This website is primarily to help organisations to use tests and assessments to support with their staff selection and development. However, we also like to support candidates to feel prepared and comfortable with taking selection tests, as we want you to be able to give a good performance to demonstrate your capabilities. The fact that you are researching selection tests is a good sign i.e. that you appreciate that it is worthwhile being prepared.
Many people worry about taking tests, so if this is you, we hope that by giving you some useful and helpful information, we can help alleviate much of this anxiety. However, some pre-test nervousness can be a positive aspect as it raises your senses, attention span, and focus.
Please understand that tests are always only part of the overall assessment procedure. They are used to support the other methods like interviewing. So for example, if the job requires good business numeracy, interviewing may extract some useful information about dealing with business numeracy. But interviews have their limitations as we are relying on what a person says they have done or can do, and there is always going to be some subjectivity in assessing their capability. Therefore, we can also use an appropriate business numerical test that will objectively measure the candidate's skill directly. However, many tests will only measure something quite narrow, so if this is a management job, a very high score on business numeracy does not mean that they will be a highly effective manager. Therefore, tests only form part of the supportive information.
How Useful is it to Practice Taking the Tests?
Of course it will be beneficial to practice taking the tests, but try to find out exactly what tests you will be taking as practising the wrong tests can be more detrimental than useful. Appreciate that tests are used to assess relevant job skills and attributes and if you are told that you will be taking a numerical test, then be aware that there are different types of numerical tests.
Practising tests is useful as it allows you to feel prepared about the testing environment. Most are conducted as online assessments, so if you have never completed an online assessment, then it is useful that you feel comfortable with this procedure and understand how things work.
Practising also gets you well prepared for how you might need to focus and concentrate on different types of tests, and also how you need to manage your time as most are timed tests.
Please bear in mind that over-practicing is not necessarily helpful and can be detrimental. You want to be alert and feeling good when you take these tests, therefore over-practicing may make your mind too cognitively tired or saturated and you may actually not perform as well as you would. You may also get unnecessarily worked up or stressed about the tests. The reality is that they are only part of the selection process - something that supports the other information. Recruiters do NOT automatically offer the job to the person who scores the highest on a test. Therefore, all you need to do is be prepared and do your best.
There are websites available which will allow you to practice tests without paying for them:
CEB-SHL are the market leaders in tests:
The University of Kent website provides free practice tests and it also gives you results:
Guidance on Test Taking - Ability Tests
- Most tests today are online assessments rather than paper-and-pencil based. Depending on the job you have applied for, you may be required to complete one or more online assessments. If you have more than one to complete, you do not need to complete them all in one sitting. However, each test should be completed in one session. Different tests will be different lengths but typically many tests are quite short - less than 25 minutes. The mental focus for some tests can be very high therefore it makes sense to have a break between tests.
- If you are completing the tests online, not at the company's premises, then you will be given a deadline for you to complete the online test or tests. You can choose the best time for you to do this. Ensure that you choose a time where you are relatively relaxed and not too stressed. You might also choose a time of the day when you feel more alert and focused. Ensure that you have good internet access and that the environment is quiet and you will not be disturbed or distracted as you will be unable to pause part way through.
- Most tests will provide you with some practice questions before you start the timed test. As the practice questions are not timed, take your time, and make sure you are very clear about what you need to do. If the test is being administered to you by a person, then if there is anything that you do not understand, make sure you ask about it before you start the test.
- Pace yourself - make sure you know how much time you have for the tests. Try to answer most of the questions, but do not worry about not finishing all the questions as the test has been designed to stretch the most capable individuals. You do not need to complete all the questions to achieve a reasonable score.
- Do not get stuck - if you find a particular question difficult, do not spend too much time on it. Give the answer you think is best, but avoid simply guessing. If you have time, you may be able to go back to it at the end.
- Concentrate - work as quickly and accurately as you can and do not get distracted. Understand the nature of the test and also the nature of the job to get the pacing correct. You do not want to rush questions where you might make too many errors, nor do you want to go so slowly and carefully where you end up doing only a few questions. However, if you are applying for a job that is very much about quality and safety, and precision, then you might want to just adjust it slightly towards accuracy rather than speed.
- If you have a disability that may require special arrangements you should let the organisation that you have applied to know about this in the first instance.
