Aptitude Tests: Uncovered and Explained in Our Big Fat Guide
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Aptitude refers to a person's natural ability to do or understand something. For example, 'She has an aptitude for numbers'.
An aptitude test measures your understanding of a thing and your ability to learn.
They are used worldwide and most commonly in job recruitment and educational program enrolment.
Depending on the industry or role, you may be asked to take one or more tests focused on skill sets such as:
- Numerical skills
- Personality traits
- Verbal reasoning
- Abstract reasoning
On average, a single job posting receives 250 applicants.
As it is not possible to interview this many people, aptitude tests are used by companies to identify the best candidates by:
- Finding your strengths, such as leadership, decision making and creativity
- Assessing if you have the basic skills essential for the role
- Identifying behavior patterns for future training and potential promotions
- Gathering more information about who you are as a person and how you respond to situations
- Confirming that your values align with those of the company
Some aptitude tests are much harder than others. This is so the best candidates are hired for the role.
However, those that take the time to research and practice aptitude tests will find them easier.
This in itself is a sort of test. Those candidates most interested in the job will dedicate time to learning everything they can to ensure they pass. Those not as interested will not.
Below is a list of the most common aptitude tests. However, hundreds of different tests are available depending on the location and industry you are applying for.
Numerical reasoning tests assess how quickly and accurately you deal with numbers.
Those applying for management or finance roles may be asked to take a high-level test designed to challenge you.
Those applying for customer service, clerical or public service work will take a simpler numerical reasoning test to assess basic mathematics skills.
Depending on the role, they typically cover:
- Number sequences
- Currency conversion
- Data interpretation
- Financial analysis
The chart above shows the percent of people that took various transport options to JFK. If the total number of passengers in 2018 was 61.6 million, how many passengers were dropped off?
The correct answer is: c)
Verbal reasoning tests assess your comprehension skills.
They are essential for roles that require careful reading, writing and analysis of information.
Such roles include any management position, law and economics.
If A and B are true, is C also true?
a) Lucy has a black cat
b) All black cats are mean
c) Lucy's cat is kind
The correct answer is: c) is false – as all black cats are mean and Lucy has a black cat, then her cat is mean, not kind.
Abstract reasoning tests assess your ability to recognize patterns, usually in shapes and images.
This skill is a requirement for most technology and engineering roles. But as abstract reasoning demonstrates critical thinking, some employees may also choose to run the test for management roles.
During the test, you will need to identify patterns in a series of images within a short time limit.
Looking at the images below, click the picture that comes next in the sequence.
The correct answer is: b) The arrow is moving anticlockwise.
Inductive reasoning tests assess:
- Overall intelligence
- Ability to learn
- Ability to apply new information
They are taken by candidates in all industries and at all levels.
This test is similar to abstract reasoning in that it asks you to identify the most logical pattern from a series of diagrams.
Which of the following shapes belongs in the sequence?
The correct answer is: c) The shapes are all rotating in a clockwise direction.
Spatial awareness tests assess how well you can mentally manipulate shapes.
This skill is essential for roles such as:
- Graphic design
- Computer programmer
- Air traffic controller
When all the shapes are joined together with their corresponding edges – what will it look like?
The correct answer is: a)
Mechanical reasoning tests assess your knowledge of mechanical principles and how to apply them.
A more complex version will be given to those applying for engineering positions, while a simpler version is given to tradesmen.
The mechanical reasoning test is one of the most difficult. Many candidates are unable to finish all the questions within the allocated time.
Depending on your trade, your test will either focus on:
Which of the following sets of magnets will attract each other?
a) Pairs 1 and 3
b) Pair 2
c) Pair 2 and 3
d) All of them
The correct answer is: a) – opposites attract
E-tray tests are a modern version of an in-tray simulation. It assesses:
- Decision making and prioritization
- Customer focus
- Analytical thinking
They are common in the UK, particularly with managerial roles in the Civil Service.
Test takers will be given information bundles consisting of memos, newspaper clippings, emails, employee and organizational information, and letters.
The assessment is to work through the questions using this material as you would a typical working day.
The questions will focus around:
- Dealing with customer complaints
- Answering emails
- Delegating to your team
Not as common as some other aptitude tests, error checking tests assess how accurately and quickly you can find mistakes in texts, passages or sequences.
They are common in secretarial and clerical roles.
Are there any errors in the following transposed sequences?
The correct answer is:
Situational Judgement tests (SJT) measure how you approach and respond to common workplace scenarios.
The skills assessed are:
- Commercial awareness
They are used in various industries and primarily for graduate roles or roles where the applicants' experience and academic results are similar.
During your first month post-probation, you have been working extremely hard on a challenging but exciting project.
One of your colleagues is working just as well as you, if not harder.
Your third colleague, one of the manager's nephews, is barely doing anything. The work that he does contribute is full of errors.
At the end of the week, your manager wants an update on the project and for you each to deliver feedback to one another.
What is your response?
a) Talk about how exciting the project is, but there have been some challenges – detail how you overcame those challenges and that the team is working well.
b) Be honest – there were some obstacles along the way, but the project will be completed on time. For the feedback, mention that one of your colleagues is not pulling his weight, and the input he does have is way off. It may be a risk as he is related to a manager, but he is putting your reputation and work quality on the line.
c) Talk to your manager quietly before the end of the week about your concerns – mention that your colleague isn't doing his share, but you don't want to call him out in case you get punished.
The correct answer is: There are no right or wrong answers as it is a personal response.
Personality tests are probably the most common aptitude test.
