The General Classification test (GCT) is taken after the completion of Officer Candidate School, and at the end of six months at The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.
According to Quartz, “A full 85% of people who took the test in 1980 got a score over 120, which was the cut-off for Marine officers in World War II. Just 59% beat that score in 2014.”
The study also showed that scores on the high end are down too. In 1980, 4.9% scored over 150; only 0.7% did so in 2014.
During World War II, there was only a tiny pool of candidates with a four year college degree. If Marines did not have the degree, in order to be commissioned, they’d have to score above the cut-off on the GCT and go through Officer Candidate School.
A new working paper by The Nat’l Bureau of Economic Research shows “a statistically significant and quantitatively meaningful decline in the quality of commissioned officers from 1980 to 2014 as measured by the GCT scores of Marine officers. This test has been shown to be a good predictor of success in the military.”
Researchers believe the biggest reason for the shift, by far, is the dramatic increase in the number of people completing a four-year degree, which is now required to enter officer training. “That means more people of relatively lower intelligence are going to school, and unless the military actively filters them out, they’ll tend to make their way into the officer corps,” the article said.
While some have argued that the recruitment of African American and Hispanic officers, as well as women, might be leading to a reduction in officer quality — that’s not the case. Researchers found that both African American and women officers tend to increase GCT scores, while the increase in the number of Hispanic officers had no effect on scores over time.
It’s not known exactly what kind of impact this drop in scores is having, but the authors say based on the many studies associating performance with intellect, it’s hard to believe that the quality and efficacy of the military has not been damaged in some way.