Numerical Reasoning Tests are tricky.
And when it comes to getting better results, preparation and practice are key.
But that’s easier said than done..
If you’re researching this type of aptitude test for the first time, or if you’re searching for ways to improve your ability, perform better and get more interviews and job offers, this article will provide some practical strategies that you can use immediately.
And if you want to try a practice test at any time, you can take our free numerical test right here.
This test has ten questions (and includes answers and full explanations).
How can you boost your score as quickly and effectively as possible, even up to the 99th percentile?
For the best chance of success, read the article slowly, follow our tips and actionable advice and then when you’re done, practice our free tests.
What Are Numerical Reasoning Tests?
Numerical reasoning tests often form part of an employer’s assessment process, most commonly as an online test given after your initial job application or as a real life test given during an interview or assessment day.
Example Numerical Test Questions
Most numerical test questions are based on a snapshot of numerical information or statistical data.
This snapshot of information often includes tables, graphs or charts.
To complete these tests and score highly you must answer a series of multiple-choice questions.
To find an answer to each question you will need to work on the data provided in each question.
These types of question are designed to mimic the real life numerical manipulation people will often be asked to do in their day to day work.
Here’s an example numerical test question:
Example Numerical Test Question
Numerical Reasoning Question: March Sales Figures
Price List: Rotavators = £120 / Ride on Mowers = £400 / Pile Drivers = £380
Question: Which member of the Sales Team had the highest total sales value in March?
In this question, Manjod is the correct answer.
To work this question out you need to multiply each team member’s sales by the price of the product and then add them together.
For example, for Manjod:
Rotavators (10 x £120 = £1200) + Ride on Mowers (8 x £400 = £3200) + Pile Drivers (5 x £380 = £1900) = £1200 + £3200 + £1900 = £6300.
Top Tip: When you get a question like this save time by checking whether there are any potential answers you can discard straight away.
Estere, for example, has lower sales than Manjod on all categories and therefore can’t have the highest sales; there’s no point spending time calculating what her total sales value is.
When it comes to numerical reasoning, the questions in these tests do not usually require candidates to answer very complicated questions.
Most of the time you will be able to get by with high school/secondary school level maths.
You can expect questions to involve:
- data manipulations and calculations
- basic arithmetic
You should also expect to be asked questions relating to time, currency and measurements.
If you are unfamiliar with these concepts or have not used them recently, you must refresh yourself before you take a test.
Calculators are usually allowed in numerical tests, although this is not always the case.
Always check before you take your test.
Different Types of Numerical Test
Broadly speaking numerical tests fall into one of two categories: tests of speed and tests of power.
Both aim to put candidates under pressure to see how well they perform but the way in which they do so is different.
Tests of speed are relatively straightforward, they assess how many questions the candidate can correctly answer in the given time period.
If you had unlimited time you could probably get through all of them, but within the time limit your calculations must be performed extremely quickly to be able to complete the test.
In fact, these tests are designed so that even the ablest person would be unlikely to answer all the questions.
Tests of power are more complex; they assess the level of question difficulty a person can cope with.
Such tests typically have an ample time limit and questions that increase in difficulty throughout the test. These questions will range from fairly straightforward to so difficult that no candidate could realistically be expected to get them right.
And of course some tests use elements of both speed and power; they have questions of rising difficulty within a challenging time period.
How To Take A Numerical Test
When you’re completing a numerical reasoning test there are two main approaches you can take:
- You can rush through the test completing as many questions as possible. Where you come across a question you’re not sure about you can either skip it with a view to returning to it later (harder with online tests where you may be required to submit an answer) or give the question your best (educated and considered) guess and move on.
- You can focus on accuracy and spend time checking that your answer is correct before moving on to the next question. Where you come across a question you’re not sure about you stick with it until you’re confident you’ve solved it.
Which strategy is best?
This definitely depends on what type of test you’re completing.
For a speed test it makes a lot of sense to keep moving forwards and not wasting time on questions you’re not sure about.
You can usually come back to questions you’re not sure about at the end of the test.
There’s no point in rushing through a test and getting all of the answers wrong so use your best judgement to pick the answer you think is correct at the time.
The main problem with this quick approach to answering questions comes with tests of power where accuracy is essential and getting an answer wrong can end the test.
In the latest wave of numerical reasoning tests, so called ‘Adaptive Tests’, specially designed test software tailors the difficulty of each question depending on the candidate’s previous answer.
This means that the questions rapidly get harder and harder until the person gives a wrong answer.
In some particularly brutal tests getting a single wrong answer can mean not progressing any further with the test.
Clearly in such tests focusing on accuracy and spending time checking you’ve selected the answer you intended to is a sensible approach.
How Do You Know What Type of Numerical Reasoning Test You Are About to Take?
