Study Design

In 1960, roughly 5 percent of American high school students participated in the Project Talent study. Approximately 440,000 students were selected to represent all 9th through 12th graders throughout the country.
# Students in an all girls catholic school taking the exam.


From information provided by the United States Office of Education (USOE), 1,063 public, private, and parochial senior high schools were asked to participate in Project Talent. Of these schools, 987 (93 percent) agreed to take part. Selected schools were intended to reflect the diversity of the American high school experience. With the exception of New York City and Chicago schools, every student in a participating school became part of the study. All 9th-graders in the junior high schools associated with participating senior high schools were also included. 238 junior high schools were part of Project Talent, bringing the total number of randomly selected schools to 1,225. In addition, 128 schools asked to participate in the study as "volunteer" schools, bringing the total number of schools in Project Talent to 1,353.
# The original 1960 Project Talent study design and review team.


In 1960, Project Talent participants in grades 9 through 12 were administered an extensive battery of tests and questions that examined students' competencies in subjects such as mathematics, science, and reading comprehension. In addition, students were asked to complete three separate questionnaires that asked about family background, personal and educational experiences, aspirations for future education and vocation, and interests in various occupations and activities.

General Information & Screener

This test was designed as a screener to test student's knowledge of general information for over 30 topics. The questions were simple and identified students who were mentally disabled, illiterate, or took the test apathetically.

Language Aptitude & Ability

This test assessed memory for sentences and words, a mastery of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, effective expression, grammatical structure, and reading comprehension.


This test measured arithmetic reasoning as well as the understanding and application of concepts and methods of introductory and advanced-level high school mathematics.

Clerical & Perceptual Aptitude

This test measured speed and accuracy in basic computational operations and non-computational clerical tasks, such as extracting information from tables. The test was also intended to measure the speed and accuracy in perception of forms.

Complex Intellectual Aptitude

This test measured creativity as well as mechanical and abstract reasoning. The test also evaluated students' spatial visualization abilities in two and three dimensions.
Students in the study completed the following three questionnaires:

Student Information Blank

The Student Information Blank included 394 items and covered topics such as family background (parents' education, economic status, number of siblings), personal and educational experiences (courses, grades), educational and vocational aspirations, and other personal information (health, hobbies and extra-curricular activities).

Interest Inventory

The Interest Inventory gauged interest in various occupations and activities (e.g., mechanical-technical fields, farm work, sales, and the arts). Students marked the degree to which they would like or dislike a particular job or hobby.

Student Activities Inventory

The Student Activities Inventory asked questions about students' personality traits, such as impulsiveness, leadership capabilities, and social ability. Students were asked to choose words and phrases that best described their specific personality type.

School Questionnaires

Extensive information was also collected on the characteristics of the schools in which Project Talent students were enrolled. Principals of these schools completed questions about general characteristics of the schools (e.g., policies and practices, size, characteristics of the community, and teaching staff), the school guidance program (e.g., scope of the program, type of guidance provided, testing), and the characteristics of the principal.

Follow-Up Studies

After the original testing in 1960, the participants were re-contacted three times, at 1, 5, and 11 years after high school graduation. During the follow-up studies, respondents received questionnaires via mail that asked about educational and occupational attainment, marriage, family formation, and other topics. The response rates to the follow-up mail surveys ranged from 62 percent for the 12th-grade one-year follow-up to 19 percent for the 9th-grade 11-year follow-up.