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A student's ultimate guide to acing aptitude tests

Frances Chan

Careers Commentator
Don't wing your aptitude tests. No, really, don't.

Get ready to discover everything you need to know about aptitude tests to breeze through them. Let's dive in!

  1. Everything you need to know about aptitude tests
  2. Our 5 best tips for passing them

Everything you need to know about the tests

What are aptitude tests?

Aptitude tests are like quizzes that help reveal what you're like, how you think, and how you might act in different situations. 

The aptitude tests you'll encounter will most often take the form of a timed, online test where you might:

  • Answer questions about your personality.
  • Choose the correct word to complete a sentence.
  • Identify the pattern in a series of shapes.

Think of it as a brain teaser. For instance, if you see a couple of rows of shapes that follow a pattern, could you figure out what the next shape should be? That's the kind of challenge these tests might throw at you.

aptitude test

Why are aptitude tests used in job applications?

In theory, aptitude tests allow employers to:

  1. Look beyond skills and experience: While a candidate's skills and experiences are important, they don't show everything about a person. Aptitude tests help employers understand hidden qualities that aren't obvious from a resume, such as how well someone understands and manages their emotions or their approach to problem-solving.

  2. Ensure the candidate fits the job: Employers want to find someone who not only has the right skills but also thinks and feels in ways that match the job and company culture. Aptitude tests help them see if a candidate's personality and thinking style are the right fit for the role.

  3. Create equal opportunities: Aptitude tests are used to give all candidates a fair chance. The idea is that no matter where you come from or who you are, the test will measure everyone by the same standard, making the hiring process more objective and unbiased.

Prosple's take on aptitude tests

In practice, the main reason large employers use aptitude tests is to streamline their screening process. Overwhelmed with applications, they turned to aptitude tests as a way to quickly decide which candidates to interview.

Ironically, this isn't what they're meant for. In the hiring process, aptitude tests are meant to give a more complete picture of a candidate outside of resumes and interviews – not serve as the initial filter that narrows down the applicant pool.

Here at Prosple, we also have some reservations about the accuracy of aptitude tests. To put these tests to the test, we had our entire team take two of them. The results were, let's just say, quite surprising.

  • Consider one of our team members—a prize-winning writer with excellent communication skills. Surprisingly, she scored low on the verbal reasoning section of the intelligence test!
  • When it came to the personality test, what people reported about themselves didn't always match how they acted at work. (This echoes a thought-provoking observation from MIT's journal of management: "People often differ more from themselves than they do from one another.")

So why do some of the world’s largest organizations rely so heavily on aptitude testing? We believe their choice is a mix of efficiency and practicality.

  • Sure, there are more precise ways to measure job performance, like task-based assessments. But those methods are time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially when dealing with a large number of applicants. In contrast, aptitude tests are quick and straightforward: They're designed and administered by third-party testing companies, so employers don't need to lift a finger.
  • Plus, major companies like the Big 4 have plenty of applicants. For them, it's not so much about catching every single high-potential candidate but more about finding a dependable way to separate the strong from the weak efficiently.

So, while you should prepare thoroughly for your aptitude tests, don't take the results as the be-all and end-all. They don't define you or predict your success in a job with complete accuracy.

But more on that later! First, let's tackle how you can ace these tests.

How to ace these tests

#1 Get to know the tests

That's right – aptitude tests aren't just one test. They're actually a mix of different tests that check things like your personality, arithmetic skills, and logical thinking skills. Learn about each kind of test so you know what to expect!

Numerical reasoning test

Assesses: How good you are with numbers -- including how well you perform calculations, interpret graphs and tables, and make logical deductions based on numerical information.

Sample question: "Here's a graph displaying sales figures for different products over a period of time. Calculate the percentage increase in sales for a specific product between two given months."

Verbal reasoning test

Assesses: How good you are at working with written information -- meaning how well you understand written passages, draw logical conclusions, and make accurate inferences.

Sample question: "Which of the following statements is most supported by the information in the passage?"

Logical reasoning test

Assesses: Your logical thinking abilities are -- for example, how well you identify patterns, make logical deductions, and draw accurate conclusions.

Sample question: "Here is a series of shapes. Which shape comes next in this sequence?"

