What are grammar & vocabulary ability tests?

Grammar and vocabulary tests are a type of pre-employment assessment that is used as part of the application process for several roles across different industries.

They are used to assess a candidate on their proficiency in using the English language by testing them on their knowledge of common English words and the way sentences should be structured.

The vocabulary that is tested includes commonly confused words as well as less-known business language words, while the grammar that is being assessed are the building blocks of written and spoken the English language - nouns, verbs, and adjectives as well as tenses and clauses.

The grammar and vocabulary test is usually administered online, taken at home by a candidate, and is a timed test with multiple-choice answers.

grammar & vocabulary test

Why is the test important for employers?

For employers that are looking for a candidate who can speak and write to the level needed for a role, the grammar and vocabulary test provides quantifiable data that can be used to take only the most qualified candidates further in the recruitment process.

Knowledge of the complexities of the English language is essential for good communication, and understanding the nuances between different words can prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding. This is necessary for management and leadership roles, but also for roles that involve working directly with customers and the public.

This is especially important in written communication, and the vocabulary and grammar test is a simple way for a recruitment team to see just how well a candidate can communicate using correct syntax, the right words, and a cohesive sentence structure.

Recruitment teams can administer the grammar and vocabulary test to several candidates at the same time, and the results are available immediately as a simple report so the data can be used to narrow down a large candidate pool.

Who uses grammar & vocabulary tests?

Grammar and vocabulary tests are likely to be used in the application process for roles like:

They are also used in the application process for more senior roles, such as:

  • Project managers
  • Site supervisors
  • Office managers
  • Department heads
  • Executive officers

Test Format

The vocabulary and grammar test is presented as several questions with multiple choice answers. The test is timed and delivered online via an email link that is sent to each candidate.

The content of the assessment usually contains questions based on:

  • Sentence correction - editing a sentence to ensure that it is grammatically correct.
  • Word order - placing words in the right order to create a correct sentence.
  • Selecting words to complete a sentence - choosing the right word from a list to make the sentence make sense.
  • Antonyms and synonyms - finding words that mean the same or the opposite of the given word.
  • Word definition - Choosing the correct definition of a word from the given list.

There is not much time to answer each question as there is a time limit. The test is designed to ensure that every candidate has the opportunity to demonstrate that they have a solid grasp of the English language and can use it skilfully in the execution of their duties in the role if they are successful in the next stage of the application process.

Example Questions

Example Question One

Choose the synonym for the word faith from the list below:

  1. Disbelief
  2. Fact
  3. Belief
  4. Love

The answer is c)

Example Question Two

Choose the word(s) that completes the sentence:

Today I _____ to the supermarket because I want to buy some apples

  1. Was going
  2. Have gone
  3. Went
  4. Will go

The answer is d)

Example Question Three

What is the correct definition of the word brusque

  1. Loud
  2. Rude
  3. Subservient
  4. Friendly

The answer is b)

grammar and vocabulary test

Tips to prepare for general mental ability tests

Tip 1: Read

To improve your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, the best thing you can do is increase your exposure to language - and the easiest way for this to happen is to read.

Choose to read business journals, newspapers, fiction, and non-fiction from different sources and points of view, as these will undoubtedly use many different words and sentence structures that you might not have come across before.

The more widely you can read, the better your understanding of the way the English language is used in different situations.

Tip 2: Research new words

If, while you are reading, you come across a new word that you do not understand, look it up in a dictionary and take note of not just the meaning, but of other words that might be a synonym or an antonym.

This will help you get a better understanding of how the word might be used in a sentence so that you can use this knowledge in the test.

Tip 3: Practice vocabulary and grammar tests online

One of the things that makes a vocabulary and grammar test difficult is the unfamiliarity and pressure of a test situation.

Practicing these tests online will have several benefits. You will get used to the way that these tests are structured and their layout, so they won’t seem so unfamiliar. Verbal reasoning practice tests will also support you to be successful in your vocabulary and grammar test.

You will also become familiar with the type of questions that are asked and how you need to answer them.

One of the most important things about practicing grammar and vocabulary tests is to ensure that you are taking them under exam conditions - somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed, with no additional help. Most practice tests have built-in timers, which is very useful to help you get used to working fast yet accurately.

Tip 4: Read the questions

As there are different types of questions that will be asked on the assessment, make sure that you take the time to read each question properly.

Although the questions are not usually asked in such a way as to confuse - so they are not ‘trick’ questions as such. However, they might word them in a way that could be misleading if you don’t read them properly.

Misreading a question could lead to making a costly mistake and missing out on easy points.

Tip 5: Take your time

Dealing with the pressure of an exam under timed conditions could make you feel like you need to rush to get the questions answered.

However, if you do rush too much, you might miss an answer and lose out on points. Take enough time to read through the question thoroughly and choose your answer before moving on - and if the question is too difficult, leave it and come back to it at the end so that you don’t spend too much time on it.