Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness (TMA) – Full Guide and Free Practice

A classic assessment of cognitive abilities with 3 main challenges: time, increasing difficulty, and “alertness”.

The Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness is one of the oldest and most classic tests of cognitive ability. While using only 4 question types, the highly challenging time frame, the increasing level of difficulty, and the constant switch between tasks make it a short but challenging task.

The following guide will give you everything you need to know about the TMA test, including a complete test overview, a free sample practice test, and a scoring guide.

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Basic Details

126 questions
Quantitative, linguistic
20 minutes
Increasing in difficulty

What Is the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness?

The Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness (TMA) is a classic test designed to measure cognitive ability and is sometimes used as a pre-employment or pre-admission test. A shorter version of the test, known as the SRA Verbal Form, is also popular.

Pro Tip

One of the main challenges of the TMA test is the constant shift between linguistic and quantitative questions. This is designed to assess your “alertness”, namely the ability to quickly “switch gears” between various tasks.


Test Structure and Question Format

The TMA test consists of 126 multiple-choice questions – 72 linguistic and 54 quantitative. The allotted time for the test is only 20 minutes – a very tight time frame. In addition, the questions become more difficult as the test progresses.

Quantitative questions will have 5 answer options, while linguistic questions will have only 4 answer options.

All questions on the test are in one of 4 categories:

Quantitative

  • Number Series
  • Arithmetic

Linguistic

  • Same-Opposite
  • Definitions

Let’s explain each question type + examples.

The questions given here are very simple and are given as a demonstration. For more advanced questions, check out the Free Practice section.


Quantitative

Number Series

Number Series questions present a sequence of numbers that follow a certain pattern. Your task is to find the number that accurately completes the pattern.

What number should come next in the following series?

1 1 2 4 3 9 4

  1. 5
  2. 11
  3. 15
  4. 16
  5. 18

Pro Tip

Practice is particularly invaluable in the Number Series section, as it gets you familiar with common patterns of number series, so identifying them on the actual test is faster.


Arithmetic

Arithmetic questions are basically short word problems.

4 pens are sold for 5 cents. How much will 2.5 dozen pens cost?

  1. 20
  2. 30
  3. 32.5
  4. 35
  5. 37.5


Linguistic

Same-Opposite

In Same-Opposite questions, you will need to choose a word that either means the same OR the opposite of a given word.

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

vicarious

  1. silent
  2. ferocious
  3. direct
  4. foolish


Definitions

Definitions questions are the most creative type of questions on the test. Your task is to find the first letter of the word whose description is provided.

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

Liquid metal sometimes found in thermometers.

  1. C
  2. G
  3. M
  4. S

Pro Tip

Of all 4 question types in the TMA test, the Definitions type is the one mostly relied on general knowledge.


What Does the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness Measure?

The TMA test measures general mental ability. More particularly, it assesses quick thinking, the ability to adapt to new problems and understand complex relationships.

Head over to the Free Practice section to try some questions for yourself.

Free TMA Sample Practice

This free practice test is a very short version of the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness.

  • 20 questions
  • Covers all 4 question types.
  • “Jumps” between topics.
  • Increasing level of difficulty

Write down your answers and check how you did in the Test Answers section. The time for this test should be around 3.5 minutes.

Good luck!


Question 1

What number should come next in the following series?

2 4 8 14 22

  1. 24
  2. 30
  3. 32
  4. 33
  5. 35


Question 2

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

amend

  1. describe
  2. improve
  3. pursue
  4. focus


Question 3

Venessa is 5’6”. How tall is she in inches?

  1. 56
  2. 60
  3. 62
  4. 66
  5. 72


Question 4

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

Artificially providing water to nourish plants.

  1. A
  2. E
  3. I
  4. O


Question 5

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

strenuous

  1. feverish
  2. meticulous
  3. arduous
  4. orderly


Question 6

What number should come next in the following series?

25 18 12 7 3

  1. -1
  2. 0
  3. 1
  4. 2
  5. 3


Question 7

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

incandescent

  1. dark
  2. decent
  3. cautious
  4. spiteful


Question 8

A car travels at 15 mph. How long will it take the car to travel 105 miles?

  1. 5 hours
  2. 6.5 hours
  3. 7 hours
  4. 9 hours
  5. 11 hours


Question 9

What number should come next in the following series?

