After Six Decades, Israeli Military Changes Recruitment Aptitude Tests

The previous, heavily-criticized 'quality group' score assessed education, intelligence and suitability, the new version takes into account cognitive ability, resilience, managerial capabilities, adaptive capacity and more

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The entrance to the Tel Hashomer IDF Induction Center, in Ramat Gan, last year.
The entrance to the Tel Hashomer IDF Induction Center, in Ramat Gan, last year.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

After more than six decades, the Israel Defense Forces is overhauling how it evaluates recruits in order to determine their job assignments.

On Wednesday, the IDF’s personnel directorate unveiled a new model to replace the system known as “quality groups” (kaba). That system had been based on three parameters: education; intelligence, determined by standardized psychotechnical tests; and suitability, determined by a personal interview and the recruit’s number of how many years of schooling the recruit had.

The new system will be based on six parameters that will vary according to the prospective assignment: education, cognitive ability, resilience, managerial capabilities, adaptive capacity and skills and talents.

The new model is currently being used only for female recruits, but the army plans to introduce it for male recruits from September.

Under this model, all draftees will be assigned a day to present their talents and skills, thereby enabling them to expand the range of army positions open to them. Currently, this opportunity is given only to women. In addition, all recruits will be given a personal interview, something the army previously did only for male draftees.

Recruits will also be able to see the grades they receive on their interviews, their psychotechnical assessment and their officer candidate screening tests. Previously, they weren’t allowed to see their grades.

In addition, the psychotechnical tests will be changed. Instead of all recruits taking all the test, each recruit will have to answer a smaller number of questions, and the questions will change from draftee to draftee.

All recruits will initially be given questions of moderate difficulty. Then, depending on how well they do, the next questions will be either harder or easier, in an effort to determine their cognitive abilities.

Recruits will also be given a type of shape test that was not administered previously.

Language exams will remain the same for all draftees. However, the minimum score requirement on the Hebrew exam for potential officer candidates has been eliminated.

The tests on the day recruits present their skills and abilities will be administered by a private company that will send the results to the personnel directorate. The company will create a profile of how suitable each recruit is for various military positions using computer algorithms.

However, each profile will be based only on the abilities relevant to the specific positions the recruit is applying for, along with factors like the draftee’s motivation to serve in that position and the army’s needs. Thus each position will have a different suitability algorithm.

The company also has a “suitability for command” algorithm that is supposed to predict the recruit’s chances of becoming an officer.

The personnel directorate said it hopes to make the new exams more accessible to people living outside the center of the country by cooperating with local governments and to reduce bias against particular population groups in an effort to prevent discrimination. This will be done in part through remote interviews and exams, changes in the Hebrew language exam and developing courses to prepare teens for the initial call-up order.

The “quality group” system had been heavily criticized for years, even after many changes were made to it. The system was accused of discriminating against particular ethnic groups, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and people with less command of Hebrew.

In addition, various studies showed that the system wasn’t actually good at predicting how soldiers would fare in practice. One, conducted after the Second Lebanon War of 2006, found that the system failed to predict how well soldiers would function in combat.

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