IBM have made a bespoke test, the IPAT, which assesses candidates for those with a high numerical ability. The IPAT is a varied numerical reasoning test.

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Ben Hopgood Updated:

About IBM IPAT (Information Processing Aptitude Test)

IBM is a multinational technology and consulting corporation, previously ranked as the second largest firm in the US. Securing employment or a place on one of their graduate schemes is extremely competitive and candidates must be prepared to undergo a lengthy selection procedure. Once an online application form has been completed, candidates are required to undertake online psychometric tests. This is typical of graduate level positions, although further tests may be required for higher level roles. Candidates are informed in advance as to which tests they will be required to take.

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IBM use a combination of Bespoke and Kenexa assessments throughout the recruitment process, as a means of screening out candidates. In regards to potential employees, IBM look for a set of key values throughout the selection procedure: Adaptability, Communication, Client Focus, Creative Problem Solving, Drive, Teamwork, Passion for IBM and Taking Ownership.

The IPAT is a fair and objective way for IBM to assess a wide range of applicants, each having different experiences and different qualifications. By analysing the results of the standardised Information Processing Aptitude Test, IBM are able to quickly see which candidates are suitable for the role and which are not. This sort of information about candidates’ skills is difficult to glean from interviews and qualifications alone, so they use professional psychometric tests.

Often, IBM will ask applicants to take the IPAT test online, which you can take from home. When the IPAT test is used early on in the application process like this you will have to achieve a minimum score before you progress to the next round (typically a score in the top 50% of applicants is required however this does vary role to role). Further along in the selection process you might be asked to attend an assessment centre or interview where you will be asked to sit a numerical test again. This is so IBM can verify the person scoring highly in the test is indeed the person applying for the job.

IBM Application Process Stages

Here is the typical process for your application to IBM.

Stage 1


Applications are made online and require candidates to provide their contact details, education and work experience. This is to ensure that the candidate meets the entry requirements for their selected role. Candidates are also required to complete an IBM application template, which lists competencies associated with the role and asks for examples of times when the candidate has demonstrated them.

Stage 2

Telephone Interivew
Verbal, numerical, logical
and/or situational strength

Candidates who have applied for a BDE role will be contacted for a telephone interview, and not have any online tests to complete.

Stage 3

Online Testing

Successful candidates are sent an invitation to complete the “IBM IPAT”, a cross between a mathematical and a numerical-style logical reasoning test. The test consists of two sections; a Numerical series section and a Mathametical reasoning section. However, they must be completed within seven days of receiving the invitation link. All instructions regarding the IBM IPAT will be provided to candidates in the invitation email. Candidates who have applied for the ‘Graduate Strategic Analytics Consultant’ role will be asked to undertake an additional aptitude test provided by SHL which focussed more on their verbal and numerical ability. Candidates who have applied for the ‘Software Developer’ role will be asked to complete a personality questionnaire.

Quick facts

  • 18 questions per section
  • 36 questions overall
  • 2 minutes and 15 seconds per questions
  • Calculators allowed, and encouraged!

Numerical series style questions:

  • Differences: each number in the sequence is different to the previous one by a fixed amount, an increasing or decreasing difference, a multi-faceted difference, or a compounding difference.
  • Pairs: the pattern occurs between pairs of numbers, sometimes even triplets, rather than every number in the series
  • Interwoven: the pattern exists between the 1st, 3rd, and 5th numbers, or the 2nd, 4th and 6th numbers in the sequence, hence skipping a number in the sequence each time.
  • Squares, and powers: the difference between each number will revolve around the squares or cubes of each number.
  • All of these differences may be combined in many ways for each number series.

Mathematical reasoning style questions will include:

  • Ratios and percentages
  • Numerical comprehension
  • Are and perimeter of shapes
  • Interest
  • Statistics - probability

Stage 4

Assessment Centre

Selected candidates are then invited to attend an assessment day, during which they will undergo some or all of the following assessments: Group Activity – This usually involves logical problem solving or a discussion board, Confirmatory Test – This is a short test similar to the online test completed during the earlier stages, Written Tests – Some candidates will be required to complete Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning tests. Some applicants will also have a first round interview during their assessment day.