3 3 6 9 15 24

  1. 30
  2. 33
  3. 36
  4. 39
  5. 42


Question 10

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A spiked wheel worn on the heel and used to urge horses.

  1. F
  2. T
  3. L
  4. S


Question 11

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

gloaming

  1. abhorrent
  2. dusk
  3. frail
  4. engaging


Question 12

Jack gets two coins from his parents every day at noon. If on Sunday morning he had 4 coins, how many coins will he have by evening on Thursday of next week?

  1. 26
  2. 28
  3. 30
  4. 32
  5. 36


Question 13

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A cover for the blade of a sword.

  1. B
  2. G
  3. R
  4. S


Question 14

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

forlorn

  1. erroneous
  2. abundant
  3. shameful
  4. joyous


Question 15

What number should come next in the following series?

12 13 17 26 42

  1. 50
  2. 58
  3. 60
  4. 67
  5. 68


Question 16

Andy has 12 marbles more than Bob. Bob has 6 marbles more than Chris. Andy has 36 marbles. How many marbles does Chris have?

  1. 18
  2. 22
  3. 24
  4. 36
  5. 40


Question 17

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A short wall at the edge of a roof, usually made for protection.

  1. B
  2. P
  3. F
  4. H


Question 18

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

auspicious

  1. promising
  2. innocent
  3. inner
  4. edgy


Question 19

3 workers can dig 2 holes in 6 hours. How many holes can 6 workers dig in 12 hours?

  1. 6
  2. 8
  3. 10
  4. 16
  5. 24


Question 20

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A whale known for its single long and straight tusk.

  1. W
  2. M
  3. F
  4. N


Head over to the Free Test Answers section to see how you did.

Scoring

How Is the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness Scored?

The raw score of the Thurstone Test is based on the number of correct answers. The test score is represented by three scales – the Linguistic Score, the Quantitative Score, and the Total Score.

Unless there is a major difference between the linguistic and quantitative scores, the total score is considered for selection purposes. The raw score is then converted to a percentile score relative to the relevant group (e.g., managers, executives, etc.).


What Is the Average Score on the TMA Test?

The average score in the Thurstone test varies depending on the level of the job you apply to. According to a 2016 research, these are the average scores for 4 main job levels:

  • First-line managers – 57/126.
  • Mid-level managers – 64/126.
  • Professionals – 63/126.
  • Senior managers – 69/126.

Thurstone Scoring Mean and SD


What Is a Good Score on the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness?

As in any test, it is hard to say what is a “good” score. As we’ve seen, the average score of an executive is around 69 correct answers, so if you got that score, you’re in good company.

However, you should remember that when applying for an executive position, most candidates competing for the job are likely to score around this range as well. In employee selection, 80th percentile and above is usually considered a safe place to be.

The following table describes TMA test 80th and 90th percentile scores for 4 job levels, based on the mean and standard deviation of the test:

Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness Scoring Table

Free Test Answers

Use this section to check your answers for the Free Sample Test. Each answer is accompanied by an explanation.


Question 1

What number should come next in the following series?

2 4 8 14 22

  1. 24
  2. 30
  3. 32
  4. 33
  5. 35

Show Explanation

The correct answer is C.

With every step, the difference between two numbers increases by 2:

  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 4 + 4 = 8
  • 8 + 6 = 14
  • 14 + 8 = 22

Therefore, the next number would be 22 + 10 = 32.


Question 2

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

amend

  1. describe
  2. improve
  3. pursue
  4. focus

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

“Amend” means “to improve or perfect”.


Question 3

Venessa is 5’6”. How tall is she in inches?

  1. 56
  2. 60
  3. 62
  4. 66
  5. 72

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

1 foot = 12”

5’6” = 5 x 12” + 6” = 66”


Question 4

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

Artificially providing water to nourish plants.

  1. A
  2. E
  3. I
  4. O

Show Explanation

The correct answer is C.

The defined word is Irrigation.


Question 5

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

strenuous

  1. feverish
  2. meticulous
  3. arduous
  4. orderly

Show Explanation

The correct answer is C.

Both ‘arduous’ and ‘strenuous’ mean “something that requires great effort”.


Question 6

What number should come next in the following series?

