How to pass graduate aptitude tests

including many practice tests with answers and working out.

 

  • Introduction

  • Aptitude, Ability &
    Intelligence Tests
  • Programming
    Tests
  • Personality
    Questionnaires
  • Improving
    your Score
  • Links

INTRODUCTIONAptitude test

Aptitude tests are structured systematic ways of evaluating how people perform on tasks or react to different situations. They have standardised methods of administration and scoring with the results quantified and compared with how others have done at the same tests. They are increasingly administered on a computer.

There are the following timed, free practice aptitude tests on this web site including answers and working out:

 

Many people have a fear of tests, but these are usually only part of the overall assessment procedure. Employers will use them alongside interviews, application forms, references, academic results and other selection methods, so test results won't usually be the only information looked at. No test is perfect, and some candidates such as those with disabilities, may be at a disadvantage when taking this type of test. If you have a disability contact the test administrator in advance as they may be able to make allowances.

Last fully updated 2012

APTITUDE, ABILITY AND INTELLIGENCE TESTS

Population studies show strong links between intelligence and mental and physical health. Lower scores on intelligence tests correlate with higher risk of developing personality disorders, depression, heart disease and other illnesses.

  • Administered under timed examination conditions. These assess logical reasoning and increase in difficulty during the test. You have to solve problems or do tasks. They commonly take the form of multiple choice with right and wrong answers e.g. numerical and verbal reasoning tests.
  • You are not expected to finish the tests. Your score relates your performance to a 'normed' group. So, your aptitude, ability or intelligence has a relative value to it. This is important to an employer who may want to know how well you can do something in relation to other applicants, the general population or people already doing the job.
  • Your score can be used in different ways. There may be a pass mark or the employer may have planned to interview a certain number of candidates and provided your score puts you in this group you will continue on to the next stage of selection. Alternatively, your score could simply be a further measure considered by an employer alongside a variety of other measures, such as interviews.

    The Flynn effect refers to the widespread increase in IQ scores over time. Some measures of intelligence such as performance on Raven’s Progressive Matrices have been increasing for one hundred years. Scores have increased the most on fluid intelligence: the ability to solve abstract problems, whereas verbal intelligence has remained static. The rise is mainly on content that is not easily learned. Explanations have included better diet, smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity and stimulation from computers and other media, and improvement in test-taking skills.

    "I took three intelligence tests in one week and my "IQ" went up 10 points by the third test. You can learn to do better on these tests and you can do it very quickly."
  • Some organisations with many applicants (such as investment banking) have tests at the beginning of a selection process (e.g. during your on-line application) to quickly reduce the number of applicants to manageable quantities.

 

Tips and comments from Kent students

  • Bring a calculator for the numerical test in case one isn't provided or has an unfamiliar layout.
  • Verbal test was agree/disagree/cannot say questions.  Read the passage slowly and carefully and the answer should be pretty obvious.  Don't rush it as some companies negative mark on them, it's probably better to not finish but get all the ones you attempt correct than finish it all but get half wrong.
  • The numerical was the usual extract data from graphs, pie charts.It gets more complex as you go along but from what I've seen it's not important to finish and more often than not you are not expected to finish given the time constraint as they also look at your accuracy.
  • The numerical test was the interpretation of graphs and pie charts and the questions get harder as you go along. The verbal test was one of those where you are given a paragraph and you are supposed to say if 'true', 'false', or 'can't tell' given a set of questions, and they get trickier as you go long.
  • Practise numerical and verbal reasoning tests as much as possible.

 

Diagrammatic and spatial reasoning are different but frequently confused.

Diagrammatic reasoning (also called abstract reasoning) tests provide good measures of general intelligence. They involve evaluating processes represented via diagrams, understanding logical rules and process diagrams and identifying causes. Abstract reasoning is used where the ability to cope with complexity and deal with novelty is required rather than relying on previous experience.

Spatial reasoning tests predict the ability to work with complex plans. Spatial reasoning involves mentally rotating two dimensional representations of three dimensional shapes. It is needed in engineering settings, architecture and interior design

PROGRAMMING APTITUDE TESTS

See our practice computer aptitude test

 

Often if you are given aptitude tests for a computing job, these will be standard numerical, verbal and diagrammatic tests but sometimes you will get a programming aptitude test. Some of these use "pseudocode", flowcharting, or assembly language. You can find information at www.psychometrics-uk.com "How to pass professional level psychometric tests" by Sam Al-Jajjoka (Kogan Page 2001) has a chapter called "Psychometric Tests for IT Recruitment" with an example assembly language test. Ask at Careers reception to use our reference copy.

