What Is An Aptitude Test?
An aptitude test is a form of psychometric assessment, used to measure an individual’s natural strengths in a given area. It differs from a knowledge-based test in that it does not require familiarity with a particular subject. Instead, it looks at your inherent skills, and your ability to apply them in new situations.
An aptitude test typically falls into one of two categories: abilities tests and behavioural tests. The first category focuses on cognitive function, measuring skills like critical thinking, and problem solving. The second explores your character, preferred working styles, and situational judgement.
All aptitude tests are scientifically designed around principles of psychology and offer an objective and reliable way of assessing an individual’s core strengths.
What is the purpose of an aptitude test?
The primary purpose of an aptitude test is to determine your capability. Instead of looking at what you know, it looks at your learning capacity, and your ability to work with new information in an effective manner. This gives a strong indication of how well you’re likely to perform in a particular setting, be it educational or professional.
Aptitude tests are also designed to level the playing field. Since an individual needs no pre-existing skills or knowledge to do well in an aptitude test, they allow comparison based not on qualifications or experience, but future potential.
When might you take an aptitude test?
There are two main settings in which aptitude tests are commonly administered: during education, and as part of the selection process in professional recruitment.
In the first instance, aptitude tests may be used to help inform decisions on a student’s academic path. For example, they may be given to determine if an individual is suited to a gifted education program. They may also be taken to help you choose suitable career options based on your natural abilities.
Their most common use, though, is in recruitment. Employers use them to measure skills that are hard to assess through CVs and interviews alone and compare the potential of candidates from similar backgrounds.
In this case, they’re usually taken in the early stages of recruitment for initial screening purposes, between application and interview. They may also be administered later in the process as part of an assessment centre.
Some employers administer aptitude tests for ongoing career development, using them to identify candidates best suited for professional advancement.
How are aptitude tests typically taken?
Aptitude tests are typically issued as computerised assessments, though you may still come across the traditional pen-and-paper format in educational settings.
They are always multiple-choice and are usually taken under timed conditions. This means an aptitude test not only measures cognitive function but also how well you perform under pressure.
When used in recruitment, you’ll most often be sent a link to access the test remotely. If asked to repeat your tests at an assessment centre, this may be done on-site under supervision.
Employers typically use a combination of test types to measure various skills. You’ll be informed in advance of the tests you’ll face, so you can prepare accordingly.
The most common types of aptitude tests
The most common tests include:
Verbal reasoning tests. These look at your ability to conclude from written information, as well as testing your vocabulary and language comprehension.
Numerical reasoning tests. This measure your capacity for dealing with numerical data quickly and accurately, and your ability to apply basic arithmetic.
Abstract reasoning tests. These are a measure of problem-solving ability, and ask you to identify rules and relationships between abstract sequences.
Diagrammatic reasoning tests. Similar to abstract reasoning, these are non-verbal tests that require you to draw conclusions based on processes laid out in various diagrams.
Mechanical reasoning tests. These look at your ability to apply physical concepts and principles to a range of scenarios and are typically used in recruitment for technical roles.
Situational judgement tests. These fall into the behavioural test category and look at your natural responses to a range of hypothetical work-based scenarios.
You may also come across sector-specific tests, such as a clerical skills test. This is a blended assessment that measures skills including numerical and verbal reasoning, along with error-checking and document management.
Whatever tests you’re required to take, practice is key to putting in a strong performance. You’ll find more information on each test type, along with practice questions, in our aptitude testing catalogue.