Cognitive Ability Test

Cognitive ability is a generic term describing the process and results of information processing (perception, conceptualization, problem solving, etc.); the term is frequently used in psychological assessment as a synonym for 'intelligence'.

The cognitive ability questions used in psychometric tests can take a variety of forms depending on the type of reasoning ability that the employer thinks is important. Most psychometric tests are made up of questions which can be categorised as either: numerical, verbal, abstract, spatial or mechanical in nature. Some general psychometric tests contain questions of different types in the same test whereas others may be specific. For example a verbal reasoning ability test will only contain questions designed to measure your ability to understand and interpret information presented in words.

If you are faced with a psychometric test as part of the job selection process, then the first step you need to take is to ask the employer what type of test or tests you are going to be given. You should be given this information as a matter of course and you should also be provided with some sample questions. These will give you a good indication of the type of questions you will have to answer on the day of the test, but it is very unlikely that you will be given enough sample questions to enable you to do any worthwhile practice.

In case you are wondering whether practicing for psychometric tests makes any difference, the answer is a very definite ‘yes’. This is because most aptitude tests have relatively few questions, and the job candidates tend to obtain similar scores.

To illustrate this point, consider a typical aptitude test consisting of 50 questions. Most of the candidates, who are a fairly similar group in terms of their educational background and achievements, will score around 40. Some will score a few less and some a few more. It is very unlikely that any of them will score less than 35 or more than 45. This means that ten marks separates the lowest and the highest scores.

BUT, and this is the important bit, the scores will not be evenly distributed. They will cluster around the average, as shown in the diagram.

psychometric Test Examples

The percentile score refers to the percentage of candidates with a lower mark. For example 40% of candidates scored less than 39 marks and 60% of candidates scored less than 41 marks. If a someone is described as being at the 70th percentile then that means 70% of the other candidates obtained a lower score. Or to look at it another way, that person is in the ‘top’ 30% of people who took the test.

Your score will often be compared to the other candidates on this basis. In other words, if you scored 40 marks you will be at the 50th percentile and if you scored 43 marks you will be at the 90th percentile. Just three marks will be the difference between being seen as an average candidate (50th percentile) and an outstanding candidate (90th percentile).

That is why practicing the relevant questions is crucial to your success.

Once you know what type of questions you will be asked, you can download the relevant cognitive ability test from this website. The benefits of taking some of these tests under realistic conditions will enable you to practice answering these types of questions and will enable you to give your best in cognitive ability tests.

You may also be interested in: An Introduction to Psychometric Tests, Personality Questionnaires and Aptitude Tests.


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