Reasoning Test Tips

Here are our 16 tips on taking an aptitude test.

Aptitude Test Tip 1: Practice

Practice is the most commonly advocated route to aptitude test success, and one very few people would dispute. Familiarity with the style and format of aptitude tests will help calm your nerves and will allow you to focus all of your attention on answering the questions. The last thing you want during your real test is to waste time getting to grips with it. Practising questions and seeing where you went wrong will hopefully prevent you from making the same mistakes in your real test. The first few times you try an aptitude test, the chances are you will get the timing wrong. Don’t let the first time you sit a test be the one that counts.

Bear in mind that recruiters actively encourage all candidates to practise psychometric aptitude tests beforehand so they have results from a level playing field. They don't like having to compare results of people who have taken psychometric tests before with those who have not.

Aptitude Test Tip 2: Know your test

It is very difficult to distort the results of a psychometric personality questionnaire, however, if you research what sort of person the company is looking for, you might be more likely to answer with that company's values in mind. Companies often list the competencies they are looking for in each role. It's worth reminding yourself of these before you take your personality questionnaire. Don't consciously try to answer how you think they want you to answer though as you are likely to get it wrong and if you're not answering honestly your answers will appear disjointed in the results.

Your first answer is probably the most accurate reflection of how you feel about a question.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the personality questionnaire instructions will usually tell you to answer in the context of work, not your social life.

Aptitude Test Tip 3: Don’t get your friends to help

If your test is online, it might be tempting to get a friend to help out. Apart from being immoral, this carries a large risk of backfiring. Application processes that require the candidate to sit an online psychometric test usually then invite successful applicants to an assessment centre where they will verify your test performance. So they will soon find out if your online test was completed by you. Besides, the reason the company is putting you through a set of aptitude tests is to test if you would be able to perform in the advertised role. If you don’t achieve the level they are seeking, you will probably struggle and be unhappy in that particular job role.

Aptitude Test Tip 4: Make the most of online tests

If you have been asked to take an online test, as opposed to one conducted at an assessment centre, make the best use of this advantage. You have more factors in your control and you shouldn’t neglect any of them. Make sure you will not be interrupted; let your friends or housemates know that you are not to be interrupted and turn off your phone. Make sure you are not hungry, thirsty, or need to go the loo. Plan a time when you will be alert, and prepare a cup of coffee in case you start to fade. Make sure you have everything you will need to hand; rough paper, pens, a calculator, a dictionary etc.

Note that in some circumstances the test provider will allow you to re-take the test. The circumstances in which this is permitted are limited to ill-health and IT failure. It has been reported that some immoral students unplug their internet if they feel a test is going particularly badly, claim their connection was lost and ask to re-sit it. Test providers are devising ever more sophisticated ways to verify the validity of claims such as computer failure. If your connection goes down, most test publishers now can see where you got to and just ask you to carry on from that point.

Aptitude Test Tip 5: Realistic simulation

Find out when your real psychometric test is and try to practice at the same time of the day. Also sit your practice psychometric tests in one go; don’t take a break half way through because you won’t get to do that in the real test! If you have been asked to take your psychometric aptitude test online, practice in the same room as you will sit your real test.

Aptitude Test Tip 6: Ask for a dictionary

In most tests conducted at an assessment centre, you are allowed to ask the invigilator for a dictionary or calculator (in both numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning tests). This may sound bizarre to be allowed a dictionary in verbal reasoning tests but they are trying to test your comprehension and reasoning skills more than your vocabulary. Their thinking my be that in real life you’d have access to a dictionary, just as in real life you’d have access to a calculator. This is especially important to remember for candidates whose first language is not English.

Aptitude Test Tip 7: Stay focused

Concentration and stamina are as important in timed psychometric aptitude tests as a natural intelligence. If your concentration wanes during your test, you will waste valuable time. You must treat the psychometric test like a sprint; you should be mentally exhausted at the end of it from concentration. If you have to take several tests over the course of the day at an assessment centre, try to rest between tests and treat the day more as a marathon comprising several short sprints. Psychometric tests are a competition and you should treat them as such.

