The Highlands Ability Battery – An Introduction

July 12, 2023

By this point, you’re likely a pro at being assessed–standardized tests, school exams, musical tryouts, art projects. Such assessments measure your level of skill or knowledge on that particular day (or at that particular moment). They hinge on how much you’ve managed to master or memorize. However, none of the aforementioned assessments can tell you about your natural abilities, your driving motivations, your learning style, or the ways in which you need to be challenged in order to be fulfilled academically and professionally. To receive that type of insight, you’ll need to take the Highlands Ability Battery.

What is the Highlands Ability Battery?

In the 1920s, Johnson O’Connor, a researcher and psychometrician, became interested in whether knowledge of employees’ natural abilities could positively impact workplace productivity and task distribution. While working at General Electric, he created the first such test, which led to the establishment of a Human Engineering Laboratory in Boston and Chicago that paved the way for the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, which continues to thrive today. A pioneer of aptitude testing, O’Connor committed his life to understanding the nature of human abilities. He was one of the first to document that certain abilities are innate and unchanging. As such, in the early 1990s, The Highlands Program founders Bob McDonald and Don Hutcheson used O’Connor’s research as the foundation for the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB). The HAB is now regarded as the gold standard of career assessment.

The Highlands Ability Battery is a psychometrician-evaluated career aptitude assessment that measures one’s performance on a multitude of different timed work samples in an effort to provide insight into their personality, motivation, learning and problem-solving style, communication preferences, and decision-making approach. Measured abilities include visual speed and accuracy, inductive reasoning, idea flow, and verbal aptitude, among others. Together, these work samples measure eight factors that form the Highlands Whole Person Model. This seeks to help individuals understand how their abilities, skills, personal style, interests, values, and goals impact and contribute to various areas of their lives.

A defining hallmark of the Highlands Ability Battery: the abilities measured are innate, meaning that your results will not change should you retake the assessment later in life. In ten years, you could return to your results with different questions or a fresh perspective, still able to apply the HAB’s insights about yourself, your abilities, and your strengths to multiple areas of your life.

What abilities does it measure?

The HAB measures 14 abilities, 3 personal style dimensions, and one skill. Abilities are separated into two categories: driving/reasoning and specialized. Driving/reasoning abilities are the most powerful abilities. Yhey measure convergent, divergent, and spatial reasoning, and heavily influence just about every area of our work lives. Specialized abilities, which include music, visual, language, and creative/artistic abilities, among others, complement our driving/reasoning abilities. The personal style dimensions provide insight into your natural preference for introversion or extroversion, working in groups or working independently, and working within short or long-term time frames. Together, these three areas create a “personal style” profile. Finally, the HAB measures one skill–vocabulary–which O’Connor felt was a major predictor of professional success.

What does the Highlands Ability Battery entail?

Battery-takers must complete 19 distinct work samples, which take approximately three hours. Banish those unpleasant SAT flashbacks, though–the entire HAB does not need to be undertaken at one time. Instead, you can complete work samples over a period of several days as long as you commit to finishing a given work sample once you begin it (individual samples typically take 3-10 minutes apiece). Additionally, you should aim to take the work samples in a quiet environment that is free of distractions.

Since the HAB does assess your innate abilities, there will be work samples that feel quite difficult for you; each sample attempts to put you in a situation where you are under considerable time pressure and must exert a solid amount of energy and focus. However, rest assured that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, only insight into the significance of high or low performance within the context of your life. For example, a “high” Idea Productivity score means that you likely thrive when generating new ideas; a “low” score often means that you’re better at focus and concentration.

What happens after I receive my results?

Don’t worry–you won’t be expected to interpret them on your own! The Highlands Ability Battery is intentionally high-touch, and you’ll receive a thorough debrief by a certified Highlands consultant, who will guide you through what the results mean and how to use them. This highly personalized delivery of the HAB sets it apart from other types of assessments.

What’s the benefit for high school students?

It’s completely normal for your choice of major and/or career to shift at least a few times, and even when you’re on a rock-solid career trajectory, there are myriad types of organizations you might work for and roles you could hold within your chosen field. Listen to the career journey of any working professional, and you’ll notice that it’s often taken them in unexpected directions or unfolded in a surprising way.

Taking the HAB now provides valuable insight into the types of careers where you might feel most fulfilled. Further, it reveals the environments and roles that will allow you to utilize your natural talents and abilities to their fullest extent. It also provides insight into which abilities you may need to supplement with additional skills in order to be successful within your preferred career path. For example, low verbal memory could mean that you’ll retain information better if you supplement written materials with podcasts, or color-code your notes. Furthermore, you’ll receive a sense of what types of school environments might allow you to thrive. This can maximize the chances that you’ll accept admission at a college or university that is a good fit for your personal style, goals, and learning preferences.

The Highlands Ability Battery Overview (Continued)

Most importantly, your HAB results are not meant to be restrictive or limit your potential paths. Instead, they will expose you to new possibilities and directions while helping you understand how to lean into your natural talents. As you progress in your college and career journey, you’ll find that every task you engage in will require a combination of innate ability, skill, and interest. Whether you’re organizing a group project, delivering a presentation to hundreds of employees, or holding a one-on-one tutoring session, the HAB will give you the knowledge you need to understand exactly how your strengths and propensities will impact and support any given role.

Finally, the HAB will identify ability patterns that are then linked to specific careers. You’ll be able to investigate these careers via provided O*NET links and career data.

Ready to take the Highlands Ability Battery?

Taking the Highlands Ability Battery as a high school student will provide valuable insight into your abilities, personal style, and skills that you’ll be able to utilize for a lifetime. Understanding yourself–the way you prefer to communicate, collaborate, make decisions, and solve problems–is one of the most important steps you can take as you embark on your post-secondary journey.

If you’re interested in working with College Transitions’ certified Highlands Consultants, we encourage you to get a quote today.

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