Kids take an aptitude test, supposedly showing what job they'd be suited for. 99% of the time, their results do not agree with what they expect and/or want.
Sometimes, it's blamed on faulty testing computers, some action that one of the kids did screwing up the results, or mixed-up test results. It is rare for anyone to blame it on the idea that aptitude tests in general, or the particular test in question, can be flawed and overrated, even though this would be a perfectly valid argument to make in Real Life. Other times, it's just left as a Because Destiny Says So that the characters must either fight or accept.
Compare the Achievement Test of Destiny, a test that determines intelligence and is equally fate-bound.
- Reborn! (2004)'s "Ranking Fuuta" is a human aptitude test since he can rank anything (including a person's most likely future career). The inept part comes in that his rankings become inaccurate whenever it rains. This causes the child-hating Gokudera much distress when Fuuta incorrectly ranks him as most likely to become a kindergarten teacher.
- In The Peanuts Movie, an aptitude test is taken by the whole class and Charlie Brown gets a 100%, which gives him a short-lived burst of fame as the smartest kid in school... short-lived because it turns out that the tests were mixed up, the student that got the 100% is Peppermint Patty (who is pretty Book Dumb to begin with and her interpretation in the film so far has made her look like a borderline complete moron) and the reason why she got that 100% is because it turns out that she lucked into getting all of the correct answers by drawing a smiley face on the test sheet's spaces. Not only does Charlie gets mocked for bringing this up at the awards ceremony (by Lucy), but a Freeze-Frame Bonus implies that he got a 65% — the lowest score of the whole class.
- Variation in Demolition Man. Cowboy Cop John Spartan is imprisoned as a Human Popsicle, where his rehabilitation is helped along by having him subliminally taught a skill for which he is genetically predisposed to help him relax and (hopefully) be less violent upon release. His skill, he discovers with some consternation, is knitting. Interestingly, this seems to work out pretty well.
- In Sky High (2005), they don't even give you a test - whether you get on the fast track of being a hero or getting bogged down in loser classes for sidekicks depends on how well you can impress the heavily biased coach with a single demonstration of your powers.
- Isaac Asimov's "Profession": Eight-year-olds go to Reading Day; after they learn how to read, their brains are tested for aptitude, but it doesn't affect much. Ten years later, eighteen-year-olds are tested again; based on their neurological responses, they're assigned a profession. George's scan reveals that he cannot be taught by computer, so instead of having a profession assigned, he is sent to a government home for "feeble-minded people". George insists that they got it wrong and he should be a computer programmer, not "feeble-minded". This place is a Secret Test to discover if he is merely someone capable of learning on his own, or if he is capable of truly original thought; the only variable they can't fully quantify or implant. The tapes are made by other people like him.
- The short story "Up In Flames" from the world of A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned features a test screwing over the hero.
- Early on in Jack Blank, it is revealed that Jack once took one of these tests and ended up with the result "toilet brush cleaner". Jack didn't even think such a career existed, thinking people would just throw out old toilet brushes.
- Happens in an episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, where lazy, Book Dumb Zack scores as a successful businessman and straight-A student Cody's scores qualify him to be more of a garbageman. Later their mother finds that the man who scores the tests (which were nothing more than a random test Cody found online and not at all presented as official or valid) just chooses a career at random for each result. The lesson is somehow learned that tests can't tell you what you will or won't be.
- Nick Freno Licensed Teacher: Freno avoids getting his license revoked for not administering an aptitude test (the principal had to do it himself) because one of the panel members judging him got this job on her test, and she wanted to be a ballerina. Meanwhile, one of the students has postman as his top choice.
- Dennis the Menace (B&W live-action series from the 1950s) had a variation on this trope. Dennis takes a standardized IQ test in school which reveals him to be a genius; but it turns out a wad of gum he left on the underside of the paper screwed up the scoring.
- The Facts of Life, "I.Q.": The trope as used here was fairly weak, because as it was only the fourth episode of the series, we didn't know Sue Ann was supposed to be the smartest one until this episode told us so.
- The Scoobies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer went through a career day that placed Xander as a prison guard. Played straight and subverted when neither Oz (who's Brilliant, but Lazy) nor Willow (who's a straight-A student) ever got a result back because a very prestigious software firm was scouting them. Also subverted in that Buffy gets the surprisingly accurate result of law enforcement...and double-subverted when she is horrified by it, if only because of the bad fashion of the uniform.
- Parker Lewis Can't Lose had an episode where the school administered an IQ test, and the one who got the highest score was Dumb Jock Larry Kubiac. Later, Ms. Musso was staring at his test and wondering how he did so well. It turned out it was a "fill in the dot" computerized test and he just filled in the dots so it read "EAT NOW".
