If you are required to sit an aptitude test as part of a job application, you may find the prospect a little daunting. In a marked difference to the academic exams you have taken before, you can’t revise for most aptitude tests, as prior knowledge isn’t generally required.
Instead, you are tested on your natural abilities. Although you can’t revise for aptitude tests in a typical way, there are ways you can prepare to give yourself the best chance of passing.
Our tips are as follows:
1) Practice realistic online tests
The number one tip for passing your aptitude test is to practice – a lot. It’s best to use online tests under simulated exam conditions. As you don’t need to learn any specific knowledge, prepare by familiarising yourself with the format and style of the questions, and getting used to the time restrictions.
2) Know the format of the test beforehand
Researching the format of the tests beforehand will prevent any surprises throwing you off course in the real test. Questions are presented in different ways depending upon the aptitude and publisher, so knowing what to expect is critical.
3) Focus on your weakest areas
If your practice highlights areas in which you perform poorly, this is where you need to focus your time and attention. Most people have at least one area they find more challenging than others. The benefit of plenty of practice is that you learn to spot these weak points and can develop your skills accordingly.
4) Understand the differences between tests
Different aptitude tests assess very different skills. You may be asked to make predictions based on repeating patterns in one test, then analyse graphs to extract data in another. Research examples of test formats and question styles in the run-up to test day.
5) Find specific practice tests
Aptitude tests vary by publisher and industry, and employers will often use bespoke tests, based on the skills candidates need to succeed in that role. Practising these more specific tests – rather than generic ones – gives you a head start.
6) Accept a practice test beforehand
You might have the opportunity to take a practice test in the assessment centre or virtual examination, directly before your real test starts. If this is an option for you, always take it up. A last-minute practice can help focus your mind and get you into the headspace of answering the questions under test conditions.
7) Check what you can take in with you
Your examiner will advise you of what you are allowed to take into your exam: usually a calculator, plus a paper and a pen to work out and plan your answers. Instead of using your phone, make sure you have a decent scientific calculator for the numerical reasoning test. It would also be sensible to wear a watch to help you track your progress against the time allowance.
8) Refresh before your test to help you focus
The last thing you need during your test is a rumbling stomach or a sudden urge to go to the toilet. Distractions like these may seem minor, but they can interrupt your focus. Low blood sugars can hinder concentration, so having something to eat before you go in will give you an energy boost. Your assessment centre may allow you to take water in with you.
9) Manage your time carefully during the exam
Most tests operate under strict time restrictions. Knowing and preparing for this is one of the most important factors in determining how well you perform. It’s common for candidates not to answer all questions in the time allowance, but as you may get marked down for incorrect answers but not unanswered questions, rushing could be detrimental. Keep an eye on the clock during the test and work steadily.
10) Don’t get distracted by other people
It’s easy to lose focus under exam conditions when the pressure is on and you’re feeling nervous. Trying to gauge how your fellow candidates are getting on, or panicking when they click to the next page and you’re still tackling the first question will only distract you. Concentrate on your own test and stay focused.
11) If you get stuck, move on
The strict time allowance means you don’t have time to waste being stuck on one question. Give it some thought, but if you’re struggling to answer after a few minutes, pass over it. Very few people manage to answer every single question, so don’t get too disheartened if you have to skip one.
12) Read all questions carefully
Skim-reading a question and diving straight into the answer is a simple but costly mistake. Some questions are very similar to one another, or they may seem to be repeats of practice questions you’ve taken, but you need to be very sure of what they’re asking from you before answering. You might also be asked to provide multiple answers using the same presented data, so make sure you read each question carefully, without making assumptions.
13) Go back to missed questions at the end
If you get to the end of your test with any remaining time on the clock, return to any questions you left unanswered or weren’t certain about. Often, you return with a fresh approach and might see things differently. If you managed to complete all the questions, or know there are some you really can’t answer, spend the time checking over the other questions.
14) More speed, less haste
Time pressure might tempt you to rush through a test, but this can often lead to avoidable mistakes that can really add up. Hopefully, through your practice, you will have worked out a rhythm of reading and answering questions at a steady pace that enables you to digest the information, think it through, and express your answer clearly. Fall back on this when you feel pressured to race ahead under test conditions.
15) Get and use feedback
If you’re not successful in an aptitude test, use the experience as a learning opportunity by asking the assessor for feedback. Understanding where you went wrong can help you work on your weaknesses, to give you a better chance next time. It might be that you need to work on your time management or spend more time improving one area before applying again.