Skip to main content

"Excellent experience. Knowledgeable staff and really went the extra mile. Found my ideal position and I couldn't be happier. Special shout out to Sam and George: who made the process smooth and easy for me. Highly recommend."

Karl Pearce

A Full Guide to Aptitude Testing

What are Aptitude Tests, How are they Used, Top Tips and Advantages and Disadvantages of Aptitude Testing

What are Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests in a recruitment process measure a person’s ability to learn, think logically, and solve problems.  Aptitude tests commonly include numerical, verbal, abstract reasoning, problem-solving and spatial awareness tests.

It is essential to understand that aptitude tests are not intelligence tests.

Psychometric Aptitude Testing versus Psychometric Personality Questionnaires

Aptitude Tests are commonly referred to as ‘psychometric tests’; however, they are not an indicator of personality traits. 

Psychometric Personality Questionnaires such as MBTI, DiSC, 16pf, etc., are not tests as there are not ‘right’ or ‘wrongs’ in personality, just different traits are better for some jobs.  See more about psychometric personality questionnaires.

How do most Aptitude Tests work?

Most aptitude tests are designed to assess an individual’s cognitive abilities rather than just academic skills.  They generally involve a series of multiple-choice questions.  They usually cover a wide range of topics, from verbal and numerical reasoning to mathematics, problem-solving and spatial awareness.  The goal of aptitude tests is to measure an individual’s ability to learn and comprehend rather than their knowledge of a particular subject.

Aptitude Tests are a test of ‘fluid intelligence’, i.e. they do not require prior knowledge.  In theory, this ensures that every candidate is ‘in the same boat’ and therefore treated equally (not strictly true, but more of that later in the Disadvantages of Aptitude Tests).

What is Fluid Intelligence

Fluid intelligence (Cattell, 1963) is the ability to reason, analyse, and solve problems with little or no prior knowledge or experience.  In easy-to-understand terms, it means “raw brain horsepower”, i.e. how quickly and accurately you can come to decisions.

How Are Aptitude Tests Used in a Recruitment Process?

They are used to screen applicants or to identify candidates for further testing.  They are typically used to see how well you will take onboard training and knowledge.

What do Aptitude Tests look like?

  • Nowadays, they are completed online.
  • Falsified respondents are assumed to be as low as 5%. However, to avoid fraudulent applications, they often take place at an ‘Assessment Centre’ in a classroom-type environment.
  • Tests are usually multiple-choice and timed
  • You usually get a daunting number of questions in an extremely short time period to complete.
  • Each test is scored as a percentage. The test results then combine into an overall test score and are compared and validated against other test takers and the validation data (see


How are Aptitude Tests Scored?

Sometimes you have to exceed a minimum pass score to be considered.  This score has usually been attained by successful staff that perform the same role within the organisation. 

Usually, your results will be compared or benchmarked against a ‘norm’ group (‘Comparison Group’).  The 'norm group' is the sample of test-takers used to represent the population/cohort for whom the test is intended.  For instance, this could be the general UK Working Population, graduates, management-level or staff from within a specific department or discipline, e.g. Marketing staff. 

What are the Main Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests are usually a combination of several tests that include:

  • Diagrammatic Reasoning – How you reason logically
  • Error Checking – How you identify errors.
  • E-tray/In Tray Exercise - How you prioritise tasks.
  • Long Term Memory – How you retain information in the long term.
  • Numerical Reasoning – How you deal with numbers.
  • Short Term Memory – How you retain information in the short term.
  • Situational Judgement - How you would approach situations.
  • Spatial Awareness – How you can visualise things in your mind.
  • Verbal Reasoning – How you comprehend words and paragraphs.


