Psychometric Testing

by Claire Walsh and David Hoad

Ability and aptitude tests

Ability and aptitude tests are designed to measure an individual’s performance and can be used to assess current as well as potential performance levels. The two most commonly-used categories are verbal and numerical reasoning tests.

Verbal reasoning tests assess an individual’s ability with regard to words and language. These tests come in a variety of formats, ranging from basic literacy tests through to complex critical reasoning and comprehension. Numerical reasoning tests are also varied and can range from basic mathematical computation through to critical interpretation of complex numerical data.

Other categories of ability and aptitude tests include

  • Diagrammatic – to assess the ability to evaluate processes represented through diagrams
  • Clerical – to assess the abilities required for clerical and administrative positions
  • Spatial – to assess cognitive and perceptual abilities with space and shapes
  • Mechanical – to assess the ability to comprehend mechanical and physical principles.

It is important when choosing an ability or aptitude test for recruitment or development purposes that the abilities being assessed relate to the job being assessed for.

Most ability tests provide a score so the assessor can compare an individual’s performance against others who have taken the test previously. Ability and aptitude tests are generally administered under timed conditions with standardised instructions so the assessors can make good comparisons between the candidates’ performances. Participants are not expected to finish the test as their scores, including the number of questions answered correctly within the time, are compared to the norm group data for assessment purposes.

Employers often use ability and aptitude tests as part of their procedures for selecting and developing their employees, because they are seen as a good prediction of job success.

Some commonly-used ability and aptitude tests

The Able Series

comprises ten tests based on real-life scenarios and covering abilities such as numerical and verbal reasoning, problem solving and analytical skills.

The Destiny Series

consists of four ability tests used for clerical and secretarial roles.


measures problem solving and analysis skills.

The Management and Graduate Item Bank (MGIB)

assesses critical reasoning skills required by professional and managerial staff.