What is an Aptitude Test?
An aptitude test is a systematic means of testing a job candidate's abilities to perform specific tasks and react to a range of different situations. The tests each have a standardised method of administration and scoring, with the results quantified and compared with all other test takers. No prior knowledge is assumed, as the tests seek to determine innate ability at a particular competency.
The secret to not being intimidated by tests? Preparation.
How are Aptitude Tests Administered?
Aptitude tests are increasingly administered online - most often after a candidate has made their initial job application - and are used to filter unsuitable applicants out of the selection process, without the need for time-consuming one-to-one job interviews.
Employers use aptitude tests from a variety of providers - such as SHL, Talent Q and Cubiks - alongside general interview advice, application forms, assessment centres, academic results and other selection methods. No test is perfect, but all aim to give an indication of how candidates will respond to the challenges they will face in their day-to-day role at a firm.
The tests can be taken online or at a testing centre, such as a firm's offices, where they are usually paper-based. Often a firm may ask you to complete both types of test, to confirm you did not cheat during the initial unsupervised online test.
Who are the Different Test Providers?
There are numerous organisations that produce aptitude tests, including:
- SHL. An international company operating in over 50 countries, providing tests in over 30 languages.
- Kenexa. An IBM company providing recruitment services to organisations in a variety of industries.
- Cubiks. An international HR consultancy that provides psychometric tests and runs assessment centres for employers.
- Talent Q. An organisation owned by Hay Group, which provides assessments whereby a single test can be used to measure a number of different aptitudes.
- Saville. A provider of aptitude packages that test powers of analysis, comprehension and technical ability.
What are the Different Types of Aptitude Test?
These are the most common types of aptitude test that you will encounter:
- Numerical reasoning tests. These tests require you to answer questions based on statistics, figures and charts.
- Verbal reasoning tests. A means of assessing your verbal logic and capacity to quickly digest information from passages of text.
- Intray exercises. A business-related scenario that assesses how well you can prioritise tasks.
- Diagrammatic tests. Tests that measure your logical reasoning, usually under strict time conditions.
- Situational judgement tests. Psychological tests that assess your judgement in resolving work-based problems.
- Inductive reasoning tests. Tests that identify how well a candidate can see the underlying logic in patterns, rather than words or numbers.
- Cognitive ability tests. A measurement of general intelligence, covering many categories of aptitude test.
- Mechanical reasoning tests. These assess your ability to apply mechanical or engineering principles to problems; they are often used for technical roles.
- Watson Glaser tests. Designed to assess a candidate's ability to critically consider arguments; often used by law firms.
- Abstract reasoning tests. Another name for inductive reasoning tests.
- Spatial awareness tests. These tests assess your capacity to mentally manipulate images, and are often used in applications for jobs in design, engineering and architecture.
- Error checking tests. An unusual type of aptitude test that focuses on your ability to identify errors in complex data sets.
Take a Free Practice Numerical, Verbal and Diagrammatic Test
If you would like to practise simulation numerical, verbal and diagrammatic reasoning tests, please try the ones below, which were created by WikiJob in association with psychometric experts, and which are closely modelled on real tests.
The numerical test consists of 10 questions to be answered in 10 minutes, while the diagrammatic and verbal tests consist of 5/10 questions to be answered in 5 minutes (although there is no timer on the test itself). Our tests are slightly harder than the real thing, in order to make them sufficiently challenging practice. Don't forget to first check out the test tips and techniques mentioned further down this page.
You can take the tests as many times as you like. Click the 'Take test' link below on either to get started.
Test Structure for Aptitude Tests
Tests are timed and are typically multiple choice. It is not uncommon for some available answers to be deliberately misleading, so you must take care as you work through. Some tests escalate in difficulty as they progress. Typically these tests are not designed to be finished by candidates.
Scores and Marking
Your score relates your performance to an average group. Your aptitude, ability or intelligence has a relative value to this average result.
Typically, an 'average' performance is all that is required to pass an aptitude test. Most employers take people's backgrounds into consideration for marking. For example, maths graduates will have an unfair advantage over arts graduates on a numerical test. Consequently, most employers use these tests as only part of the assessment process.
Many aptitude tests incorporate negative marking. This means that for every answer you give incorrectly, a mark will be deducted from your total (rather than scoring no mark). If this is the case, you will normally be told beforehand. In any test that does incorporate negative marking, you must not guess answers, even if you are under extreme time pressure, as you will undo your chances of passing.
What exactly is an aptitude test and how should you approach one? Find out more in this short video.
Aptitude Tests: Preparation and Practice
Practice in Advance
Evidence suggests that some practice of similar aptitude tests may improve your performance in the real tests. Practice exam technique and try to become more familiar with the types of test you may face by completing practice questions. Even basic word and number puzzles may help you become used to the comprehension and arithmetic aspects of some tests.
WikiJob recommends practising aptitude tests prior to the real assessment. JobTestPrep offers a wide range of professionally constructed psychometric questions, written in the same style as PSL and SHL tests (the tests most graduate employers use to assess candidates). The questions are structured in a professional format, just like the real thing.
Aptitude tests can also be practised with similar providers such as Graduate Monkey and AssessmentDay.
Preparation Before the Test
Treat aptitude tests like an interview: get a good night's sleep, plan your journey to the test site, and arrive on time and appropriately dressed. Listen to the instructions you are given and follow them precisely.
Before the actual aptitude test itself, you will almost certainly be given practice examples to try. Make sure you ask questions if anything is unclear at this stage. You will normally be given some paper on which to make rough workings. Often you can be asked to hand these in with the test, but typically they do not form part of the assessment.
Taking the Test
You should work quickly and accurately through the test. Don’t get stuck on any particular question: should you have any problems, return to it at the end of the test. You should divide your time per question as accurately as you can - typically this will be between 50 and 90 seconds per question.
Remember that the tests are difficult and often you will not be expected to answer all the questions. Be particularly cautious if the aptitude test uses negative marking; if this is not the case, answer as many questions as possible in the time given. Remember that multiple-choice options are often designed to mislead you, with incorrect choices including common mistakes that candidates make.
Tips For Success
These five tips are well worth remembering before you take an aptitude test for real:
- Treat the test like you would any other exam.
- Work swiftly and accurately through any test.
- Work out the maximum time you can spend on any question and stick to it religiously. You can return to questions at the end. Never get stuck on any particular question, even if you think you nearly have it.
- If you are going to an assessment centre, take a calculator you understand with you. If you do not, you will be forced to use whatever they might provide you with.
- Answer as many questions as possible in the time given. But be wary of negative marking.
WikiJob recommends taking practice reasoning tests for better performance during the examination. Our partner JobTestPrep has copious sample tests to try, until you have really mastered this type of assessment. You may also want to look at this psychometric workbook, which covers numerical, verbal and spatial reasoning tests, with hundreds of practice questions.
Other Useful Articles on WikiJob
You may also like to read:
- How to prepare for SHL tests. A general primer.
- What is a psychometric test?. All the info you'll need on psychometric testing.
- What is the UKCAT?. Who will need to take the UKCAT test and how it's structured.
- What is an In-Tray test?. How to approach this type of exercise, and tips for success.
- What are your weaknesses?. How to gauge where your weaknesses lie.
To ask questions and get advice about aptitude tests, visit the WikiJob discussion forum.
Do you need more practice?
WikiJob recommends using JobTestPrep's mock aptitude test packages to help you pass: