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  • Writer's pictureMary Feduccia

Dear High School Students: This Test Can Help You Plan for Your Amazing Future

(Please note: I'm sharing a blog with you written by colleague, Dr. Marla Brady ( We use the Highlands Ability Battery extensively to help high school and college students make the best possible decisions about college majors and careers. Thanks, Dr. Brady, for sharing your insights about this phenomenal career planning tool!)

I know what you’re thinking. The last thing any student wants to do is take another test. As a former high school principal, I know you’re cringing right now. But what if I told you that this test could help you to better plan for your future? What if this test could make those tough decisions you’re facing right now, like what college to attend and what major to choose, a lot easier?

For decades, this test – an ability test known as the Highlands Ability Battery – has accuratelyand consistently identified innate talents in people. Listen, I’ve invested 31 years as an educator and I know how powerful identifying these abilities early in life can be. The knowledge, awareness, and insights that come from this test are changing people’s lives.

In a time when paying for a college education is the financial equivalent of buying a home, it’s critical that students (and the parents who love them) make informed, strategic investments in themselves. This test ensures that.

I know there is more to life than an academic path and a career trajectory. Students, just like all of us, are complex people with values, priorities, interests, and questions. Right now, and as they grow into adulthood, they want to nurture personal interests and hobbies, and pursue lasting (extracurricular!) goals and dreams. This test can help with that, too.

A tool for self-discovery

Have you heard of the Highlands Ability Battery? If you cringed when I called it a test, then think of it as a tool. It was developed in the 1920’s to closely study human engineering and task performance. Because it has been critiqued and enhanced consistently for a century, itsreliability is highly credible. The Highlands Company also conducts rigorous reviews to ensure the tool meets professional standards of excellence.

I’ve worked for over 15 years as a certified Highlands consultant, and I recommend the ability battery as a valuable self-discovery tool for high school students because it shows us how we are naturally hardwired. It is designed to identify what we are innately good at, and the types of activities at which we are inclined to excel (or not). As such, this tool can help inform and guide students (and their parents) as they plan for college and professional careers.

Taking the test and reviewing your feedback

The Highlands Ability Battery is a 3-hour online test, but you do not have to take it all at once. I tell my clients to plan three 1-hour windows in the course of a week or two. Set aside these times and find a quiet, relaxing place where you can get comfortable and focus. The test is probably unlike any you have ever taken because it does not present you with math problems or English essays. Rather, it consists of 19 timed tasks to complete.

When you finish the test, you will receive a variety of comprehensive reports that provides very detailed feedback on your task performance. The next step is the fascinating part! A certified Highlands consultant will review the results with you in a customized feedback session. In this meeting, the consultant will show what the test findings reveal about your personal talents and inclinations, which is an amazing discovery for students. I love reviewing the results with clients and saying, did you know you’re really good at this? Did you know you have an impressive ability in this area? Seeing the light bulb come on in a student’s mind is wonderful. We then use the feedback to help them move forward accordingly.

Here’s an example of how applicable these test results can be in a student’s life. The Highlands Ability Battery can identify leadership characteristics even before high school students have ever led anything. In a case like this, I show the results to the student and encourage them to look around at organizations and clubs in their school. Does anything look interesting? If so, try it out! Many times, I hear back from parents that their child became the treasurer of the student council or the outreach leader at their local church. The parents rave about how well their child is doing in that role and – importantly – how much the child enjoys it. Not only are these experiences perfect college admission material, they are important reinforcers of personal skills and talents that can be honed and developed throughout life.

Careers and far beyond

Scientific and anecdotal knowledge tells us that when we are satisfied with our job responsibilities, we are much more engaged and productive. Unfortunately, research continues to show that the majority of American adults are unfulfilled in their professions, leaving us to conclude that they are spending untold hours of their weeks (and lives) performing tasks that are not meaningful or significant to them.

The reason I recommend the Highlands Ability Battery for high school students is to prevent them from going down the well-trodden path of choosing a major and a career that is not at all aligned with their aptitudes. None of us have a crystal ball that will reveal the perfect job, the perfect salary, and the perfect work/life balance. But the more we know about ourselves, the more empowered we are to make informed choices along the way.

I encourage students to view this tool as an investment: taking it in high school can help them have a better outlook for the rest of their lives. Rather than comparing themselves to the people they see on social media, they can apply themselves to activities and organizations that they know are in line with their interests, natural inclinations, and values. This outlook opens up a new world of possibilities for community service, hobbies, physical activities, and on and on. Finding these things will help them be more balanced, comfortable with themselves, and happy. Who wouldn’t want that?



This blog is part of a larger conversation on the Highlands Ability Battery with David Seay, author of Hustle4Ever: How to Write Your Own Definition of Success and Win at Life. You can listen to the full episode here.

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