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The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)

The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)

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If you're vying for a mid to high-level job role where analytical thinking and problem-solving are essential skills, you may be asked to take the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test.

As far as psychometric tests go, it is one of the most difficult, yet pervasive ones US employers use in selecting suitable candidates.

What Is the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test?

Better known as the CCAT test, the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test is a type of cognitive assessment employers use within their candidate screening process.

Essentially, a CCAT exam evaluates a candidate's ability to digest and assess information, apply logic, learn new skills and solve problems.

Those who score highly on a CCAT assessment paper are more likely to quickly adapt to their new role and be higher performers than those with a low score.

In the US, the Cognitive aptitude test is one of the most popular pre-employment tests on the market.

As such, if you work in professional services or an engineering role, it's highly likely that you will sit the CCAT exam at some point in your career.

How Challenging Is the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test?

As hard as it is to hear, the answer is very challenging. This type of cognitive aptitude test is world-renowned for being a hard test to pass.

The reason for this is that it is incredibly quick-paced because it is testing for a candidate's raw ability to solve problems.

Therefore, you get just 15 minutes to answer 50 questions spanning spatial reasoning, logic, verbal reasoning and math.

In just under an hour, therefore, an employer will glean how able you are to make rational, logical decisions using information presented to you.

Often referred to as an On Demand Assessment, the CCAT assessment is a rapid-fire aptitude test. Putting it into context, you get just 18 seconds per question.

So, unless you're in the top 1% of candidates who answer every question, you should not necessarily expect to pass all 50.

Of course, the challenge is not just with timing. The actual questions are designed to be tricky too, and you'll be confronted with a host of complex verbal reasoning problems, number challenges and complex math CCAT exam tests.

What Does the CCAT Assess?

To understand what the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test assesses, it's useful to consider the different categories of questions, and these are:

  • Numerical reasoning (quickly analyzing charts and graphs)
  • Verbal reasoning by quickly reading and analyzing text
  • Logical reasoning by applying rules to problems
  • Number sequence recognition and recall
  • Deductive reasoning using one or more statements
  • Spatial reasoning and situational judgment

When you take a CCAT practice test, you'll notice that the questions start fairly easy. However, as you go further into the CCAT exam, the questions become trickier.

Ask anyone who has taken the Cognitive Aptitude Test, and they will tell you that the matrix completion, next in series, and syllogism questions are the most difficult.

If we take each one, in turn, the purpose behind their inclusion makes sense.

Matrix Completion

As far as spatial reasoning tests go, the Cognitive Aptitude Test matrix completion questions are tough going.

Presented as 3-by-3 matrices, you must identify the missing element out of five possible answers within seconds.

Although it sounds pretty simple, the answer very rarely is unless you so happen to be excellent at pattern recognition.

There is a very useful tip, though: there is no need to look for any diagonal pattern. Two of the rows will always be complete, and only the third has a missing part.

The sequential rule (the key to solving the answer) can either be found vertically or horizontally, as in the example below:

The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)
The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)

Using the example above, let's look at your elimination process in a Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test. You can eliminate answer C straight away since the empty spot is in the bottom left and not the top right like all the others.

Now, look at the placement of the diamonds.

Every row (horizontal) and column (vertical) has a diamond in the bottom left of a square. Therefore, you can discount answers D and E, leaving you with A and B to choose from.

In reviewing A and B, notice how A has a clover in the bottom right corner – you can eliminate this answer since the row already contains a square with a bottom right clover. Therefore, the answer in this CCAT test is B.


Created specifically by the makers of the Cognitive Aptitude Test to assess your process of deduction and critical thinking, syllogism questions are rather tricky.

Within the CCAT test, they appear as three statements, the first two of which are presumed to be accurate.

Based on your understanding of the true statements, you must then read the third statement and decide whether it is true, false, or uncertain based on the information available to you.

Remember, the principle behind this aspect of the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test is to determine how strong your deductive reasoning skills are.

Take the CCAT practice syllogism question below as an example:

  • All mammals are animals.
  • All elephants are mammals.
  • Therefore, all elephants are animals.

The answer is true. From the two sentences above, one can logically deduce that all elephants are animals.

Here's another example, this time with a false premise. Look out for the adjective used to describe the pets:

  • Cats make good pets.
  • Dogs and cats are equally good as pets.
  • Dogs make great pets.

The answer is false when you take a close look at the replacement of 'good' with 'great' in the last sentence.

Next In Series

As a sequential logical reasoning test, your task in this aspect of the Cognitive Aptitude Test is to select the missing part within a series of shapes or the next shape in the series.

Let's explore the CCAT test question below, typically seen in a CCAT practice exam. Your job is to select the next shape in the series from answers A to D.

The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)
The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)

In this case, the answer is C because the circle inside the shape rotates clockwise in each of the squares.

Of course, and as you would expect, the next in series Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test questions can be more complex than this, especially if you're vying for a job role that requires close attention to detail.

That's why it's a good idea to practice sequential-based aptitude tests ahead of your CCAT test.

How Is the CCAT Test Scored?

In most cases, the prospective employer will be sent a copy of your raw Cognitive Aptitude Test score and percentile ranking.

If you're unfamiliar with the term 'percentile ranking', this is a measure of how you perform against other people taking the same CCAT test.

So, you'll be given a percentile rank of between 1 and 99.

Best Online Guide to the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)
Best Online Guide to the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT)

So, if you scored a percentile rank of 78, you are considered to perform better than 78% of people who take the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test.

Your raw score is different. It is a straightforward score showing the number of questions you correctly answered.

If you're wondering, the average raw score (out of a possible 50) on the CCTA assessment is just 24.

However, most employers look for a score of 28 and above when shortlisting candidates and may even want to see a score in the 30s for highly skilled or more senior roles.