Personality test

Assesses: Your personality - including your communication style, work preferences, and how you might fit into a team or organizational culture.

Sample question: "Rate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements: (1) 'I enjoy being the center of attention'  (2) 'I prefer working alone rather than in a team.'"

Situational judgement test (SJT)

Assesses: How well you handle handle a variety of workplace situations. The point is to see how you'd respond to real-life work scenarios, whether you fit company culture, whether you have solid decision-making abilities, people skills, etc.

Sample question: "You've been working on a project for several weeks, and it's due in two days. You realize that there's a significant error in your calculations, which will affect the final outcome. Which of the following courses of action would you take?"

Depending on the industry or organization you're applying to, there might be different kinds of tests. Lately, some organizations have even begun to use games to evaluate candidates.

So make sure you know what tests you're up against! If the company doesn’t tell you, you can look up information on the internet or on websites like Reddit and Glassdoor.

#2 Think from the employer's perspective

For personality and situational judgment tests, a tip is to consider the employer's point of view. For example, a personality test might ask, "How often do you pay your bills on time?" Even if you're sometimes late, answer with "often" or "very often" – you want to show employers that you're responsible!

Or let's say you encounter this situational judgment problem:

Situation: You've been working on a project for weeks, and it's due in two days. You find a big mistake in your numbers that will change the results.


  1. Fix the mistake on your own, stay late if you have to, and hope nobody spots the slip-up.
  2. Tell your team and boss about the mistake right away and help each other to solve it.
  3. Show the wrong and right versions at the project meeting, and be upfront about the error.
  4. Write down what went wrong and the right way to do it, then ask for more time to redo the work.
  5. Blame the mistake on a computer problem and go ahead with showing the wrong information.

Each choice reflects something different to the employer.

  • If the company likes when people take charge of their own work, they might see option 1 as you being proactive, even though it's risky if you can't fix the problem fast enough.
  • If they value being open and working as a team, option 2 could seem good to them.
  • Option 4 might be seen positively in a place that thinks being detailed and doing quality work is more important than meeting every deadline.

Knowing what the company thinks is important and the kind of culture they have can guide you to the best response. And if you're not sure what they want, you can check out their profile on Prosple, look at their website, or talk to their recruiters!

#3 Pace yourself

Time management is crucial for any exam, but it's particularly key for aptitude tests. Here's a simple strategy. Before diving into each section:

  1. Note the time limit.
  2. Divide the total time by the number of questions to figure out your average time per question.

This will help you gauge how much time to spend on each question. Being aware that you have, for example, 10 seconds per question stops you from lingering too long on tough questions and missing out on easier ones. Each question is worth the same amount of points, so if you find yourself going overtime on a question, take your best guess and move on.

But don't fret if you can't finish every question. These tests are designed to stretch your abilities, not gauge whether you can answer every single question. No one completes them all. So keep your cool and just focus on doing your best!

#4 Practice, practice, practice

Do not wing your aptitude tests. You might be tempted to think of aptitude tests as just another test, but they're not.

You'll want to practice the exams in order to:

  • Familiarize yourself with the format and the time constraints, so you can walk into the actual exam with confidence.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus your efforts on the areas you need to work on.
  • Give yourself the best chance of landing a job or internship of course!

Recommended resources:

  • Practice tests from employers: If they give you a practice test, keep practicing until you know it inside out. If they don't, look up example tests online.
  • Careervidz' tutorials on YouTube: These videos teach you how to answer questions fast. Check out this playlist.

#5 Rest up

Last but not least, make sure you're well-rested before test day. You'll be able to think more clearly and work through more problems when your brain is fresh and energetic!

What to do if you keep failing aptitude tests

If you've been struggling with psychometric tests despite following all our tips, don't worry too much. There are many intelligent and successful individuals who don't do well on these tests, sometimes due to ADHD, extreme test anxiety, or other reasons.

If this sounds like you, don't worry. There are lots of employers who don't use psychometric testing. These are often smaller companies or startups that don't get as many job applications, so they:

  • Have more time to look at each applicant, which means they don't need to use a test to narrow down their choices.
  • Can't afford to overlook someone with great potential just because they don't test well.

What next?

However you feel about aptitude tests, you'll be taking a lot of them, so we hope these tips help!