A Beginner’s Guide to Aptitude Tests

By Anna Whitehouse on 02-11-2017
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Over 75% of the Times top 100 companies in the UK use aptitude tests as part of their recruitment process.

If you’re facing one for the first time, read on, as we guide you through the three types of test you’re most likely to encounter.

Why are they so popular?

Aptitude tests enable employers to evaluate how well a candidate will perform the tasks needed for a particular role. They also assess applicants’ ability to work under pressure, often allowing as little as 30 seconds to answer each question.

Because these are standardised tests, you’ll need to achieve a certain score to pass and no previous knowledge is assumed. This places everyone on a level playing field, so employers can compare candidates accurately and objectively.

You’re most likely to come across aptitude tests early on in the recruitment process. Administered under exam conditions, some employers use them pre-interview while others include them as part of a first interview.

Numerical reasoning

These tests are aimed at discovering how quickly and accurately you deal with numbers. Tasks will probably include interpreting charts and graphs as well as demonstrating your understanding of rates, trends, ratios, percentages and currency conversions. Some of the questions you encounter will involve several steps.

When you’re tackling numerical reasoning tests, make sure that you understand each question before you begin looking at any data. Also, be aware that some of the data may include information designed to distract you or trip you up.

On the day of the test you’ll be working quickly, so it’s worth taking a calculator you’re familiar with. Just make sure the screen’s big enough for you to see the numbers without squinting!

Verbal reasoning

As well as assessing spelling and grammar, these tests focus on your ability to analyse written information. You’ll be expected to read short passages of text and answer multiple choice questions about the content.

Our top tip? Don’t make any assumptions when choosing your answers! The passages are often written in a very complex way in order to challenge your ability to evaluate arguments and create conclusions. You’ll only have about a minute to complete each question.


It’s worth brushing up on your ability to absorb information before you take a verbal reasoning test. Try reading a few in depth articles and attempt to pick out the main points. If your test’s taking place online, you should also practise reading text on a computer screen so that it doesn’t slow you down on the day.

Abstract reasoning tests

Are you good at spotting patterns? Then you should do well in an abstract reasoning test. These tests also assess your ability to learn new things quickly by asking you to identify a set of rules and apply them to a new situation.

You’ll often be presented with a series of pictures that follows a sequence. These could feature shapes, patterns or numbers and you’ll be challenged to choose the picture that completes the series.

If you’re applying for a job in IT, science or engineering, you’ll probably encounter an abstract reasoning test, as most jobs in these fields require employees to work their way through complex conceptual problems in a methodical way.

To prepare for this type of test, we suggest getting to grips with logical puzzles and working on your ability to manipulate shapes.

How to prepare

There are at least 5000 aptitude tests on the market, so make it a priority to check which type of test you’ll be sitting and who the provider is. You should be able to find out from your confirmation letter or e-mail. Once you know, it’s worth contacting the provider to request a sample of the kind of questions you’ll be facing.

You can also access free practise tests online. Making the most of these will help to increase your speed and accuracy when it comes to the real thing.

On the day of the test, always accept the offer to try some familiarisation questions. Bear in mind that aptitude tests don’t always list questions in order of difficulty, so if you can’t do a question, come back to it later. To manage your time efficiently, work out how long you have to work out each question and do your best to stick to it.

Aptitude tests can play a key role in the selection process, but your potential employer will be looking at more than just your test results when deciding whether to hire you. So while it’s important to practise those verbal reasoning questions, don’t forget to prepare equally well for your interview. Good luck!

Anna Whitehouse writes for Inspiring Interns, which help career starters and interns succeed in the workplace. To browse their graduate jobs, including mobile jobs, visit their website.

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