Top Tips for Aptitude Tests – Both Online and in an Assessment Centre Setting

  • Try and get a good night's sleep.
  • Take the stress out by arriving at least ten minutes before the designated time.
  • Listen to the instructions.
  • Ask questions if anything is unclear. You will typically be given some paper on which to make rough workings.
  • Plan your time - Before beginning each test, calculate roughly how much time you can dedicate to each question. Do not remain fixated on just one question; move on and attempt another.  Avoid guessing; if you do not have adequate time to answer a question, you can always return to it later.
  • Make sure that you are hydrated. Always accept water at any interview.
  • Ask whether you have to answer every question in succession (sometimes you do, in which case the ‘educated guess’ comes into play).
  • Often, tests use ‘negative marking’, i.e. if you answer 30 and score 15 correctly, you will score lower than someone who answered ten questions all correctly.
  • Ask whether the test uses negative testing before you start. If not, take ‘educated guesses’.
  • Don’t make assumptions. The tests are designed to be quite deliberately ambiguous in their wording.  Ask questions until you are 100% sure what is required of you.
  • Always complete the trial/practice questions. If you get these wrong, re-read the guidance and do them again until you get them all correct. 
  • Also, always ask whether the Aptitude Test is designed for i) Speed, ii) Accuracy or iii) a combination of both speed and accuracy
  • If it is a test of speed and accuracy, then try not to guess (or at least take an ‘educated guess’).
  • If it is solely a test of speed, then take an ‘educated guess’.
  • If it is solely a test of accuracy, then only answer the questions that you are fully confident are correct
  • Ask if you can mark your sheet. Often you cannot.
  • Ask about neurodiversity allowances, such as Autism Spectrum Conditions, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, DCD and ADHD. Almost all major test providers will make allowances such as access to a PC, extra time, or removing one or more of the tests.
  • Is English your first language? If not, ask whether you can take the test in your first language.
  • Ask who the test provider is beforehand. Big firms, famously Google (In the Plex, Levy, 2011), may have the resources to have their own.
  • Ask for pre-test instructions. Most test providers have help sheets/booklets.
  • Google the test. There will usually be examples online or hints/tips from previous applicants on what to look for.
  • If you want to get ‘into the zone’ Google ‘free SAT tests’. SAT Tests can sometimes help you get used to the style of questions and required tasks, in particular the ambiguous way that questions are asked!
  • Read through the instructions and do some practice examples in preparation.
  • In an Assessment Centre scenario, don’t worry if the Administrator is ‘frosty’ and quite deliberate/clinical in how they communicate and deliver the information – that’s their job!
  • At the testing session, ask if you need help for any reason. The Test Administrator’s primary function is to enable fairness.
  • Do not be afraid to ask to go over things again if you are unsure how to do any of the tests.
  • Usually, there cannot be any help given once the test has started.
  • If there are 60 questions and you have 30 minutes, allocate your time equally for each question.
  • Some people find it easier to answer the questions where they know the answer and return to the others if they have the time.
  • Aptitude Tests are designed to put you under time pressure. It’s common to feel confused when you start each test.  Take a deep breath and try to regain composure.
  • If there are five multiple-choice answers, you can typically take the odds down to two choices. Then take a 50/50.
  • If you know the test consists of five areas and say, ‘verbal reasoning’ is your nemesis, then focus your time on this area and speed through the rest.
  • Keep a positive mindset. Aptitude Tests are designed to provide a ludicrous number of questions in a ridiculously short space. 
  • Don’t be disheartened if you only answer half the questions in the allotted time. It is very rare for anyone to answer all of the questions correctly.
  • Don’t be demotivated if you struggle in one section of the battery of tests.
  • Most employers are looking for an ‘above average’ score rather than the top 2%ers.
  • If you are allowed a calculator, use one, but ensure you know how to use it!
  • If you get stuck, then move on.
  • Sure, practise the tests beforehand but understanding the instructions are more important.
  • Afterwards, ask for your test results.

