Cognitive Function Test (Free Guide 2023)
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- What Happens During A Cognitive Test?
- How Do Cognitive Function Tests Work?
- Why Do Employers Use Cognitive Function Tests?
- Types of Cognitive Function Test
- How to Prepare for a Cognitive Function Test in 2023
- Cognitive Function Test Day: Tips for Approaching the Test Itself
- A Brief History of Cognitive Function Tests
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Cognitive ability tests, such as the Wonderlic test, Revelian tests and Predictive Index tests, have become a screening tool and a crucial part of many companies’ recruitment processes. They are a form of psychometric test designed to measure intelligence through logic, reasoning and problem-solving exercises.
This article will provide a broad overview of what cognitive ability tests are, how they are structured and how to prepare for them.
During a cognitive test, you will typically be presented with a series of questions or tasks designed to assess your cognitive abilities.
Here's what generally happens during a cognitive test:
Introduction and Instructions: The test administrator or the test platform will provide an introduction to the test and give you instructions on how to proceed. They may explain the format, time limits and any specific rules or guidelines you need to follow.
Question Presentation: The questions or tasks will be presented to you one at a time. They may be presented in written form, on a computer screen, or through audio recordings, depending on the test format.
Answering the Questions: You will need to read each question or task carefully and provide your response. The format of the response may vary, such as selecting an answer choice, typing in a numerical answer or choosing from multiple options.
Time Constraints: Cognitive tests often have time limits for completing the questions or sections. It's important to manage your time effectively to complete as many questions as possible within the given time frame.
Variety of Cognitive Abilities: Cognitive tests typically cover a range of cognitive abilities, such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, abstract reasoning, logical reasoning, spatial reasoning, memory, attention and problem-solving. The questions may be designed to assess different aspects of these cognitive abilities.
Multiple-Choice Format: Many cognitive tests use a multiple-choice format, where you need to select the correct answer from a set of options. It's important to read all the answer choices and choose the one that best fits the question or task.
Adaptive Testing (if applicable): In some cases, cognitive tests may employ adaptive testing. This means that the difficulty level of the questions is adjusted based on your previous responses. If you answer a question correctly, the subsequent question may be more challenging, while an incorrect answer may result in an easier question.
Test Completion: Once you have completed all the questions or reached the end of the test, the test will be concluded. You may receive a summary of your performance or feedback on your cognitive abilities, depending on the purpose of the test.
The classic cognitive ability test uses the following types of questions:
Numerical reasoning questions test your ability to understand, analyze and apply numerical and statistical data. You'll need to calculate percentages, fill out missing numerical data or work out the next number in a series.
Verbal reasoning questions test your ability to understand written information and use critical analysis. Classic questions will require you to read a passage then state whether statements about the passage are ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘cannot say’.
Abstract reasoning questions test your ability to work with abstract ideas and concepts. Questions often include visual diagrams, which you must use to identify missing information or complete a sequence.
Spatial awareness questions test your ability to work with patterns and shapes. Common questions include mentally rearranging shapes to make new ones, or visualizing patterns and images when they are rotated or flipped.
Mechanical reasoning questions test your ability to use basic principles of mechanics, such as working with cogs, levers, springs and pulleys.
Most tests can be completed using a computer. Typically the test will be made up of multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty for cognitive screening; the results will present an accurate profile of your intellectual capabilities.
Usually, cognitive ability tests will have a time limit for completion. Some will require you to complete all the questions; others will ask that you complete as many questions as possible in the time allowed.
You should always familiarize yourself with how your particular test will be timed during your preparation. Be aware that the length of time it takes you to complete the test may be taken into account in your results.
Psychologists tout cognitive ability tests as being an excellent assesment tool and predictor of a prospective employee’s future performance at work. The tests measure abilities such as:
- Comprehending concepts
- Abstract thinking
- Planning and organization
- Learning quickly from experience
- Adapting to unknown situations
- Applying new knowledge
Demonstrating a high cognitive ability indicates that a candidate is good at adapting to new work environments, making intelligent decisions and learning new skills quickly – essential skills for excelling at a new job.