Parity IT Aptitude Test. Very difficult test which tests your suitability for Information Systems roles by probing your logical thinking and a disciplined approach to complex problems Don't need computing knowledge or strong mathematical ability just ability to work through complex problems.

You are given five increasingly complex problems to do over a day. The test does not have a time limit, but you need to record the time the test takes you. Most people take from three to six hours to complete the test. You are free to make beverages and take comfort breaks, and deduct this from the overall time from the start of test until you finish. Questions mix very long mathematical and programming problems e.g. keep following an arrow in different directions, and add numbers on different lines at the same time, until you find a certain digit. The test was very much IT based. You can't do much to prepare for this test. Only one test per year can be conducted, per type of test, per person. It is very much a pass or fail test so if you do feel “under the weather” or not at your best, say before you start the test.

"Questions one and two involve following a flow chart. Write down information as requested, until you reach a stop condition. The first one is trivial, the second involves some work as it would take too many iterations to reach the stop condition, so you need to work out how many iterations and then adjust the final figures accordingly. Questions three and four were loosely based on memory management, adding offsets and finding memory locations. Don’t panic, full instruction and examples are given, just take your time, make sure you can follow the example and then answer the question. Question five is different because it tests if you can follow a set of instructions, with no example given, and the instructions are slightly opaque, but the errors you find if you misinterpret the instructions are pretty obvious. So yet again just read the instructions and take your time. The tests are conducted with pencil, so take a retractable pencil and a good quality eraser."

Feedback from Kent students after tests at computing interviews

  • I had a programming aptitude test. Simple command line language and practice examples with answers provided. Have to do simple maths with this computer language, similar to concept of registers in the ALU. Included WRT: write to screen, STO: store, SUB: Subtract etc. Also included conditionals and loops.
  • I was given a "technical awareness test" which included the following questions:
    • What is on-chip cache?: Level 0, Level 1, Level 2;
    • How many bytes is 2^20?
    • Where are UNIX system configuration files kept?": /etc, /usr, /opt;
    • Lots of questions about Java, servers
  • Multiple choice questions based on pseudocode.
    When doing the syntax checking, it can be more productive to answer the questions NOT in the order as they appear, but looking for the type X questions and then answering the type Y questions. This way you don't have to keep switching the rules in your head. I've done the same test in both ways and found the second way was more productive.
  • Syntax checking test: 10 minutes
  • Syntax checking test. Two types of code, X and Y, each has 4 rules. Check 40 lines of code, each is of a type, and see if they conform to their particular set of rules. (See to the right for tips.)
    (AXA)
  • UML diagram for animal/cat/dog - explain
  • About firewalls and proxy servers (Phillips Research)
  • Very challenging and probing technical questions about the skills I added on my application form: C++, Java, Windows and Linux questions but also questions on data structures (linked lists, array lists etc) and sorting algorithms.  (Morgan Stanley)
  • They gave me random on the spot maths questions that you had to think 'outside of the box' to solve. (Morgan Stanley)
  • Abstract test, finding patterns etc. (AXA)
  • Wireless internet standards: advantages of WAP over WEP
  • Decide the next letter in a sequence e.g. a - c - e - g ..... ? See our Letter Sequences test.

 

Also see our Computing Careers page and our Computing Applications and Interviews page

PERSONALITY QUESTIONNAIRES

These are used in order to determine your typical reactions and attitudes to a range of situations. They ask about your preferences and try to identify how well you get on with others, your normal reaction to stressful situations or your feelings about the kind of people you like to work with. They assess how you do things whereas ability tests assess how well you perform tasks. They help the selector find out your style and way of doing things. Sensible organisations will use the questionnaire in conjunction with your application form, interview and other information to make decisions rather than in isolation.

It is unlikely that these questionnaires will be timed or indeed have right or wrong answers. Do not let this lack of exam conditions fool you. Some employers will know precisely what they are looking for in terms of an ideal Personality Profile and it is up to you to meet their expectations. Don't think too long about your answers, as your first reaction to a question is often the most accurate.

It is unwise to try to fake the answers. These questionnaires usually have some type of internal checking where the same question is asked with different wording early and late in the test to try to detect dishonest answers. You may also be interviewed about your answers, and dishonesty may be found out during the interview. Ultimately, there is little point in pretending to be the kind of employee a firm is looking for if you are not right for them. Find something else you will enjoy doing!