Top Tips for Online Aptitude Tests

  • If completed online, choose the time that you know works best for you – are you a ‘Lark’ or an ‘Owl’.
  • Get yourself in a space where you feel comfortable. Dedicate the time required for the task.
  • Do all of the examples repeatedly until you have fully understood the instruction.
  • Turn off all potential distractions. Let others in your home know what you are doing.
  • Important: Most people feel mentally exhausted after completing an aptitude test so schedule an hour afterwards to reward yourself.

Common Aptitude Tests

The most common Aptitude tests and their providers/publishers are :

  • Thomas International - TST, GIA
  • SHL - Graduate/MGMT Tests
  • Saville – Executive Aptitude Tests
  • Talent Q – Aspects
  • Kenexa (IBM) – NRT & VRT
  • Wonderlic - Cognitive Ability Test.
  • Profiling for Success – PFS
  • Cubiks Logiks General Advanced
  • British Army Recruitment Battery (BARB)
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
  • General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB)


The Advantages of Aptitude Tests

  • While expensive, they ultimately help organisations save a lot of money
  • They also save organisations time
  • They help to facilitate a valid and fair comparison of candidates in the selection process.
  • They can help to remove unconscious bias from a recruitment process
  • They can provide insight into the future employee’s training needs
  • They can help organisations look further than a CV or previous experience and qualifications.
  • They can predict future performance and the psychometric providers have the data to corroborate this.

The Disadvantages of Aptitude Tests

  • They can cause ‘test anxiety’ – 18% of adults are affected by anxiety disorders (American Test Anxiety Association, 2017), and this is both rising and higher in younger adults.
  • (Usually) doesn’t test for specific domain expertise, i.e. a Biologist. But there are subject-specific Aptitude Tests such as Oxford University’s HAT.
  • Aptitude Testing should always be used in conjunction with other recruitment processes. Personally, I don’t agree with it being ‘the decision maker’, but the test providers argue that this is valid.
  • This can mean that ‘outside the box’ thinkers are dismissed from the process (‘Rebel Thinking’, Matthew Syed, 2019)
  • Aptitude testing cause diversity and inclusivity problems.
  • For instance, 2,000 members of the American Elite, from Fortune 500 CEOs to politicians to federal judges, were all significantly above average at aptitude tests (Wai, 2013).
  • In the USA, affluent families invest in specific ‘cram schools’ for SAT tests, and therefore perform better than those less fortunate. College admission tests are changing, though and becoming more holistic.
  • Wai’s conclusion to his research was “whom do the tests overlook?” - do aptitude tests show a ‘thumbnail of talent potential, rather than the full person?’ (Wai, 2013)
  • Aptitude tests neglect creativity, innovation and ‘out of the box’ thinking (Syed, 2019)
  • Finally, the dangers of Aptitude Testing. For an utterly repugnant usage of Aptitude tests, see Buck v Bell, 1927.

Aptitude Tests – Are They Fair?

  • Yes, if well designed and highly validated.
  • Yes, if the validation data shows a connection between high scores and high performance.
  • Yes, if it is designed for the level of the job role.
  • Yes, if it has mechanisms to support neurodiversity.
  • Yes, if it has mechanisms to support those whose first language is not that of the test.
  • Ideally, you should undertake psychometric aptitude tests in your ‘first language’. The larger providers offer this, so do ask.


This is a transcript from a talk by Rob Scott, MD of Aaron Wallis, to Manchester University students about to embark on their first job search.  It, therefore, has several academic references and is written in a ‘talk style’.


Date published: 1st March 2024

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

Please call us to discuss your next move

Milton Keynes



Our employers say...

Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

Marketing Director, City of London Police

Really good service. Just the right amount of contact and easy to deal with.

HR Manager, Zircon Software Ltd

We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.

Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management

I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.

HR and General Manager, THK

Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.

Sales Director, Inside Business

As always we were extremely impressed with Rob's understanding of the role and our specific needs.

Managing Director, Speck & Burke

I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.

HR Business Partner, Greene King

I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.

HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd

Rob’s knowledge of the recruitment industry and his thoughts and how to make it better for his clients have always been eye opening. I would recommend Rob to anybody who is looking for a professional, knowledgeable and flexible recruitment specialist.

CEO, Friday Ad Online Services

Very professional service and will certainly be in contact for future recruitment.

Director, Blakedown Sport & Play Ltd

In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.

Sales Manager, TR Fasteners

Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.

Managing Director, Medicash

I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!

Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd

We appointed Aaron Wallis in February and the successful candidate, out of the six which Aaron Wallis introduced, was able to join Alphametrics before the end of April. The whole process took less than three months. I would recommend Aaron Wallis' services to others without hesitation.

Chief Financial Officer, Alphametrics

Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.

UK Sales Manager, Nexcom

I can't fault Sam or AW! Sam was a pleasure to work with and provided great support from the start. Sam always provided me with timely updates when required and provided outstanding candidates!

Director, Waste Managed Ltd

Sophie did a great job at understanding our business and our needs, she is extremely professional and we hugely benefitted from her experience and expertise.

HR Manager, The Data Privacy Group Ltd

Thank you for your dedicated help during the recruitment process - we came to you after unsuccessfully searching elsewhere, and hired, not one, but two! Quick response times, and a really personal approach, without being pushy.

Managing Director, Accora Ltd

George is a joy to work with, and I'd recommend him to anyone seeking that unicorn hire - he found me mine, and I'm delighted!

Director, Education Support

George came recommended by a colleague and has been a pleasure to work with. He was great at updating us on his progress and ensured a great experience for both client and candidate.

HR Manager, Annapurna Recruitment Ltd

George is a rare find in the world of recruitment - communicative without being pushy or over-bearing. He listens and understands what the customer needs as gets to know the business to ensure he provides fully competent candidates who fit.

HR Manager, Big Dug

Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.

Commercial Director, G4S Government & Outsourcing Solutions

Understood the type of person we were looking for and good follow ups - not too frequent.

Managing Director, bigHead Bonding Fasteners Ltd

I could not suggest anything I would like you to do better. The service you provided materially exceeded my expectations. I would especially like to commend Simon Bonner; he is easily the best recruitment consultant I have ever dealt with. I particularly valued his advice and guidance throughout the recruitment process. 

UK Sales Manager, BTS Holdings Limited 

Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.

Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment

Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.

Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International

I really liked the YouTube presentations which made the service seem both simple and accessible. The company came to see me, and my management team, at short notice to present their service and I liked the support and advice that I received about maximising the results from the applicant.

Managing Director, Leisuresec plc

Our candidates say...

Perfect from start to finish. Simon deserves a shout out. Best recruiter there is. If you need a job, this guy will get you one. He's like the super man of recruiters. Top man, can't recommend him enough.

M. Crisp, Candidate

George is a fantastic recruitment agent and provides a great service. It was a pleasure I thoroughly recommend George to anyone.

C. Beaugie, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with he was supportive really quick at replying and really put me at ease.

J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate

I can honestly say that the time and expertise you gave me was way beyond any other recruitment consultant I dealt with. You are a rarity in your industry.

S. Akers, Candidate

George above and beyond to make sure I had everything I need to secure my new role. Outstanding Professional.

A. Kirkland, Candidate

I had the absolute pleasure of working with George Humphries on finding a placement best suitable for me.

A. Van Der Mescht, Candidate

Good swift process with Aaron Wallis, informative regarding the role and the process was moved at a good pace with healthy interaction. Would recommend them to anyone pursuing a change.

S. Bartlett, Candidate

Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)

K. Everitt, Candidate

Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.

R. Speakman, Candidate

I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!

D. Burgess, Candidate

A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!

A. Bauchet, Candidate

I would highly recommend thank you to Darren for helping me secure my new job role! Excellent service all round!

