Business support is one of the most important areas in any organisation. Administrative and clerical teams allow a business to operate efficiently. Consequently, the staff who work in these departments must be highly skilled.
To verify the suitability of candidates, an employer may use what is known as a clerical aptitude test.
- Who Uses Them?
- What Work Skills They Test
- What Personality Traits They Test
- What Specific Aptitudes Are Tested?
- Format and Scoring
- How and Where to Prepare
- 10 Tips for Success
- Final Thoughts
- Further Reading
Who Uses Them?
Many employers use clerical aptitude tests to screen potential employees because the skills they assess are applicable in a variety of roles. Clerical team members are employed in industries including corporate settings, education, manufacturing and medicine; clerical aptitude is beneficial in many business areas, such as marketing, finance, operations and logistics.
What Work Skills They Test
Clerical duties can vary from taking messages and diary management to more complex tasks such as managing an inventory, supervising others and managing customer data. Irrespective of the seniority of the role, there are some qualities that are important for all administrative staff.
Clerical aptitude tests will mainly assess the following work-based skills:
- Accuracy and speed – Clerical roles can be fast-paced and demanding. Secretaries, business support professionals and administrative assistants need to demonstrate that they can work to deadlines, without compromising on the quality or accuracy of their work.
- Efficiency – The workload of an employee in a clerical capacity can be busy and varied, often involving multiple tasks. Employees need to work efficiently to ensure that they can progress through their work and meet deadlines.
- Time management – Being able to manage time effectively is of utmost importance. A clerical assistant may have a variety of deadlines and competing priorities. Being able to multitask and maximise productivity is a key skill that will be assessed during the aptitude test.
- Organisation – Good organisation is not only about managing your time effectively; employers will be looking for candidates with the ability to prioritise their tasks to optimise their productivity. Good organisation will be key in certain clerical roles if, for example, you are responsible for arranging meetings or events.
- Motivation – Being able to use your own initiative and work independently is very important in clerical roles. Exercising the discipline to complete your allocated tasks with skill and accuracy is also vital.
What Personality Traits They Test
Demonstrating a strong aptitude for clerical work is much more than simply being well organised and efficient. There are certain personality traits that employers assess during a clerical aptitude test. These include:
- People skills – Clerical staff are expected to deal with a variety of people including colleagues, senior managers and clients. Demonstrating a polite, friendly and approachable demeanour is important, since the way you communicate will affect perception of the business. Being able to communicate effectively with a variety of people and build lasting professional relationships is an important skill for any professional working in an administrative capacity.
- Collaborative – As a clerical worker you will be expected to work well in a team environment. This could be supporting a team with an event, helping the finance team prepare the end of year accounts or assisting with the reorganisation of a filing system. Demonstrating a helpful and amenable attitude is very important for employers.
- Discretion – Clerical workers often have access to highly confidential information. An employer must be able to trust you to exercise discretion and handle confidential information in an appropriate way.
What Specific Aptitudes Are Tested?
Assessing clerical skills will include an evaluation of several aptitudes, among them:
- Numerical reasoning. Depending on the nature of your role, you may be asked to assist with financial information. In this instance, recruiters will be looking at your mathematical skills to see how well you can work with statistical information.
- Verbal reasoning. A key skill in your work as a clerical assistant will be reading and synthesising written information. You should also be able to write a well structured document with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- Document management. Being efficient and organised is an important skill and this may be assessed using an in-tray (or e-tray) exercise. Although most document management is now electronic, you may still have to manage paper-based recording systems. The test may also assess your ability to organise documents in a logical manner.
Format and Scoring
A clerical aptitude test typically lasts 30 to 35 minutes and contains a total of six sections, each of which will assess the following areas:
- Alphabetic and numerical filing – This test consists of 20 questions and you will have 7 minutes to complete it. It assesses your ability to file documents alphabetically and numerically.
- Attention to detail – A 3-minute test that examines your ability to work accurately under pressure.
- Data checking – A 5-minute test which asks you to cross-reference numerical data.
- Concentration – A 2-minute test in which you will be asked to read and evaluate a simple sentence and then answer a question based on what you have read. To achieve a good score on this section you will need to work very quickly and accurately.
- Verbal skills – In 10 minutes, you will have to complete a total of 30 questions covering grammar, spelling and vocabulary.
- Numerical skills – A 5-minute test which assesses basic mathematical skills such as percentages, addition, subtraction and multiplication.
A combined score of 70% or more is considered acceptable.
How and Where to Prepare
The best way to prepare for an aptitude test is to sit as many practice tests as you can before the day. If you feel there are certain clerical skills that you are lacking, now is the time to improve them.
10 Tips for Success
Succeeding at the clerical aptitude test requires commitment, practice and dedication. Here are some top tips to help you succeed:
- Prepare – As with any aptitude test, practice helps you to perfect your technique and improve your weaker areas. With the clerical aptitude test, specifically the error checking element of the test, you should familiarise yourself with the questions first and understand how the test is constructed. The more familiar you are with the types of questions, the more you can work on your speed and accuracy.
- Read the instructions – This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many people fail to do this. Before you begin the test, make sure you read through the instructions carefully. Never assume anything, even if you are confident that you have completed lots of practice tests. The instructions in your real test may be different from those that you are used to.
- Be thorough – Part of the clerical aptitude test involves checking for discrepancies or errors. As you evaluate the content in the test, make sure that you carefully review each piece of information that you have been given.
- Speed is everything – The clerical aptitude test is designed to assess your ability to work through tasks quickly and effectively; as part of your practice tests, you should focus on improving the speed at which you progress through each of the questions.
- Don’t waste time – If you get stuck on a question, move on. You can always return to the question if you have time at the end.
- Don’t guess – Some candidates go through the test and simply guess the right answer to save time. This could be a costly mistake. Take time to answer each of the questions and be as accurate as possible in your responses.
- Work on efficiency – To perform well during an aptitude test you must learn to be efficient. This means that you need to develop the ability to recognise how long you should be spending on each question before moving on. Only through practice will you start to recognise when you are taking too long on a question.
- Remain calm – The best way to succeed in an aptitude test is to remain focused and calm throughout. You will never pass an aptitude test if you are stressed and panicked; this will only reduce your level of concentration.
- Remove distractions – Most aptitude tests are now completed online, so you might be asked to complete the test on your own computer, particularly if it is early in the selection process. If you do complete the test at home, make sure that you are in the right environment and you won’t be distracted.
- Get a good night's sleep– You'll do better if you're well rested.
The clerical aptitude test aims to assess your knowledge, skills and personality to see whether you are a good fit for an organisation. The test can be used at any stage in the recruitment process and in a variety of disciplines.
As with all aptitude tests, be prepared and practice as much as you can to increase your chances of success.
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