Candidates with higher test scores tend to be more productive and require less training than their lower-scoring counterparts. This can equate to significant financial benefits for the employer.
For these reasons, cognitive ability tests are a crucial and sometimes deciding factor in many employers' recruitment processes.
If you're planning to take the CCAT cognitive test, check out this video from JobTestPrep for some helpful tips.
Employers source their cognitive ability tests from a variety of test providers depending on their individual needs. Here are some of the test providers and the companies which use them:
The Wonderlic test assesses job candidates' aptitudes using a mixture of logic and puzzle recognition, fact recognition, word problems and verbal reasoning questions.
There are two versions of the test:
- The Wonderlic Personnel Test: 50 multiple-choice questionnaire with a time limit of 12 minutes.
- The Wonderlic Personnel Test – QuickTest: 30 multiple-choice questions with a time limit of 8 minutes.
Some companies known to use Wonderlic are:
- MENSA International
- Gulf Coast Commercial Group
- Apple Chevrolet
The Predictive Index Cognitive Assessment tests skills such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and pattern recognition. It comprises 50 questions to be answered in 12 minutes.
Companies that use Predictive Index tests include:
SHL is one of the leading providers of employment aptitude tests. Each SHL test is designed to assess one particular competency.
The test is usually conducted in two stages. First, the candidate completes the test online. Then, if the candidate is invited to an assessment day, they will be asked to complete another shorter version of the test to verify their answers.
Types of SHL test include:
Verbal Reasoning Test – 30 questions to be answered in 19 minutes, or 18 questions in 11 minutes, at an assessment day.
Numerical Reasoning Test – 18 questions to be answered in 25 minutes, or 10 questions in 15 minutes, at an assessment day.
Inductive Reasoning Test – 24 questions in 25 minutes; designed to evaluate your logic skills.
Deductive Reasoning Test – 20 questions to be completed in 18 minutes. Requires you to use logic to come to conclusions, identify errors in information, and evaluate arguments.
Companies that use SHL tests include:
- Philip Morris
- Gannett Company
- Ford Motor
If you need to prepare for a number of different employment tests and want to outsmart the competition, choose a Premium Membership from JobTestPrep.
You will get access to three PrepPacks of your choice, from a database that covers all the major test providers and employers and tailored profession packs.
Revelian tests are taken by over 200,000 people worldwide and are the most popular psychometric test taken by graduate jobseekers in Australia.
Revelian has identified various characteristics typical of candidates with the cognitive ability required to succeed at work, and has developed aptitude tests in the following areas:
- Cognitive ability
- Verbal reasoning
- Numerical reasoning
- Abstract reasoning
Companies that use Revelian tests include:
- Medina Hotels
Many job candidates believe there's no benefit in preparing for cognitive ability tests. Some think their intelligence will speak for itself; others think that, since the questions are random and cannot be predicted, it's not possible to prepare.
In fact, you can (and should) prepare for cognitive ability tests by familiarizing yourself with:
- The structure of the test.
- The time frame in which you need to complete the test.
- The types of questions that will come up.
The more familiar you are with the overall format of the test, the more time you can spend focusing on answering the questions during the time limit.
There are also countless cognitive ability sample questions and tests you can access online to prepare for the test to achieve the correct answers. Although the questions won't be the same as on the real test, practising similar styles of questions and timing yourself is the best way you can prepare.
You can also find practice tests on sites such as Job Test Prep.
As most practice tests aren’t timed, set yourself a timer of one minute per question to ensure your practice reflects true test conditions as closely as possible.
Get a full night’s sleep the night before your test and eat a good breakfast to ensure you are in top condition and to avoid cognitive decline.
Drink plenty of water and don’t forget to take water to the test (if it’s being conducted under controlled conditions).
Work out the maximum time you can spend on each question (for example, one minute per question).
Take a stopwatch to time yourself and ensure you’re not spending too long on each question.
If you’re taking the test online, have a notepad or piece of scrap paper and a pen ready for the problems you can’t work out in your head.