A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) allows recruiters to gain an insight into the candidates decision-making within the relevant environment. SJTs also give candidates clear understanding of the role and kind of work situations they may encounter. There is usually a minimum cut-off score. A typical question may ask "If you saw your line manager stealing at work, what would you do?" and then there would be three options to choose from. These tests are becoming increasingly common and are used by Accenture, PWC, McDonald's and many others. I'm not personally convinced of their reliability in recruiting the right graduates as often the answers are very ambiguous in these tests. You will find an excellent practice situational judgement test at www.assessmentday.co.uk/situational-judgement-test

 

 

Tips and comments from Kent students

  • The Motivation Questionnaire was multiple choice, the title is misleading. This is more like a ‘Personality Questionnaire’. You must choose in each case between two options. If you cannot decide you must pick the closest fit. Be careful what you choose. They say that this has no bearing on their decision. However, if this is the case why bother doing it, and when you see the result at the end I think you will feel as I did that it must be taken into consideration. Statements were of the type: ‘a job that requires a great deal of concentration on detail and the following of processes or rules with no opportunity for taking the broader view you may find to be boring, restricting or stressful’.

 

IMPOVING YOUR SCORE

  • Test taking itself is a skill which can be improved! Practice makes perfect. Evidence suggests that some practice of similar tests may improve your performance on actual tests but don't spend too long practising. Brush up on your exam technique and perhaps become more familiar with the types of test you may face. Our practice tests (see the column on the left) should help. Even word and number puzzles may help you become used to the comprehension and arithmetic aspects of some tests. 
  • Listen to the instructions you are given and follow them precisely. Many people make errors because they've misunderstood what they have to do.
  • Check the amount of time you have and the number of questions you have to answer in that time. You have to get a goood balance between speed and accuracy: work quickly during the test, but pay attention to your accuracy.
  • Don't panic if you can't complete the test as not everyone will be able to: most candidates find these tests hard! Do try to answer as many questions as possible though. If you have time left at the end, check your answers. You can only score points for questions you answer, not for those you don't. Often there will be a lot of questions in a short time.
  • Try not to get bogged down on any one question: leave it until the end of the test, but remember that questions may get harder as you proceed.
  • Educated guesses are worthwhile. In multiple choice tests, you may be able to quickly rule out obviously wrong answers and concentrate on those that are left. In maths tests you may be able to estimate the answer rather than working it out precisely, to save time.
  • Some older tests (for example an IBM programmer test), those used by the FSA and some investment banks use negative marking where marks are deducted for incorrect answers so random guesses don't work. In non-negatively marked tests a box ticking monkey could get a 20% score! Negative marking is not used in many tests: you could ask the test administrator if negative marking is used but they may choose not to tell you!
  • If you have a numerical test coming up and haven't done any maths since school then brush up on your numeracy - try BBC Skillswise Stop using a calculator for everyday calculations, practice your multiplication and division, ability to calculate percentages, and to read graphs and tables. Our numeracy tests (to the left) have answers with full working out shown. Similarly if your English is weak brush up on this.
  • Personality tests don't have right and wrong answers. Be honest and open when answering these.
  • You'll do your best if your adrenalin is flowing slightly, so don't worry about worrying! But try to stay calm and focused and try to enjoy the experience.

On-line tests

  • Increasingly tests are on-line. Again try our on-line practice tests to gain familiarity. Make sure you are in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and in a good frame of mind.
  • If the test was taken unsupervised on the web you may be asked to sit another, shorter test at the interview stage to make sure you didn't get someone else to do it for you.

Tests on the employer's premises

  • Treat it like an interview: get a good night's sleep, plan your journey to the test site, arrive on time and appropriately dressed. Tiredness and alcohol can affect your ability to do well!
  • Before the actual test, you will be given practice examples to try: make sure you ask questions if anything is unclear at this stage.
  • Take a calculator with you: most maths tests now allow a calculator. If so you will be given one, but may be allowed to use your own.

BOOKS ON TESTS

Many books on the subject of tests, including many practice examples, are available for reference in the Careers Service building - ask at the Reception Desk, or you can buy them on-line from Amazon and elsewhere. These include:

  • Psychometric Tests for Graduates
  • Passing Psychometric Tests
  • How to Pass Graduate Psychometric Tests
  • Graduate Psychometric Test Workbook
  • IQ and Psychometric Test Workbook
  • How to Master Psychometric Tests
  • Learn to Succeed at Selection Tests
  • How to Pass Professional Level Psychometric Tests
  • How to Pass Numeracy Tests
  • How to Pass Verbal Reasoning Tests
  • How to Pass Computer Selection Tests

 

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