In a competitive job market, aptitude testing can be a great way for employers to identify candidates who hold the skills necessary to perform well in certain tasks. Many organisations use them, and not just at graduate level, as they can be a hugely effective way of cutting candidate numbers down or looking beyond the contents of a CV to see where someone’s innate skill set lies.
It should be stressed that these aren’t personality tests – that is something altogether different, and something more concerned with having the right attitudes and qualities to thrive in a certain role or organisation (although these may be tested too). With aptitude tests, employers will select they ‘type’ of skill that they recognise as being important to the role they are recruiting for, and assess it accordingly, either as an online pre-assessment (often used with a strict ‘pass/fail’ mark) or perhaps as part of a wider assessment day to be considered alongside other candidate information.
The types of tests used are varied (and expanding) but some of the more often-used aptitude tests are listed below with a brief description on what they MAY involve.
This is a very commonly used assessment type which checks the candidate’s ability to understand, analyse and interpret written information. Often these exercises are based around passages of text, each with a number of related questions (usually multi-choice). Candidates may be asked to prove their understanding of certain words or phrases by identifying alternative ways of saying the same thing or they may be used to check a candidate’s logical thinking skills by asking them to identify whether certain statements related to the text are true, untrue or whether not enough information has been given to answer with certainty.
Contrary to popular belief, this in not purely about mathematical ability. Numerical reasoning tests a candidate’s ability to draw information accurately using figures, numbers and statistical information, often using tables or graphs. Questions may be based around number sequences or may be variations of traditional sums, requiring knowledge of percentages or fractions, for example. It may ask you to consider a graph and answer some questions based upon the information that it presents. Perhaps more than any other assessment, it is advisable to spend some time in advance brushing up on basic mathematical techniques.
These are used to assess a candidate’s ability to work out new concepts and abstract ideas based upon no prior knowledge. The tests typically present questions in the form of diagrams where a number of rules apply. The candidate is required to identify the underlying patterns and rules that exist in order to determine the correct answer. Abstract/diagrammatic tests are frequently used for individuals applying for specialist jobs such as engineering or technology, and are also very popular within the banking industry.
This type of testing looks at a candidates visual and perceptual ability. Essentially it focuses on the skills needed to mentally manipulate or rotate 3D objects and shapes. This skill that has very practical significance in some scientific areas, like chemistry and engineering, or in areas such as architecture, as it predicts the ability to work with complex plans.
How can I prepare for these tests?
While it is often claimed, due to the innateness of the skills that these tests are assessing, that practice is not a requirement, it is certainly a sensible preparation strategy, particular for candidates who may be out of practice with the concept of working under strictly timed conditions. Fortunately, along with a number of companies who provide test materials at a cost, there are a number of free resources available on the internet. Candidates should be advised to check out the following organisations and websites:
If you are a current HE student, don’t forget to also check out your own university’s careers service to see what support they offer with aptitude testing.