COPAS (Cognitive & Potential Assessment)

The COPAS was developed as a result of a well-defined set of needs and guidelines during the eighties and early nineties at consecutive national psychometric workshops of the then Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) and of the associated Institute of Municipal Personnel Practitioners (IMPP) for the establishment of a cognitive measuring instrument that would serve the needs of South African economic, business and work community well. Perhaps the most significant ‘moment’ in the COPAS existence was the Planning and Development (P&D) thereof by especially the IMPP-Task Team. The P&D took place over three successive meetings of the Task Team who formulated the following guidelines the instrument had to adhere to in its basic design, purpose and practical applications:

  • Measures a variety of cognitive elements/abilities:
    • Concept formation,
    • Mental alertness,
    • Logical thinking,
    • Original thinking,
    • Spatial relations,
    • Insight,
    • Problem solving
  • Has wide application, covering the entire range of the literate population
  • Has no, or a very low, cultural loading.
  • Has a minimum of reliance on language, only in instructions, but none during the ‘doing’ of the test itself.
  • Render a quick/immediate ‘score’.

The above initiated a project involving various sub-teams from many disciplines and sectors in the economy and countries working together over a period of nearly four years to develop the Cognitive & Potential Assessment (COPAS). The basic process was completed during 1998 and it was decided to call the resulting instrument the COPAS to distinguish it from earlier releases thereof that was used for experimental purposes.

The COPAS was developed in accordance to the above guidelines with the purpose to measure the testee’s cognitive function in a comprehensive way. It consists of symbolic test-items and measures the candidate’s Current Mental Ability, Potential to Develop and Eventual Cognitive Capacity if optimal opportunity and stimulation for cognitive growth are available.

In addition to the above, the COPAS provide a profile of the six most important Cognitive Constructs, e.g. analytical, original and figurative thinking in problem solving in practice. It also provides a measure of accuracy with which the testee completed the test with and applies his cognitive capacity in practice. The COPAS is quick and easy to perform and takes approximately 40 minutes to one hour to complete – depending on the areas the user wants to measure. The user is provided with a variety of options as to what cognitive information he wants to be printed out to serve his needs best.


  • The Standard COPAS can be used at a grade 6 schooling level.
  • The COPAS Version II can be used at the grade 4 schooling level.
  • If a difference of bigger than 0.5 is found between the Current Mental Ability and the Mental Alertness Scale, the test-results must be considered invalid.
  • The most important scale generated by the COPAS is the Current Mental Ability.
  • The COPAS must be interpreted by a registered psychologist.
  • If a candidate must be evaluated within a period of six months after completing the Main COPAS, the candidate in question must be submitted to the Alternative COPAS.