- Malcolm in the Middle saw Malcolm distressed because, while he was hoping the test would provide him some direction, he turned out to be equally qualified for any career he chose to pursue. The testing guy is not amused by Malcolm's disappointment in his own Jack of All Trades-esque perfection.
- In Radio Free Roscoe the group takes an aptitude test, and Travis spends the whole time making a donkey out of the bubbles. When he gets lawyer he complains about how that's not even donkey related. When they talk about it on the radio, other students call in to question the purpose and validity of aptitude tests in general.
- A variation occurs in Sister, Sister, where bookish Tia scores low on the SATs and outgoing Tamara scores higher than she ever dreamed possible. Their test scores were accidentally switched, due to being identical twins.
- ...and then they took 'em again a year later, with some Smart Guy as their tutor.
- In Teachers (2001), PE teacher Brian takes the same career test as his pupils and his stereotypically gay results - florist or hairdresser - do nothing to help the crisis of sexuality he's going through. It turns out his friends switched the results as a practical joke.
- Junior surprises his parents on My Wife and Kids by getting a perfect score on the SAT. Of course, the results were those of another student with the same last name, and Junior actually got an impossibly low score for misspelling his own name.
- Played with in Eureka where the 99% certain test that Zoe takes says she should be in engineering when she wants to be in medicine. The playing comes when she tries her hand at engineering and does okay, but decides she prefers medicine anyway.
- On The Steve Harvey Show Romeo is told that he did quite well on the SAT's and he starts to act and dress like a genius, frustrating the overachieving Lydia and alienating Bullethead in the process. Steve and Regina realize that it's all a mixup and Romeo (who is actually quite smart but doesn't really try) goes back to being his regular, dumb self.
- In the season finale of The Middle, Axl's score suggests that he's Brilliant, but Lazy, so Frankie and Mike try and push him harder. It turns out that some results were switched, but because of his hard work, Axl gets the best score he's ever gotten - a B minus.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy tested as an astronaut. August, not knowing he was an alien, laughed at how absurd this was: "Imagine you flying around in space!"
- In an episode of Step by Step, it is revealed that the people running the test (at least in this particular universe) determine the results by throwing darts at a dartboard covered with career choices.
- Chandler from Friends once, as an adult, quits his data processing job and takes a series of tests to determine what he should actually be doing with his life. The result he got back was "You are ideally suited for a career in data processing at a large multinational corporation."
- Pie in the Sky. Crabbe tries to engineer this by swapping his aptitude test with his Pointy-Haired Boss Fisher. It backfires because Crabbe's results lead to Fisher being praised (Fisher's actual test implied that he seek psychiatric help) causing Fisher to rethink his desire to leave the police force.
- Subverted in one Monty Python sketch. A man takes a series of tests to determine the best job for his personality, and they unanimously declare him to be a natural for chartered accountancy. Except he already is a chartered accountant, and desperately wants to do something else, like lion taming. Unfortunately, what he thinks of as lions are better known as anteaters...
- One episode of That's So Raven had an aptitude test with faulty results. In the end they find the real results were exactly what they wanted in the first place.
- On Adam Ruins Everything, Adam reveals that the Myers-Briggs test was invented by a mother-daughter duo with no experience in the hard sciences or in psychology (except for the armchair variety), Just for Fun. They did build somewhat on Carl Jung's personality types, but even he had said that humans could not be boxed neatly into those categories. People can even take the same test multiple times and get completely different results! It was meant to be a fun parlor game, but it's now used by schools and businesses to determine if candidates are a good "fit" for the school/company culture or position, dating sites, and such. He even brought in a psychologist who has basically devoted his career to explaining why the Myers-Briggs test is a bunch of hooey.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Arena, Daggerfall, and Morrowind all include one during character creation in which you answer a series of questions to determine your class. It's optional so you can choose a different class that the one that is recommended based on the quiz, or just skip it altogether and manually select/create a class. Daggerfall's is notable because it also determines your starting equipment. With the right answers, you can end up with a Disc-One Nuke. (Skipping it is ill-advised, as the game will randomly fill it out and you will likely end up with skills and equipment you have no intention of using.) Morrowind's is also notably justified - it is given to you at the Census & Excise Office at the start of the game, ostensibly because the test giver needs a character class for your release forms. (That said, more than a few questions are unintuitive and totally out-of-character...why does an immigration official need to know what you would do if someone stole your sweetroll?)
- Subverted in Skyrim. One character is about to ask all the questions when another cuts him off, noting that it's pointless since your character is scheduled for execution.
- During the prologue of Fallout 3, the player character takes a Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test (or G.O.A.T.) to determine what sort of job they would be best suited to (and which tag skills they should choose). The suggested job and suggested Tag Skill usually match up (like Marriage Counselor and Speech, or Pip-Boy Programmer and Science), but not always (like Pedicurist and Energy Weapons... um, they use lasers to remove bunions?). This is also one of the rare examples where the test is admitted to be useless. The teacher giving the test will openly change the results if you don't like them (or just skip the test altogether). Local bully and greaser Butch DeLorea gets the result "hairdresser". Hilariously, he actually resigns to this fate (though he calls himself a more manly-sounding "barber") and will later cut your hair on demand.
