Cognitive Ability Tests: Practice Test Questions, Answers & Explanations
Updated July 21, 2023
- What Is a Cognitive Ability Test?
- Why Would an Employer Use a Cognitive Ability Test?
- What Areas Are Covered on a Cognitive Ability Assessment?
- Cognitive Ability Test Examples
- What Scores Are Required to Pass the Cognitive Ability Assessment?
- How to Pass a Cognitive Ability Test
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
The following tests are common cognitive ability tests:
- Numerical Reasoning
- Verbal Reasoning
- Spatial Reasoning
- Mechanical Reasoning
- Logical Ability Tests
- Space Visualization
- Information Processing
- Visual Pursuit
- Manual Speed and Accuracy
- Information Processing
Pre-employment tests have become a standard practice in the recruitment process and most of us would have completed at least one during our careers.
A highly common assessment is the Cognitive Ability Test.
These are sometimes referred to as IQ tests or general ability assessments and are taken to assess a candidate’s general intelligence compared to a population’s average.
The most common subject areas are:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Numerical Reasoning
- Spatial Awareness
As employers want to recruit the best employees, only the top performers will make it through to the next round.
As scoring high on these tests is very important, preparation and practice are essential.
A Cognitive Ability Test, or cognitive ability assessment, is used by an employer for several reasons.
First, they are known to be relatively accurate, reliable and consistent.
Test providers, such as SHL, have dedicated a lot of time to perfecting these tests. They have the best psychologists constantly evaluating and updating the questions to reflect current workplace trends.
Second, they are good at indicating the potential skills and performance of the candidate, making them a valuable resource for finding the best possible person for the role.
Unlike regular aptitude tests that focus on one subject area, general cognitive ability questions switch between different disciplines, making it difficult for the candidate to find a rhythm.
This, combined with the tight time limits, makes cognitive tests a true test of a candidate’s mental ability, not just in knowledge but also in working under stress and decision-making.
Third, they are highly efficient. You can take a cognitive ability test online at a time and place of your choosing. This gives the test taker more flexibility and fewer costs for the employing company, as they no longer need to run assessment days.
Finally, the results are calculated automatically, meaning recruiters can instantly see your performance and take the next step.
There are several different types of cognitive ability tests but they all follow a similar format.
Throughout a single Cognitive Ability Test, the general cognitive ability questions might concern the following subject areas:
- Short-Term Memory – Measures a candidate’s memory over the short term by presenting the test taker with information they need to recall later on.
- Information Processing – Measures how well a candidate can process visual and aural information. These questions are customized for specific roles.
- Verbal Comprehension – Assess how well the candidate can scan a text and extract the essential information. This test often also measures logical reasoning, English proficiency, verbal application, and other related skills.
- Numerical Ability – Assess how well the candidate uses and applies the correct mathematical operations. Assessment areas can range from simple additions and subtractions to more complicated fractions, decimals and data interpretation.
- Visual Pursuit – Measures how well a candidate can solve a problem without getting distracted by other things happening on the screen.
- Visual Speed and Accuracy – Assesses how quickly a candidate can accurately check data for mistakes. The data is usually a mixture of texts and figures.
- Space Visualization – Measures the ability to visualize forms in space and manipulate them. It is part of the mechanical reasoning test and involves figuring out how many bricks are touching one specific brick.
- Numerical Reasoning – Assesses how well the candidate interprets and analyzes information from data sets. It is one of the more common examples of cognitive ability tests for employee selection.
- Verbal Reasoning – Another very common aptitude test. Verbal Reasoning measures the ability of a candidate to make practical decisions based on the information they hear.
- Word Fluency – Measures how well you communicate by having you recall as many words as possible from a given category.
- Manual Speed and Accuracy – Assess the candidate’s ability to make repetitive and accurate five-finger movements. It is a paper-based Cognitive Ability Assessment designed to identify those willing to perform highly monotonous work.
- Symbolic Reasoning – Measures the ability to manipulate abstract shapes.
- Verbal Ability Test – Measures a candidate’s ability to read a piece of text and paraphrase the primary ideas and information.
- Logical Ability Tests – Assesses problem-solving and analytical skills using patterns and shapes.
- Mechanical Reasoning – Measures understanding of mechanical and electrical principles from levers and pulleys to circuits, essential tools and principles of physics.
- Spatial Awareness – Assess how well a candidate can work with 2D and 3D shapes. The test also measures time management and problem-solving skills.
Below are several Cognitive Ability Test examples with solutions for you to work through.
Please note that these questions may not appear on your test and are designed to help you understand the test and question format.
In addition to these free cognitive ability test questions, there are also premium packages should you need any additional support.
If you need to prepare for a number of different employment tests and want to outsmart the competition, choose a Premium Membership from JobTestPrep.
You will get access to three PrepPacks of your choice, from a database that covers all the major test providers and employers and tailored profession packs.
The light blue dot moves two places anti-clockwise at each stage and the dark blue dot moves one place clockwise at each stage.
After how many stages will they be together in the same corner?
Which of the following is in alphabetical order?
a) Arthropod, Artificer, Arteriole, Artichoke, Arthritis, Articular, Artillery, Arthritic
b) Arteriole, Arthritic, Arthritis, Arthropod, Artichoke, Articular, Artificer, Artillery
c) Arthritis, Arthropod, Arteriole, Arthritic, Artillery, Artificer, Artichoke, Articular
d) Artillery, Artificer, Articular, Artichoke, Arthropod, Arthritis, Arthritic, Arteriole
Place the words below in the appropriate place in the passage.