They are incredibly complex and measure:
- Approach to situations
- Emotional state
- Potential future responses
The Myers-Briggs Test is the most popular, with most other tests following their formula and theory.
Though the tests vary slightly, the format is a series of statements that you have to agree or disagree with to some degree.
For the following statements, decide if you agree or disagree:
a) It is better to follow the rules than be carefree
b) I often lose my temper quickly
c) I always finish what I start
d) Sometimes the rules should be bent
Typically, aptitude tests are taken online through a dedicated portal or site. A majority can be taken in any location, but some companies may ask you to attend an assessment center.
For example, those taking the mechanical reasoning test may sit the initial test at home but later be invited to an assessment center to verify their result.
As the tests are computer-based, they are mostly multiple-choice.
Aptitude tests take between 10 and 30 minutes to finish, with around 30 questions to complete.
Personality tests usually have many more questions, between 100 and 200 and a 10-minute time limit, so you don't think too hard about the answer.
You may also have to sit multiple tests at the same time or within a time frame.
Generally speaking, there is no pass or fail score in aptitude tests.
They are scored by adding together your correct answers and placing you in a percentile group.
These groups are usually the candidates also applying for the same role as you but can also be candidates from across the country or anyone who has taken the test.
The higher you place in that percentile, the greater your chance of getting the role.
Employees only want those candidates from the top percentile.
Scoring aptitude tests can get complicated, especially when the test takes speed into consideration, as you are scored higher the quicker you answer.
Some tests also use computer adaptive testing, which generates questions based on your skill level. Those with higher knowledge will score more simply because they are answering harder questions.
Some aptitude tests also use negative scoring, which is when you are deducted a point for every wrong answer.
SHL are the number one provider of aptitude tests. It is used by over 75% of FTSE 500 companies and half of the Fortune Global 500.
The aptitude test range includes:
- Numerical reasoning
- Deductive reasoning
- Inductive reasoning
- Verbal reasoning
- General ability
- Mechanical reasoning
- Reading comprehension
- Personality and behavior
- Personnel test battery
Talent-Q was founded by Rodger Holdsworth, co-founder of SHL.
The Talent-Q Elements test is believed to be one of the most challenging sets of aptitude tests on the market.
The Talent-Q Aspects test is much easier and measures:
- Checking (error checking test)
The Talent-Q Personality test is used predominantly for executive roles.
Cut-e tests are short and assess specific skill sets. They are taken by over 30 million candidates each year and are used by companies such as Deloitte, Jury's Inn and Siemens.
They offer tests in:
- Numerical reasoning
- Verbal reasoning
- Mechanical reasoning
- Inductive logic
- Deductive logic
Saville was founded by another SHL co-founder, Professor Peter Saville.
The Saville tests are similar to SHL and are used by Dyson, Johnson and Johnson, and Jaguar Land Rover.
The tests available are:
- Numerical aptitude
- Verbal aptitude
- Diagrammatic aptitude
- Mechanical aptitude
- Abstract reasoning
- Spatial reasoning
- Error checking
- Workplace English
Thomas International has run for over 30 years and partnered with 32,000 companies. It is published in 56 languages and used in 60 countries.
Each test assesses a combination of skills from emotional intelligence to spatial visualization and approach to risk.
The tests are:
Know which tests you are taking – Each test provider has its own method and way of testing. Knowing which one you are taking will help you find the right practice questions.
Practice free aptitude tests – There are many free test sites online, and the more you practice, the easier you find them. This will also help you become familiar with the question format and time limits.
Practice under timed conditions – Time moves quickly in a test. Practicing under timed conditions will help you see how much time you have for each question.
Use study guides – Some of the tests, particularly mechanical reasoning, are very technical and may require additional research. Investing in a study guide will ensure you don't miss out on any subject areas.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses – Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you see which areas you need to focus on.
Create a routine or study plan – You may want to spend a couple of weeks practicing the tests you need to take. Creating and sticking to your study will ensure that you have revised all the subject areas and done all the research you need.
Develop aptitude skills – Dedicate time in your everyday life to developing basic mathematics, reading, writing and self-awareness skills.
The more you do this, the easier these tests will be and the better you will perform.
Dedicate enough time to each question – From the practice questions, you will know how much time you need for each question. During the exam, apply this knowledge so you don't miss any questions.
Use test-taking strategies – The most common is the process of elimination. If the answer is not apparent, then eliminate those that are definitely not. With the remaining options, select the one that makes the most sense.
Listen/read the instructions carefully – Be clear on what they are asking. Some questions may ask you to select multiple answers. In personality tests, some questions ask you to select one statement you agree with and one you do not. Others ask you to rate every statement. Double-check you have understood the instructions before submitting.
Treat tests like exams – Ensure you are well-rested, hydrated and nourished.
Understand the company and the role – The tests indicate if you are a good fit for the company. Research the role expectations and company values to help you direct your answers.
Don't lie – The system that scores your SJT and personality tests can tell when you lie because your answers will not be consistent. Use the company values and job description to help guide you, but if you do not have that skill, do not pretend you do.
Use calming techniques if you have anxiety – This includes exercising and eating healthy daily, taking advantage of any breaks and monitoring/controlling your breathing.
Taking aptitude tests can be stressful, especially if you don't know what to expect.
On some occasions, you will also be expected to take multiple tests simultaneously, which can add to the stress.
Take the time to prepare, learn everything you can about the test and practice as much as possible.
Finally, remember that you applied to that job because you believe you have what it takes. These tests are your first chance to prove that.