Aptitude Test: Definition, How It's Used, Types, and How to Pass

Aptitude Test: An exam used to determine an individual's skill or propensity to succeed in a given activity.

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What Is an Aptitude Test?

An aptitude test is an exam used to determine an individual's skill or propensity to succeed in a given activity. Aptitude tests assume that individuals have inherent strengths and weaknesses and have a natural inclination toward success or failure in specific areas based on their innate characteristics.

Aptitude tests are generally used for job placement, college program entry, and to help people to get an idea of where their interests and aptitudes can take them regarding careers.

Key Takeaways

  • An aptitude test is used to determine an individual's abilities, assessing how they are likely to perform in an area in which they have no prior training or knowledge.
  • Schools use aptitude tests to determine if students are inclined toward advanced placement classes or specific areas of study, such as engineering or a foreign language.
  • Human resources departments at some companies will use career assessment tests to learn about a potential candidate's strengths and weaknesses.
  • An aptitude test does not test knowledge or intelligence, only a particular skill or propensity. Therefore, it is not a test for which a person can study.

Understanding Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests can be used to determine your capabilities in a variety of subjects. For example, individuals may take an aptitude test to determine the careers that are a good match for their skills and interests. Similarly, high school students may take an aptitude test when thinking about what would be an appropriate college major or whether college is the best choice for them.

In general, aptitude tests measure one's competence in logical reasoning, numerical skills, or verbal ability; competency can be evaluated through problem-solving tasks and testing one's critical thinking across various contexts.

When You Might Take an Aptitude Test

Some schools administer aptitude tests to students beginning in elementary school. Combined with intelligence and achievement tests that measure student mastery of academic content, aptitude tests may be used to determine placement in gifted and talented programs or other specific educational tracks.

Language Aptitudes

For example, the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT) measures a student's potential for successfully mastering foreign languages. Aptitude tests can also help determine if a student needs special education services.

Older Students

For older students, Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) assess a range of aptitudes from spatial relations to language usage. The results can help administrators make curricular recommendations.

Aptitude and personality tests can be useful in determining skills and abilities to highlight on a resume or cover letter when applying for a job.

Curriculum Guidance

Counselors might use high scores in mechanical reasoning tests to guide students toward courses that prepare them for engineering or designing studies in college. For instance, students who score well in tests measuring speed, accuracy, and problem-solving might choose coursework in computer science, finance, or other fields requiring attention to detail.

Hiring Decisions

Some companies use aptitude tests to help them make hiring decisions. These tests, called career assessment tests, help human resources (HR) personnel learn more about a prospective employee's strengths and weaknesses. Career assessment tests may also be used within a company to make promotion decisions.

Situational judgment tests are a specific kind of career aptitude test that can help predict how an employee might respond to specific situations in the workplace. They are also used to assess an employee's communication style and ability to work within a team.

Some situational judgment tests focus specifically on customer service careers. These tests analyze personality traits predictive of successful public interaction, such as empathy, diplomacy, and patience. Situational judgment tests may also be used to predict future competency in sales-related careers.

Types of Aptitude Tests

Many types of aptitude tests are taken for educational or career discovery and ability purposes. The most common aptitude tests are:

  • Mechanical reasoning: These types test your knowledge of physical concepts and are generally used to evaluate you for technical positions.
  • Situational judgment: These tests gauge your reactions to situations and your decision-making.
  • Diagrammatic/spatial reasoning: These tests see how well you can reach a conclusion based on processes contained in diagrams.
  • Abstract reasoning: These measure problem-solving abilities and identify relationships between abstract arrays.
  • Numerical reasoning: In these tests, your abilities with numbers, math, and data are tested.
  • Verbal reasoning: Your language, reading comprehension, and vocabulary are tested in these types.
  • Inductive reasoning: Under the pressure of time, these tests see how well you analyze patterns and data.
  • Logical reasoning: Logical reasoning tests measure how well you recognize patterns and sequences and identify relationships between objects.
  • Clerical aptitude: Clerical tests measure how fast and accurate you can be, seeing how well you can concentrate.

How to Pass an Aptitude Test

You might have heard that you can't prepare for an aptitude test, but nothing could be further from the truth. Study guides and practice aptitude tests are readily available online and in community or high school libraries.

If you're unsure about what kind of job you want or where you want to go next in your career, an aptitude or assessment test—offered on various websites, either for free or for a small fee—can be a great way of narrowing down options to make a choice.

Conduct an online search for the type of test you'll be taking. You'll find many guides that offer tips on subjects you can read about and practice tests. Once you've found the practice tests and some study material:

  • Practice the test daily: Practicing every day gives you continuous exposure to the questions and answers and helps you identify weak spots.
  • Learn the test format: Remembering the format helps you move through the test. It also allows you to identify areas you need to work on.
  • Carefully read the instructions: When you take the test, don't dive into it. Instead, read all instructions and ensure you understand them, so you don't work through a section giving wrong answers.
  • Manage your testing time: Answer the questions you know first. Then, go back and work on the more challenging questions.

What Is an Aptitude Test and an Example?

An aptitude test measures your capabilities in specific areas. One aptitude test most people hear of in high school is the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB tests general science, arithmetic reasoning and mathematics, word knowledge, reading comprehension, mechanical comprehension, and more. The information is used to place applicants in job positions where they will have a better chance of succeeding.

Is an IQ Test an Aptitude Test?

An IQ test tries to measure your intelligence, while an aptitude test measures your ability to apply your intelligence.

Is There an Online Aptitude Test?

While some aptitude tests may still be given using test booklets and bubble sheets, many aptitude tests are administered online. You can find free and paid versions.

The Bottom Line

An aptitude test is a measure of your ability to learn or perform required tasks and succeed in the environment you're in. They are not a measure of intelligence—these tests look for your strengths and weaknesses, giving you and the evaluator an idea of your abilities.

Most aptitude tests can indicate success in education and a career, but they are not always 100% accurate predictions. For example, it is possible to score very low on an aptitude test for a specific job and be successful with hard work and dedication—the test may have merely taken a snapshot of your knowledge and abilities at a point where you didn't know much about the field.

Remember that preparation can help you pass an aptitude test even if you have no prior knowledge in an area—if you think of it as learning something new and interesting, you may surprise yourself with what you can do.

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