February, 2016

Almost every graduate job requires prospective candidates to pass psychometric tests, yet many applicants struggle with numerical reasoning

Numerical reasoning is designed to test candidates' maths skills and tends to focus on several specific areas. Tests are usually for those applying for sales, professional, managerial and supervisory positions, or roles that require workers to make decisions and inferences based on numerical data.

This article will cover not only the different types of numerical reasoning tests, but also how to practise them to best increase your chances of success...

Table and graph questions

Countless types of tables and graphs display numerical data. Numerical reasoning tests tend to contain a mixture of table themes - for example, balance sheets, population demographics and results of telemarketing surveys - since the intention is to see how quickly you can analyse shifting data sets.

Here's one example of a table and graph-style numerical reasoning question:

Tables take many forms and test your arithmetic skills and ability to quickly calculate ratios or percentages. Candidates taking tests for firms that specialise in financial services will likely come up against multiple data sets (coupling a table with a graph is a popular theme), questions that require the ability to calculate common financial ratios (for example, growth rates, profit margins and return on equity), or questions that require a higher level of analysis.

Non-calculator Numerical tests

Some numerical reasoning tests don't allow the use of calculators. These tests often contain a mix of questions, and give you just a few seconds to answer each.

Non-calculator tests usually contain a mix of word problems, mental arithmetic and other calculations. JobTestPrep offer free and paid-for customised numerical reasoning practice packs to help you gain confidence, improve your speed and accuracy, and ensure that you fulfil your potential.

Example: A shop owner bought some shovels for £5,500. The shovels were sold for £7,300, with a profit of £50 per shovel. How many shovels were involved?

A. 18; B. 36; C. 55; D. 73; E. 90; F. None of these.

Word problems

These are mathematical questions in the form of a passage of text. Word problems usually require you to make a quick mental arithmetic calculation to answer the question - so you must be able to do subtraction and division quickly. Practising this type of question will help you to improve your speed when doing the real thing.

A mobile phone company offers insurance that covers cases of theft and accidental water damage. According to their policy, the insurance pays 60% and 50%, respectively and with £30 deductible. This means that the client pays the first £30, after which the insurance pays 60% in the case of theft and 50% in the case of accidental water damage. How much will a client pay if her mobile phone worth £1,080 was stolen?

A. £420 B. £450 C. £464 D. £660 E. £678

Number series

These tests present numerical sequences that follow a logical rule based on elementary arithmetic. An initial sequence is given, from which the rule is to be deduced. You're then asked to predict the next number that obeys the rule.

Number series tests can come in a few different forms, and range from very basic patterns such as this…

Complete the sequence: 27, 24, 21, 18, X Rule: There's a difference of (-3) between each item. The missing number in this case is 15. …to far more complicated series that involve two or more arithmetic functions, such as this…

Complete the sequence: 4, 6, 2, 8, 3, X Rule: In this series, the differences themselves create a series: +2, ÷3, x4, -5. The numbers advance by intervals of 1 and the arithmetic functions change in an orderly sequence. The next arithmetic function in the series should be +6, and so the next item in the series is 9.

Success at number series is something that can be improved by learning the types of patterns that are likely to come up in an online test, and the strategies for quickly solving them.

Tailor your practice

The exact style and format of questions will vary depending on the test provider. It's therefore best to prepare for the specific test provider that the company you're applying to will use. SHL, Kenexa, Saville, Cubiks, and Talent Q are the main test providers. Starting at £34 for a two-week licence JobTestPrep's Graduate Pack covers all the different numerical reasoning problems that you could be tested on and matches companies with their test providers.


Read JobTestPrep's expert advice on how to prepare for SHL practice tests.

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