Psychometric and aptitude tests

Many organisations use ‘tests’ as part of their recruitment process to assess the personal attributes, characteristics, intelligence and general abilities of candidates applying for jobs or educational/vocational courses. Although many companies will conduct tests during the earlier stages of recruitment (usually presented in the form of online or electronic tests and sent via email), some will use shortened or further tests at assessment centres to enable them to validate tests previously taken by candidates.

The term ‘psychometric’ often refers to tests that measure a person’s understanding of particular formulae, theories and concepts, and the term ‘aptitude’ refers to tests that measures a person’s characteristics, intellect, and potential for understanding new theories and concepts.

While most psychometric and aptitude tests are often multiple choice type answers and do not always require previous knowledge to complete, they do require certain methods of logical thinking and are often time limited. Therefore, it is important to prepare for tests beforehand - with practise being the most effective way to build speed and accuracy!

The Careers and Employability Service has a portal of online practice tests which is free and accessible to University of Portsmouth students and graduates (up to five years after graduating). For login details, please contact the Careers and Employability Service.

Under the Equality Act, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to recruitment selection processes if applicants have declared disabilities. For example, it is often standard practice to allow applicants with dyslexia 25% extra time to undertake psychometric or aptitude tests. If you believe you have one or more conditions which may impact on the selection process of a job, it is important that you inform the employer in advance, to enable them to make any necessary adjustments.

Standard psychometric and aptitude tests

The following information can help you to understand and practice different types of psychometric and aptitude tests that are often presented by graduate employers:

Abstract, Diagrammatic and Inductive Reasoning:

Abstract, diagrammatic and inductive tests are a form of logical reasoning tests. You will often be presented with different shapes and images (displayed in groups) and be required to either work out particular patterns to identify a sequence or choose an image to complete a chronological sequence. Research suggests that people who do well in these tests tend to perform better in the job, and many companies use these tests to predict a candidate’s job performance.

To further explore tests of this nature, please view the following web links:

Concentration Tests:

Concentration tests assess your ability to focus for long periods of time and are often used when selecting candidates for jobs where mistakes could have serious or expensive consequences (such as train drivers, particular occupations in the armed forces, or jobs of a technical, financial or legal nature). While concentration tests will have varying levels of complexity, tests will typically assess your reaction times and precision when dealing with repetitive or routine tasks - such as analysing changes in a series of shapes or combinations of numbers and letters.

For further information on (and examples of) concentration tests, please view the following websites:

Critical Thinking Tests:

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse and evaluate an issue effectively in order to reach an informed judgement or decision. This quality is key to many professions that require significant, analytical and independent thought - such as managerial/senior positions and occupations in the legal sector. The Watson Glaser and Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) are considered common tools to evaluate the cognitive and critical thinking abilities of professionals, with such tests being considered highly valid predictors of a candidate’s future performance in work or when undertaking a programme of learning.

The following web links provide further information on critical thinking tests:


Gamification (or games-based assessment) is a new type of test which uses online games or games-based tools to assess a candidate’s suitability for a job. Often used to assess the different competencies and personality traits of candidates, companies are increasingly adopting computer-generated games as part of their recruitment process to shortlist prospective and suitable employees. So, if you have not had opportunity to experience a games-based assessment yet, it is highly likely that you will do in the future!

To find out more information on gamification or games-based assessment, the following websites provide useful insights:

Non-Verbal Reasoning:

Non-verbal reasoning is often used as an umbrella term for tests that use diagrammatic or pictorial-type questions to assess a person’s ability to recognise shapes and patterns in regards to formations - such as inductive, abstract, diagrammatic, logical or spatial tests. As non-verbal reasoning tests do not rely on specific language abilities, they are particularly effective for international assessment; with the term ‘non-verbal reasoning’ used to indicate that verbal competency is not necessary for (or assessed by) the test.

Please view the following websites to further explore information on non-verbal reasoning tests:

Numerical Reasoning:

These are mathematical tests that assess your numerical abilities. Questions often involve tables, charts and graphs, and ask you to calculate ratios and percentages based on the information presented to you. Depending on the test environment, you may be allowed to use a calculator during the test. However, it is highly recommended that you always have a pen/pencil and some paper to hand to work your calculations out on. 

The following web links provide access to practice numerical reasoning tests along with further information on these type of tests:

If you have not used maths for a while or need to improve your general mathematical and numerical ability, it may be useful to explore GCSE study guides or visit online learning resources such as the those suggested below:

Personality Tests:

Personality tests (or questionnaires) are designed to assess particular characteristics of a job applicant to ascertain whether he/she has the relevant personality traits to perform in the job. To help prepare for these tests, it is advisable to research the organisation you are applying for to gain an understanding of their core values and also what qualities they consider important in an employee.

For more information on personality tests, please access the following links:

Situational Judgement:

With situational judgment tests (SJTs), you will often be presented with a series of work-based scenarios (usually involving a conflict or dilemma) and then be required to solve the problem by selecting the best possible solution or action to take based upon a series of options. They are a popular psychological tool used by employers to evaluate applicants’ cognitive and behavioural abilities when presented with situations that may occur in the workplace. To prepare for SJTs, you should research the company you are applying for to gain an understanding of their core principles and values - this may help you to answer questions in a way which match the company’s ethos or code of ethics. In addition, when answering SJTs, try to imagine yourself in the workplace - this will help you to answer questions in a more logical and reasonable ‘work’ version of yourself.

