Numerical Reasoning Tests Introduction

Numerical Reasoning Tests


Numerical reasoning tests are used to measure different forms of numerical reasoning ability, particularly the identification of trends in large sets of numerical data and the interpretation of tables/graphs. Thus numerical reasoning tests – especially those that are set at a higher level – ask candidates to analyse numerical information presented as line graphs, histograms, pie-charts, tables, etc.

In summary, numerical reasoning tests also ask candidates to: interpret statistics and other financial information; problem solve and apply your findings to a new numerical reasoning problem; use mathematical operations (e.g. fractions, ratios, percentages); and more specific operations, such as number distance, to solve numerical reasoning problems.

What is a numerical reasoning test?

A numerical reasoning test is a type of ability test, sometimes referred to as a psychometric or aptitude test. It is designed to measure specific numerical reasoning abilities relevant for success in a particular course, profession or job. Numerical reasoning tests are an objective and accurate means of assessing a candidate’s potential effectiveness whenever there is a numerical reasoning component to a particular job role or course.

What do numerical reasoning tests measure?

In simple terms a numerical reasoning test is a means of assessing a person’s ability to work with numerical reasoning information. These tests provide an objective measure of many numerical reasoning abilities, including the following:

  • interpreting statistical data;
  • analysing complex mathematical information presented in graphs, pie-charts, tables, etc.;
  • solving problems that require an understanding of basic mathematical operations (e.g. fractions, ratios, percentages);
  • using and interpreting financial information correctly.

Why do I need to take a numerical reasoning test?

Numerical reasoning ability links to job performance, which is why numerical reasoning tests are now used as part of the selection criteria for certain professions and postgraduate degree courses in which it is essential to work effectively with numerical reasoning information. Many medium-sized and large employers also make extensive use of ability tests – such as numerical reasoning tests – as part of their standard recruitment and promotion processes. The overall aim is for the best people to be selected – and the use of ability tests differentiates the high performers from the low performers. A well-designed numerical reasoning test is a reliable and consistent means of assessing the skills required for effective performance in that working environment.

Ability tests allow employers and university admissions offices to assess a large number of applicants for competitive positions in a standardised way. The same ability test can be given to a large number of applicants and the results used as an efficient means of comparision. This standardisation makes the process much fairer than relying upon old-fashioned, unstructured interviews where every applicant would be asked different questions. Even if you don’t like the idea of being tested on your numerical reasoning skills, at least you know that it is fair since everyone has to do the same test!

Everyone uses numerical reasoning skills in daily life – from checking their change in a shop to calculating how long a journey will take. Many different jobs require an ability to work confidently with numbers in order to carry out a range of responsibilities effectively. This could involve anything from interpreting production quotas to carrying out technical work that relies upon detailed calculations. Whereas an accountant will have demonstrated his or her numerical reasoning abilities in the process of acquiring a professional qualification, other career paths depend on numerical reasoning tests to measure applicants’ skill in this area.

How difficult are numerical reasoning tests?

The difficulty level of the test you take will reflect the level of numerical reasoning knowledge needed in the position or place you are applying for. The numerical reasoning practice tests in Part II of this book span a wide range of difficulty levels. This is deliberate and reflects the range of tests in current usage. Starting with the easiest and getting increasingly difficult, the practice questions cover the full range of numerical reasoning ability.