G. Thompson, Candidate

Sam was by far the most professional and helpful of any individual I've ever dealt with through a recruitment agency. He was supportive and thorough throughout the process. He definitely goes the extra mile for you. A pleasure to deal with. I would highly recommend him. An asset to Aaron Wallis

M. Wyer, Candidate

The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!

A. Callaby, Candidate

Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.

R. Sealy, Candidate

Excellent experience. Knowledgeable staff and really went the extra mile. Found my ideal position and I couldn't be happier. Special shout out to Sam and George: who made the process smooth and easy for me. Highly recommend.

K. Pearce, Candidate

Less than two weeks after joining Aaron Wallis I was offered my new job. I got a £10,000 rise in my basic salary, car allowance, a laptop and many other perks, which will help to further my career. I definitely would not have found my dream job without the help of Aaron Wallis.

C. Hoy, Candidate

George Humphries was a complete professional at every point, from our first phone conversation to his “good luck tomorrow” text on Sunday before I started in my new role.

E. Fry, Candidate

Rob was really helpful when I was putting together a presentation for the second stage interview. Overall their communication was great and kept me updated of any progress

J. McGrattan, Candidate

The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.

D. Bermant, Candidate

Professional and responsive from start to finish. I would highly recommend. Special thanks to Sophie J for her help and support throughout.

N. Leney, Candidate

Sophie contacted me about a role explained the details clearly and made sure I was ready for the interview. She kept in touch every step of the way till I started the job. Thank you Sophie for a great experience.

S. Powell, Candidate

Very polite and friendly and was very helpful finding me my next new role.

K. Craggs, Candidate

Sophie helped me secure a new role I have been searching for. She took her time to explain clear and concisely all I needed to succeed at the interview stage. Thanks again Sophie!

O. Oladejo, Candidate

Darren at Aaron Wallis was really encouraging and helpful. He was very responsive and regularly made phone calls to explain the job opportunities available, and guided me through the application process.

A. Brown, Candidate

The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.

L. Colagrossi, Candidate

For anyone looking for work, I can't recommend Aaron Wallis highly enough.

C. Rockliffe, Candidate

Managed to get me placed within a week! Really friendly and easy to deal with. Always available for a call and my biggest challenge was I was in work at the time I was looking for my next opportunity (which is stressful) but Sam made that easy.

P. Fitzsimons, Candidate

The staff at Aaron Wallis were fantastic. Throughout the process, they maintained excellent communication and I always knew where I stood.

M. Owusu, Candidate

Friendly, proactive, communicative. Overall a really positive experience.

R. Houston, Candidate

Excellent service, very professional and friendly, would and have, recommended Aaron Wallis.

E. Heley, Candidate

Fantastic service, helped me find my ideal job quickly and smoothly. Would highly recommend them.

C. Caine, Candidate

I had a great experience. Helped me every step of the way to get my new job. Sophie was very polite, kind and helpful!

J. Parnham, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with.

J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate

Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.

M. White, Candidate 

Sophie has been fantastic and always so attentive, highly recommend.

T. Ashbourne, Candidate

I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I definitely recommend.

J. Ostermeier, Candidate

Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.

R. Buckley, Candidate

Simon was knowledgeable on his clients history, background and what their requirements were and he worked around time zones, holidays and a pandemic to get the right result.

J. Tooze, Candidate

The detail put into the preparation for interviews and the detail of the job description was first class. Rob and Simon in particular are amongst the best I've ever dealt with.

K. Peacock, Candidate

I have to say using Aaron Wallis Recruitment has been nothing but an absolute pleasure. I've used many agencies over the years as the client and the candidate and its not always been a pleasurable experience!

L. Knowles, Candidate

When talking with Simon you felt relaxed cared to help you find a position that suited your needs

D. Pinder, Candidate

I would highly recommend Aaron Wallis Recruitment, Darren was extremely helpful and provided me with plenty of advice and support throughout the whole process.

D. Bretherton, Candidate