Read every question twice and try not to answer too quickly. This is particularly important in verbal reasoning tests – look out for negatives, double-negatives or other modifying words, which could trip you up if you skim over them.
Don’t apply outside knowledge to the questions – all the information you need to work out the answer logically will be in the question.
Cognitive ability tests began to develop at the end of the 19th century as a way to measure ‘general mental ability’. Initially, such tests were highly inaccurate, leading to psychologists developing standardized methods of qualitatively scoring intelligence and comparing test results.
For example, psychologist William Stern coined the term ‘Intelligence Quotient’ in 1912, as a means of finding the difference between a child’s mental age and their chronological age.
In 1904, psychologist Charles Spearman recognized that individuals who demonstrated the ability to complete one task, such as identifying patterns, would also do well at other tasks, such as solving arithmetic problems. Spearman theorized that individuals possess a ‘general mental ability’ similar to intelligence. Thus, the concept of a test to assess cognitive ability began to develop.
Since the groundbreaking work of psychologists such as Spearman and Stern, cognitive ability tests have become common recruitment tools across multiple industries, from the military to sales and everything in between.
In the United States, around 43% of all companies now use psychometric tests like cognitive assessments to measure a job candidate’s suitability, and the figure is 70% for FTSE 100 companies.
It is therefore highly likely that you will be asked to take a cognitive ability test by a prospective employer.
A cognitive ability test is a type of psychometric test that measures intelligence through reasoning, logic and problem-solving activities.
Many employers use cognitive ability tests as part of the recruitment screening process. There are many different providers of cognitive ability tests; these include Revelian, Predictive Index and Wonderlic.
Cognitive ability tests are available from a range of different test providers, including Revelian, Predictive Index and Wonderlic.
Cognitive tests are designed to assess a candidate’s skills in areas such as numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning and spatial awareness.
Cognitive ability refers to the skills that your brain needs to learn, think, read, remember, reason and pay attention.
Cognitive ability includes sustained attention, selective attention, divided attention, short and long-term memory, logic, reasoning, auditory processing, visual processing, and processing speed.
A cognitive ability test is not about learning or schooling, and there is no previous knowledge needed to answer the questions.
These types of tests are about your general intelligence, your mental ability, and the way you think, instead.
Questions in a typical cognitive abilities test are based on the way you think about:
- Attention to detail
- Verbal and mathematical ability
Through questions on these subjects, test takers can demonstrate that they are capable of abstract thinking and understanding complex concepts.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, a gifted student could fail a cognitive ability test for several reasons. These baseline reasons include:
- Overthinking – Taking too long to answer
- Showing off – Looking for the clever answer rather than focusing on the right answer
- Overconfidence – Not really trying because the student thinks the test is ‘too easy’
- Unmotivated – Not really concerned about performing well or making the required grade
- Perfectionism – A similar problem to overthinking, causing too much time to answer.
- Specific giftedness – Only being above average in a certain subject or area
- Too stressed – Anxiety can make a student underperform
According to several psychological studies, a diagnosis of ADHD can have a negative effect on cognitive ability, and on the results of cognitive ability tests.
Various testing accommodations can be used to help a student with a diagnosis of ADHD to be able to perform in a cognitive abilities test, including things like extra time, a proctor reading the questions aloud, or each item presented separately at paced intervals – all of which can be discussed with the test center.
All cognitive ability tests are different, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of passing.
Finding out the publisher is a good way to learn more about what to expect from the format of the test.
When taking a cognitive ability test, time management is important, so if you’re not sure of an answer then it is best to move on to the next question.
It is a good idea to work out how long you can afford to spend on each question, as this will help you to manage your time effectively on the day of the test.
Preparation and practice are key. Try to spend the same amount of time (or more) on the areas of the test you find most difficult.
Scoring systems vary across the different cognitive ability tests. It is important to find out which scoring system is used for the test you have been asked to take.
Employers may set score thresholds according to the job they are recruiting for.
