City CV can write your CV for you; City CV can write your LinkedIn profile; we can even provide interview coaching, but one thing we can’t do as part of the recruitment process is sit the aptitude tests for you.  You may have been clicking your heels as you left your last exam at school or university, rejoicing in the fact that you wouldn’t have to sit any further tests or exams for the rest of your life.  This is rarely the case in employment though – often industry exams are an essential part of career progression but also, putting a foot on that career ladder and securing a job, may mean you have to sit some verbal reasoning and numerical tests.  

So, what are these tests and why are they used?

A university degree or A-Level exam results generally show an employer that you can work hard and apply yourself to learning a subject.  But according to Inside Careers, degree and exam results are not very good indicators of how successful you might be performing a specific role; employers, therefore, look for other ways to decipher candidates’ ‘organic’ numerical and verbal reasoning ability.  You may not have to do both types of test, it depends on the role and the skills required but these tests help employers learn more about how your brain ticks and are likely to contribute to their hiring decisions, along with numerous other factors.  

Numerical reasoning

Before you start panicking, you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to pass these tests – GSCE standard is enough and if you hated geometry, algebra and the like then fear not – as we said, employers aren’t testing what you can remember from maths lessons.  Instead you will generally be presented with a set of data (graph, table of numbers etc) which you will use to answer questions.  The test may be designed to become harder as you progress through it and accuracy is key – if an answer is used in subsequent calculations, you need to ensure that you work it out correctly first time round. These tests will typically be used in the finance sector and for business analyst roles.   

Verbal reasoning

In a verbal reasoning test, usually you will be given a paragraph of text about quite a technical subject matter followed by questions on whether statements about the text are true, false or not possible to say.  Sectors that might use verbal reasoning tests are those that require you to understand, interpret and use written data such as roles within the civil service or legal profession.

The tests are multiple choice and timed – they don’t leave much time for doodling on your answer sheet.  It is critical that you practise beforehand and there are numerous websites providing online tests such as Inside Careers and Graduates First.

How to approach the tests

  1. Practise!  We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. This is the most predictable part of the recruitment process, so do your homework.  Imagine your relief when you see the test layout and question wording and it’s familiar to you.    
  2. Time yourself.  These tests are tight on time so when you’re practising, make sure you time yourself and time yourself per question.
  3. Move on.  Some questions are easier than others and deliberately so.  If you’re finding a question difficult, move on to the next and come back to those you’ve left.
  4. Calculator.  You can use a calculator, it’s not a mental arithmetic test, and there is paper on which to write answers or work out but make sure you take a calculator that you know well.  You don’t want to be learning how to do percentage calculations just before you sit the test.
  5. Speak to the employer.  Before the test it’s a good idea to understand how the employer will use the test results, how the test fits into their overall recruitment process etc.  After the test, ask for feedback on how you performed in the test regardless of whether you make it through to the next stage.  

Aptitude tests are not designed to trip you up and with practise, you can certainly improve your performance.  Accuracy and speed are key as well as knowing when to move on.  When it comes to your career, this could be the first test of many so it’s best to accept them, embrace them and prepare yourself to climb that career ladder.