For many employers, aptitude tests have meaning beyond the scores. Here's what you need to know.
This is a guest post by Shlomik Silbiger and Gal Jacobi of JobTestPrep.
Dictionary.com has the aptitude test definition as “any of various tests given to measure abilities, as manual dexterity, visual acuity, reasoning, or verbal comprehension, and used to assist in the selection of a career.”
For many jobs, aptitude tests are the first stage you will go through when applying (after submitting your resume). In the following article, we will shed some light on what they are, the most common types of aptitude test, and how to best prepare.
The 5 Most Common Types of Aptitude Tests
Depending on your industry and role, you may have to take one or more of the following kinds of test, each focused on specific skills:
- Cognitive Ability
- Reasoning Tests
- Critical Thinking
- Professional Tests
- Gamified Tests
Let’s go over each of these five types:
When the term “cognitive ability test” is used in the context of a psychometric assessment, it usually refers to a collection of 20-50 questions that demand very short response times. The questions encompass a wide array of questions in four main topics (numerical, verbal, deductive, and logical).
A very popular cognitive ability test is the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT), a general pre-employment aptitude test that measures problem-solving abilities, learning skills, and critical thinking. The CCAT contains 50 questions to be answered in 15 minutes. The test covers three main subjects: Verbal, Math and Logic, And Spatial Reasoning.
Reasoning tests are a common type of aptitude test used in job recruitment, mainly in finance and management. They are mainly used to measure your numerical, verbal, or logical thinking skills. This kind of test assesses your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret information quickly and accurately.
Compared with cognitive ability tests, reasoning tests are more complex, yet allow for more testing time.
The most widely used reasoning tests are provided with SHL, and include three main types of tests:
- Logical/Abstract tests, also known as inductive and deductive reasoning. These tests measure your ability to quickly identify patterns, logical rules, and data trends.
- Numerical tests include graphs and tables which challenge you to analyze and understand the data presented.
- Verbal tests are full of long reading passages, followed by questions that challenge your ability to examine the information and draw conclusions from it.
The critical thinking assessments usually aim at high-profile jobs such as legal professionals and managerial roles.
One of the trickiest and most challenging tests in this realm (and in the market in general) is the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA). The test is especially challenging due to its unique and counter-intuitive set of rules and its focus on critical thinking.
The Watson Glaser is usually timed and will allow you up to 30 minutes to complete all 40 questions.
Professional tests are position-oriented and measure proficiency in general job readiness skills. They are designed to determine whether you have the requisite level of skill required to effectively perform at a given job.
For example, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Screener Test will measure your skills in common object recognition, screening awareness, and customer service. The tests contain the famous Screener Object Recognition Test (or X-ray test), which asks test-takers to locate specific items in luggage, such as guns, bottles, drugs, shoes, or electronics.
Other examples of professional tests include accounting tests, maintenance knowledge tests, coding tasks, and more.
An exciting new way of measuring candidates’ capabilities integrates game design with reliable and informative psychometric principles. Assessment games offer an engaging experience while assessing your skillset and cognitive abilities.
A great example is the Procter & Gamble Interactive Assessment, also known as “Smart Predict.” This gamified assessment is broken into three parts: switch Challenge, grid Challenge, and digit Challenge. The 3 challenges measure abstract-logical reasoning, short-term memory, spatial orientation skills, and calculation ability.
The Biggest Aptitude Test Providers
95% of the time, your test will not be administered by your future employer but by a “test provider” – an external company conducting the assessment for the employer.
Here is a partial list of the most common test providers on the market today:
- Criteria (known for their CCAT test)
- IBM Kenexa
- Virtual Job Tryout
- Korn Ferry
- AON G.A.T.E
What Score Do You Need on Your Aptitude Test?
Answering that question greatly depends on the specific test you take and the position you applied for. That is because your score is compared to those of all other candidates for the same position.
For instance, the CCAT test requires a minimal score of 29/50 for a lawyer position, but only 20/50 to be considered for an administrative assistant position.
As a general rule, a score at the top 80% of candidates is usually the lowest threshold to move on in the hiring process.
Can You Actually Improve Your Score on an Aptitude Test?
Contrary to common misconception, you CAN improve your score on aptitude tests. However, there are several guidelines to consider to make this happen.
#1 Accurate Practice
Research has shown that improvement in cognitive ability tests is only possible if you perform tasks that are as close as possible to the ones you will be tested on.
Therefore, your practice should resemble the actual test in terms of question types as a bare minimum, and if the formatting and time constraints are also similar, that is also a major advantage.
#2 Focused Practice
Most employers do not allow candidates a whole lot of time to prepare for their aptitude test. Roughly 40% of candidates get less than three days of practice before their exam.
That is why it is absolutely crucial you must understand your weakest points, and the areas which require most practice before you start.
#3 Constant Practice
If you want to improve your score, you will need to practice A LOT. Combine two various practice methods to achieve the maximum effect:
- “Horizontal” practice – solving many questions of the same topic consecutively. This method will get you familiar with the standard techniques to solve test questions.
- “Vertical” practice – solving questions of various topics mixed together. This method is especially important in cognitive ability tests and will adapt you to the flexibility and mental agility required to meet the test’s rigorous time constraints.
Even though challenging and dreadful for most candidates, focused, accurate and constant practice can and WILL improve your score.
Here are over 20 free aptitude tests you can practice with.
Question of the article
Have you had to take a pre-employment aptitude test recently? Which type and how did it go? Tell us in the comments.
Bonus: Tips for Passing a Pre-Employment Test