The WorkKeys system of foundational skills assessments was developed by ACT, Inc. in the 1990s. The suite of assessments was designed to help businesses match the skills of current or potential employees to the requirements of unfilled positions. The examinations have since been extended to several other contexts focused on career readiness and training.
Function of the Test
The ACT WorkKeys assessments are primarily used by businesses in the United States to gauge current and prospective employees' skill levels. Some companies which use WorkKeys include Dow Chemical, Energizer, and Johnsonville Sausage.
WorkKeys is also implemented in programs designed to help jobseekers. For example, the state of Georgia issues workforce certificates at the levels of Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze to jobseekers based on scores on WorkKeys assessments. While most people who take tests in the WorkKeys suite are adults in the workforce, the tests have also been administered to high school students, such as in a career readiness initiative in North Carolina.
In 2010, ACT, Inc. reported administering more than one million WorkKeys tests per year. ACT, Inc. also reports that more than 2.3 million people have earned a National Career Readiness Certificate by taking WorkKeys tests.
WorkKeys assessments are available at testing sites across the United States. Many testing sites are at community colleges or government-directed career centers.
The fee to take WorkKeys examinations varies widely depending on circumstances. Most test-takers do not pay out of pocket to take the examinations, as they are typically paid for by an employer. Among test-takers who do take the examination, prices vary depending on location and circumstance. For example, independent test-takers in Pennsylvania pay $5.50 per assessment, or $16.50 for the full suite of three tests in the Career Readiness Certificate program. In contrast, Faulkner State Community College in Alabama advertises testing fees of $12.50 for the Applied Mathematics, Reading For Information, and Locating Information exams and $20 for the Business Writing exam.
Due to the very broad variety of circumstances under which candidates take WorkKeys examinations, ranging from a high school examination to a job application exam to a career readiness certification program, there is no single retake policy for the WorkKeys suite of examinations.
Candidates who require special testing accommodations for a disability should contact the testing center directly, as accommodations are the responsibility of the test site. There are pre-made accommodations such as reader scripts, large-print assessment booklets, braille assessment booklets, and captioned videos for many WorkKeys examinations.
The ACT Work Keys has three main assessments: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information. All three tests are available in both English and Spanish on internet and paper-and-pencil versions. There are also other assessments, such as Teamwork, Listening, and Business Writing.
The ACT Work Keys are administered in ACSP certified testing centers. These are typically at education institutions. To find one in a specific area, visit ACT.org/workkeys
- Sample Applied Mathematics Questions
- Luis left home with $5.50 in his wallet. He spent $3.25 on drinks and $2.00 on a magazine. Later, his friend repaid him $3.50 that he had borrowed the previous day. How much did Luis have in his wallet then? 1
- A. $12.25
- B. $14.25
- C. $3.25
- D. #3.75
- E. $1.75
- In a spelling bee, Anish’s placement is both the 11th highest and the 25th lowest among all the spellers who participated. How many spellers participated in the spelling bee? 11
- A. 34
- B. 35
- C. 36
- D. 37
- E. 38
- If the area of a rectangular board is 336 square inches and its perimeter is 76 inches, what is the length of each of the shorter sides? 33
- A. 10 inches
- B. 14 inches
- C. 19 inches
- D. 24 inches
- E. 65 inches
- Sample Locating Information Questions
- Please refer to the above figure for questions 1-3
- The greatest increase in annual sales of rotary engines occurred during what time period? 36
- A. 1967 to 1972
- B. 1972 to 1977
- C. 1977 to 1982
- D. 1982 to 1987
- Between 1977 and 1987, cumulative sales increased by approximately how much? 37
- A. 10,000
- B. 700,000
- C. 900,000
- D. 1,600,000
- Based on the preceding graph, one would expect the cumulative sales of rotary engines to do what after the year 2000? 38
- A. Very gradually increase
- B. Rapidly increase
- C. Very gradually decrease
- D. Rapidly decrease
- Sample Reading Information Questions
Instructions for handling heavy materials
To prevent back injury, you should take at least one of the following precautions when lifting objects above 75 pounds: 1) use a back brace, or 2) get another person to help you lift.
