Math aptitude tests are used as part of the pre-employment assessment process for a number of different roles, in different industries, and at different levels.
In most scenarios, the math test that you take will be relevant to the role you have applied for, and it is used by the recruitment team to decide whether you have the right skills to be successful in the role if you are employed.
There are several types of math-based aptitude tests, and although the content and structure might look different, the basic math that is being tested is usually the same:
Basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)
Converting decimals and fractions
Using and understanding ratios
For most people, these are the basic skills that you will have learned at school, rather than degree-level knowledge - which makes it easier for you to succeed.
While there are math-based assessments throughout different industries, they are most likely to be used in the legal and financial business, for roles like:
For the recruitment team, the test is a simple way to understand each candidate and their specific knowledge and skill in basic mathematics; it can be simply administered to a large number of candidates, providing objective data referring to the particular skills that the role requires.
1. Practice timed questions
To ensure that you are ready for this, taking practice tests under time pressure will help you get used to working in these conditions. As you have a limited time to answer each question, you need to make sure that you are able to get through them quickly and accurately, so you do not waste a precious second.
By practicing under time limit pressure, you will be setting yourself up for success by becoming familiar with how it feels. If a question seems easy, answer and move on. If you are struggling, you can guess, move on and come back to it if the time allows it..
2. Know the material inside out
Revision of the basics will make you feel more confident, so look for ways to practice the skills you already have.
You can find lots of resources online to refer to so that you have refreshed your existing knowledge, and you should pay particular attention to finding the best way to solve common problems that come up a lot in math tests - particularly multi-digit multiplication and division, as well as performing calculations with percentages.
In the assessment, it is likely that you will not be able to use a calculator, so you need to feel confident enough to take on the questions in your head.
3. Focus on accuracy over speed
While you are under time pressure in a math aptitude test, you want to make sure that your focus is on getting it right the first time.
Accuracy is the most important part of the test; it is no good getting to the end but not answering as many questions correctly, and this is where effective methods of answering different math questions will help.
A tried and trusted way to deal with each question will make you feel confident that you are focusing on accuracy when you need it.
4. Always read the instructions
As different math aptitude tests are looking for different types of answers, it is important that you thoroughly read the questions.
You might be asked to choose the right answer from multiple-choice options, or need to complete a calculation in a word problem. Even if you think you know what you need to do in the assessment, make sure that you read the instructions and the questions carefully just in case - you do not want to miss out on simple marks because you have failed to read properly.
5. Use any available resources
If you know what test you will be taking, including who the publisher is (such as Kenexa, SHL, or Korn Ferry), then you can find lots of resources online to help you prepare, from revision guides to practice tests. Even if you do not know which assessment you are taking, you can still find online practice tests a useful way to help you revise and prepare.
In the assessment, you will be provided with all the information that you need to answer the questions, and you might find that there is more information that could be useful to help you answer correctly.
In a numerical reasoning test, the information might be in the form of a table or a graph, and in other assessments, it might be a word problem. You might be given some sort of comparison table or related percentage calculation, for example.
Some tests will allow scrap paper to be used to help with calculations, while others will want to see the way you are working out the question. You might even have an on-screen calculator to use for certain questions.
6. Keep track of the time
When you are in the midst of an exam of any kind, it is easy to lose track of how much time you have already spent on the questions.
The short time limit that you have been given to complete the assessment is a part of the test process - you are being tested on your ability to work under pressure, as you would be in the workplace.
If you already know how long the assessment is, and how many questions you have to answer, then you can work out exactly how long you have available to spend on each question - and try to stick to it so that you don’t spend too much time on a question that might be a bit more challenging.
7. Guess if you have to
Most aptitude tests are marked positively. What this means is that you will not be penalized for a wrong answer.
You can use this in the assessment by allowing yourself to guess an answer if you aren't sure - you are more likely to get a mark if you give something as an answer than you would if you left it blank. With multiple-choice options, you can usually make an educated guess and give yourself even more of a chance for success.
8. Stay calm and focused
Pressure in an exam situation is part of the assessment process, and if you can stay calm and focused you will have a much better chance of success.
Before you start, make sure that you have had a good night’s sleep, and eat a good breakfast. You have to give yourself the best fuel to be successful.
On the day, make sure that you are somewhere free from distractions. It is likely that you will be sent a link to complete the assessment via email so you can take it at home in your own time, so make sure that you are set up with a reliable internet connection, and you are not likely to be disturbed. You’ll also want to make sure that any notifications on your phone or computer are silenced, too.
Focus on each question one at a time, and move on quickly so that you do not lose that laser focus on the problems at hand.
9. Don’t stress too much about getting a perfect score
With that perfect role within reach, getting a perfect score on the math aptitude test seems like the only way to ensure you get that job.
However, in most cases the assessment is designed to help the recruitment team to choose the top performers, rather than the perfect performers - so just be sure to answer to the best of your ability.
The math aptitude test should be seen as a way for the recruitment team to be sure that you have the right numeracy skills for success, which is important for roles in finance and elsewhere.
10. Check your work
If you have managed to complete the assessment in the given time frame, take the remaining few minutes and go back to check your answers.
This is especially important if you had to make a guess on one or two questions to save time - you can now take a little extra time to see if you can calculate the correct answer.
However, do not be too critical about the answers you have already given - you do not want to overthink anything because you could end up talking yourself out of giving the best response.
Remember accuracy is more important than speed.