Aptitude Test Tip 8: Ask for feedback

Some time after your test (normally a couple of weeks) most assessors will provide feedback on your performance. This information is extremely valuable if you are to learn from mistakes and know what questions to concentrate on next time. Assessors following British Psychological Society good practice are obliged to provide you with individual feedback so don't be afraid to ask.

Aptitude Test Tip 9: Write some questions yourself

If you have allowed enough time before your aptitude test that you have practised all the practice tests you can find, a useful exercise next is to write some questions yourself in the same style. This is a sure way of getting your head into their way of thinking, and finding out where it is possible to go wrong (for example not interpreting the data in the table correctly). This will also show you how important it is to read and understand the question wording: try writing a question that has only one possible answer to it, it’s difficult to remove any ambiguities. Swap questions with friends; you will learn lots from this process. And going through each other’s tests might even shed light on faster ways of going about the same problem if each person shares their working.

Aptitude Test Tip 10: Get an early night

Concentration and stamina are as important in timed psychometric aptitude tests as a natural intelligence. If your concentration wanes during your test, you will waste valuable time. You must treat the psychometric test like a sprint; you should be mentally exhausted at the end of it from concentration. If you have to take several tests over the course of the day at an assessment centre, try to rest between tests and treat the day more as a marathon comprising several short sprints. Psychometric tests are a competition and you should treat them as such.It's the same with any test: if you are tired, your mental performance slows down and you can lose concentration. Losing concentration when the timer is ticking means you loose the opportunity to score points.

Aptitude Test Tip 11: Know when to move on

Sometimes you will get started on a question not knowing how long it might take you. Doing lots of practice should help you to judge if a question is going to be particularly labour-intensive, but if you find yourself over a minute into one question and are still not confident you are going about the question in the right way, leave it and move on. Usually all aptitude test questions are weighted evenly (they will tell you if this is not the case) so your valuable time will probably be better spent on a different question.

Only move on if you can't see where you've gone wrong. If you know how to get to the answer, the chances are the time taken to see this question through will be less than starting on a fresh question.

Aptitude Test Tip 12: Go to the loo

It is easy when at an assessment centre to loose track of how many cups of coffee and glasses of water you have had. The last thing you need is an uncomfortable bladder distracting you during your test. The time of your tests is usually scheduled on the program you are given before your assessment day, so plan ahead. If your tests are online, this is obviously which is easier to control. This advice of being comfortable before you start obviously extends to thirst and hunger too.

Aptitude Test Tip 13: Ignore other people

Try to block out distractions at the assessment centre. If you notice that someone else has turned a page before you, or that everyone else has left their calculator on the table whilst you think you need it, try to ignore them. As soon as you lose concentration, or get flustered over what other people are doing, you will be losing time. If someone is causing a distraction though, politely ask the invigilator to have a word with them. A few minutes of being distracted might make all the difference.

Aptitude Test Tip 14: Speak up if you are not happy

This is best done when you sit down to take your test but the test has not started, perhaps when the invigilator is introducing the test. Pay attention to your surroundings; are there any distracting noises, do you have a wobbly table, is there a draught? If you politely ask to move seats, no one will really think anything of it, and if it means you are not distracted during your test, the difference might even equate to a few extra marks.

Aptitude Test Tip 15: This is not the only test

If you are not confident in your performance in a particular psychometric test, push it aside and move on. Remember that employers will be considering collectively your scores in psychometric tests in addition to interview performance. Remember this and you should be able to tackle each test with a focused non panic-stricken mind.

Aptitude Test Tip 16: Follow the instructions very carefully

For an online psychometric test you will have to read the instructions online. For a paper-and-pencil test the test administrator will read them out to you, whilst you follow the written instructions.

If your test is a paper-and-pencil test notice how you are required to indicate your answers on the answer sheet. Often you are to fill in a circle or draw a heavy line. A tick, or any other marking will not get you the marks.

Note how long you have to complete the test and write down the start time. There will be a clock in the room, but often a wrist-watch placed next to you is more convenient for keeping check of time.