Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness – Everything You Need to Know

by Sarah Duncan

Sales, managerial positions, or bank teller jobs will often require you to take a TMA. You will still need to make sure that you have a great resume and perform well at the interview, but a high score on the TMA, will definitely push you further along the hiring process and help you to outshine your competitors.

So if the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness is the key to landing your next role, how do you prepare and make sure you don’t fail? Read on to discover all you need to know about the test and the steps you can take to pass with flying colors.

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What is the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness?

The Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness — TMA — is used to test general mental ability. In the test, there are 126 items designed to evaluate the capacity of an individual to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge. The test assesses the ability to apply these skills to problem-solving through a range of mental tasks of differing types and complexity and also the differences from one individual to another.

The tasks fall under four job-related headings:

  • Adjusting to new situations
  • Learning new skills quickly
  • Understanding complex or subtle relationships
  • Thinking flexibly

Which businesses might use TMA?

Many different businesses might use the TMA. They are typically companies that have positions as things like:

The test results of the TMA can help these organizations to make suitable employee selections, place employees appropriately, and evaluate their decisions.

For example:

Selection – does the candidate have the ability to master the requirements of the job for which they are applying?
Placement – would the candidate master the skills for one job better than for another?
Evaluation – would the candidate be able to transfer skills to a new job and adapt to that role easily and efficiently?

This data is used in conjunction with other information such as job history, training qualifications, and personnel data. The TMA is used purely to measure criteria relevant to successful performance within a specific role.

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What is on the TMA?

The TMA is made up of 126 verbal and quantitative questions that vary in difficulty. The questions fall into four categories:

Arithmetic – Word problems

For example –

How many quarters are there in $1.68?
Choose from 4 5 6 7 8

In this example, the answer must be 6 as there are 6 quarters in $1.50 and 7 quarters in $1.75 so the answer has to be 6

Or – If a person can bake and decorate a cake every 7 days, how many could they bake in a month?
Choose from 3 4 5 6 7

In this example, there are generally 30 or 31 days in a month and 4 cakes would take 28 days, therefore the answer has to be 4

Number series – Logic

For example –

What is the next number in the sequence –
121 132 127 138 133 144 139

Choose from –
150 153 155 157 160

In this example, the answer is 150. The pattern of the series is + 11 – 5 and 139 + 11 = 150

Synonyms and Antonyms – similar and opposite meanings
For example –

In each row of words, find a word that has a similar or opposite meaning…

Big…. A – funny B – tired C – Enormous D – wild

The answer here would be C as it has a similar meaning to the word Huge


For example – Choose the first letter of the word defined in this statement

A game played by 2 people, using 16 pieces of 6 types, where the object of the game is to bring the opponent’s king to checkmate.

Choose from A B C D

The answer here is C as the game being described is Chess

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How long is the TMA?


The most challenging thing about the TMA is the fact that you only have 20 minutes in which to complete the test, which means that you have less than 10 seconds per answer. In order to answer confidently and accurately, you will need to prepare by doing practice questions under the same strict time conditions.

How can I prepare for the TMA?

The most effective way to prepare for the TMA is to do as many sample questions and practice exams as possible. Especially if you can do a practice exam under timed conditions. Luckily, prep company Job Test Prep has tailored resources to do just that. They help you prepare for the TMA with timed simulation exams that mirror the real thing.

Job Test Prep has a range of resources and practice questions to help you adequately prepare for your TMA. A high score on the test will give you an advantage over your competitors and give you a better chance of successfully securing your chosen position.

Why do employers use the TMA?

Research studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between the general mental ability of an individual and desired work outcomes. The Thurstone Test of mental alertness is proven to be one of the strongest indicators of how well an individual will perform in a job role.

It allows employers to hire with confidence and enjoy significant reductions in time, cost, and staff turnover for organizations. A workforce with high levels of cognitive ability who can acquire new information quickly and efficiently can increase profitability levels. It will also reduce the need for supervision and training, which again has positive cost implications.

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How is the TMA marked?

The TMA is marked using a percentile bell curve. Typically a test is scored as marks out of a total and then a grade assigned. So, for example, 80+/100 could be an A grade, 60-79/100 could be a B grade, 40-59/100 might be a C grade, and so on.

With this style of marking it is difficult to differentiate between a person who got 80/100 and someone who scored 95/100 as they both got an A grade. With a bell curve, the marks of the students are converted into a percentile and then compared with each other.

So if a score of 80 translates to the 74th percentile and a score of 90 translates to the 90th percentile, there is a big difference between the two candidates even though there are only 10 marks between them. This will have a significant impact on who the organization chooses to hire and also further clarifies why it is so important to practice prior to the test.

Being familiar with the format of the test, the style of questions and the pressures imposed by the strict time frame will give you the confidence and skill required to not only pass but to ace the test.

In summary

The current job market is highly competitive with many applicants often competing for the same position. The hiring process can be costly to employers both in terms of time and resources and they will be keen to ensure that they employ only the most suitable candidates as wrong decisions can also cost further time and money.

Using tools such as the Thurstone Test of mental alertness can help organizations to make the correct hiring decisions; the first time. Practice and preparation are essential to give you a competitive edge and to ensure that you secure your dream career.

Job Test Prep is not affiliated with TMA but uses its vast industry experience to make sure that you have the best practice resources available to you to ensure that you are efficient, accurate, and timely.

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