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engineering tests

Engineering Tests

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engineering tests

If you are looking for an engineering role in any of a number of industries, the likelihood is that you will have to take psychometric tests as part of the application process.

Psychometric tests are used to help streamline applications and the process used in recruitment, by ensuring that candidates are qualified and have the necessary skills to succeed in the role.

What skills do engineers typically need?

As a rule, most engineering roles require at least a degree. This means that those who are looking to become a highly paid engineer need to be thinking about their choices in education first.

It is probably best to focus on maths and physics at A-Level, with the option of subjects like chemistry, further maths and design and technology helpful depending on your aim. However, a general engineering degree is a good start.

There are further qualifications that will set you in good stead for becoming a professional engineer, like a Masters or PhD, CEng (Chartered Engineer) or IEng (Incorporated Engineer).

For graduate schemes in organisations like BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, BP and Nestle, psychometric tests are used as part of the application process, and they test more than hard skills; there are also soft skills that are useful for those wishing to pursue a career in engineering. These include:

Computer science: knowledge of programming and confidence in modelling software

Stress management: dealing with pressure in a positive way



Ability to learn

Data and statistics: understanding of statistics and the ability to manipulate raw data



Attention to detail


There are a huge number of career paths for those who have the skills and qualifications to be an engineer, from chemical to mechanical, and aeronautical to civil.

What psychometric tests do engineering firms use to assess these skills?

Each engineering firm is likely to have a suite of aptitude tests that they rely on to help in the recruitment process. These might be produced by popular publishers or completely bespoke assessments - but they usually cover similar topics.

Psychometric tests are not necessarily assessments of your knowledge, but as an unbiased, objective way to measure skills and aptitudes for learning that suggest success in a particular role. Most psychometric tests are in a multiple-choice format.

As the skills needed for engineering are quite specific, you should expect to be tested on your mechanical knowledge, your mathematical ability, spatial awareness and your logical problem solving skills. These aptitudes are measured in the following tests:

While the publishers and content of the assessments might change depending on the employer, the core abilities that are being tested are the same - as is the way you should prepare and practice for them in order to be successful.

Mechanical reasoning tests

A mechanical reasoning test is designed to assess your basic understanding of the physics principles used in mechanics. As a rule, these use everyday objects and images to demonstrate a problem that needs knowledge of things like physical forces, electricity, magnetism, mass and area, the dynamics of air, water and other liquids, pulleys and levers.

For the employers, this test shows that the applicant has a basic (GCSE-level) understanding of physics and can apply that knowledge to reach a conclusion. The use of recognisable objects makes this assessment relatively simple, but the test conditions including a usually tight time frame to answer the questions is what makes these tests a problem.

Diagrammatic reasoning tests

Diagrammatic reasoning tests are also known as abstract reasoning tests, and require candidates to solve complex, image-based questions using logical deductions from the information provided. These assessments are about the specific skill of assessing and analysing the available information to problem solve and reach the right conclusion.

For employers, diagrammatic reasoning demonstrates logic and clarity from recognising patterns in images and recognising when something is missing or incorrect. This assessment is not usually difficult in content and the patterns are most often simple, but the challenge is recognising them quickly and applying them while under time pressure.

Spatial awareness tests

Spatial awareness tests may look visually similar to diagrammatic or abstract reasoning tests, but the assessment is not about logical deduction. Spatial awareness tests assess the way a candidate can mentally manipulate shapes in 2D and 3D space to visualise movement or changes. The shapes used are usually basic, even in 3D, and the difficulty comes mainly from the time pressure involved.

Spatial awareness, and the ability to visualise problems to find a solution, is an important skill that is valued by engineering companies. Although there is modelling software available, there will be times when an engineer needs to mentally manipulate parts in order to find a solution to a problem.

Numerical reasoning tests

In a numerical reasoning test, candidates are presented with a series of mathematical word problems that are based on graphs, tables and charts. To answer the problem, the candidate must read, analyse and understand the data provided and then perform the required calculation. The mathematical knowledge that is tested is not difficult, it is just basic operations like multiplication and addition as well as percentages and ratios.