If you believe you are injured, do not continue to lift. Notify your foreman or medical staff immediately.
If you need to transport an object above 200 pounds, do not try to lift it, even with another person. You should get a trained forklift operator to move the box with a forklift.
- According to the instructions, which of the following is an acceptable precaution when lifting a box above 75 pounds, but under 200 pounds? 5
- A. Lifting the box above your head
- B. Lifting the box with another employee
- C. Lifting carefully, using your legs instead of your back
- D. Placing the box on a roller cart
- Who would be a proper party to notify if you believe you are injured? 6
- A. The director
- B. A safety engineer
- C. Medical personnel
- D. Human resources
- A box weighing over 200 pounds should be moved only if: 7
- A. The employee has received permission from the foreman
- B. At least three people are helping move the box
- C. Specialized machinery is being used to move it
- D. The employee(s) moving it are wearing steel-toed shoes
There are twelve different assessments in the WorkKeys suite. The three most commonly taken examinations are the Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information exams, which are the examinations used by the National Career Readiness Certificate program.
Seven of the twelve WorkKeys assessments are assessed using scaled scores which correspond to a level of competence. The following chart summarizes these seven examinations and their score ranges:
|WorkKeys Assessments with Scaled Scores|
|Subject||Time limit (minutes)||# of items|| Scaled score
|Reading for Information||55||45||33||65-90||<3 to 7|
|Applied Mathematics||55||45||33||65-90||<3 to 7|
|Locating Information||55||45||38||65-90||<3 to 6|
|Applied Technology||55||45||34||65-90||<3 to 6|
|Teamwork||n/a||64||36||65-90||<3 to 6|
|Listening||45||n/a||28||50-90||<1 to 5|
|Business Writing||30||30||1 prompt||50-90||<1 to 5|
There is no penalty for guessing on any WorkKeys examination.
The remaining four tests of the WorkKeys suite are more qualitative and are scored in idiosyncratic ways. Often, there is no "right answer" for any given question. For example, the Talent assessment rates test-takers on twelve personality scales (such as "Optimism" and "Discipline") and four indices (such as "Teamwork" and "Managerial Potential"); there is no total "score" and no such thing as a "perfect result."
Answers to Sample Questions
Applied Mathematics: 1;D 2;B 3;B Locating Information: 1;A 2;B 3;A Reading Information 1;B 2;C 3;C
- ACT - Breaking New Ground: Building a National Workforce Skills Credentialing System February 27 2015
- ACT - Dow Chemical Uses WorkKeys® to Prepare Employees for Advanced Training February 27 2015
- ACT - Energizer Zaps Costly Errors Using WorkKeys February 27 2015
- ACT - Johnsonville Sausage Adds ACT Solutions to Its Recipe for Success February 27 2015
- ACT - Georgia's Workforce Initiative: A Model for Transforming a State’s Workforce February 27 2015
- ACT - North Carolina Implements a Comprehensive Approach to College and Career Readiness February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Presentation 2010 February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Overview February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Test Sites February 27 2015
- Pennsylvania Workforce Development - WorkKeys® Frequently Asked Questions – Fiscal Issues February 27 2015
- Faulkner State Community College - WorkKeys February 27 2015
- ACT - Accommodations for WorkKeys Assessments February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Formats February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Assessments at a Glance February 27 2015
- ACT - Conversion Tables Scale Scores to Levels February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Reading for Information February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Applied Mathematics February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Locating Information February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Applied Technology February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Teamwork February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Listening February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys - Business Writing February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Test-taking Tips February 27 2015
- ACT - WorkKeys Talent Assessment Examinee Report February 27 2015