The Ultimate Guide To Numerical Reasoning Tests In Grad Applications

Graduate jobs

June 07, 2021

Did you know that 71% of numerical reasoning tests are used in the first stages of graduate job applications? This means that Numerical Reasoning Tests help employers shortlist the candidates for the next stages. 


These tests are one of the key things standing between you and a meeting with the graduate job recruiters in person. Considering that, it makes sense to take some extra steps to prepare and get ahead of the competition.


Whether you’re preparing for your very first numerical reasoning test, or you’re trying to improve on your performance before your next application, this guide has some useful tips for you either way. Questions you might encounter, how to prepare for the is everything you need to know about numerical reasoning tests.


What is a numerical reasoning test?


A numerical reasoning test is a type of psychometric assessment commonly used by graduate job recruiters to help them shortlist candidates to interview.  

As the name suggests, the test contains a range of questions focusing on your ability to handle numbers. This could be simple addition and subtraction questions to more complex problems including graphs and diagrams.


These kinds of tests are popular with recruiters because many jobs will require you to work with numbers in some form or another. But the good news is that numerical reasoning tests don’t require you to be a mathematical genius. Rather, they look to assess how competently you can work with numerical information. Expect less algebra and more interpreting data sets.

How are they used?


With hundreds, and sometimes thousands of candidates for the most popular graduate schemes, recruiters have a lot of work to do when it comes to sorting through applications. This is where numerical reasoning tests come in. Like other psychometric tests used in the graduate recruitment process, numerical reasoning tests are designed to filter out any unsuitable candidates before the interviewing stage. 


There are benefits of these tests for both applicants and recruiters. From the employer’s point of view, it is a way of quickly and efficiently assessing large numbers of candidates, ensuring that only those with the necessary core skills progress to the next stage.


For the applicant, it creates a hiring process that is totally fair and unbiased. The tests judge you based on your performance only, so if you do well in the test you will progress, regardless of your age, gender or educational history.


How to prepare for and succeed in a numerical reasoning test

Now for the important part: how do you actually go about preparing for a numerical reasoning test? Here are five of our top tips to help you succeed in your next test:


Research the job role

Though some companies may choose to use generic tests, you will find that most will favour tailored tests that have been designed to reflect real situations and tasks you may encounter while working for the company. Therefore the first thing to do when preparing for any psychometric assessment is researching the company and the role you are applying for. Look at the job description and list of responsibilities to identify any question types you might be asked. For example, if you are applying for a financial role, you should focus on practising financial reasoning tests that assess your finance-based numeracy skills.


Create a study schedule

When it comes to taking numerical reasoning tests, unless you study mathematics or use it in your everyday life, you will probably need to brush up on your skills in order to succeed. The best way of doing this is by creating a structured study schedule. Break down which question types and topics may come up in the test and which ones you need the most practice with. Set aside a set amount of time every day to study, and track your progress to ensure you don’t miss anything.


Read the instructions thoroughly

It sounds obvious, but make sure you read any instructions for each question before you start the test. Try and identify which skills are being assessed, and what kind of answer they are looking for. Once you have finished the test, read through all the questions and your answers again to double-check you haven’t missed anything.


Take as many practice tests as possible

The best way of preparing for a numerical reasoning test is by taking lots of practice tests to familiarise yourself with the timings and structure of the test. Only by practising will you be able to identify your weaknesses, or particular question types you struggle with. You can then make sure you spend extra time on these questions before taking the real test.


Reflect on how the test went

However you feel the test went, you will only get the most out of the experience (and improve your future performances) by reflecting on it afterwards. If you found the test difficult, is this particular role the best fit for you or should you continue your job search? Which areas could you improve on for next time?


Common question types and structures

Though numerical reasoning tests will differ depending on the company and the specific role, they all tend to follow a similar structure. For instance, one of the most common question types is a table or graph-focused one. This question tests your ability to quickly sort through and analyse data sets in order to find the information you need.


You will also encounter word problems, which assess your mental arithmetic skills and ability to do simple sums quickly and accurately. You may or may not be allowed to use a calculator, so it is generally a good idea to make sure you know how to calculate basic percentages and ratios without assistance.


Above all, remember that numerical reasoning tests require no prior knowledge of advanced mathematics or specific equations and each answer should be based only on the information you are given. Each question will also have its own time limit, so be sure to keep an eye on this and check you don’t run out of time.


Useful resources

The most important thing to do when preparing to take a numerical reasoning test is practice. We’ve pulled together some helpful resources so you can practice for free before your next test:








Written by Talya Honebeek

Talya is a freelance writer and Journalism Master’s student at the University of Sunderland, writing about everything from fashion and lifestyle to education.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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