What are CCAT tests?
The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT) is a pre-employment assessment that measures cognitive ability. Designed and administered by Criteria Corp., it uses multiple question types to test your problem solving and critical thinking skills, alongside your ability to process and work with new information.
This type of test is regarded as a strong predictor of future performance. Rather than relying on academic records and experience alone, employers use the CCAT to determine how capable you are in a real world context - and with detailed reports on each test taker, they're able to compare talent objectively.
Whilst the questions on the CCAT are not overly complex, it's format is somewhat intense. There are 50 questions in total, and you'll have a time limit of just 15 minutes to work through as many as you can, while maintaining a focus on accuracy. That's under 20 seconds per question, so it's no surprise that fewer than 1% of test takers complete the assessment in full.
The questions you'll face fall into three categories: verbal, math and logic, and spatial reasoning. Below, you'll find an overview of each question type in turn to help you prepare for a competitive CCAT performance.
CCAT verbal questions
Verbal questions on the CCAT measure your vocabulary skills. They test your understanding of the meaning of words, relationships between words, and the role of context in language use. To do this, the CCAT adopts various question types, including:
Sentence completion - here you'll be given a sentence in which one or more words have been removed, along with a number of word choices that could potentially fill in the gaps. You'll need to select the correct words to complete the sentence within the context intended.
Word opposites (antonyms) - you'll be given a single word, followed by five multiple choice options. From these, you'll need to determine their precise definition to select the one most opposite of the original word.
Analogies - this tests your understanding of the relationship between words. You'll be given a word pairing in which one word relates to the other in a specific way. You'll then need to decipher which of several other word pairings bears that same relationship.
Your results from the verbal section of the CCAT will show employers how strong your grasp of the English language is, and subsequently, how effectively you are able to communicate.
CCAT math and logic questions
You may assume math questions measure your mathematical ability, but on the CCAT, it's actually your numerical reasoning ability that is being assessed. This, along with logical reasoning, gives a good indication of your critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Again, questions here take multiple forms, including:
Word problems - you'll be given a written problem that requires some form of mathematical calculation to solve. You'll need to determine the required equation and apply it to identify the right answer.
Tables and graphs - on these questions, you'll need to analyse and interpret numerical data presented in tables and graphs, extracting the right information to solve a given problem.
Syllogisms - this is a test of your deductive reasoning. You'll be given two propositions, which you'll need to evaluate to determine if a concluding statement is true or false, or if there's insufficient evidence to state either way.
Number series - here you'll be presented with a numerical sequence, and will need to identify the underlying rule to select the next number in the series.
It's worth noting here that the use of calculators is prohibited on the CCAT, so you'll need to brush up on your mental arithmetic for some of these questions.
CCAT spatial reasoning questions
Spatial reasoning questions use abstract shapes, patterns and sequences as another way of measuring your problem solving skills. These questions also give employers an idea of how quickly you process new information - essentially, how quick a learner you are.
As an example of the questions you'll face here, you may be given problems that revolve around:
Outliers - you'll see five images of shapes in varying layouts. There will be a common rule shared by four of these images, for example, the number of shapes in each, or the order of placement. What you're looking for is the odd one out.
Next in sequence - this requires pattern recognition. Shapes will be presented in a sequence, and you'll need to decide which of five multiple choice options logically follows according to the rules of the pattern.
Matrices - similar to next in sequence but slightly more complex, shapes here are presented in three by three grids, with some of the elements missing. You'll need to fill in the gaps by looking at rules and relationships across the entire matrix.
Which financial employers use the CCAT?
Criteria Corp. operates on a tight non disclosure policy, and does not openly list companies that have used its services. As such, we're unable to offer advice on which financial employers may require you to sit the CCAT.
The test providers website does however offer some anonymous case studies of financial services firms that have used the CCAT for varying purposes. These include as part of recruitment process to ensure the best talent is selected, and as a method of identifying the most promising candidates for internal promotion.
Ultimately, any firm that does require you to sit the CCAT will inform you of the fact well in advance, so you'll still have plenty of time to prepare and practice.
Top tips to prepare and pass your CCAT assessment
Put in the practice
Like any form of psychometric test, practice is the best way to ensure success on the CCAT. Questions are drawn at random and relate to your natural abilities, so you can't revise as such, but you can build confidence around the question types involved and train your brain to think logically.
Use your strengths to full effect
It's almost impossible to answer all 50 questions on the CCAT in the 15 minutes allowed - and indeed to get them all right. With that in mind, the best way to increase your chance of a competitive score is to focus on the problems you're most confident in solving, and solving quickly. If you see your vocabulary as a weakness, don't spend too long debating over these questions - that's precious time that could be better spent racking up points on other areas of the test.
Read each question carefully
Yes, you're working under time pressure, but don't let that become so much of a distraction that you fail to comprehend what is being asked of you. It's worth taking those extra few seconds to make sure you understand the question before attempting to answer.
Always take your best guess
There's no negative marking on the CCAT. This means you won't lose points for an incorrect answer, and since all questions are multiple choice, it's always worth taking an educated guess.
What is a good CCAT score?
The average score on the CCAT is 24 out of 50, but every employer will have its own benchmark against which to measure performance. As a rule of thumb, the average mark of 24 is considered low for roles in finance, with a score of 39 or above viewed as highly competitive.
How do I pass the CCAT?
There is no pass or fail on the CCAT. Your score will be taken and compared against that of other candidates, and the database of scores held by Criteria Corp. It's up to the employer to determine if your performance meets the required standards. Essentially, practice, practice, practice and you'll have the best chance of success.
How is the CCAT scored?
You'll receive one mark for every correct answer, with no negative scoring applied. This is your raw score, for example, 34 out of 50. You'll also be given a percentile ranking. This shows how you performed compared to others, for example, a ranking of 60% means you outperformed 60% of other test takers. Your score report will also give a percentile ranking for each of the three sections on the test.
What do I need to complete the CCAT?
The CCAT is administered online, so if taking it remotely, all you need is a strong internet connection, peace and quiet, and focus. Remember, calculators are not allowed, so it's probably worth having a pen and paper to hand for working out math problems.