25 18 12 7 3

  1. -1
  2. 0
  3. 1
  4. 2
  5. 3

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

With every step, the difference to the next number decreases by 1:

  • 25 – 18 = 7
  • 18 – 12 = 6
  • 12 – 7 = 5
  • 7 – 3 = 4

Therefore, the next number should be 3 – 3 = 0


Question 7

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

incandescent

  1. dark
  2. decent
  3. cautious
  4. spiteful

Show Explanation

The correct answer is A.

“Incandescent” means “glowing, emitting light”.


Question 8

A car travels at 15 mph. How long will it take the car to travel 105 miles?

  1. 5 hours
  2. 6.5 hours
  3. 7 hours
  4. 9 hours
  5. 11 hours

Show Explanation

The correct answer is C.

If the car travels at 15 mph, it will cover 105 miles in (105 / 15) = 7 hours.


Question 9

What number should come next in the following series?

3 3 6 9 15 24

  1. 30
  2. 33
  3. 36
  4. 39
  5. 42

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

With every step, the next number is the sum of the two previous ones:

  • 3 + 3 = 6
  • 3 + 6 = 9
  • 6 + 9 = 15
  • 9 + 15 = 24

Therefore, the next number should be 24 + 15 = 39.


Question 10

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A spiked wheel worn on the heel and used to urge horses.

  1. F
  2. T
  3. L
  4. S

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

The defined word is spur.


Question 11

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

gloaming

  1. abhorrent
  2. dusk
  3. frail
  4. engaging

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

“Gloaming” means “dusk” or “twilight”.


Question 12

Jack gets two coins from his parents every day at noon. If on Sunday morning he had 4 coins, how many coins will he have by evening on Thursday of next week?

  1. 26
  2. 28
  3. 30
  4. 32
  5. 36

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

The total number of days that has passed since Sunday is 7 + 5. Note that both the first and last days (Sunday and Thursday, respectively) are included in the calculation, since it starts by morning and ends by evening.

4 + (7 + 5) x 2 = 28


Question 13

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A cover for the blade of a sword.

  1. B
  2. G
  3. R
  4. S

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

The defined word is either Scabbard or Sheath, both start with an “S”.


Question 14

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

forlorn

  1. erroneous
  2. abundant
  3. shameful
  4. joyous

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

“Forlorn” means “sad or hopeless, mostly due to solitude.” “Joyous” means the opposite.


Question 15

What number should come next in the following series?

12 13 17 26 42

  1. 50
  2. 58
  3. 60
  4. 67
  5. 68

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

With every step, the difference between every two numbers is the next number in the sequence of perfect squares (1, 4, 9, 16…):

  • 13 = 12 + 1
  • 17 = 13 + 4
  • 26 = 17 + 9
  • 42 = 26 + 16

Therefore, the next number should be 42 + 25 = 67.


Question 16

Andy has 12 marbles more than Bob. Bob has 6 marbles more than Chris. Andy has 36 marbles. How many marbles does Chris have?

  1. 18
  2. 22
  3. 24
  4. 36
  5. 40

Show Explanation

The correct answer is A.

Let’s note:

  • A – Andy
  • B – Bob
  • C – Chris

(I) A = B + 12 ➔ 36 = B + 12 ➔ B = 24

(II) B = C + 6 ➔ C = 18


Question 17

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A short wall at the edge of a roof, usually made for protection.

  1. B
  2. P
  3. F
  4. H

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

The defined word is Parapet.


Question 18

Find the word that means the same as or the opposite of the word below.

auspicious

  1. promising
  2. innocent
  3. inner
  4. edgy

Show Explanation

The correct answer is A.

“Auspicious” means “favorable, with high chances of success, promising.”


Question 19

3 workers can dig 2 holes in 6 hours. How many holes can 6 workers dig in 12 hours?

  1. 6
  2. 8
  3. 10
  4. 16
  5. 24

Show Explanation

The correct answer is B.

There are two elements that affect the output (number of holes):

  • Number of workers
  • Number of hours worked

Whenever we double one of these elements, we double the output. So:

3 workers can dig 2 holes in 6 hours ➔ 6 workers can dig 4 holes in 6 hours ➔

6 workers can dig 8 holes in 12 hours.


Question 20

Identify the first letter of the word that matches the definition.

A whale known for its single long and straight tusk.

  1. W
  2. M
  3. F
  4. N

Show Explanation

The correct answer is D.

The defined word is Narwhal.

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