Aptitude Tests - Introduction
Aptitude and ability tests are designed to assess your logical reasoning or thinking performance. They consist of multiple choice questions and are administered under exam conditions. They are strictly timed and a typical test might allow 30 minutes for 30 or so questions. Your test result will be compared to that of a control group so that judgments can be made about your abilities.
You may be asked to answer the questions either on paper or online. The advantages of online testing include immediate availability of results and the fact that the test can be taken at employment agency premises or even at home. This makes online testing particularly suitable for initial screening as it is obviously very cost-effective.
Aptitude and ability tests can be classified as speed tests or power tests. In speed tests the questions are relatively straightforward and the test is concerned with how many questions you can answer correctly in the allotted time. Speed tests tend to be used in selection at the administrative and clerical level. A power test on the other hand will present a smaller number of more complex questions. Power tests tend to be used more at the professional or managerial level.
There are at least 5000 aptitude and ability tests on the market. Some of them contain only one type of question (for example, verbal ability, numeric reasoning ability etc) while others are made up of different types of question.
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First Things First
The first thing to do is to determine which type of questions you are going to be asked. Don't waste time practicing questions that won't appear in the actual test. Types of question can be classified as follows:
Verbal Ability - Includes spelling, grammar, ability to understand analogies and follow detailed written instructions. These questions appear in most general aptitude tests because employers usually want to know how well you can communicate.
Numeric Ability - Includes basic arithmetic, number sequences and simple mathematics. In management level tests you will often be presented with charts and graphs that need to be interpreted. These questions appear in most general aptitude tests because employers usually want some indication of your ability to use numbers even if this is not a major part of the job.
Abstract Reasoning - Measures your ability to identify the underlying logic of a pattern and then determine the solution. Because abstract reasoning ability is believed to be the best indicator of fluid intelligence and your ability to learn new things quickly these questions appear in most general aptitude tests.
Spatial Ability - Measures your ability to manipulate shapes in two dimensions or to visualize three-dimensional objects presented as two-dimensional pictures. These questions not usually found in general aptitude tests unless the job specifically requires good spatial skills.
Mechanical Reasoning - Designed to assess your knowledge of physical and mechanical principles. Mechanical reasoning questions are used to select for a wide range of jobs including the military (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), police forces, fire services, as well as many craft, technical and engineering occupations.
Fault Diagnosis - These tests are used to select technical personnel who need to be able to find and repair faults in electronic and mechanical systems. As modern equipment of all types becomes more dependent on electronic control systems (and arguably more complex) the ability to approach problems logically in order to find the cause of the fault is increasingly important.
Data Checking - Measure how quickly and accurately errors can be detected in data and are used to select candidates for clerical and data input jobs.
Work Sample – Involves a sample of the work that you will be expected do. These types of test can be very broad ranging. They may involve exercises using a word processor or spreadsheet if the job is administrative or they may include giving a presentation or in-tray exercises if the job is management or supervisory level.
Don't Waste Time
Spend your preparation time wisely. Most people find themselves with only one or two weeks to prepare for aptitude tests - don't worry, this is enough time provided that you are systematic.
You must find out what type of questions you are going to face even if this means asking.
Use the information on this website to get an idea of the different types of questions.
Download and look at a sample paper for each type of question you are expecting to face.
Go through one paper of each type and see how you get on.
Decide on a practice strategy.
Practice one paper a day right up until the actual test.
If in Doubt - Ask!
If you are unsure what types of question to expect then ask the human resources people at the organization you are applying to. This will not count against you in any way and they should be only too happy to tell you. You have a right to prepare yourself for any tests you are asked to sit.
Don't Make Assumptions
Try not make any assumptions. For example, many people assume that they won't have any problems with verbal ability questions because they once got an 'A' in English. They may have a point if they got the 'A' a few months ago, but what if it was ten years ago? It is very easy to ignore the effects of not reading as much as you used to, and of letting your spell-checker take care of correcting your written English.
The same thing applies to numerical ability. Most people who have been out of education for more than a few years will have forgotten how to multiply fractions and calculate volumes. While it is easy to dismiss these as 'first grade' or elementary maths, most people simply don't do these things on a day-to-day basis. So, don't assume anything - it's better to know for sure.
Deciding on a Practice Strategy
You should make your own decision about which types of question to practice. You could either concentrate on your weakest area or you could try to elevate your score across all areas. Whichever strategy you choose - keep practicing. Because of the way that aptitude tests are marked, even small improvements to your raw score will have a big influence on your chances of getting the job.
You may also be interested in: Aptitude Tests Introduction, Question Types & Scoring, The Difference between Speed & Power Tests, Verbal Ability Tests, Numerical Ability Tests, Abstract Reasoning Tests, Spatial Ability Tests, Mechanical Aptitude Tests, Data Checking Tests, Work Sample Tests, Interpreting Aptitude Test Results, Different Types of Scoring Systems, Standard Scores, Percentiles & Norming and Using the Results to Make Selection Decisions.