How to Prepare for the CCAT Exam

Practice Makes Perfect

Thankfully, there are a wide range of CCAT practice test papers to choose from.

Spending a few hours in the build-up to your CCAT exam on free CCAT practice test resources will help you familiarize your brain with the standard Cognitive Aptitude Test questions.

Practicing will also help you improve your speed and give you the confidence to simply skip a question when you're stuck.

Download the JobFlare App

Talking about practice, there's no better way to test your CCAT ability than with Criteria's JobFlare CCAT practice test app.

Created by the same company that makes the CCAT, JobFlare helps ready your brain for the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test through a series of games.

Completely free to download with no in-app costs, it's a great way for candidates to push themselves to reach a score of 30 and above.

Be Time Aware

This may seem like an obvious one, but poor time management alone can stop even the most capable person from performing well in the Cognitive Aptitude Test.

Remember, you have an average of 18 seconds per question, so it's a good idea to practice under real test conditions. However, it's worth remembering that employers will not be looking for who has answered the most questions.

They are more interested in the volume of CCAT test questions answered correctly.

If you feel you cannot answer a question, therefore, don't panic. Simply move on to the next one, but quickly.

Be Mindful of Your Strengths

Very few people are equally strong in the verbal and math aspects of the CCAT test. They'll usually lean one way or the other.

However, by the time you've spent a good couple of hours on the CCAT practice test, you'll know where your strengths are.

You can use this to your advantage by prioritizing the questions you can easily ace within the CCAT test. So, suppose you struggle with verbal reasoning but are excellent at the numerical aspects of the test.

In that case, it may be best to make an educated guess on those you find challenging and quickly whizz through the easier aspects of the CCAT assessment. After all, there's no penalty for having a wrong answer.

Tops Tips for the Day of Your CCAT Exam

It's finally the day of your Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test. You've spent hours practicing your answers and have a well-rehearsed method for completing the test.

So, what else must you consider to ensure you pip other candidates to the post with your score?

Here are a few things that are worth remembering:

Always Read the Instructions

This is more of a tip for on the day of your CCAT test. Make sure you spend time carefully reading the CCAT assessment instructions as it will not count towards your 15-minute CCAT exam time. In fact, it may just help you calm your nerves and order your thoughts too!

Make Sure You’re Well-rested

A good night's sleep ahead of taking the CCAT text will make a world of difference.

While it might be tempting, try not to cram in lots of CCAT practice test runs the evening before; otherwise, you might overload your mind with too much information. The clearer your head, the better you'll perform.

Answer the First Few Questions Quicker

The first lot of questions within the Cognitive Aptitude Test are easier than the rest.

Therefore, you'll want to quickly whizz through these while still being mindful of accuracy.

Essentially, this will buy you more time to answer the trickier questions later in the CCAT Assessment.

Watch What You Eat and Drink

How you fuel your body for those 15-minutes can make all the difference.

Try and have a nutritious slow energy release breakfast or lunch an hour before you sit the CCAT exam.

Also, remember to stay hydrated, taking a bottle of water into the exam with you, if permitted.

Stay Calm

Being a little nervous is fine. After all, we all need a small amount of adrenaline to perform well.

However, if anxiety is an issue for you, you could try finger tapping or a spot of mindfulness or meditation in the hour leading up to the test.

Frequently Asked Questions

The CCAT test is designed to test cognitive abilities, including logic, math and verbal reasoning. It has some similarities to an IQ test, but it is not the same.

The CCAT Test includes 50 questions, which must be answered within a maximum of 15 minutes. Many candidates are unable to answer all of the questions, and the average CCAT Test score is 24.

To prepare for a CCAT test, a prospect should dedicate time to completing a range of different practice tests.

The questions are not especially difficult to answer, but answering the questions within a limited time frame can be challenging for many candidates.

Be mindful that the questions at the beginning of the test are fairly easy, but they usually become more difficult as you move through the assessment. You should aim to complete around five separate full-length practice tests under exam conditions.

Employers administer a CCAT test to screen candidates. The CCAT assessment tests a candidate’s ability to absorb and assess information, work logically, adopt new skills and solve problems.

A candidate who scores highly on the CCAT test can be expected to settle quickly into a new job role. They can also be expected to perform better in the workplace than those with a low score on the CCAT test.

The CCAT is particularly popular with employers hiring for roles in engineering and professional services.

The CCAT test is a popular choice for employers who want to screen candidates as part of the employee hiring process.

Many employers use the CCAT to find out more about a candidate’s cognitive ability and approach to solving problems.

Candidates with a high CCAT score tend to settle into their new role quickly and perform well in the workplace. The CCAT Test remains relevant today because it helps employers to select the best candidate for each job role.

CCAT test pass marks are set by the employing organization. This means that the threshold is different between employers.

Test results include raw scores and percentile scores. The average raw score is 24. To be within the top 20% of candidates, you will need to achieve a raw score of at least 30. The most important data in a CCAT Test result will differ according to the priorities of the job role you have applied for.

The most important part of preparing for a CCAT test is completing plenty of practice test papers.

By spending a few hours working through these, you will become familiar with the questions included in the CCAT test. You will also improve your time management, allowing you to work through the test more quickly.

Analyze your practice test results to identify your strengths and weaknesses, spending additional time on the areas that you find most difficult.

Practice reading the test instructions thoroughly, and prioritize eating well and getting a good night’s sleep in the days leading up to the actual test.

Final Thoughts

While scoring highly on the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test is important, it is seldom used on its own to make hiring decisions.

Employers will also analyze the experience outlined on your resume, relevant academic success, and how you faired in other pre-screening activities. After all, even the very highest scorers can have an off day!

The best thing you can do is have a strategy that plays to your unique strengths as an individual and put in the hours on those CCAT practice tests!

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