Narrative Summary: 

WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system measuring "real world" skills that employers consider to be critical to job success. WorkKeys enables educators, individuals, and employers to identify skill gaps and guide training decisions to improve current and prospective employee skills and WorkKeys scores when necessary.

Intended Population: 

Employees and potential employees who are adults and/or high school students.


Selection and promotion in jobs, placement in training programs that are part of a job, and formative evaluation of the examinee’s skill level

Skills Measured-Test Content: 

Ten separate assessments: Applied Technology, Applied Mathematics, Business Writing, Listening, Writing, Locating Information, Observation, Reading for Information, Teamwork, and Readiness. See test descriptions and examples at

Range of Skill Levels: 

The lowest level assessed is approximately the lowest level at which an employer would be interested in setting a standard. The highest level assessed is approximately the level beyond which specialized training would be required.

Number of Items per Test: 

Constructed Response:

  • Business Writing = 1 prompt
  • Listening = 6 prompts
  • Writing = 6 prompts
    Note: Listening and Writing use the same prompts; however, they are scored differently and are given with different instructions.

Multiple Choice:

  • Applied Technology = 32 items
  • Applied Mathematics = 33 items
  • Locating Information = 38 items
  • Observation = 36 items
  • Reading for Information = 33 items
  • Teamwork = 36 items
  • Readiness = 35 items
Types of Items: 

Business Writing, Listening, and Writing are measured with constructed response items. All other skill areas are measured with multiple choice items.

Development of Items: 

In developing the WorkKeys system, ACT consulted with employers, educators, and labor organizations to develop a list of foundational workplace skills that are used in a wide range of jobs, are measurable in large-scale testing settings, and are teachable in a reasonable period of time. In 1991–1992, initial WorkKeys foundational skills were selected on the basis of a review of the literature relating to employer-identified skill needs and a survey of employers and educators. Businesspersons and educators assisted in the design and review of plans and materials and provided examinees for the prototype and field-test phases of assessment development. The first WorkKeys assessments were released in 1992. New items are continually being generated, and new forms are released on a regular basis. Development of new skill areas is also in progress in response to changing employer demands.

Size of Item Bank: 

Varies with the 10 separate assessments


Ten separate, independent assessments make up the WorkKeys system: Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Business Writing, Listening, Locating Information, Observation, Reading for Information, Readiness, Teamwork, and Writing.

Alternate Test Forms: 

At least one alternate assessment form is available for each of the skill assessments. Alternate forms are developed on a regular basis.

Required / Recommended Administrator Training: 

Test administrator guides are provided for all assessments. In addition, a series of instructional guides called Targets for Instruction is available for the trainers and teachers interested in curriculum development.

Test Administration Procedures: 
  • Paper and pencil versions are available for all WorkKeys assessments.
  • Listening and Writing sections require the use of audio media (either tape or CD).
  • Observation and Teamwork require video media (either tape or DVD).
  • Computer- administered versions are available for Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Business Writing, Locating Information, and Reading for Information.
Scoring - How: 
  • Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Locating Information, Observation, Reading for Information, and Teamwork are machine-scored, multiple-choice assessments. Business Writing is an electronically scored, constructed response assessment.
  • Listening and Writing assessments are scored by two separate raters on a scale of 0–5. If the score of two raters differs by more than 1 point, a third rater’s score replaces the ratings assigned by the first two.
  • Readiness is a self-scored instrument.
Scoring - Type: 

Business Writing, Listening, and Writing assessments use holistic rating scales. All other assessments are assigned level scores based on total number correct.

Scoring - Who: 

All scoring is done by ACT, except for the Readiness assessment, which is self-scored.

Scoring - How Long: 

Scoring options range from an immediate to a 10-day turnaround.

Reporting Procedures: 

Scores may be reported on paper or electronically.

Time Needed for Assessment: 

Paper and pencil test:

  • Applied Technology—45 min
  • Applied Mathematics—45 min
  • Business Writing—30 min
  • Listening—40 min
  • Writing—40 min
  • Locating Information—45 min
  • Observation—60 min
  • Reading for Information—45 min
  • Teamwork—64 min
  • Readiness—40 min

Computer-based test:

  • Applied Mathematics—55 min
  • Applied Technology—55 min
  • Business Writing—30 min
  • Locating Information—55 min
  • Reading for Information—55 min
Publisher / Company / Source: 

ACT 500
ACT Drive
P.O. Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa 52243–0168
Phone: 800–WORKKEY (967–5539)
To order, contact WorkKeys Customer Services at 319–337–1550 Web: http://www.act....

Versions & Publication Dates: 

1992–2005 and continuing


Contact WorkKeys directly for current pricing.

Additional Comments: 

The following tests are available in Spanish: Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Applied Technology. The Reading for Information and Applied Mathematics assessments have been approved for use with Ability to Benefit funding through the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Program.