Aptitude Tests

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.

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.

Aptitude Tests

The secret to not being intimidated by tests? Preparation.

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.

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 an aptitude test. 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.

Negative marking

Many aptitude tests incorporate negative marking. 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.

Aptitude Tests: Preparation and Practice

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. To try out sample verbal and numerical tests, try JobTestPrep, which has hundreds of questions to practice, all very similar to the ones you will ultimately take.

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 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

  • 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 download this free ebook, which covers numerical, verbal, abstract and spatial reasoning tests, with practice questions included.

Further information

For further information on aptitude and psychometric tests, see:

To ask questions and get advice about aptitude tests, visit the WikiJob discussion forum.