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A bright guide to Aptitude and Numerical Tests

Aptitude or psychometric tests have become common in recruitment.  There’s no point disliking them. They’re here to stay. The good news?  You can learn to handle them.  Not only that, you can even master them.

Click the links for types of test, or scroll down for a general overview of psychometric tests. 

Jake Schogger, City Careers Series

The main types of test...


These can test your spelling, grammar and ability to understand analogies and follow detailed written instructions. They’re used a lot because employers want to know how well you can communicate.


Even if working with numbers won’t be a major part of your job, employers want to know you have this core skill. So they use numerical tests to assess how well you can handle basic arithmetic, number sequences and simple maths, and interpret charts and graphs. 

Abstract reasoning

These measure your ability to identify the underlying logic of a pattern and work out the solution. They’re used often because employers believe abstract reasoning is the best indicator of fluid intelligence and the capacity to learn new things quickly. 

Critical thinking 

Critical thinking tests ask you to analyse and evaluate short passages of written information in order to reach clear, logical and coherent judgements about their content.

Personality tests 

These assess your typical behaviour when faced with different situations and your preferred way of going about things. They reveal how likely you are to fit into the role and company culture. 

Preparation and practice

Once you know what type of test you need to take, do a bit more research. Is it online or paper-based?  Will you have to take it under ‘test conditions’ (i.e. supervised) or can you do it on your own at home?  Which test provider is the employer using?  Are there practice tests available? Then plan accordingly. You’re far better placed to handle a test if you understand why you’re doing it and what you can expect on the day.

Once you’ve figured out what the test is and what to expect, map out the appropriate amount of time to prepare for it.  Many people fall at this hurdle because they don’t dedicate enough time.

You would prep for a phone interview, a presentation, face-to-face interview or exam – and a psychometric test is an equally big part of the recruitment process.  Make sure you set aside time to practise.  

And the more you practise, the more confident you will feel. Don’t worry if you don’t pass first time. The tests aren’t supposed to be easy and the pass mark is often high. Stay positive and practise more. 

We've created some practice tests for you to try:

Taking the test at home

If you’re taking the test online at home, don’t leave it until the last minute. Check the deadline and plan to take it at least a day in advance. You never know what can go wrong and few recruiters accept excuses for late submission. 

Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Check there are no phones, house-mates, dogs or heavy traffic nearby. Make sure your computer is reliable and has an appropriate browser. And have everything you need – like a calculator, spare paper, pens and stopwatch – to hand so you’re ready as soon as the test starts. 

What if it’s supervised?

If you’re taking the test under supervised conditions – online or on paper – then you’ll be sent a date and time for this. As you would with exams, give yourself plenty of time to get there. You don’t want to be in a flap when you arrive. Check beforehand if you need to bring anything (e.g. pen, paper, calculator). Some Assessment Centres ask you to bring your own laptop on the day.

And finally...

Of course it will be stressful, but do try to relax. Take a deep breath and do the best you can. Work quickly but methodically. If you’re finding one question challenging, move on. Rest assured that no one else is finding the test easy. And by taking it you’re potentially another step closer to a role you really want.