Set Yourself up for the Best Possible Test Score

Many companies use cognitive tests for assessing potential candidates during their recruiting process. A good result will not get you the dream job, but a bad result can definitely ruin your chances of even getting an interview. So, don’t underestimate the importance of such tests.

Preparation is very important for a successful job hunt. Previously, we looked into understanding your personal traits and strengths and weaknesses, but now we take a look at how to prepare yourself for acing pre-interview tests.


So many companies use tests for assessing candidates’ potential. According to the American organisation Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 20% of employers use cognitive ability tests. That means that you are going to be faced with such a test at every fifth job you apply for, on average. Another study by High Flyers among 18,000 students found that students send out seven job applications before they even leave the university. And several sources report in excess of 50 applications per available position.

It seems that it is entirely probable that you may face a cognitive test at some point when applying for a new job. So, this very brief guide is intended to start you on your way to prepare yourself in the best possible way to get the score you are capable of.

Let’s quickly review four of the typical types of questions you might face in a test:

First, Abstract reasoning or induction is tested using an illustration sequence with shapes moving around in a particular pattern. Here’s a simple example; which figure (A-D) should replace the question mark?abstract reasoning


It should be pretty obvious that the answer is C in this case.

Second, Deduction is another way of testing logical reasoning.  These can be tested through e.g. logical statements. Here’s an example where you are presented with two true statements and two possible conclusions. You are to select which one of options A-E are correct.


The correct answer is B. These questions can be really tricky as you need abstract from things you already have stored in your mind about the mentioned things in the questions to avoid confusion.

Third, Verbal intelligence is also tested in a lot of different ways. For example rearrange words to create proverbs, rearrange letters to create other words, find the word that doesn’t fit in the group of words, and many more. These questions are versatile and during practice you are able hone in on techniques to solve these problems more efficiently compared to if you had no practice at all. Or, worst case scenario, which types of questions to skip altogether to save time if they cause you too much trouble.

Fourth, Quantitative reasoning is tested through small problems that demand a few mathematical calculations in order to find the answer. E.g. if it takes 5 men 5 hours to lay down 5 meters of sidewalk, how many men are needed to complete 10 meters of sidewalk in the same amount of time? (Answer is 10) Or number sequences such as: What replaces X in the following sequence of numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, X. (Answer is 13)

Right, let’s turn my top three tips for getting the best test score.

Tip 1: Manage your time
The tests are always timed creating pressure to answer the questions very fast. Last one I tried demanded 50 answers in 30 minutes, i.e. 36 seconds per question. Keep in mind, some test are designed in such a way that you are not expected to complete them. Therefore, there’s one important thing you need to figure out before starting the test. Are you penalised for wrong answers? If so, then refrain from guessing. Answer only when you are fairly sure that you have the right answer. Otherwise it may hurt your final score. If not, then quickly fire off a guess on a question you are not sure about in order to save time and have a chance to scoring some points on that question.

To keep track of time I have found it very helpful to create a timetable showing how many questions you need to answer by when. This way you can easily assess if you need to speed up or if you can allow yourself a bit more time to answer the last questions.

Tip 2: Use the process of elimination
I can’t recall a single test that was not designed as multiple choice. This means that you can use the process of elimination if the answer is not clear to you after looking at the problem. The process of elimination allows you to remove answers that are clearly not correct. After that you can work your way backwards and check if a given option could possibly be the correct answer to the problem.

Tip 3: Practice, practice, practice
Before taking a test I recommend you do a few practice runs on some of the free offers online to get a feeling of how to answer the questions and how not to. Get a feeling of how fast 20 minutes pass when you are highly concentrated. Get a feeling of which questions are your strengths and weaknesses so you can adopt a strategy to maybe skip questions that you know you have difficulty in answering.

Here are some great sources for practice:

This post is part of a series about the recruiting process seen from the perspective of the candidate. See the first post HERE to understand the context.

Please be aware that I have no affiliation with the providers of the tests mentioned above.

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