What are Aptitude tests?

Aptitude tests make or break your chances of getting the job you are seeking. Like all aspects of recruitment, from your CV through to your interview, you will need skills, experience and confidence to be able to present yourself as being the ideal candidate. Some people have a talent for turning every application form into a job. Most of us need to put in a lot of hard work in order to demonstrate to a prospective employer that we are more than capable of filling their position. Most of us have had sufficient rejections to realise that we will need some advice, some practice, and some support in becoming as proficient in the recruitment process as we are in all other areas of our business lives. The support we offer does not aim to hoodwink the recruitment process, but to enable you to give a more accurate account of yourself. We are a resource that will not help you cut corners, but to undertake an aptitude test or an interview fully prepared. We enable you to demonstrate who you are and what you can do by making the recruitment process an opportunity for you to present yourself, and not a series of hurdles that need to be got through.

Aptitude and Ability Tests are the natural extension of the Psychometric or IQ Testing Psychologist Hans Eysenck developed in the 1970’s at Kings College, London. The aim of these tests is to give a means of marking normal mental development, and to be able to compare one person’s intelligence with another’s by formulating a number value to this measurement. However, Eysenck found that the study and metering of intelligence is very complex, and so developed his testing in to three distinct areas: numerical, verbal or written, and visual-spacial intelligence. Within the tests themselves, there is a measurement of comprehension and problem solving as well memory. Although his work has its shortfalls, it has been widely adopted as the best means of measuring mental aptitude and brain function ability, not only as the measurement as an overall IQ level, but also in of his very different functioning areas

The current method of comparatively testing an individual’s is aptitude for recruitment or other purposes is to have the individual undertake a written or on-screen test, usually to be completed in 30 minutes. The tests always have multiple choice answers and are administered under exam conditions, namely that they are completed solely by the individual without access to outside resources and are strictly timed. On-screen testing, whether from an on-line (streamed) site or from an up-loaded or down-loaded programme, has the advantage of being able to produce instant results for review, as well as providing unambiguous time keeping.

The modern Aptitude testing in the recruitment field now are designed to make one of two types of demand; Speed Tests ask a large number of relatively straight forward questions, and are concerned primarily with how many questions can be answered correctly within an allotted time. They are a measure of concentration, and give an indication of problem solving skills, memory recall and the ability to work independently under pressure. These tests tend to be used in the selection of admin or clerical staff. Power or Capability Testing ask more complex questions, and often requires the subject to hold several pieces of information in their minds whilst solving some calculation or formula. They make demands on information retention, problem solving, memory and memory recall, multiple tasking, logical thinking, and verbal comprehension as well as, to a lesser extent, other functional abilities. Such tests have fewer questions, and put a greater emphasis on accurate answering under pressure than in a pure quantity of answers. These tend to be used in the recruitment to graduate posts, and professional, managerial or executive roles.

The more advanced testing methods can test for more specific areas or a combination of two or more areas of focus. Although tests can be further sub-divided into more detailed areas, the first categorisation has eight elemental classifications: Verbal Ability, Numeric Ability, Abstract Reasoning, Spatial Ability, Mechanical Reasoning, Fault Diagnosis, Data Checking and Work Sample. Note that these tests, as they have multiple applications, do not examine the individual’s knowledge in a particular field, and nor test their level of experience in a particular role. However, the ability to learn and to adapt to new situations, and the ability to be versatile, as well as comprehension and memory recall, are all inherent within the tests.

In addition to purely measuring an individual’s mental capabilities, in roles that demand good communication and interaction proficiency with others, or people management skills, such as roles within or in charge of teams, Personality Testing is a very useful tool. Once engaged it is often too late to reverse your decision as to which candidate to employ when you discover your first to be overly aggressive or dominant in a group, or who is lacking in the capacity to work independently.
Hans Eysenck, Professor of Psychology at Kings College, London, in the 1970’s, also laid down the foundations of modern means of testing Personality. Again, this is a very complex area and requires at times for arbitrary lines to be drawn between one personality trait and another (for example when does ‘competitiveness’ start to become ‘belligerence’?), yet Eysenck was concerned with measures to be able to compare one personality with another, so recognised himself that his system would necessitate some limitations. It is therefore advised that in making decisions about a person, whether to recruit them or promote them, or if you want to learn more about your own personality type, these tests are not definitive, but should be used as a comparative, indicative guide only.

Eysenck produced three scales based on biological and independent dimensions of temperament. Each range is a continuum with extremes of personality types at either end, and a graduation of character traits between them.

The first scale runs from extreme Introversion, which tends to be associated with over-arousal and anxiety and features a bent towards curtness, isolation, and avoidance, but a greater capacity to work independently and self-reliantly, to acute Extrovertism, who tend to be very sociable and communicate well, but equally are chronically under-aroused and bore very easily. Productivity at the extremes tends to be low unless high or low external stimulation is provided, but in general a midrange score with a bent towards one or other end of the scale can indicate what type of environment and what type of tasks that person may benefit from to bring out their optimum level of performance.

Do not be put off by the jargon used in the follow two scales. The terms used are accurate, though these terms have fallen into familiar use and the common comprehension of these words does not reflect a full understanding of the concepts they represent.

The second scale then is the Neuroticism/ Stability scale, and defines emotionality. Eysenck saw that individuals have different degrees of response to the same set of circumstances, which indicates differing levels of activation of the sympathetic nervous systems or the visceral brain, which is responsible for controlling the levels of adrenaline in the body and for the fight-or-flight reaction in the face of stress or danger. Neurotic people are inhibited or less able to control their emotional responses to such stimuli, and therefore can have exaggerated negative responses to minor stressors. They can be easily made nervous or upset, and have a greater tendency towards depression or anxiety. This condition can be seen in physical effects such as cold hands, sweating and muscular tension, and indicates increased and erratic mental activity which arrests task completion. The other extreme of Stability indicates the personality that remains reliable, unflustered, calm and collected under pressure. Such personality types may also appear to be unresponsive to crisis, may never increase their work rate to urgent levels, and may find themselves aloof from the group when the team experiences extreme pressure.

Lastly, Eysenck found his scaling system incomplete without what he describes as a Psychoticism/ Socialisation range. Psychosis is associated not only with the condition of disturbed perception when the individual loses the ability to discern reality, but also indicates the level of aggressiveness. Eysenck noted that both increased aggressiveness and increased psychoticism is linked with higher levels of testosterone, which roots both behaviours in the traits of obstinacy, non-conformity, inconsideration, recklessness, hostility, anger and impulsiveness. 

Other factors, such as honesty, may or may not be measured separately.

Together with the psychometric testing, these scales give a comprehensive indication of a person’s abilities and capabilities. This gives real data, both empirical and comparative, to enable managers to make informed and objective decisions about who to recruit, and what roles and tasks are best suited for a particular individual, and which individual will do well with a specific position.