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Taxonomy of Simulation Types

Organizational frameworks for classifying simulations are largely lacking. This has led to inconsistencies in the definition of simulations and standards for development, validation and scoring. Simulations represent a range of assessments with large variability in terms of format and function. It is not a single method or procedure, but an approach for assessment. For this reason simulations are often classified as measurement methods. Simulations for personnel selection can be grouped into four major assessment types: situational judgement tests (SJTs), work-sample and performance tests, assessment centre exercises and job tryouts (Tuzinski, 2013; U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). Below, we present a brief summary of these groupings. The discussion is not comprehensive, but rather establishes a foundational understanding. Within each group, technology can play more or less of a role in delivery. Nor are the groups mutually exclusive, for example, it is common for a computer-based managerial in-basket to include multiple-choice SJT-type response options.

  • Situational judgement tests. Situational judgement tests (SJTs) present applicants with a series of situations or scenarios similar to those they will encounter on the job and viable options for handling these situations. Depending on the approach, applicants are asked to select the most effective, or most and least effective, ways of handling the situation from the response alternatives. SJT stimuli can be presented in text-based format or can leverage multimedia.
  • Work-sample and performance tests. Work-sample and performance tests consist of tasks or work activities that are physically or psychologically similar to the tasks and duties employees are required to perform on the job. Applicants’ skills are evaluated by asking them to perform the tasks under the same conditions as those required on the job. For example, a hands-on work sample for an electrician may ask applicants to troubleshoot a circuit, inspect electronics for defects and conduct an electronics test. Increasingly, these are being delivered online. For example, software developers may be asked to debug sequences of code and plant operators may be required to monitor pressure in online gauges.
  • Assessment centre exercise. When work samples are used for the selection of professionals, supervisors and managers, they are often referred to as assessment centre exercises. Exercises frequently include in-baskets, role-plays, analytic exercises and group discussions; these are typically scored by trained assessors. Technology has changed the means by which assessment centre exercises are delivered and scored. For example, in-baskets now mimic desktop applications and can employ the use of multiple-choice formats. Role-plays and performance counselling exercises are now using video- or avatar-based item presentations and complex, automated branching algorithms, removing the need for human role players and assessors.
  • Job tryouts. Job tryouts are the most extreme form of simulations. In a job tryout, applicants are hired following an initial screening. Once on the job, they enter a probationary period when they are assessed to ensure satisfactory performance. Because these simulations are not developed and validated in a traditional sense, they are not a focus of this chapter.
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