To sample free situational judgement questions and for further information on SJTs, please access the links below:

Verbal Reasoning:

Verbal reasoning (or verbal ability/verbal comprehension) tests are designed to assess a person’s ability to comprehend and reason with written information within the English language. While tests come in different formats (please see below for different types of verbal reasoning tests), a common test used by recruiters involves reading a passage of text and then answering ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘cannot say’ to statements which correspond to the passage. Studies have indicated that verbal reasoning tests may be challenging for individuals whose first language is not English, however, like all psychometric/aptitude tests, the best way to prepare and perform your best is through practice.

The following websites can help you to prepare and know what to expect with different types of verbal reasoning tests:

Spelling Tests:

Spelling tests can be used as part of the recruitment process for roles that require strong written communication skills - such as in supervisory, admin or clerical-related jobs. Questions can be presented in multiple choice format or in the form of a sentence, with words missing or misspelt. Test takers are often required to select the correct spelt word from a number of options provided or replace the missing or misspelt word with a correct one.

For further information on spelling tests, please view the following links:

Capp Assessment Tests: 

Incorporating aspects of the tests above, Capp assessment tests may include critical reasoning, numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning. Capp are a consultancy and psychometric test publisher who specialise in Strengths Based Assessments that are becoming increasingly popular.
They also offer a number of different psychometric tests that are widely used. Organisations that utilise these tests include Google, Atkins, Amazon and RBS.

More information about Capp assessments can be found here

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Specialised psychometric and aptitude tests

The following information provides an insight into other types of psychometric and aptitude tests that can be presented by employers recruiting graduates in specialist fields (such as architects, doctors, dentists, engineers and surveyors):


BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) are tests used as part of a selection process by a number of medical, dental and veterinary schools to select suitable candidates applying for their courses. The BMAT is a two hour pen-and-paper test which comprises of three sections and the UKCAT is a two hour exam which consists of five parts. For candidates who have a documented medical condition or disability and require additional time to sit the UKCAT exam, the UKCATSEN (UK Clinical Aptitude Test Special Educational Needs) will offer an extra 25% testing time and applicants can request a particular test-centre environment in advance of their test.  

For further information on BMAT and UKCAT, please view the following links:

Fault Diagnosis:

Fault diagnosis tests (also referred to as fault finding aptitude tests) are likely to be undertaken by candidates applying for an electrical engineering or technician role. They often involve assessing diagrams made up of switches and circuits to test a person’s ability to identify problems that are not readily apparent to the naked eye. The rationale behind such tests is to assess a person’s logical and abstract reasoning skills when looking for faults or errors in the diagram presented to identify if they are suitable to undertake work of this nature.

The following web links provide samples and further insights into fault diagnosis tests:

IQ Tests:

IQ or Intelligence Quotient tests are a way of measuring a person’s mental agility. While IQ tests are not widely used as a form of psychometric testing, many psychological studies support a link between a high IQ score and performance at work. As a result, some employers (particularly blue-chip companies) will use IQ tests as part of their recruitment process to select the most able and suitable employees.

Although IQ tests indicate the level of intelligence you were born with, you can improve your IQ score with practise. The following web sites provide further information on and access to practice IQ tests:

Mechanical or Technical Comprehension:

Mechanical or technical comprehension tests are predominantly used in careers where an ability to understand and work with mechanical and technical concepts are essential (such as aircraft engineers, mechanical engineers, motor mechanics, train drivers and certain armed forces jobs). Tests can include fault diagnosis questions, but will often also include questions relating to:

• Electricity - electrical currents, circuits and voltages

• Physical forces - motion, gravity, pressure, acceleration, friction etc.

• Calculations such as area or mass

• Pulleys and levers

• Magnetism

• Dynamics of liquids as well as water and air pressure

• Terminologies, conventions and tools

The following websites provide useful information on mechanical and technical comprehension tests:

Normative, Ipsative and Nipsative Tests:

Normative, Ipsative and Nipsative tests are terms used to describe the way questions are presented - usually in personality assessments. Normative tests are very common for assessing personality and often require test takers to agree with a behavioural statement on a scale of 1 to 5. Ipsative tests use a ‘forced-choice’ format whereby candidates are presented with 3 or 4 behavioural statements and required to choose a statement which is ‘most’ and ‘least’ like them. Nipsative tests include an element of Normative and Ipsative assessment; requiring test takers to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 their preferred behavioural statement, but also rank the statement in terms of which one describes them the most. 

For more information on Normative, Ipsative and Nipsative tests, please view the following links:

Spatial Ability:

Also termed ‘spatial reasoning’ or ‘spatial awareness’, spatial ability tests are often used by the military and recruiters of architects, surveyors, engineers and designers to assess candidates’ ability to think spatially and mentally. Tests usually involve reviewing and rotating shapes in two or three dimensions to perceive patterns between them. People with the ability to visualise or form mental images of shapes and objects from different formats, angles and perspectives are often able to perform well in these tests. However, if this is not a skill which comes naturally to you, do not fear as studies have shown that practice can greatly improve spatial awareness abilities and performance in such tests.  

The following web links provide further information on spatial ability tests:

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Further information and advice

If you are a current student at the University of Portsmouth or have studied at this institution within the last five years, please visit or contact the Careers and Employability Service to receive further access to practise psychometric or aptitude tests, in-tray exercises and books.  

In addition, if you need further or sector specific information on psychometric/aptitude tests, why not check out some of the links below to help develop your knowledge and understanding:

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