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Professional Aptitude Tests in Medicine, Law, and Engineering


by I. L. Kandel - 1941

One point which stands out clearly in the survey presented in this book is that measures are now available for the selection of candidates who show promise of success in the studies required as a preparation for admission to a profession. Nevertheless, it is equally clear that aptitude tests cannot be used as the sole criterion for the admission of candidates for professional study and that no one standard of admission can be imposed on all professional institutions throughout the country. Finally, aptitude tests can only indicate promise of success in the chosen field of study; they cannot, because there are too many imponderables involved, predict success in the practice of a profession.

VOCATIONAL guidance presents one of the most perplexing problems which confront the world in general and youth in particular.1It involves a consideration not merely of aptitudes but also of socio-economic conditions of supply and demand. The importance of the latter has been adequately proved in Japan and in most European countries which have had to face the reality of the danger of overproduction at one level—the learned professions. Little has as yet been done to study this aspect of the problem and its implications in the United States. The other aspect, however, the discovery of aptitudes for admission to institutions for professional preparation, has already received a great deal of attention in three fields—medicine, law, and engineering.


The time and money required by the long preparation for these professions have in themselves operated as methods of selection. That these methods of selection have been haphazard has been indicated by the elimination and failure of students. From the point of view of the students themselves and of service to society some measures were needed that would promise a certain degree of success in the professional courses selected. The individual student should. on the one side, be protected against "disappointment, disillusionment, and waste" which come from failure after being admitted to an institution for professional preparation. The interests of society, on the other side, should be safeguarded against inefficient practitioners by the maintenance of adequate standards. The institutions need to protect themselves from the waste of resources which results from failure to discriminate between students who show promise of success in their studies and those who do not.


The use of aptitude tests for admission to institutions that prepare for the professions of medicine, law, and engineering has been under consideration for nearly two decades. In schools of medicine, aptitude tests are now generally administered to candidates for admission and have demonstrated their value increasingly during the past ten years. The history of the use of aptitude tests for admission to schools of law and engineering has not been continuous. The demonstrated success of two leading law schools in the country in the use of such tests has helped recently to revive an interest which was at one time more widespread than at present. Although schools of engineering, which were the first to consider the use of aptitude tests for admission, do not present as consistent and continuous a story as medical and law schools, the interest has been revived by the leading organizations concerned with engineering education. The comparison of the practices in the three types of professional institutions is in itself valuable in clarifying the issues and problems in vocational guidance at this level.


One point which stands out clearly in the survey presented in this book is that measures are now available for the selection of candidates who show promise of success in the studies required as a preparation for admission to a profession. Nevertheless, it is equally clear that aptitude tests cannot be used as the sole criterion for the admission of candidates for professional study and that no one standard of admission can be imposed on all professional institutions throughout the country. Finally, aptitude tests can only indicate promise of success in the chosen field of study; they cannot, because there are too many imponderables involved, predict success in the practice of a profession.





1 By I. L. KANDEL. Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, 1940.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 42 Number 8, 1941, p. 720-720
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 8980, Date Accessed: 5/28/2022 6:13:28 AM

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