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What are ability tests? How can you prepare for ability tests? Why employers use ability tests? If these are questions on your mind, then look no further than this guide to accelerate your ability test practice today.

In this text, we explore ability tests, including their differences from aptitude tests, aptitude test types, science behind them, practice test examples, preparation tips, and FAQs, to help you succeed in your job search.

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Studies have found that General Mental Ability tests are highly valid predictors of job performance, showing a strong correlation with various organisational criteria including ratings, job knowledge, productivity, promotions, and wages, across diverse job roles.

Salgado and Moscoso (2019)

Keep reading to learn more about… 


  1. What is an Ability Test?
  2. Why do Employers use Ability Tests?
  3. The Science behind Ability Tests
  4. Ability Test Examples
  5. 5 Top Tips to Pass Ability Tests
  6. Ability Test FAQs

What is an Ability Test?

Ability tests are standardised assessment tools used to evaluate a range of cognitive skills and abilities, such as of employees or job candidates. These tests measure a range of skills, including problem-solving, communication, flexibility, and critical thinking.

  • Ability tests measure your ability to work with a particular information source. For example, a high verbal reasoning score indicates a strong ability to analyse written information and a high numerical reasoning score shows competence in solving problems using quantitative data.
  • Ability tests are a reliable predictor of job performance, especially when paired with other psychometric tests, and personality assessments, which provides insight into an individual’s personality and preferences.

Is an aptitude test the same as an ability test?

While ability tests and aptitude tests are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two assessments. The key difference is that aptitude tests are a type of ability tests used in the context of candidate selection and recruitment for job positions.

Aptitude tests are typically designed to assess your specific job-related skills and abilities. They are often named after the job title or skill they are assessing, such as the numerical reasoning test. 

Good to know: Aptitude tests are designed to predict and assess your potential for success within a particular job or field. Employers use these tests to see which candidate best suits the role. 

On the other hand, ability tests are designed to measure the underlying mental processes that contribute to aptitude. 

Let’s explore some of the different types of ability tests and the unique abilities they assess.

What are the Types of Ability Tests?

Here are some of the most common types of ability tests used by employers around the world:

Assessment TypeSkill AssessedRelevant GF Practice
Verbal Ability TestVerbal ReasoningStart Practicing
Numerical Ability TestNumerical ReasoningStart Practicing
Logical Ability TestLogical ReasoningStart Practicing
Checking Ability TestError IdentificationStart Practicing
Spatial Ability TestSpatial ReasoningStart Practicing
logical reasoning ability test example
Ability Test Example – Logical Reasoning Test

These tests are commonly used as aptitude tests for recruitment at initial stages of the application process. However, there are further types of ability tests as well. Here are some other types of ability tests which may be used in employment or development:

  • General Ability Test
  • Problem Solving Ability Test
  • Reaction Time Test
  • Mechanical Ability Test
  • Perceptual Speed Test
  • IQ Test

Good to know: Generally, ability test questions are not too difficult, however the short time limits can increase the pressure. When practising ability tests, simulate the exam conditions at home.

Looking for some quick tips to pass ability tests? Here’s a byte-sized video for saving time by eliminating wrong answers quickly:

Identify and eliminate wrong answers fast in Online Assessment Tests | Secret Insights #tips #shorts

Wait, so why are ability tests used in recruitment? Let’s find out the key reasons why employers use ability tests.

Why do Employers use Ability Tests?

Employers use ability tests for several reasons, including: 

  • Job Performance Assessment: Ability tests help employers gain insight into a candidate’s ability to process information under time constraints, as well as their likelihood of performing well on the job. 
  • Evaluation: Employers use ability tests to evaluate a candidate’s cognitive abilities, reasoning skills, problem-solving, and analytical skills. 
  • Training Performance Assessment: A person’s cognitive ability plays a crucial role in determining how well they will perform and adapt to training programs. That is why ability tests are valuable tools for employers to evaluate an individual’s potential training performance. 
  • Scalable and Efficient: Ability tests provide a significant advantage in terms of scalability and efficiency, allowing HR teams to assess a large number of applicants quickly. This online approach simplifies the screening process, as candidates can be ranked based on their scores and a cut-off can be applied. 
  • Unbiased: Ability tests offer the advantage of objectivity by eliminating the need for human markers or assessors, thus minimising the potential for unconscious bias in the selection process. 
Ability test interviews
Ability Test Interviews

Good to know: According to a recent survey, employers that use assessments are 3.7 times more likely to rate the quality of their hires as excellent compared to those who don’t.

Wonderlic (2022)

The Science Behind Ability Tests

Ability tests have been in existence since the early 20th century. The first laboratory dedicated to this subject was set up by James McKeen Cattell at the University of Cambridge. Cattell aimed to gauge various capabilities, including reaction time, colour naming, memory, and attention. 

Did you know? The science behind ability tests is rooted in psychometrics, which is the study of psychological measurement. Psychometricians use statistical methods to develop and validate tests and to evaluate their reliability and validity.

Modern ability tests are based on theories of cognitive abilities and how they relate to job performance. For example, general mental ability, also known as “g,” is considered to be a core cognitive ability that underlies many other specific abilities. The idea is that if someone is good at one cognitive task, they are likely to be good at others.

In 1963, R. Cattell divided general intelligence into two categories:

  • Fluid intelligence: This is the ability to perceive things, absorb new information, and retain it to handle new and unfamiliar situations.
  • Crystallised intelligence: This is the capacity to recall and use information obtained over a lifetime and apply it to perform specific tasks.