If you are taking the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT), your score will be worked out using your raw score, which is the number of questions answered correctly.
Your raw score is used to calculate your percentile score – this helps the employer to compare your performance with other test-takers in your norm group.
When taking the CCAT, you will need to score within the top 20% of test-takers. This translates to a raw score of around 31.
The 8 cognitive skills are: remaining focused for a sustained period, remaining focused despite distractions or interruptions, effective multitasking, retaining information in the short-term, retaining information in the long-term, reasoning, visual/auditory processing, and processing speed.
There are hundreds of free online resources that have practice cognitive abilities tests available.
The most reliable and effective way to practice tests is to know what publisher has produced the test that you will be taking so that you can practice those specifically.
You can usually find practice tests on the publisher websites or look for test aggregation sites that have dupe tests based on the structure of the assessments.
Bear in mind that free sites might have limited practice tests available, but if you want to get the best results you can look for publisher-specific test prep packs which include revision tips and scoring for the practice tests.
One of the most important tools for pre-employment cognitive ability tests is effective practice.
There are lots of resources online, including practice tests. When you are revising and practicing, make sure that you work to the time limit and under exam conditions.
Take your time when answering the questions – even though you are answering under time constraints, rushing could mean missing simple answers. Make sure you read the instructions too, so you know how to answer correctly.
Most cognitive ability tests have multiple-choice answers, and this should help you to be able to narrow down the possibilities. In many cases, tests are not negatively marked, so you have nothing to lose by making an educated guess if you don’t know the answer – a one in five chance is better than no chance at all for getting a mark.
On the test day itself make sure that you are well-rested, hydrated and eat well to give yourself (and your brain) the best chance to perform.
The length of time it takes to complete a cognitive ability test depends on the publisher that has produced it, but most tests will last less than half an hour.
The time it takes to know if you have passed or not depends on the recruitment team. Some recruiters will just let you know if you have passed or failed, whereas others will produce a report based on your scores that can help you improve in the future and understand where your strengths lie.
An IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test is one way to assess general mental ability rather than specific learned knowledge or skills and is a type of cognitive ability test.
There are so many ways to assess mental performance, and all could be considered cognitive ability tests, including what is recognized as an IQ test.
One of the popular publishers of a cognitive ability test is the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Test, which consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 12 minutes.
This test has had many iterations since it was introduced in 1939 and has been popularised via use in recruiting for the NFL.
Today, Wonderlic tests tend to be taken online through a cloud-based version called WonScore, and there are four types of questions including spatial reasoning, speed, word problems and verbal comprehension.
Practice cognitive ability tests can be found online for free, although it is worth bearing in mind that there might not be many variations between them.
If you know the publisher of the assessment that you will be taking, you can often find free tests on their website, which is a reliable source of information about what you will be facing.
Other sites might have free tests based on the same structure, type of questions and answering procedure of the specific publisher assessment.
If you want to get more tests and some revision help, then cognitive ability test prep packs are available, along with paid test packs. These will usually offer more (and different) tests so you have more opportunities for meaningful practice, rather than memorizing the answers after multiple tries on the same test.
Cognitive testing, also known as cognitive assessment or cognitive ability testing, serves several important purposes.
Here are some reasons why cognitive testing may be beneficial:
- Employment and Selection
- Academic Placement
- Personal Development
- Rehabilitation and Therapy
- Research and Diagnosis
- Educational and Career Guidance
Overall, cognitive testing provides valuable insights into an individual's cognitive abilities, helping in various areas of life, including employment, education, personal development and healthcare.
It serves as an objective measure to assess cognitive skills and can guide decision-making processes in a range of contexts.
Some final tips to bear in mind:
Ask prospective employers what cognitive ability tests they require as part of their application processes, so you can get a head start on preparation.
Practice, practice, practice. Replicate true test conditions by timing your tests.
Check whether you will be allowed to take notes during your test. If not, practice answering sample questions using just your memory and mental ability.
Don’t spend too long on each question, as this can affect your overall score.
Finally, try these helpful practice tests to help you get a feel for the real thing.