Stage 5

Final Interview

During this interview, candidates are assessed regarding specific skills necessary for the job applied for. It is also a good chance for candidates to find out about the role and establish whether this is likely to be a good fit. Successful applicants at stage 4 will be made an offer of employment or a place on a graduate scheme with IBM.

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IBM IPAT Test Questions

Like most numerical tests, the IPAT used by IBM looks at your ability to interpret numerical data and answer questions which require numerical analysis of the data provided, identifying patterns and relationships between the number sequences shown. The IPAT test will be assessing your speed and accuracy. The answers are multiple choice and you should try to work quickly within the time limit, but also accurately. Negative marking is unlikely to be used but do not guess answers, as this will show up in your accuracy score. Sometimes you will find that you can make a best guess estimate by deducing that some of the answer options are incorrect. This approach to tests will come with practice, and you will become familiar with the type of verbal tests used by companies such as IBM.

Numerical reasoning tests and who uses them

Companies are using numerical reasoning test more and more in their application process that candidates must go through. Numerical reasoning tests are favoured when the role being recruited for requires interpretation and manipulation of numerical data on a regular basis. A person's score in a numerical reasoning test is a good indicator of their ability to work well with numbers. This is very important in finance, accounting and actuarial positions.

IBM use numerical reasoning tests as part of their recruitment process to help them select the best candidates for a particular role.

So as a graduate or senior candidate applying for a job at IBM you might feel like the numerical reasoning test is an unnecessary hoop to jump through. But you should bear in mind that IBM are asking you to complete the numerical test as much for your own benefit as theirs; if you are not suitable for the role, a psychometric test will usually identify this. Research has shown that psychometric tests, such as those used by IBM, are a better predictor of job performance than traditional selection metrics such as level of degree achieved.

What you should know before taking your numerical reasoning test

The numerical operations required in standardised numerical tests are of a level which most applicants can achieve. The difficult aspect comes with carrying out the calculations quickly and accurately within the time limit. You will be allowed a calculator for your numerical test at IBM, so make sure you know how to perform these basic operations. Percentage increases and decreases are the most common questions which catch out candidates. Here is a list of the most common operations you can expect in your numerical test:

  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Percentages (including percentage changes)
  • Ratios

Different types of numerical tests

Most questions in most numerical reasoning tests follow a standard format displaying numerical data, the question and answer options on screen. These can be arranged differently, but each test will stick to the same layout throughout. The numerical data may be a graph, table, chart or other visual form. The question text may contain extra information which adds to what's given in the table, this might also be necessary to answer the question correctly. Lastly, the answer options are almost always multiple choice. Multiple choice answers can vary, however. You may have 4 options to pick from, 5, maybe 10, or more. The more answer options to pick from, the slimmer the chances are that you can obtain the correct answer by guessing.

Some publishers will have less subtle variations in their test from what's described here. Cappfinity for example, will ask you to rank the answer options by a particular criteria. Sometimes, in TalentQ tests, the question may have more than one answer, and you will be told to select two, or possibly more answer options from those available.

Answered questions

How difficult are your tests?

The same difficulty as real tests. Generally real employer selection tests don't differ that much in terms of difficulty which is why they compare your score against norm groups. Our practice tests are pitched roughly at graduate level, but this means they are actually suitable for preparing for all levels of job: entry; apprentice; graduate; senior; director.

Are they compatible with my Mac / Tablet / Phone?

Yes, and PC, and Linux and smartphone and Android and...everything. Our practice tests will run on all systems and they are responsive so they will work well on tablets and smartphones too!

How many times can I take the tests?

Unlimited. You can take our practice tests as many times as you like; there is no limit. But to be honest, after taking the same test a few times you start to remember the answers, so that’s why we have lots of tests.