- If you are completing tests online at home, bear in mind that the organisation may follow up with short re-verification tests when you are invited in for the interview.
- If you experience any technical issues e.g. losing internet connection, you should have relevant contact details for this, otherwise, contact the organisation you have applied to.
Development Tips - How to improve your Ability Test Results:
These tests typically measure underlying capabilities, therefore practice will sharpen up your underlying capabilities, but you are not likely to improve your test score dramatically.
The other thing you can do is to move away from the test and consider the work skills that the test is assessing. This works as you are actually further developing the underlying skills that the test is assessing. Below are tips for several common tests:
Verbal Critical Reasoning tests
These tests measure your ability to respond effectively to tasks that place demands on your verbal abilities, such as evaluating information, making decisions based on written materials, problem solving and working with reports, email and letters.
Verbal ability can be exercised and developed through any activity that requires you to use it eg:
- Reading - the more complex the material the better.
- Learning - read material that requires you to develop knowledge or skills.
- Composing letters, reports or written arguments.
- Taking part in discussions or debates.
- Completing crossword puzzles, word games, problem-solving challenges.
Numerical Critical Reasoning tests
These tests measure your ability to respond effectively to tasks that place demands on your numerical abilities, such as evaluating financial information, performing calculations, interpreting numerical data and working with accounts, profit & loss reports, prices and statistics.
Numerical ability can be exercised and developed through any activity that requires you to use it. Take a proactive interest in data and numbers. eg:
- Ensure you know how to work out percentages and ratios.
- Making sense of graphs and tables before reading the supporting text.
- Being able to estimate and calculate quickly e.g. do you know how many litres of fuel you will get for £50?
- Managing budgets.
- Balancing your current account each month.
- Completing number games and puzzles such as sodoku.
Mechanical Reasoning Tests
These tests measure your ability to apply mechanical and physical laws to real objects and processes.
Mechanical reasoning ability can be exercised and developed through any activity that requires you to use it eg:
- Working with machines, physical processes or objects
- Building physical objects from kits
- Repairing gears, engines, machines
- Moving objects through 3-dimensional space
Guidance on Test Taking - Personality Questionnaires
- Personality questionnaires are used to find out more about your preferences and work behaviours. These questionnaires appreciate that everyone is unique and different and provide a quick means of understanding you better. Therefore, you should try to respond to the questions as honestly and discerningly as possible.
- Personality questionnaires are not timed as they require you to answer all the questions. However, try not to ponder over questions too long, as you will just confuse yourself when you think about a question too deeply. It is better just to go with your immediate reaction to a question.
- 'There are no right or wrong answers'. This depends on what we are relating to. On the basis that we want to understand individuals as individuals, then yes, there are no right or wrong answers. However, when we have a specific job in mind, e.g. like a sales job, then if the person does not like to deal with people, is very introverted, does not like selling and influencing others, then there will be 'better answers' in terms of fit for this job. However, personality information is typically not used in isolation to screen out candidates (unless it is supported with research for that specific purpose). Rather, the personality information will be used to support other evidence to determine overall 'fit' for the job or role. At the end of the day, it is best for both the candidate and the organisation that the 'fit' is good.
- Like other tests there will be some practice questions so you understand how the questionnaire works. Take your time over this to ensure you understand the instructions and know how to respond to the questions.
- Try to choose a time to complete the questionnaire when you feel relatively comfortable and relaxed and are not stressed or worried about a big issue.
After Completing the Online Assessments
- In many situations you will be invited to complete a test or tests before being invited to attend an interview or assessment day. Often, tests may be used to screen candidates as they have too many candidates that meet their criteria from the application form sift. If this is so, we hope that you are invited to the next stage by the organisation you have applied to.
- You might be asked questions relating to the personality questionnaire as well as the aptitude tests during the interview.
- There should be an opportunity to receive feedback on the assessments you have completed. This may be after the recruitment is completed. You can ask about feedback and if no formal arrangement has been arranged, then you can request that you would like some feedback. The request should be made to the organisation that you have applied to. The test information really belongs to you, so you have a right to request feedback, and this should be provided in a form that is useful and meaningful to you.
- Your test data should only be used for the purpose that it was collected (e.g. you have applied for a job at an organisation) and cannot be used beyond that purpose without your express permission. Quest Partnership take data protection and confidentiality extremely seriously and hold ISO 27001 in Information Security Management.