An aptitude test is often used to screen candidates during an application process for a job or an educational placement. They are tests of natural abilities, such as understanding written information and using basic mathematics to make reasoned decisions.
Passing the aptitude tests is one of the early hurdles that an applicant must deal with, and it is important to know how to pass so that you can get the role you want. It is not as simple as saying that you need to score at least 70% to pass, for many reasons - but it is safe to say that you want to score the highest mark you can for the best results.
In this article, we will look at why it is hard to determine what score is needed to pass an aptitude test without knowing more about it, and what recruiters are looking for in test results.
What factors can influence your score?
Part of the reason that it is hard to give a simple, blanket answer to this question is that there are so many different types of tests, by different publishers, that are used for different types of roles - and each has its own structure, layout, time limit and marking scheme.
Some of the factors that affect the score needed include:
Test type and publisher: an entry-level numerical reasoning test will not be the same as a numerical test made for a more senior position, and different publishers will mark it in their own way. For example, some publishers give marks for correct answers only, while others will take away marks for incorrect answers.
Benchmark set by the employer: the recruitment team will be looking for candidates to score above a benchmark that is determined by other people in the role having taken the test. What this means is that the score needed to pass depends on how well other people (who are already doing the job or something similar) have done - if they consistently score highly, you will need to do the same.
Seniority of the position: for entry-level roles, the benchmark is likely to be lower, to allow for growth and learning on the job. For more senior positions, the tests are likely to be much harder, with a higher score needed to pass.
Number of applicants: The recruitment team will be looking to progress only a certain number of candidates at this stage, and this means that the passing score might end up being considerably higher if there are a lot of candidates who score highly.
A passing score of 70% might mean that all candidates pass, and this is not helpful for the recruitment team to only concentrate on the most qualified, so the benchmark might have to move.
In essence, not only will you need to pass the test, but you will also need to compete against other test-takers in the same cohort to be chosen for the next stage.
The difference between percentages and percentiles
When the recruitment team looks at your score on the aptitude test, there are often several different ways of looking at how well you have done.
One of the first points is your raw score, which is simply the number of marks you have from the test. This can sometimes be presented as it comes, like 62/70, or as a percentage, like 81%. The raw score might be made up of subscores from different sections of the test.
For the recruiter, however, this is not always the best way to choose the right candidates. The percentile score is a more useful indicator of how well you have performed in comparison to other test-takers.
Your percentile score might be from comparing your results to how well other applicants for this position have done on the test, or it might be compared to all people who have ever taken the test.
The percentile shows how your score sits in comparison to other test-takers, so if you scored in the 50th percentile, you will have done better than half of the other applicants. What you want to have here is a score where you have done better than most test-takers, with a score in the 80th percentile (which means you have scored better than 80% of other people).
How to achieve the highest score
To make sure that you score as highly as you can on the aptitude tests, there are a few things you can do.
Know the test and the publisher: finding out what test you will be taking and the publisher of the test will give you the information you need to research what to expect and find practice tests and revision resources.
Take practice tests: you can find publisher-specific practice tests online, and some of these resources are even free. The practice test is designed to follow the format, structure, and time limit of the real thing, so you can get used to what is expected of you during the assessment.
Use a timer: if the practice test that you are taking is not timed, then use a timer so you get used to working under time pressure. The relatively short time limit in aptitude tests is one of the reasons that they can be so challenging.
Spot areas for improvement: look closely at your practice test results. You should be able to see where you are losing out on marks, and consider these as areas for improvement.
Revise: if your practice tests show that you have gaps in your knowledge or understanding, find resources to help you revise. For example, in the numerical reasoning test you might notice that you need a refresher on how to use percentages, so look for online resources to help you find a strategy for answering these questions.
With a bit of preparation, you can start your online aptitude test feeling more confident that you can work under the exam conditions and know what to expect from the test in terms of layout, structure, and way of answering.
What happens if I fail an aptitude test?
In most cases, if you fail an aptitude test you will not progress to the next stage of the application process. You may be able to reapply for the position at a later date and retake the aptitude test.
Why are aptitude tests hard?
The content of an aptitude test is usually not too challenging - based on knowledge and skills typically gained through normal education - but the format, structure and time limits are typically what make them hard.
Can you cheat on an aptitude test?
Cheating on an aptitude test is possible, but test publishers and employers have ways of weeding out those who are not honest - and if you are found out, it could have far-reaching consequences beyond just being dropped from the current application process.