What Is an Aptitude Test?

An aptitude test is an exam used to determine an individual's 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. An aptitude test does not test knowledge; it is not a test for which a person can study.

Key Takeaways

  • An aptitude test is used to determine an individual's skill or ability, assessing how they 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 certain areas of study, like engineering or a foreign language.
  • In the work world, human resources departments at some companies will use career assessment tests to learn about a potential candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding the Aptitude Test

An aptitude test may be taken by individuals to determine the kinds of 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.

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

Educational Aptitude Tests

Some schools administer aptitude tests to students beginning in elementary school. Along with intelligence tests 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. For example, the Modern Language Aptitude Test measures a student's potential for successfully mastering foreign languages. Aptitude tests can also help determine if a student needs special education services.

For older students, Differential Aptitude Tests assess a range of aptitudes from spatial relations to language usage. The results can help administrators make curricular recommendations. Counselors might use high scores in a test in mechanical reasoning, for example, to guide a student toward courses that prepare them for engineering or designing studies in college. Students who score well in tests measuring speed, accuracy and problem solving might decide to choose coursework in computer science, finance, or other fields requiring attention to detail.

For a person not sure about what kind of job they want or where they want to go next in their 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 so as to make a choice.

Career Assessment Tests

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

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