Aptitude Tests

What Are Aptitude Tests?

Aptitude tests are a means of evaluating your ability to acquire a given set of skills. They are primarily used to determine your potential for doing a certain job, the speed at which you will learn how to do a job or develop a skill, and a measure of how well you will perform. You can use these tests to evaluate your career choices and determine your strengths and weaknesses.

Aptitude Tests

An aptitude test generally takes the form of a series of questions to which there are obviously right and wrong answers. A test might either be administered to an individual or to a group, and it may be timed or untimed. An aptitude test may contain questions that challenge a particular problem-solving ability, such as logic, language use, or spatial reasoning. It often will take the form of multiple-choice questions that require you to solve abstract, language, or logic puzzles. Doing well on a given set of problems indicates that you may have the potential to succeed in careers that involve the particular skills related to that test.

Career personality type aptitude tests can help to uncover your strengths and are designed to assess your interests, values, and preferences surrounding your career.

Career personality type aptitude tests can help to uncover your strengths and are designed to assess your interests, values, and preferences surrounding your career. CHRISTOPHE JOSSIC/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

How Long Have Aptitude Tests Been in Use?

The roots of aptitude testing can be traced to the mid-nineteenth century with English psychologist Sir Francis Galton's attempts to measure mental ability. However, Galton's experimental methods were not exact and led to faulty data. Later efforts were made to develop standardized tests, which are administered under uniform conditions and developed using large trials and pools of data. For example, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, developed in 1916, would later be used as a model for the modern standardized IQ test. During World War I (1914–18), the U.S. government employed standardized aptitude tests known as Army Mental Tests to evaluate servicemen and servicewomen and assign them different positions within the military. Later, in 1945, the U.S. Employment Service released a standardized test designed for job screening and career placement known the General Aptitude Test Battery.

There are many aptitude tests in general use in the early twenty-first century. One current aptitude test is the O*NET Ability Profiler, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Other tests include the CareerScope Assessment tests, the Occupational Aptitude Survey and Interest Schedule (OASIS), the Differential Aptitude Tests (DAT), and the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery (MAB). The SAT and its competitor, the ACT, are widely used standardized tests, required by most colleges and universities for admission. They are intended to measure a student's readiness for college study.

Alfred Binet: Intelligence Test Pioneer

Alfred Binet (1857–1911) is generally credited as the father of the intelligence test. Born on July 11, 1857, in Nice, France, he attended school in Paris, earning a law degree in 1878. After abandoning the law for the study of medicine, he became interested in the growing field of psychology. He educated himself on the science of psychology but did not study it formally. In 1883 he met French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–93), who became his mentor. In 1889, after Binet's research called Charcot's theories into question, the two men had a falling out, and Binet left Charcot's clinic.

By the early 1890s Binet, now the father of two young daughters, had become interested in child development. He took a position in the Laboratory of Physiological Psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris, becoming its director in 1894. He and fellow members of the La Société Libre pour l’Etude Psychologique de l’Enfant (Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child) began to work on a government-sponsored investigation into whether it is possible to identify students who are likely to experience learning delays.

Binet's research on this topic informed his influential 1903 book L’Etude experimentale de l’intelligence (Experimental study of intelligence). He took on a research assistant, Theodore Simon, and together they developed the Binet-Simon Scale, a series of progressively more difficult tests used to measure intelligence in children. Introduced in 1905, the scale was revised to include additional tests in 1908.

Binet died in 1911, not long after the publication of a third version of the scale. Following his death, La Société Libre pour l’Etude Psychologique de l’Enfant was renamed La Societé Alfred Binet in his honor.

There is no universal agreement on the validity of terms such as aptitude and intelligence, and no one test result can define your character or essential nature. However, aptitude tests are useful in a practical way for indicating your potential in a given career.

What Different Kinds of Aptitude Tests Are There?

There are many different kinds of aptitude tests, each of which assesses your capabilities in a different area of performance. Certain employers may give specialized aptitude tests as well. Below are a few broad categories that describe many of the most common types of aptitude tests:

A numerical test assesses math skills, abstract reasoning, and the ability to recognize relationships between numbers. These tests will often take the form of math problems, word problems, and number logic questions. To study for a numerical test, you should practice mathematical functions, decimals, percentages, and fractions.

A perceptual test is used to assess intelligence and learning ability without testing learned skills such as language and math. It tests your aptitude for logical thinking, deduction, and abstract reasoning. You might be presented with a series of abstract shapes and asked to determine what sort of shape should come next in the series or which shape does not belong.

A spatial test evaluates the ability to visualize and mentally manipulate three-dimensional objects. These tests will usually take the form of puzzles that ask you to mentally fold, rotate, and arrange different shapes and surfaces.

A practical test assesses memory skills, as well as the ability to perform everyday tasks involving graphs, numbers, and the alphabet. Problems might include word order questions, symbol matching, and practical problems using charts and money.

What Will I Learn from an Aptitude Test?

Aptitude Tests

The results from an aptitude test may give you greater knowledge of your talents and natural abilities. Such results can point you toward an occupation you might want to pursue and give you an idea of your long-term potential in a given career. The results may even reveal hidden potential or abilities that you were not aware you had. For this reason, you may want to take many different kinds of aptitude tests to gain the broadest possible knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses.

Are Aptitude Test Results All I Need to Choose My Career?

While an aptitude test may do a good job of determining your potential for learning a skill or performing a task, it will not determine what careers will be satisfying or enjoyable. Therefore, it is important to consider aptitude test results in combination with other factors. No one test is a truly accurate or comprehensive measure of your abilities and potential, and some tests may not be the best evaluation of your particular needs.

An aptitude test can be used in combination with a personality test or a motivation test to further narrow your choice of careers. A personality test can give you greater insight into your character and typical behaviors, while a motivation test can help determine what sorts of activities you generally enjoy. By combining the results of these three kinds of tests, you may be more likely to find a career you will both excel at and enjoy.

How Will an Aptitude Test Help My Career Search?

One major reason to take an aptitude test is that it may reveal a hidden potential for certain skills. Completing different types of tests can lead to a better understanding of your natural abilities. The results of aptitude tests can show you how to channel abilities into real-world skills.

Many employers use aptitude tests to evaluate your potential to succeed in the work environment. An employer might ask you to take an aptitude test during the hiring process to determine your long-term potential. A number of employers see aptitude tests as a dependable way to evaluate what you can contribute to their business.

How Should I Prepare for an Aptitude Test?

Aptitude Tests

There are many books, websites, and online courses that offer different sample aptitude tests. Go to a local library, bookstore, or online bookseller to find books with a variety of sample tests. Practice taking tests at home. Take sample tests using time constraints, complete practice examples, and gain experience working quickly and accurately.

Some companies will ask you to take an aptitude test without any warning. Others will tell you ahead of time if an aptitude test is part of the interviewing process. If so, be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before the test, and try to relax and avoid any sources of physical and mental stress before entering the test environment. Most tests are administered on a computer, but some companies still provide tests in paper form.

Although it is impossible to study for aptitude tests that challenge abstract abilities, such as spatial and perceptual test puzzles, you may still want to practice them at home to gain experience with the test format and instructions. However, other types of aptitude tests, such as verbal and mathematical tests, assess specific skills that can be studied and developed before you take the test. You should do both timed practice tests and practice tests done at your own pace, taking the time necessary to understand and answer the questions.