An introduction to aptitude testing for managers

Nikki Dale gives us a primer on aptitude testing.

What are psychometric and aptitude tests?

Psychometric tests are based on psychological knowledge and are used to measure skills, knowledge, abilities and personality traits.

Based on the research of Victorian scholars working to demonstrate the differentiation between species (Darwin) and what makes a human ‘fit’ or intelligent (Galton), psychometric knowledge has developed mostly in the last century to try to quantify the so-called unobservable traits that could be considered intelligence.

The research to define these traits has led directly to the creation of psychometric and aptitude tests which can be used to identify candidates who are most suitable for a role. 

How are managerial-level aptitude tests different?

Psychometric tests are used in the recruitment process for many roles, both at the executive or management level as well as for graduate and entry-level positions.

The difference between assessments used for managerial and other positions is that the questions are designed to test the skills, aptitudes, knowledge and personality traits that are related to being a manager, such as leadership, cognitive ability and problem-solving.

To be effective, management psychometric tests have more complex questions, needing several steps to calculate the right answer. This higher-level content and complexity is made more difficult by a reduced time limit for answering the questions too.


What are managerial aptitude tests assessing?

Cognitive skills

Managers need to be able to think critically, under pressure and sometimes with limited information to make decisions and solve problems. To be able to work on several problems at the same time, to be able to successfully lead a team while ensuring success – all need higher-level cognitive skills.

Logical reasoning

While emotional responses or gut feelings can sometimes be useful, managers need to be able to think logically about a problem to make the right decision. Applying logic to problems, evaluating arguments, and recognising fallacies and inferences are an important part of a management toolkit.

Leadership style and skills

Effective leaders can have different styles – but all need certain skills to be successful. Management skills involve motivation, listening, collaboration and focus. Psychometric assessments can demonstrate the style as well as the skills of a leader.


Personality skills of an effective manager include:

  • Leadership
  • Self-confidence
  • Listening
  • Personal responsibility
  • Collaboration
  • Focus

Through personality testing, recruiters can assess whether the applicant has the required traits to be an effective manager according to their answers.

Which psychometric tests are common for managers?

  • Abstract reasoning. In abstract reasoning assessments, images or shapes are set in a sequence with one missing, and you will have to choose the one that fits from multiple-choice options by finding the pattern. They are sometimes referred to as inductive reasoning tests.
  • Deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning tests present a series of premises and need to be answered by drawing a logical conclusion, identifying strong and weak arguments based on incomplete information.
  • Situational judgement. These assessments present a series of fictional but realistic work-based scenarios with several possible actions to be taken. The choice made will demonstrate work behaviour and problem-solving skills, as well as give some idea about management style.
  • Personality tests. In personality tests, the structure is usually similar across most publishers – a series of statements that must be rated on a scale of how well you think that it describes you, from completely agree to completely disagree.
  • Numerical critical reasoning. Unlike standard numerical reasoning assessments, the critical reasoning part of this type of assessment is based on using numerical information to make correct decisions. These questions are often unpredictable and need several steps and calculations to solve.
  • Numerical analysis. Numerical analysis means interpreting and using complex business-related data, often presented in tables and graphs to identify trends and answer questions.
  • Verbal critical reasoning. A passage of text, usually in formal or business language, will be presented followed by a statement. The multiple-choice answers include true, false or cannot say. More complex than a typical verbal reasoning test, this might involve several steps to reach the right conclusion.
  • Verbal analysis. A complex passage of text, like a business report, needs to be assessed and analysed for inferences and to compare arguments to decide if the statement that forms the question is true, false or there isn’t enough information to say.

How to prepare for management aptitude tests

  • Find out what test/tests you will be taking. Knowing the test you are facing – and if possible, which company is publishing it – will help you feel more prepared and give you focus for your practice. Common publishers include Watson-Glaser and SHL.
  • Read through any resources or guidelines provided. You can find numerous sources of information about specific types of tests and assessment publishers – and this will help you to understand how many questions will be on the test(s), how long you will have to answer them, and any other information that will help.
  • Sit practice tests and review sample questions. There are numerous practice tests and sample questions available based on the tests created by various publishers – and these are invaluable in your preparation. Not only can you get familiar with the structure and layout, but you can also see what questions you will face.
  • Practice all sections. Every question has value, and the results of your practice tests can help you focus on areas where you might be less strong so that you can improve.
  • Work against the clock. Making the practice as realistic as possible will help you be more prepared for the real thing – so if the practice test does not have a time limit, set one yourself and work to it.
  • On the day. As you approach the day of the assessment, be sure that you get enough sleep and are well-rested. On the day, be sure to eat well and stay hydrated, and prepare a work area that is free from distractions, and has all the required equipment that you might need, such as a computer, internet access, a calculator, paper and pen, etc.


About the author

Nikki Dale is a copywriter for Wikijob.


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