Wallach-Kogan Creativity Tests

One of the most popular instruments for measuring or assessing creativity is the the Wallach and Kogan Creativity Test.

In fact, it’s a battery of tests, three verbal and two visual, which they detail in their book Modes of Thinking in Young Children (1965).

In Wallach and Kogan’s assessment of creativity, examinees are asked to come up with many possible items that are in a general group.

For example: Name things with wheels.

Responses could be:

  • a car
  • a bicycle
  • a lorry
  • a train
  • a go-cart
  • a skateboard
  • a scooter
  • your mind

This test is scored using four components:

1. Fluency

The number of responses is calculated. In the above example, the score would be 8.

2. Flexibility

The number of different categories is calculated. The above example would score 2; the first seven are all methods of transportation but “wheel turning in your mind” is a different category, e.g. a metaphor.

3. Originality

Each response is compared to the total amount of responses from all of the people given the test.

Responses that were given by only 5% of the group are unusual (1 point).

Responses that were given by only 1% of the group are unique (2 points). Higher total scores indicate an aptitude for original thinking.

4. Elaboration

The amount of detail is assessed. For example, “a scooter” = 0, whereas “an electric scooter racing down the pavement” = 1

An additional point would be given if the examinee noted where the scooter car was going.

In terms of administration, Wallach and Kogan’s test can be done by anyone and there is no special training needed. Typically the test is administered in a classroom setting.

Here are some more examples:

  1. Name all the round things you can think of.
  2. Name all the things you can think of that will make a noise.
  3. Name all the square things you can think of.
  4. Name all the things you can think of that move on wheels.

One of my favourite tests is focuses on similarities where children have to think of as many possible similarities between two objects.


  1. Tell me all the ways in which an apple and orange are alike.
  2. Tell me all the ways in which a cat and mouse are alike.
  3. Tell me all the ways in which milk and meat are alike.
  4. Tell me all the ways in which a radio and a telephone are alike.

Example answers for apple and orange: both round, sweet, have seeds, are fruit, grow on trees, have skins, etc.

This has developed into an active assessment strategy called ‘reasoning by analogy’ which commonly uses a graphic organiser to identify similarities between objects or events, such as structural or functional similarities. They are used to illustrate some sort of relationship between things being compared.

In the book Start Thinking by Marcelo Staricoff and Alan Rees, they provide an example of reasoning by analogy that also asks students to consider differences.

What are the similarities and differences between blood and tomato ketchup?

Similarities include: both a red, both have sugar in them, both are used by people etc

Differences include: blood is thinner, blood is darker, ketchup is made in a factory, etc

In their book Active Assessment: Thinking, Learning and Assessment in Science, Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh provide a couple of interesting examples well worth asking children to do: ‘a whale is like a submarine because’….. and ‘an electric circuit is like a central heating system because…’

In my maths book with Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh, examples include ‘parallel lines are like railway lines because…’, ‘perpendicular lines are like crossroads because…’, ‘a decimal point is like a concrete post because….’ and a fraction is like a jigsaw piece because…’

Reasoning by analogy gives you an insight into how a pupil is thinking and the level of sophistication they are working at. When done in a group or class context then responses provide a basis for creative debate and discussion.

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