Good to know: Recruiters use ability tests to assess the skills required for the role. However, employers also screen CVs, use interviews and personality assessments to further understand your behaviours and preferences to determine if you are the best fit for a particular job.

 So what do these ability tests look like? Let’s dive into some of the top ability tests used in recruitment.

Ability Test Examples

What are examples of ability tests?

From our own findings, we discovered that the following tests are most commonly used by employers to assess their applicant pool:

  1. SHL General Ability Test: Comprises three subjects (numerical, inductive, and deductive) and evaluates a candidate’s problem-solving and thinking abilities. 

Did you know? SHL ability tests are some of the most widely used in the world by employers. Click here to read our dedicated guide on all things related to SHL assessments.

  1. Cubiks Logiks General Test: Comes in two levels: Intermediate and Advanced. Evaluates a candidate’s ability to utilise their language, numeracy, and logic skills to solve problems.
  1. Cappfinity Capptivate Assessments: Evaluates a candidate’s strengths, behaviours, personality, and motivation in an immersive online experience. 
  1. Thomas GIA Test: Quick measure of your ability to grasp and retain information. It comprises five sections, each with a duration of 2-3 minutes.
  1. IBM Kenexa Assessment Test: Assesses numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and logical reasoning under timed conditions. 
  1. Korn Ferry Talent Q Elements Tests: Korn Ferry has a range of tests for verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, logical reasoning, and situational judgement. 
  1. Saville Assessment Series: Includes a series of tests for different industries and job levels. Each series includes questions of numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, error-checking, mechanical, spatial, and diagrammatic.  
  1. Clevry Ability Tests: Comes in three streams: Utopia for graduates, professionals, and managers, B2C for customer-dealing roles, and Mechanical for manufacturing and engineering roles. 
  1. Matrigma Abstract Reasoning Tests: Aims to assess your logical aptitude and your capacity to recognize predetermined rules through its emphasis on abstract reasoning.

At GF, we provide practice online ability tests designed by former SHL test developers and experts to replicate the assessment experience of these top ability assessments. Check out one of our SHL-style numerical tests below.

SHL Style Numerical Reasoning Free Question Example
SHL-Style Numerical Reasoning Example Question

Good to know: The format and content of the assessment can vary depending on the publisher. Read the test invitation carefully to understand the details to help focus your test preparation.

But how do we prepare? Stick around as we cover our top tips and tricks you can use to prepare and pass ability tests.

5 Top Tips to Pass Ability Tests

While these tests may seem daunting, with the right preparation and mindset, you can increase your chances of success. Here are some tips our team have thought up to help you pass any ability test:

  1. Check through the job description: Before you apply for a role, you can get a good idea of what skills will be required for the position by reading the job description. How will these skills likely be assessed? 
  1. Practice, practice, practice: One of the best ways to prepare is to regularly practice ability test questions ahead of the real assessment. This helps you to familiarise yourself with the test format and common types of questions that are used.

Good to know: Most ability tests have short time limits, meaning you will need to answer as many questions as possible within the allocated time. Practicing helps to develop your time management.

  1. Keep your focus before the test: Make sure you’re feeling fresh and focused before taking the test. Don’t let a grumbling stomach or sudden urge to use the restroom derail your performance. It’s important to stay concentrated for the test.
  1. Read the questions carefully: Before answering, ensure that you have read through the question and understand what is being asked. Misunderstanding a question is a simple mistake that can lead to getting the question incorrect!
  1. Find a balance: Since many ability tests are timed, you might be tempted to rush through the questions, but this can affect your accuracy. Balance speed and accuracy during the test by allocating enough time for each section.

Keep reading below for our FAQ section which will answer any further burning questions you might have about ability tests.

Ability Test FAQs

What is the difference between ability tests and aptitude tests?

Ability tests measure the fundamental cognitive abilities that contribute to aptitude, while aptitude tests evaluate a candidate’s potential for success in a particular job or field by assessing specific job-related skills and abilities.

Why are ability tests used?

Ability tests are used to measure a person’s underlying mental processes which may contribute to their aptitude for a particular job or field. They can help assess a candidate’s potential for success in a role and provide valuable insights to employers during the recruitment process.

How do I prepare for an ability test?

To prepare for an ability test, it is important to:

  1. Research the employer
  2. Practice under timed conditions
  3. Get good rest
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Complete puzzles

Prepare for your ability test with GF practice assessments today!

What is a cognitive ability test?

Cognitive ability tests evaluate thinking abilities such as perception, reasoning, memory, problem solving, and verbal and mathematical ability. These tests use multiple-choice questions to gauge your mental processes to solve work-related problems or learn new job knowledge.

What is a general ability test?

General mental ability tests evaluate an individual’s abstract thinking, learning, and adaptation skills. These tests cover a range of topics including verbal and mathematical reasoning, problem-solving, perception, memory power, mechanical skills, and more.

What is an ability test example?

Standardised assessments known as ability tests measure distinct cognitive aptitudes such as numerical and verbal ability. For example the Cubiks Logiks General Tests assess candidates using numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning questions.

Practice and Register with GF to ace your ability tests on the first try!

Do you want to pass your ability tests on the first try? Sign up for the tools provided by GF, the leading experts in ability test practice, which offers tests to more than 100 UK universities and their students, as well as in Asia and continental Europe.

Visit GF now and choose from the range of products we offer without any risk. We provide a comprehensive premium package with a complete set of assessment tools for candidates, including numerical, logical, verbal reasoning, and other abilities. Buy with confidence and without committing to a full 100% money-back guarantee.