More and more companies are now beginning to utilise numerical testing when recruiting graduates, and all kinds of companies including the Big Four accounting firms are now placing importance on these kind of in-house tests over and above exam results.
Sectors including analytics, accountancy, finance, and marketing are now using these tests as standard and it’s important to make sure you’re prepared.
What are they?
Essentially they’re a way for a company to independently test your ability to deal with numerical data. Companies often set the parameters of the test so that they can gauge suitability for the specific role as well as get a general idea of your intuitive mathematical ability.
They won’t be like your school maths tests, as they try to measure your natural aptitude instead of learned mathematical knowledge. For this reason they don’t tend to require understanding or memory of complicated formula, or the use of algebra.
Generally they’ll focus on:
- Multiplication, addition, subtraction, division
- Currency conversions
At the end of the day, if it won’t be relevant to the role, they’re not particularly interested! They often have time limits to test your ability to work under pressure, and the employer will be able to see data on speed and accuracy, as well as your raw score.
How to prepare?
Of course, the key is practice, practice, practice. Not only will you be more prepared to ace the test, but you’ll go into it more confident and less anxious, which can have a huge effect on your score too.
The kind of things you need to practice are:
- How to read graphs and charts effectively
- How to extrapolate numbers and percentages from data and vice versa
- How to convert currency
- Interpret different kinds of data
- Complete layers of calculations
- Time management.
Of course, once you’ve brushed up on these skills and perfected your method, there’s plenty of online resources. Many companies who offer test bundles also have free tests on the site. These include Assessment Day, Numerical Reasoning Test, and Practice Aptitude Test.
It’s also important to find out as much as you can from the company on the purpose of the test, as well as specifics, including what software they’ll be using. This way you can get an idea of the kind of questions you’ll be asked.
What do I do on the day?
Basically, you want to answer the questions accurately and as quickly as possible. Simple right?
This does mean that the way you work might be a bit different from how you’re used to approaching these sorts of tests, as you do need to prioritise speed. For this reason:
- If you can finish early, great! Do be aware though that in some cases you won’t be expected to answer all of the questions as they want to test how you work under pressure. If it’s less than 1 minute a question this is probably the case.
- Don’t show your working – it’s not necessary!
- Don’t double check your working out in length, you just don’t have the time.
However, some of the age old wisdom does still apply:
- Make sure you read the question twice, as well as the instructions at the start such as whether you’ll be able to go back to previous questions. Also watch out for trick questions such as where they want you to round the answer up.
- Read the multiple choice answers to get an idea of the parameters.
- Quickly check that things like your units are correct and that you’ve answered every part of the question.
Essentially it’s about using your time wisely to get down to the core of what is required as quickly as possible. Do a quick scan of the question to get the main points followed by a more in depth read to understand fully.
Control your anxiety with proper preparation, enough sleep, clothes that you’re comfortable in and using equipment that you know well and you’ll never have a problem with a numerical test ever again!
Matt Arnerich is a content writer over at the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. He writes about all things graduate jobs and internships, including advice for graduates, from applications and interviews right down to how to advance in their first graduate job.
For more resources to help prepare for numerical tests (and other types of tests), see the Careers’ Psychometric tests web page.