What are general mental ability tests?

General mental ability tests are used as pre-employment screening assessments because they are great indicators of success in the future.

In a general mental ability test, a candidate will face different types of questions based on several aptitudes, including reading, writing, and logical skills. During the test, they will need to use these inherent skills to demonstrate their ability to solve problems, think critically, and be innovative.

General mental ability tests are usually taken online, and the results are used by the recruitment team to choose the applicants who are most likely to be high-performing in the role that they have applied for.

Failing a general mental ability test, or not reaching the standard that is needed to progress usually means that the application will no longer be considered, so it is important to perform as well as you can if you are faced with this assessment.

Why is the test important for employers?

general mental ability test

Employers want to be sure that the candidates they are considering for a role have all the necessary qualifications to be successful. This includes education and degrees, but also the inherent abilities and skills that are needed for the job.

Employers use the general mental ability tests to see how well a candidate deals with pressure, and how they approach solving different problems. Candidates who perform well on a general mental ability test are usually intelligent and innovative, and tend to be faster learners that are better at creative thinking.

The general mental ability test helps to make the recruitment process more streamlined, by narrowing down a large candidate pool using the results. This means that the only candidates who are taken through to the next stage of the process are likely to be the ones who would have the best prospects in the role if they were accepted.

Who uses general mental ability tests?

General mental ability tests can be used as part of the recruitment process for a number of job roles and positions across different industries.

You will find them in graduate schemes and other early career positions, as well as in the recruitment process for roles that deal directly with customers.

Many management-level positions also require the skills that are tested in the general mental ability test, which is why you are likely to see them if you are applying for a role as an office manager or even an executive.

Test Format

The general mental ability test is delivered to candidates via an email link, which means that you can take it at home at your convenience. There is usually a time limit in which the test needs to be taken which can be anywhere between 48 hours and a week.

The test itself is usually timed. It is not a long test, lasting less than half an hour in most cases.

In the test, you will be faced with a number of questions on different subjects, including:

The answers in the general mental ability test are usually multiple choice and you will have to select the correct answer from the options you are provided with.

Example Questions

Example Question 1: Verbal Reasoning

Read the passage and answer the question that follows.

“The annual profit report from Acme Building company shows that there was a 2.3% growth year-on-year. This is due to better hiring decisions and less staff turnover, which has streamlined our employee retention skills.”

Was the increased profit due to having more staff?



Cannot say

The answer would be c) because better hiring decisions was the stated cause, and it is unclear whether this meant that there were more or less employees.

Example Question 2: Numerical Reasoning

general mental ability test

On which day was there most profit recorded?

a) 20/01

b) 21/01

c) 22/01

d) None

The answer is b).

Example Question 3: Logical Reasoning

Find the next number in the sequence.

1 2 3 5 7 9 _

a) 11

b) 12

c) 10

d) 9

The answer is a) 11 - all these numbers are prime numbers and the next in numerical order would be 11.

Tips to prepare for general mental ability tests

Tip 1: Practice your mental agility

There are many ways that you can hone your mental skills even before you are facing a general mental ability test. The skills that you use in the test are those that you will need to put into practice when you get the job.

At home, you can practice doing word searches, crosswords or other puzzles, or you can download ‘brain training’ games for your smartphone that will utilize all sorts of different skills.

It is also a good idea to refresh your maths skills - the numerical reasoning assessment is not challenging in terms of maths content (it is based on GCSE level maths), but you will need to be confident in mental calculations and things like percentages and ratios.

You should also try to read widely, making use of formal writings, journals, and broadsheet newspapers. This will help you with the verbal reasoning questions.

Tip 2: Practice tests

There are general mental ability tests available to practice online. These tests are based on those created by the test publishers, and are an excellent way for you to get used to the way a test is formatted and structured, the type of question that you might face, and how you need to answer.

Taking online assessments is nerve-wracking, and unfamiliarity can make taking the test more difficult than it needs to be.

For the best results, take practice tests under exam conditions. This should include a timer, no distractions, and everything else that comes with taking a test.

Tip 3: Feed your body and mind

The best thing you can do for your overall performance is to ensure that you give your body and brain the best fuel.

This means both eating well and drinking plenty, as well as getting enough sleep in the run-up to the test. On the day, have a good breakfast and keep some water at hand to help you get through.

Tip 4: Read the questions

With so many different question types, you will be expected to answer questions in different ways. It is important that you take the time to read the questions and all given information so that you know exactly what you need to do to find the right answer.

Tip 5: Take your time

Although the general mental ability test is probably timed, you do not want to rush into answering the questions.

Don’t let the time pressure force you into making mistakes or missing easy answers, and remember if you get stuck on a question then move on and come back at the end if you have time. Use the time you have wisely.