Choosing your strategy is dependent on correctly identifying whether you are completing a test of speed, power, or a hybrid of both.
How can you tell?
If you can find out in advance what type of test you’re taking then obviously that’s helpful, and some organisations may be willing to tell you in advance what type of test and even which test publisher you will be using.
When psychometrics are to be completed online, in advance of assessment days, you will generally be able to see from the email link which tests you’ll be doing and you can check on the test publishers website to find out more.
The British Psychological Society also have information about most psychometric tests that you can use in your research.
Take a look too at our own extended expert guide on Psychometric Tests.
If you can’t find out in advance which test type you will be sitting there may be some clues you can look out for on the day:
- Paper tests cannot be adaptive.
- Tests with very short time periods for completion are typically speed tests.
- Power tests typically require more numerical reasoning (i.e. thinking through problems and applying calculations to the problem) than straightforward computation.
- Check the test instructions, there may be a clue in here.
Whatever strategy you choose remember that getting questions correct is what really matters.
Ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance you possibly can by working quickly but accurately and taking the time to check your answers.
Numerical Tests: Top Five Tips
Aptitude tests are popular with employers because they are a good standardised test of aptitude and intelligence. These tests provide a simple way to compare large numbers of candidates.
To perform better than most other candidates and score results in the top percentile, you must have excellent numerical skills, prepare well before your tests and perform great test etiquette.
To give yourself an extra boost there are several things you should do before you start any numerical test:
Tip #1: Take Practice Tests
Do this and you will become much more familiar with the format and types of questions you will be asked during your tests.
Practice will highlight any gaps in your knowledge you might like to revise and will help you manage your nerves because you know what to expect when it comes to the real thing.
Tip #2: Find Out Which Company is Providing the Test
Doing this will enable you to look at the test provider’s website and find extra useful information specific to their tests.
Tip #3: Get Plenty of Sleep
Your test will be very demanding and require short bursts of concentration.
You are more likely to perform at your best if you get plenty of sleep the night before your test.
Tip #4: Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Get to the Destination or Test Centre
Running late will increase your stress levels and this may have a detrimental impact on your performance.
Tip #5: Try to Relax
It is natural to experience nerves and anxiety in before and during a test. It can be helpful to take deep steady breaths and try to keep the test in perspective.
On the Day of the Test…
When you arrive at the test centre you may be given a series of instructions by the administrator.
Listen to these instructions carefully because you will only be told once.
Often at the beginning of the test, the administrator will read the instructions to you while you read them from your test paper.
This is to make sure that all candidates have received exactly the same information.
Don’t read ahead because you may overlook a crucial piece of information.
Once the instructions have been read, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions.
If there is anything that you are not too sure about or you would like something clarifying always ask.
You will not be assessed in any way for asking.
Before you begin the test you will usually have a chance to complete a couple of example questions.
These are frequently provided in the instructions section and are provided to help you familiarise yourself with the format.
The example questions are not completed in timed conditions and they don’t form part of your final test result.
Applicants are also provided with the answers to these questions before you begin the real test.
This is useful because if you get a question wrong it is a great opportunity to ask why, learn from it, and not make the same mistake in the actual test.
Taking Online Numerical Tests
Many employers are now phasing out the traditional paper test in favour of online aptitude tests instead.
The majority of the strategies that you will use for a paper test are the same for an online test, but there are a number of additional points to also consider:
Set yourself up for success by making sure that you have a suitable place to take the test.
This should be somewhere quiet and free from distractions, where you will not be disturbed.
Turn off anything that might distract you (e.g. your phone) and disable any notifications that might pop up during the test (e.g. email notifications).
It is useful to warn people around you that you do not want to be disturbed and it may even be worth putting a ‘Do not disturb’ notice on the door of the room you are in.
Check that your IT is working before taking a test.
You should also check that your internet connection is sufficient for the test (check requirements with the recruiting company) and that your browser is up to date.
The last thing that you need is to get halfway through the test and find that you have lost your connection.
Check any browser security measures which can sometimes block certain features of the test.
Popup blockers and firewalls can often block important information.
Some people may be tempted to try to cheat on online tests, by getting someone else to complete it on their behalf for example.
Recruiting organisations are aware of this risk, and to ensure that the test score genuinely reflects the candidate’s ability they will validate the test results with a retest under controlled conditions i.e. with someone watching them.
This means that there’s very little point in trying to cheat because unless you can pass the numerical reasoning test yourself, you will be caught out at the validation stage and waste a lot of time for yourself and other people.
Taking Practice Numerical Reasoning Tests
It is in your interests to practice as many tests as possible before you take the real thing, especially if the result is very important to you.
You can find many free numerical reasoning practice test resources online such as this free test with answers and full explanations.
Try this test now and see how you do. Then practice more so you can do better in the real thing.
Need more practice? Try practice tests from JobTestPrep.