How to Pass KPMG Interviews, Assessments and Aptitude Tests
Updated July 28, 2023
As one of the world’s largest and most reputable and successful professional services firms, getting through the KPMG application process as a graduate is an unsurprisingly scrupulous and demanding process.
That said, knowing what to expect and how to prepare for what’s ahead can make the process much less daunting, as well as significantly increasing your chances of success.
Read on, to find out more.
The first stage of the application process is conducted online with candidates required two separate assessments:
- A numerical test
- A verbal reasoning test
Even if your online test is only a few days away, these still leaves you with plenty of time to get to grips with the tests, plan your strategy and start practising.
To help you, here is a breakdown of each test, together with advice for how to approach them and to secure yourself the best possible outcome from the initial assessment stage.
Cubik’s verbal reasoning for business test is by KPMG to test the ability of KPMG graduates to digest, analyse and interpret written information.
The test seeks to replicate the kind of tasks that might come your way during a typical workday in the form of emails, reports and other sources of information.
KPMG’s verbal reasoning test lasts 20 minutes and includes 44 different questions, which are based on a series of source texts. For each question, candidates must choose from the following options: ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘cannot determine’.
A few days to prepare still leaves you with plenty of time to get to grips with the format and to familiarise yourself with the style of testing.
The Cubiks website has a practice test for you to use free of charge to get you started, while links to full-length versions can be found on the WikiJob site.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the test is being able to manage your time efficiently.
With so many questions to answer in a limited time you can’t normally be expected to finish them all, but the more you attempt, the greater your chances of passing are.
When practicing, be sure to time yourself. Set yourself a time limit for each set of questions and move on if you run out of time.
Read the text properly: resist the temptation to save time by skim reading the information in the text and jumping straight to the question.
Familiarising yourself fully with the information presented before attempting the questions themselves will save you having to keep referring back to the text for each question.
This could save you valuable seconds or minutes in the long-run and help you pass.
Don’t go on assumptions: while a certain degree of common sense will be needed, be wary of basing your answers on anything other than the information provided by the test.
KPMG’s verbal reasoning tests are designed so as to require close reading of the text, with the ‘cannot determine’ option, thrown in to avoid educated guessing. There are no shortcuts!
The KPMG numerical reasoning test, designed by Cubiks, for KPMG graduate applicants is similar in structure to the verbal reasoning exam. The main difference is that there are fewer questions (usually 24), for which you are given 20 minutes to answer.
Again, the questions will be based on source data, which is typically presented in the form of tables, graphs and statistical tables.
There are usually several questions pertaining to each set of data. For each question, you will be given a selection of possible answers to choose from.
The aim of the test is to assess candidates’ ability to digest and analyse numerical and statistical data and, in doing so, demonstrate skills that may be relevant to the workplace.
Tips for Numerical Reasoning Success
While it’s hard to predict the exact questions that will come up come the real test, the Cubiks and WikiJob websites both provide examples of the Cubiks testing format, giving you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Percentage-based questions are a particular favourite of the Cubiks assessors, so it’s worth practising how to calculate percentage changes over a specific period of time. E.g. if an asset was worth X amount in year 1 and Y in year two, what would be the percentage increase over the period?
Get your eye in: if charts, tables and statistics aren’t something you come across in your daily life then now’s the time to familiarise with these kind of data sources.
With a wide range of different graphics, the Financial Times and equivalent business publications are a good place to start.
You could also try getting your hands on an economics textbook. The key here is to practice.
You’ll obviously be able to use your own calculator when sitting the test at home.
Familiarising yourself with it in advance could save you vital seconds that may prove the difference between passing and failing.
You’ll find lots of walk-through videos and guides on YouTube if you find yourself struggling.
The KPMG testing format is based around offering up several different data points, designed to throw you off guard and avoid skimming for information.
Giving yourself enough time to fully digest the information in the source will avoid you making mistakes and having to go back and double check your answers.
It’s all in the timing: finding the balance between being able to answer the majority of the questions well in the time given is your best weapon in passing the test.
Set yourself a time limit for each question; factoring in the number of questions relating to each set of data.
Picture yourself running a marathon; you want to finish the race in a certain time, but you also need a strategy in order to approach each stage of the course.
Just like marathon training, you’ll get better by practicing the KPMG tests.
When it comes to Cubiks tests, or indeed any form of online assessment, perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer is to remain calm and in control.
While this may sound easier said than done, the thing to bear in mind is that KPMG are not looking for mathematical or linguistic geniuses who might score 100% in their numerical and verbal reasoning exams; they want graduates who work well under pressure and who perform to a high standard when the clock is ticking.
While raw intelligence goes a long way, your greatest assets at the online testing stage will be your resolve, time keeping skills, and familiarity with the assessment format.
Bonus: Get free unlimited access to test practice (for 30 minutes) on our partner website JobTestPrep.
- Make sure you fully understand all the data/information. Watch our for small details that can easily be overlooked and glossed over. Read, read and re-read.
- Keep an eye on the clock. One of your key tasks should be to find out the total number of questions in the test and allocate a set amount of time for each based on this.
- Learn how to calculate percentages (for numerical reasoning). This is one of the most popular types of test question and yet one of the ones that causes the most headaches. Swot up on your technique and then keep practicing until you have it mastered.
- Scan for keywords (for verbal reasoning).
- Practise makes perfect.
Of course nothing beats the experience of actually having been through the test or a near equivalent.
Assuming you pass the online section of the process, the next stage is a telephone interview, lasting approximately 45 minutes.
While each interview is different, you can expect to be asked to talk about your skills as well as answering a series of roughly 15 competency and scenario-based questions, with around three follow-up questions for each.
Typical question: “Tell me about a time when you had to convince people to come over to your way of thinking”
- Read up on KPMG’s core values and culture on the company’s site and try and make sure your answers align with these.
- Read through and practise answering the key competencies questions available on the Wikijobs site.
- Compile a ready-to use list of examples you can draw on to answer questions like the one above. Remember, these don’t necessarily have to be 100% true to life.
The assessment centre is where the real challenge begins, with a success rates estimated at 40-50%.
Here you will be expected to sit a series of individual and group-based exercises throughout the course of the day.
The morning session will typically begin with a repeat of similar numerical and verbal reasoning aptitude tests completed online.
After this you’ll be asked to undertake an e-tray exercise, often also referred to as an in-tray exercise.
This is basically a simulation of a typical employee workload, testing your business acumen and your ability to manage and prioritise a series of tasks effectively within a specific time frame.
Read the supporting documents provided for the e-tray exercise. These provide all the information you need in order to understand and complete the tasks so make sure to take your time and go through them with a fine comb.
Timing is everything. The nature of the task means you will be under steadily increasing pressure to get things done with the temptation being to sacrifice thoroughness for speed. Make sure
Hone your email writing technique. The ability to compose a well structured email is one of the main skills being tested, so don’t go in blind. A strong business email should have a clear layout with a solid opening and end. Start your email by introducing your analysis/ recommendations and then finish strongly by summarising these. Remember to support your analysis/recommendation by referring back to the supporting documents.
On completing the exercise you will progress to a fictional 15-minute client meeting with a member of the recruitment team playing the client.
Need more practice? Try practice tests from JobTestPrep.