Basic mathematical knowledge is an important part of the skill set for engineers, and numerical reasoning tests test more than a candidate’s ability to perform equations - it also demonstrates performance under pressure and the ability to make deliberate and considered calculations.

I’ve practiced hundreds of numerical questions and still have plenty more to try.
Ellen used Practice Aptitude Tests to prepare for her upcoming interview at HSBC. Start your success story

5 Key Tips for Engineering Tests

1) Get the Basics Right

Whether you have just completed a degree or further education, it is likely that it has been a while since you have refreshed your memory on some basic knowledge in science and maths in particular.

While the assessments are not aimed at those who have advanced scientific or mathematical knowledge, they do require a firm grasp of the fundamentals. If you know you are likely to be facing psychometric or aptitude tests, make sure you are comfortable with the basic principles of physics and completing basic maths operations (including percentages and ratios).

2) Practice

There are any number of publishers that provide tests for engineering recruitment, but many of them follow the same basic layout and principles.

Most psychometric tests are multiple choice under very tight time constraints. This means that if you have enough relevant practice you can perform at your best when it counts because you will feel comfortable and confident with the layout and how the test works.

There are lots of free and paid practice tests available online for all aptitude tests.

3) Focus on Your Weaknesses

It is not uncommon for even the very best engineers to have a weak area, and through your practice you are likely to discover questions on certain subjects that you are less confident about.

This is an excellent chance to really push and expand your knowledge so that you are not caught out by these harder questions in the assessments. Take the opportunity to learn new techniques to answer these questions and enhance your background knowledge where you can.

4) Make the Practice Real

When you apply for an engineering role and you know you will be facing certain assessments, it is a good idea to find out who the test publisher is so that you can practice their tests. This can be achieved either through speaking to the recruiter or by researching what other candidates have said - there might even be clues on the company website.

When you are completing practice tests, make sure you are doing it under test conditions so that you can get a feel for the pressure you will be under - especially in terms of time. In most cases, psychometric assessments ask a lot of questions in a very short timeframe.

Practicing on relevant tests, answering under test conditions and repeating this process is the best way to ensure your success when it counts.

5) Work Quickly - But Take Your Time

This might sound like a contradiction, but in many psychometric tests you will only have a matter of seconds to answer the questions. This means that you need to work quickly in order to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

However, this doesn’t mean you should guess, necessarily. Instead, take your time when you need to; but leave the harder questions until the end, and spend the time needed to answer the questions that you are more confident on.

You can find out some more tips on how to perform well in engineering tests here: Technical Aptitude Tests: 10 Tips For How To Pass Them.

Further Information for Specific Engineering Firms

IBM is arguably one of the most well-known employers in computing, programming and software engineering. Candidates are expected to take a cognitive ability test as part of the application process. Read more about IBM Assessments.

ARUP prefers situational judgement style tests for their engineers, and with projects like the Sydney Opera House and The Shard part of their portfolio, they are a sought-after employer in the engineering world. Read more about ARUP Assessments.

Rolls Royce is the, well, Rolls Royce of the engineering world - known as much for their aircraft engines as their cars. They recruit top level engineers through a robust assessment process. Read more about Rolls Royce Aptitude Tests.

Atkins is a well-known global engineering company that looks for the best in engineering graduates. There are several different psychometric tests in the application process. Read more about Atkins Assessments..

Applicants looking for a career at top engineering firm Schlumberger will have to face psychometric testing to ensure they have the aptitudes and skills to succeed. Read more about Schlumberger Assessments.

British brand Dyson and their staff are curious engineers at heart, and they have launched a whole range of innovative products, so they are looking for creative and dynamic engineers to bring their ideas to life. Read more about Dyson Assessments.

Balfour Beatty is a respected civil engineering company that have many contracts throughout the UK and beyond. There are a range of employment opportunities available in different sectors of their business, and candidates need to perform well in certain aptitude assessments. Read more about Balfour Beatty Assessments.

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