Preparing for a Numerical Reasoning Test

If you’re applying for graduate jobs or training schemes, you are likely to face a variety of psychometric tests at the early stage of the selection process.  Amy, who has a background in recruitment, has written us a thorough guide on mastering numerical reasoning tests. 


Numerical reasoning tests are often used by prospective employers to test a candidate’s maths skills. These employers are looking beyond the maths capabilities you may have picked up through your GCSEs. Instead, they want to know how your maths translates to the working environment.
Numerical reasoning tests are often used by candidates applying for jobs in sales and marketing, or for roles that rely on data analysis. If you have to study or interpret data as part of your decision-making processes, then it is likely that you may be asked to participate in these numerical tests.

Numerical Reasoning

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash


Types of Questions

There are many different types of numerical reasoning tests, but they broadly cover similar topics. During the test, you can expect to be asked questions based on simple arithmetic (basic addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) or you could be asked to work out formulas or demonstrate your understanding of fractions. You may be presented with a series of graphs to establish your ability to read data correctly or you may be asked to identify the next entry in a number sequence. The questions you are asked will likely be directly relevant to your prospective job. For example, those applying for accountancy/finance roles could expect questions based on balance sheets, growth rates, profit margins, etc.

What to Expect

There are two main types of numerical reasoning tests: the speed test and the power test.
The speed test is based upon the candidate answering as many questions as possible in a specific time frame.
The power test is where the questions can vary in difficulty.
Each test provider has its stipulations and time limits, although you should expect the test to last around 30–40 minutes. You might be asked to attend a dedicated testing centre, or you may be provided with an online link to complete the test at home.

The Challenges

Numerical reasoning tests can be challenging. Many participants have reported that numerical reasoning tests are the hardest type of aptitude tests set by prospective employers. This is because they are time-limited. With an average of 30 questions to complete, participants only have a minute or two to read each question, understand what they need to do, and find the right answer.
Tests may require you to consider multiple things within the same question. This means your interpretation skills need to be on-point and you need to make sure you understand what the question is asking.
If you’re more of a words-person than a mathematician, having to take a maths test can be daunting, especially if it has been a while since you studied maths at school.

Who Runs These Tests?

Employers use external test providers to conduct the tests on their behalf. Different providers have their own specialisms, so it’s important to find out which tests the employer uses so you can practise and prepare for them.  You should also ask if you will be allowed to use a calculator or not. Some of the main providers of numerical reasoning tests are: Capp Assessments, IBM Kenexa, Pearson, Saville, SHL, and Talent Q.

Useful Tips to Help You Prepare

Your test score may help a recruiter determine whether you are the right fit for a position, so make sure you allow time to study and practise, so you feel confident in your maths skills before you take the test. There are many practice tests and sample test questions available online (many of which can be found on the WikiJob site), so you can familiarise yourself with the types of questions you may be asked. This preparation isn’t just about sharpening your arithmetic skills, it’s about ensuring that you understand the questions and can answer within the allowed time frame.
Practice really does make perfect. And the more confident you are in understanding what you will be required to do, the more likely you are to achieve a high score. You should also practise under test conditions. If you know there will be a time limit, practise answering as many questions as you can within that limit. If you are participating in a speed test, this can be crucial to get a high score. You may wish to divide your time so that you only allocate one minute per question before moving onto the next (using the stopwatch function on your phone could be helpful).
As with any exam preparation, it is important to feel mentally prepared. Make sure that you feel well-rested, you have eaten beforehand (staving off any hunger pangs) and that you have a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Check you have everything you need, from a pen and pencil through to a calculator (if allowed) and some scrap paper.
When test day comes, take a few moments to do deep rhythmical breathing to calm any nerves and read through the questions carefully. Don’t be tempted to skip through the instructions. Read everything twice so that you know exactly what you need to do.
Reasoning tests are about checking that you can read instructions carefully. All the information you need will be provided on the page. Remember, you shouldn’t make assumptions and base your answer on your prior knowledge.  Instead, you need to ensure that any answers you give are based on the information provided.
Finally, remember that accuracy is key. Employers will be looking for candidates who get the answers right, so take your time and focus on the basics.

About the author

Amy Dawson
Amy Dawson is a freelance copywriter specialising in content creation and PR strategies. With a background in recruitment, Amy has spent many years writing about how to make the most of your job hunt, from finding out where to search for your dream job, to preparing for your interview and understanding what to expect from your employer. Amy’s key strengths are thinking about who the audience is; understanding what motivates them to take action and ensuring that they feel compelled to keep reading, whatever the subject matter.


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