Numerical reasoning tests are one of the most common aptitude tests used in the hiring process. They are not a test of pure mathematical ability; instead they assess your level of competency when working with numerical information.

This will include concepts such as interpreting graphs, reading number sequences and identifying key data from large amounts of text. They are employed for a wide range of jobs that are not necessarily maths-focused, but require you to work with numerical data (such as managerial positions).

Although they may seem daunting, especially if you are not someone with an affinity for maths, there is plenty you can do to make sure that you perform well on these tests. Below are ten top tips to help you prepare for your numerical reasoning test in the most effective way.

1) Practice as much as possible

The first tip is the most important one: you need to practice numerical questions if you want to improve your performance.

Even if you’re someone who feels confident with numbers, practicing can keep your skills sharp and help you identify any weaknesses. Creating feedback for yourself to improve upon will show you what you need to focus on, and ensure that you’re strong across the board by the time it gets to your test.

You can also brush up on your basic maths skills to make sure that you have a solid foundation when it comes to working with numbers.

2) Make a study schedule

This may feel strange if you have finished formal education and haven’t taken exams in a while, but going back to basics is one of the best ways to deal with test preparation. Making a study schedule will ensure that you stay organised – life has a habit of getting in the way of good intentions.

Break down what you need to do for your assessment and how much time you have before the real test to maximise your efficiency. Allocating a fixed time in your daily routine for studying will make sure that it gets done, and being on top of things will help keep stress levels down.

3) Use your preparation time effectively

A mistake that people make when preparing for a test is feeling like you always have to be at full intensity. There’s no point in making unachievable goals that will just stress you out more than you need to be.

Make a schedule that reflects your time realistically, so you can use it most effectively and therefore will actually see improvement from your efforts.

If you have a long work day then aiming to do a short but focused amount of practice everyday will be more beneficial than aiming to do hours of studying that you can’t fit into your routine.

It can be helpful to be specific about what you need to do: for example, if you’re doing a full practice paper or just focusing on a specific area that you need to work on. This can help make it feel manageable and that you are able to devote the right amount of time to the right things.

4) Practice like it’s the real thing

It can be easy to do practice tests without trying particularly hard, but then you’re not likely to improve. Try to replicate the actual conditions of the test. This means if possible:

  • Time yourself
  • Find a space you can be alone in without interruption
  • No distractions: put away any devices, music, or notes

5) Get used to the time restriction

Becoming more comfortable working under the time pressure will make a huge difference to your performance. When doing your practice questions, try to do as many as possible under timed conditions similar to what you’ll face.

Make sure you know how long your test is and, if possible, find out how many questions are on it.

numerical reasoning prep

6) Familiarise yourself with common questions

Familiarise yourself with common equations and ways to simplify ratios and calculate percentage changes. This can help make you quicker and more confident with the simpler questions, leaving you more time and energy for the more complicated ones.

7) Research the test

If possible, contact the hiring manager and ask for as much information about the test as you can. Knowing the test publisher can help you discover any specific requirements, which you can work into your preparation. Many publishers also publish their own example questions and papers, so check their websites.

You should also find out details such as any equipment required (eg whether a calculator is allowed).

8) Know the position you’re applying for

Many aptitude tests are now company/job-specific, so they more closely reflect the actual tasks that will be asked of you in that role on a day-to-day basis.

Make sure that you are familiar with the job specification, so that you can anticipate the types of questions you may be asked. For example, financial reasoning tests are oriented towards finance-based numeracy concepts, and would be helpful to practice if that is the field you are working in.

9) Incorporate numerical reasoning into your daily life

Doing numerical reasoning practice papers isn’t the only way to familiarise yourself with the skills required. By reading publications like The Financial Times and The Economist, you’ll learn to recognise how data is presented in graphs, histograms and tables.

Not only will this help you to be more accurate in your work; it will reduce the time it takes you to process and work out a question.

10) Take care of yourself

The hiring process is daunting – especially when you’re applying for a position that you really want or are working towards a promotion – but there are things you can do to mitigate that stress.

Stress and anxiety are major contributors to not doing as well as you know you’re capable of, so it’s important to make sure you know how to relax and feel confident when going through this process.