- Fallout: New Vegas starts with an elaborate personality test (complete with word association, personality, and Ink Blot Test questions) to help you get your bearings after being shot in the head - with about the same level of effectiveness as the previous game. This is Lamp Shaded mercilessly as well.
Vit-O-Matic Vigor Tester: Adjust your score, it ain't cheating!
Doc Mitchell: Well, that's all she wrote. I guess I'll let you look at the results - I ain't got nothin' to compare it to.
Doc Mitchell: Before you go, I've got a form for you to fill out - so I can get a sense of your medical history. It's just a formality. Ain't like you've got a family history of 'getting shot in the head'.
- In Space Quest V, lowly janitor-turned-cadet Roger Wilco takes one of these and ends up getting promoted directly to Captain, partly because he cheated off his neighbor and partly because rodents got into the testing machine. In a twist, he ends up finding himself in some of the situations described in the test, except the right answer in the game is one of the wrong test answers.
- In the fourth through sixth Ultima games, the player is asked a series of seven questions in regards to the virtues. The first virtue that is selected three times determines the player character's class. A player new to the games can easily answer the questions according to their own personality and end up with a class totally unsuited to their personal playing style — or, if their chosen virtue is Humility, accidentally sign up for the Self-Imposed Challenge.
- In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely gives one of these to the protagonist. It contains some bizarre questions, including his favorite sexual act. Justified by the experiment on the protagonist and his class.
- Aptitude Test uses this as its opening premise. In their universe, one of the options is "superhero." Hilarity Ensues.
- El Goonish Shive has a magical device capable of detecting magic power on humans, which happens to be as noisy as a vacuum cleaner. Tedd is actually an unusually powerful wizard, but when he was scanned as a baby, the noise scared him into raising his magic defenses, which turned out strong enough to counter the detection spell. Not only did the machine report him as a muggle, the psychological trauma ensured any subsequent detection attempt would cause the same instinctive reaction, and yield the same result.
- In Look to the West, the Combine under Alfarus enthusiastically embraces "vocational tests" for everyone. Unfortunately, the tests are entirely unfit for purpose, being a combination of personality quiz ("If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?") and phrenology. The results are either meaningless, or gamed by those with sufficient resources to do so.
- All Grown Up!, "Bad Aptitude": Chuckie Finster's test result is race car driver (Phil DeVille: "Aren't you the guy who thinks escalators go too fast?"), would-be filmmaker Tommy Pickles' result is businessman (Tommy: "I think we ALL know I'm an artist")... the latter, as well as a string of flops (so to speak), prompts Tommy to reconsider filmmaking altogether.
- The Weekenders, "Careers": Carver Descartes does not understand why he has gym teacher as his top choice (cue subverted Imagine Spot!), followed by a job in advertising, and dog trainer, as he's clearly inept at all of them. Meanwhile, Dumb Jock Lor MacQuarrie thinks she got physicist... turns out she misread the result and she has pro wrestler as her top choice. Tish also complains about hers saying she should be a librarian while acting exactly like a stereotypical librarian all episode. Tino is actually very happy with "announcer" (very apt for the show's narrator) until he realizes that he misunderstood what sort of announcer the test indicated (one for practical functions instead of entertainment). Unusually for the trope, their actual gym coach says they're just suggestions and can be flawed or overrated.
- Hey Arnold!, "The Aptitude Test": There's a mix-up where Book Dumb Harold and Genius Bruiser Helga get their tests mixed up, leading him to get the highest score since Olga Pataki (Helga's Parody Sue sister) while Helga gets assigned "woodsperson." Each begins to act in accordance with their assigned destinies, until Mr. Simmons figures out what actually happened. We do find out that Harold is Brilliant, but Lazy because he initially fudged the test but actually started studying and performing very well in school after the allegedly got a good result. This lead to Mr. Simmons telling Harold that despite the test results, he can be successful if he applies himself.
- Invader Zim: "Career Day": An aptitude test pairs Zim's lust for devastation with a job in the fast food industry and pairs Dib with a paranormal investigator for a day. The investigator promptly ignores massive evidence of Zim's extraterrestrial origins to hunt down cereal mascot Count Chocofang.
- Oddly for an example, this test is highly adept and works as foreshadowing. We later find out that Zim's brain-pack has been reprogrammed so that he is a fry-cook.
