Numerical reasoning tests are used by employers in the screening stages of recruitment to identify candidates with the highest levels of numerical aptitude.
Though question types and structure vary across different test publishers, their essence is the same in that they deal with data in the form of graphs, tables and charts, which require interpretation and analysis to form sound conclusions.
Designed to measure inherent ability, they require no pre-existing knowledge. However, numerical reasoning tests are not easy.
The complexity of data presented, time constraints and the pressure of performing to a competitive standard make them a challenging, often nerve-wracking experience.
The 10 tips below offer advice on how best to approach this type of assessment, both before and during your numerical reasoning test.
1. Check who the test provider will be
Prior to the day of your test, it’s advisable to contact the recruiter for information on which test publisher they use, as this will dictate the nature of your assessment.
For example, Cappfinity numerical reasoning tests are adaptive, have no set time limit, and contain multiple question types. By contrast, tests published by Saville have fixed durations and all questions follow the same structure.
Knowing the assessment style you’ll face allows you to practice specifically for that test type.
2. Brush up on basic arithmetic
The ability to work quickly and accurately with percentages, ratios, fractions and decimals gives you a huge advantage in a numerical reasoning test.
As part of your preparation, brush up on the addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and conversion of these number representations. A primer in basic numeracy, in other words.
In most cases, you’ll be working with multiple-choice options, so it’s not necessarily about landing on the precise answer every time. It’s more about knowing how to apply the correct methods in any given equation, to give yourself an answer that closely matches one of the options available.
3. Bring your own calculator (and know how to use it)
If calculators are permitted in your assessment, be sure to use one you are familiar with (and not your mobile phone’s calculator). Struggling with equipment will lead to frustration, adding stress to an already pressurised occasion.
Use your calculator in all your practice tests and get familiar with any useful functions like memory.
It should be noted that you may only be permitted the use of a simple calculator, so learn not to rely on the advanced functionality of a scientific one.
4. Make use of practice questions
At the very beginning of your numerical reasoning test you’ll be presented with one or two practice questions. Use these wisely.
There’s no rush, as practice questions will not be included in your time limit. So read them carefully, and study the content and question structure.
This will get your mind working the way it needs to for the rest of the assessment, focusing your attention on the task at hand, and calming your nerves by easing you in gently.
5. Pay close attention to detail
When working under time restrictions, it can be tempting to take a quick-fire approach, scanning questions in a race to answer as many as possible.
This is a sure way to miss vital information, either within the body of the question itself or in the numerical data accompanying it.
Make sure you understand exactly what’s being asked of you and never make assumptions. All the information you need will be contained within the question, so identify the finer details before you attempt an answer.
6. Double-check units, measurements, currencies
Questions in numerical reasoning tests often involve different sets of data, be it multiple currencies, a combination of number representations or varying units of measurement.
As you’ll be presented with three of four questions relating to the same numerical information, always double-check you’re working with the correct data in response to the question at hand.
It may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s an easy thing to trip up on when working under time pressure.
7. Watch out for distractors
Distractors are common in numerical reasoning tests. These are snippets of information designed to mislead you or make a question appear harder than it actually is.
When approaching a question, process all the information logically, then focus on what’s relevant and dismiss any red herrings.
Typically, the harder a question the more distractors it contains, so being able to spot these quickly is a key skill.
8. If a problem is too challenging, move on
Where you land on a question you’re struggling to comprehend, it’s usually better to move on than to spend a lot of time unravelling its complexity.
Focusing all your energy on a difficult question will eat into your time limit and is likely to cause frustration, affecting the rest of your performance.
In most cases, if you have time remaining you’ll be able to go back and tackle any questions left unanswered.
9. Take your best guess
Most numerical reasoning tests do not make use of negative marking. That is to say, an incorrect answer will score you zero, as will a question left blank.
With that in mind, where you are unsure it’s wise to take an educated guess.
Remember, you’ll usually have multiple-choice options in front of you, so there’s always the chance you’ll pick the right one, even if you’re not confident in your answer.
10. Keep a steady pace
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of a numerical reasoning test is pacing. Accuracy is key, but speed also plays a part in your score, so you need to work quickly.
If you’ve found out beforehand which test you’ll be taking, compare the number of questions contained with its duration to give yourself a benchmark time allowance per question.
Good pacing comes with practice, so make this a focus of your numerical reasoning test preparation.