social pressures. Sometimes, the student may end up choosing the wrong course and the result is frustration, and when the realisation dawns that it is too late to change course, desperation takes over. That is why this decision is crucial, for it can make or mar the future of a youngster. It has to be an intelligent and informed decision, and it is here that aptitude tests could prove useful.

Aptitude tests enable students to identify their potential and tap it for career development. They give a clear picture of the options one has. Just as laboratory tests results help a physician in making a diagnosis, aptitude results help you in choosing a career in keeping with your abilities. Similarly, aptitude tests could help a career counsellor in guiding students to map their career.

Usually, a student is pressured to follow in the footsteps of his/her parents. Although, of late, there is growing realisation that this is not quite right, there are many parents who still try to make their children follow in their line of work. Also, in the socio-economic milieu prevailing, social status of a profession influences in no small measure the decision to opt for a career.

What are aptitude tests?

Aptitude may be defined as an inherent talent or ability, as distinct from intelligence, that helps a student attain proficiency in a specific area. It indicates one's natural inclination, ability, and flair for a specific job. Aptitude has to do more with heredity and environment than anything else. It can reasonably predict the degree of his/her accomplishment in a specific profession. Aptitude tests help to assess the aptitude of a person.

Of the above two test batteries, the GATB is considered more work-oriented and useful for job classification. The DAT is more academically-oriented and useful in choice of higher educational courses after secondary education. Therefore the focus here is on DAT.

DAT, until recently, was popular only in the developed world. Today DAT is used even in small places such as Kerala. DAT is not a test of intelligence.

This widely used test was developed by George K. Bennet, Harold G. Seashore and Alexander G. Wesmath to unveil the natural ability of an individual. DAT helps to identify areas where an individual could excel through tests such as verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, numerical reasoning, speed and accuracy, mechanical reasoning, spatial reasoning, language ability, clerical ability and so on.

Verbal reasoning: This is concerned with one's ability to understand verbal concepts and to test logical reasoning through verbal problems. This ability is helpful in professions such as law, personnel administration, management and psychology.

Abstract reasoning: This tests non-verbal reasoning ability and is considered by psychologists as indicative of intelligence. This ability is useful in professions such as designing, architecture and draughtsmanship.

Numerical reasoning: The skill that helps one to multiply, divide, add and subtract. This aptitude points towards professions such as banking, accounting, insurance, engineering and so on.

Speed and accuracy: These abilities are necessary for almost all professions but in particular for accounting, clerical and secretarial work.

Mechanical reasoning: This aptitude indicates proficiency in mechanical work and engineering.

Spatial reasoning: The aptitude for scientific or technological careers.

Language ability: A necessity for careers in journalism and teaching that needs developed language felicity.

Clerical ability: Useful in banking, book-keeping, secretarial work, accounting and so on.

Each individual has the potential to excel in at least one (sometimes more than one) of the above aptitudes and related professions.

DAT is not a test in the traditional sense; it may be described rather as a `career health scanning process'. No advance preparation is necessary; there are no winners or losers. Usually aptitude tests are best administered between the ages of 14 and 18 (Class Eight to Plus-Two). While DAT is certainly not the last word on an individual's potential, it is definitely a most useful tool in intelligently mapping one's career. The DAT tests have been adapted to suit the Indian environment.

There is a gap between the different tests to measure specific aptitudes. If all the tests are conducted in one day, the minimum time required would be about seven hours, including short breaks for relaxation and refreshments. After the tests are evaluated, the candidates are given a detailed counselling on the result obtained. This counselling is done in the presence of the parents. On the basis of the DAT results, an experienced counsellor would be able to effectively guide the students. Taking into account factors such as the inherent natural talent of the student, financial capability and time that could spend for studies, the student could be provided correct guidance - whether to go in for short term or long-term courses, technical training and so on.

Guidance and counselling are essential in shaping an individual in accordance with his natural talents. Perhaps that is why career counselling has been included in the CBSE curriculum.

Recommended for you