Window | Question | Himself | Sickening | Hapless | Involved | Worse | Saw | Shot | Crash | Asking | Interviewer | Totally | Brown | Kitchen
Just as the __________________ (1) __________________ (2) was half-way through __________________ (3) his most __________________ (4) and difficult __________________ (5), the __________________ (6) thing that could have happened did, and all hell was let loose as Ben __________________ (7) a cat through the dining room _______________ (8). Apart from almost barking the house down and __________________ (9) drowning out the second half of the question, Ben __________________ (10) across the dining room in a __________________ (11) blur before throwing __________________ (12) against the __________________ (13) door with a ______________ (14) __________________ (15).
What month saw the greatest surge in output?
a) April 2021
b) Feb 2022
c) April 2022 +26
d) Both April 2021 and 2022
Which of the following is the 2D version of this 3D shape?
Which comes next in the sequence?
2, 5, 11, 23, 47, ?
The pass mark for a general cognitive ability test will depend on the following:
- The company you are applying to
- The role you are applying for
- The performance of your peers
If the company you are applying to has a global reputation and is an industry leader, the passing score will be considerably higher than that of a smaller company.
Likewise, some roles are less specialized and don’t need a high score to progress. Others, like engineers, require a lot of knowledge and specific skill sets and will, therefore, have a higher pass mark.
If you and your peer group perform beyond expectations, the recruiter might take the top 20 performers or those with a score of 95%. However, if you all perform below expectations, the pass mark might drop from 80% to 60%, for example.
The results of the cognitive ability assessment have two scores.
The first is the raw score, which is how many questions you answered correctly.
Your raw score is then converted into a percentile and placed into a normative group.
Generally, these groups are:
- Extremely high – Top 10%
- High – Top third of the population (minus the extremely high performers)
- Average – Next third of the population
- Below average – Lowest third
- Minimum demonstration – Bottom 10%
Depending on the company, your normative group might be those who have taken the test at the same time as you or from the population as a whole.
How to Pass a Cognitive Ability Test
Most cognitive ability tests for employee selection require you to use more general skill sets, such as problem-solving, decision-making and time management, rather than specific knowledge.
You are presented with a task or information, and you need to use the resources in front of you to answer the questions.
The exception here is mechanical reasoning, which does measure industry-specific knowledge.
For some, sitting a test of this nature can be challenging. Therefore, it is recommended that you take some time to conduct some cognitive ability test practice.
Here are our step-by-step tips:
There are a lot of free and premium practice websites, such as JobTestPrep that offer practice tests and information packs.
Generally, the numerical reasoning tests do not use mathematical operations beyond high school level.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with fractions, percentages and decimals.
Refresh your knowledge of basic spelling and grammar principles and make reading regularly a daily habit.
Read different publications and seek to understand the key arguments and ideas in everything you read.
A vast majority of the tests are taken under timed conditions. Once you know which test you are sitting, find out the time limit and begin working toward that goal.
Begin by completing cognitive ability test questions in your own time and slowly reduce the limit as you become comfortable. Every test is different, but you should aim to spend no more than 60 seconds on a question.
Find a space free from distractions and practice when you have enough time; 10 minutes on your commute or during your lunch surrounded by colleagues is not an ideal time or place.
After lots of cognitive ability test practice, it might be tempting to assume what the question is based on the ones you have already completed.
Take an extra second or two to read the question carefully and fully understand what is being asked.
Use the information and resources in front of you to answer your questions. The tests want to know how well you manage your time and solve problems, so focus solely on the task at hand.
Your mental performance is greatly affected by how well you take care of yourself. If you want to perform your best, develop healthy eating habits, exercise, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep.
A Cognitive Ability Test is a pre-employment test with questions from many disciplines. Unlike other aptitude tests that focus only on one subject, numerical or verbal, for example, cognitive tests switch between disciplines to measure a candidate's ability to problem-solve and deal with unpredictable situations.
Cognitive Ability Tests can be hard to pass. They are designed to be challenging, so the strongest candidates are identified. However, if you take the time to prepare properly and complete as many example tests as you can, the test shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
Yes, you can fail a Cognitive Ability Test. These tests are designed to highlight the most suited candidates so only the top performers will progress to the next stage.
There is no standardized cognitive ability test score as it is determined by your role, employer and the performance of your peers. However, a score of 80% is recommended if you hope to progress to the next stage.
The purpose of a cognitive ability test is to identify those candidates most suited for a job role. Recruiters only have so many interview slots, and employers want only the best people for the job. This test highlights those with the highest aptitude and required skills.
If you fail a cognitive ability test, you will not be invited for an interview and your recruitment process is over. If you want to resit your test, you will have to apply for the job again when it next opens.
The number of questions varies depending on the test provider, but you can expect between 20 to 50.
Typically, cognitive ability tests are timed, and that limit depends on the company you are applying to, the test provider and the number of questions.
Yes, most of the cognitive ability tests are available solely online.
Cognitive ability tests measure a candidate’s skill in manipulating and making sense of information.
There are several versions of the test, and the one you take depends on your job role and company, making it challenging to prepare for. However, they all have common themes, which make your preparation easier.
Take the time to research and understand your test and complete as many cognitive ability questions as possible. Dedicate time to those areas you struggle with and make reading a regular habit.
Finally, take care of yourself by getting enough rest, water, exercise and sleep. Cognitive functions are significantly impacted by dehydration and sleep deprivation.