Gamified assessments: When is “fun” too much fun?

In our ongoing series of articles on gamified assessments, we have looked at the concept of gamification, specific applications of game-based assessments and cut-e’s exciting new smartPredict product.

Today, we look at some potential unintended consequences and risks of gamified assessment practices.

Must assessments be fun?

Gamified assessments seem to promise greater test-taker engagement. Indeed, this benefit is often cited as a principal reason why gamified assessments are going to feature strongly in the future of workplace testing.

In the recent SIOP Conference in March, an expert panel including members from our assessment product partner, cut-e (an Aon company) considered the drivers of gamification in assessments.

According to the SIOP working group, there are three main reasons gamified assessments may increasingly be adopted:

  1. An emphasis on improving the candidate experience
  2. A desire to manage the assessment process more efficiently
  3. A push to utilise bigger and better data in organisations.

Reasons that IO Practitioners are interested in gamified assessments include:

  • Greater support and enhancement of the employer brand
  • Attracting a more diverse pool of applicants
  • Providing more scoring options and insightful data
  • Featuring interactive and dynamic content and thus shortening the time taken to complete assessments
  • Assessments that are more immersive, engaging and fun.

It is this last aspect of gamified assessments, whether they are or should be “fun”, that is often not formally examined by researchers. Richard Justenhoven, of Aon assessment services, notes that one cannot necessarily assume that gamified assessments will be fun for all people or that the level of fun test-takers experience will actually be the same across games.

Also, “fun” is not synonymous with “enhanced engagement.” Such complexities allude to the question of whether there is an ideal degree of fun, game-centric elements to include in gamified assessments.

Research on games and engagement

Recent research conducted by Aon and cut-e reveals that candidates have mixed reactions to game elements introduced in selection assessments. In the study, there was indeed a tipping point where adding more game elements detracted from test-taker engagement.

The researchers found that candidates rated some elements of games (e.g. unlocking levels) as enhancing their experience of the assessment process. Conversely, test-takers rated adding more frivolous elements associated with games (e.g. sound effects, flashy animations) as detracting from their experience of the assessments.

In fact, when assessments were accompanied by such elements, candidates reported a negative effect on perceived fairness and appropriateness given the seriousness of the selection procedure. The risk of such “enhancements” may be that candidates view your assessment process as not serious enough, and as a consequence, not sufficiently professional.

Final thoughts

While gamified assessments are exciting new additions to the employment assessment toolbox, research on their effects is still scant. Initial studies point to potential advantages for candidate engagement, but also warn against a no-holds-barred approach to integrating all game elements into assessment processes.

A cautiously optimistic route to take might be to acknowledge the need for more engaging, efficient assessments that make use of modern mobile technologies. At the same time, IO Practitioners need to adopt the same evidence-based approach that they are known for in the organisations they serve. At this time, evidence suggests that there might well be an ideal level of gamification to aim for when selecting talent.

What that level is might not be entirely clear yet, but assessment developers like cut-e seem to be at the forefront of providing empirical guidelines about what that might be.

If you’d like to know more about how TTS can help you make better talent decisions and innovate your assessment processes, why not drop us a line at


Justenhoven, R, (Jun 6, 2018). Can there be too much fun when we include games in the assessment process. Cut-e scienceBlog.

Rampell, C, (Jan 22, 2014). Your Next Job Application Could Involve a Video Game. New York Times Magazine.

Smither, J. W., Reilly, R. R., Millsap, R. E., Pearlman, K., & Stoffey, R. W. (1993). Applicant reactions to selection procedures. Personnel Psychology, 46(1), 49–76.