- The Simpsons: One episode featured the Career Aptitude Normalizing Test (CAN'T). The results had Bart, after getting "police officer" on his test, becoming a hall monitor and ally of Principal Skinner. Lisa, on the other hand, got "homemaker" and was told she'd never be a musician due to stubby fingers, resulting in her becoming a delinquent. Status Quo Is God hits when Lisa performs an expulsion-worthy offense (stealing all the teachers' guides) and Bart takes the bullet for her, with Skinner toning down the punishment in light of his recent service.
- Also the first-season episode "Bart The Genius", where Bart switches his IQ test answers with nerdy Martin's and gets transferred into a school for gifted children as a result. Martin's fate as a result of being switched with Bart's is not discussed (though a Deleted Scene had the school therapist advise his parents to have him take excessive special studies).
- Dexter's Laboratory, "Average Joe": Dexter is dejected after being rated "average" in an IQ test. During the rest of the episode, he tries (and fails) to be an "average" kid doing "average" stuff with "average" friends, with absurdly catastrophic results: he ends up running around in his old baby clothes because they're his only non-scientist outfit, he starts hanging out with a shiftless slacker and trying to use a mish-mash of Totally Radical slang, and he ends up getting caught during a game of Ding-Dong Ditch when he forgets to run away after ringing the doorbell of a crotchety old man. At the end of the show, Dexter's dad gets a phone call saying Dexter is a big freaking genius after all....and another from the old man saying that his pig has been found.
- An episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey had the main character — the only human attending a school full of animals — take a career aptitude test and become depressed when the results indicated his career would be "zoo animal"; the principal later reveals that the tests aren't graded and everyone is given the result of "zoo animal" as that's what they all want anyway.
- In "Doug's Career Anxiety," a testing mix-up by the vapid guidance counselor's computer puts Doug as CEO for the class project, and everyone else lands in similarly mismatched roles, until Doug gets fed up and decides to let everyone choose their own jobs.
- In Daria, artsy Jane is apparently perfectly suited to be an accountant...because she just answers "c" to every question to get the test over with. Daria's says that she should be a mortician, due to her low desire to work with (living) people; Quinn a neck model, which she's happy about; and Kevin a gas station attendant, which leads to him actually trying to apply himself and get a good job.
- In the Johnny Bravo episode "Johnny Get Your Tutu", Johnny fills out an aptitude test, but accidentally sends Susie's abstract picture instead and gets the result of "ballerina". At the end of the episode, it turns out that his actual result was "cracking rocks with his head".
- Pepper Ann had an episode surrounding it, while Pepper and Milo had no problem with their assignment, their Granola Girl friend Nicky ended up with the result "Butcher," with her screeching that she was a Vegetarian when she read the results. Cue a day of misery at the local butcher shop until the owner explained to her that those aptitude tests were bunk—apparently, he was supposed to be a violinist, which is Nicky's dream.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Sky-Hi I.Q.," efficiency expert I.B. Smartley has the Vulture Squadron take aptitude tests and finds Muttley to be the only pilot qualified to lead the squadron. (I.B. to the other three: "Have you ever thought of taking up plumbing?") At the conclusion, I.B. sheepishly admits he had Muttley's test mixed up with Dastardly's.
- Futurama - on being resurrected a thousand years later, Fry is excited at taking an aptitude test to discern what work he will be fit for and is initially excited at the possibilities. He is less than enchanted to discover he has been assigned "delivery boy," which is what he was in the past. Also, this future is semi-Dystopian and he's not allowed any other career. After an episode of rebellion, he discovers that he'll be delivering things in space and is happy to accept the job.
- In an episode of Little Lulu, Lulu takes an aptitude test and when her results come back, they say that she failed. Knowing that you can't fail an aptitude test, Lulu goes to where the tests are made to complain and discovers that their computer claimed that she does not exist. After screwing around with the computer's data (such as having the police computers label Iggy as a wanted criminal) the computer finally says that Lulu does exist and gives her test result: Computer technician.
- The villain Him makes The Powerpuff Girls take their SATs as one of the challenges he poses in "Him Diddle Riddle." Buttercup scores a 25, Blossom scores a 10 (much to her sheer anger), and Bubbles—whose test sheet was a pattern of a flower—scored a 1075. (Amy Rogers, the show's head writer, would sneak in info online prior to the episode's airing that Bubbles was the smartest of the three.)
- James Herriot was given one of these while in the RAF in World War II. The result indicated that he had an "outstanding mechanical aptitude". When he told the aptitude board that, in reality, even the thought of "wheels, pistons, cylinders, cogs" made his brain leak out of his ears, they were completely at a loss. And in any case, the fact a veterinary surgeon got called up in spite of being in a Reserved Occupation and was then sent to the Air Force as an enlisted man instead of something relevant to his training like taking care of pack animals in Burma counts as well. (The latter is of course what ended up happening to Tristan, who got a commission at the rank of Captain out of it to boot, much to Herriot's poorly-hidden annoyance.)