Aptitude tests examine abilities such as numerical, verbal or abstract reasoning (particularly logical/analytical ability); they do not test general knowledge or intelligence. Aptitude tests are not to be confused with tests of attainment. Tests of attainment assess specifically what people have learnt e.g. mathematical ability or typing skills. The main difference between attainment tests and aptitude tests is the way the scores from both types of tests are used. Tests of attainment are retrospective as they focus on what a person has learnt and what a person knows. Aptitude tests measure a persons potential, for instance to learn the skills needed for a new job. Aptitude tests are prospective, as they focus on what the person is capable of achieving in the future or their ability to learn.
Aptitude and ability tests are usually divided into specific abilities, reflecting the structure of intelligence that is generally accepted in the field. So a general aptitude test might be composed of a number of sections, including verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning, tailored to the role and industry in question.
The tests are often presented in a multiple-choice format and the questions have definite right and wrong answers. The tests are normally strictly timed and are becoming increasingly computerised, demanding that the person works through them as quickly and accurately as possible. Organisations are increasingly using these tests at an early stage within their selection processes, providing tests uniquely designed for specific roles.
Personality profiling is employed as a tool to determine how people are likely to behave under various conditions. There are no, right and wrong answers, and the questionnaires are often not timed. You cannot practice for personality questionnaires, so the best way to approach them is to answer them as honestly and accurately as possible.
You may be invited to attend a managed assessment centre to complete the tests, or possibly invited to complete the test online. Some companies run a series of extended selection procedures, called assessment centres each lasting a day or two. Usually these are held after the first round of interviews and before the final selection. Some companies believe assessment centres to be the fairest and most accurate method of selecting staff. This is because a number of different Selectors get to see the candidate over a longer period of time, giving them the chance to see the candidate operate in a variety of situations.
If you are invited to an assessment centre to complete the tests, you may be asked to participate in a group exercise as well as completing the individual tests. A group exercise allows the company to gauge how people perform when working in a team. You will be given an information pack (or specific case study) and then asked to use it as a team to come up with solutions to a range of issues.
Whatever your prior test experience, ensure to: pay careful attention to the instructions, ask for clarification if you do not understand something, work as quickly and as accurately as you can, skip over any questions you become stuck on, make sure that you record your answers in the correct boxes, get used to working without a calculator (you may not be allowed one) and revise basic mathematical operations if you have not done numerical work for sometime, keep in mind the selection criteria you identified in your first interview as every test and further interview will match you against these criteria, do not try and guess the type of person the company is looking for and do not present yourself in a way that is not genuine.
Visiting relevant websites and completing practice tests online should also be a vital part of a person’s preparation for forthcoming tests (please see the links below). Treat attending an assessment centre the same as you would an interview: get a good night’s sleep, plan your journey to the test site, and arrive on time and appropriately dressed.
Useful sites containing practice tests and further information: