Aptitude tests are short tests which employers use to assess whether a candidate has the level of competency necessary for success in the role: do they have the skills necessary to do the job.
Broadly speaking there are three types of aptitude tests:
- Verbal reasoning tests which assess your ability to understand and interpret written information.
- Numerical reasoning tests which assess your ability to understand and use numbers.
- Inductive reasoning tests (also known as spatial or abstract reasoning tests) which assess your ability to see patterns in data and work flexibly with unfamiliar information.
What to Expect From Your Aptitude Test
Aptitude tests are typically quite short, often less than 15 minutes long, and are usually completed online.
Tests generally have challenging time limits and often increase in difficulty throughout the test. This is to put the candidate under pressure and try to understand what their maximum level of performance is.
Typically tests present the candidate with some information and ask them to use this information to answer a question, usually providing a number of possible answers.
The more questions the candidate answers correctly within the time limit the better their score will be.
How aptitude tests are assessed
Aptitude test are norm referenced. This means that your performance on the test will be compared to a ‘norm group’.
A norm group is a group of people with similar characteristics to the candidate, a group of graduate trainees for example.
Your score will be compared to the scores of the people in the norm group and this will allow the assessor to understand your performance relative to theirs.
Usually a candidate’s score is expressed as a percentile, this tells the assessor what percentage of the norm group their performance surpassed (i.e. if a candidate score on the 75th percentile they have performed better than 75% of the norm group).
Sometimes this percentile score is ascribed a grade.
To be successful the candidate must achieve a level of performance that exceeds a stated minimum.
How Aptitude Tests Are Used
Aptitude tests are often used as part of a screening process for a job.
This means that they are used to quickly identify candidates who do not have the verbal/numerical/inductive competence necessary for success in the role and remove them from the process.
As such they are usually presented early on within a selection process and a candidate must achieve a defined level of performance in order to proceed through to the next level of assessment, an interview for example.
As aptitude tests are often conducted online they are open to cheating (the assessor cannot be certain who completed the test) and selection processes usually require a candidate to re-sit a test in person later on to validate their performance.
How to Prepare for an Aptitude Test
Aptitude tests are designed to be challenging and to ensure that you do as well as you possibly can there really is no substitute for practice.
Ensure that you take the time to familiarise yourself with the sorts of questions that are on the tests, and ideally take a few practice tests. This will give you a feel for what is involved and help you identify whether there are any areas you need to work on.
Numerical reasoning tests, for example, often benefit from a refresher of basic maths techniques.
Make sure that you are giving yourself the best possible chance for success for finding the right environment for your test; somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed.
Work quickly but accurately and ensure you take a few seconds to double check you’ve understood the question and that you’ve actually selected the answer you had in mind.