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Numerical Reasoning Test Advice

How to pass a Numerical Reasoning Test

Nobody likes taking tests. This is especially true of numerical ones, even for many people working in finance and accounting.

Unfortunately, many jobs today will require some form of basic numerical ability to be used, often on a daily basis, whether it’s performing mental arithmetic while working in a bar or reconciling profit and loss reports as an accountant.     

What is a numerical reasoning test?

Numerical reasoning tests are one of the most widely used forms of cognitive ability test because they reflect the level of demands in the majority of jobs in which they are being used. The numerical information in these types of psychometric test is likely to be more complex than the content of a standard numeracy test, which tend to be more focused on basic mathematics.  

Numerical reasoning tests measure a more advanced type of numerical ability. You will need to both interpret and understand the information as well as reason with it. This means you must make decisions based on what you understand the information to mean. To arrive at the correct answer you will often need to perform complex calculations (such as percentages or averages) that require a number of different steps.    

Why do employers use numerical reasoning tests?

Numerical reasoning tests are often used during the first stage of a recruitment process as a pre-selection tool (along with CVs, application forms and covering letters) to make decisions about who will be shortlisted for interview.   

For the majority of organisations, the main purpose for using numerical reasoning tests is to aid in recruitment and selection decisions as well as highlighting training and development needs of current employees.

Using numerical reasoning tests at the start of a recruitment process means employers can make more accurate predictions about whether a candidate has the necessary numerical skills to succeed in a role. This information can be difficult to assess using interviews alone and is often seen as critical to the success of a large number of roles. 

Can numerical tests predict job performance? 

Ability tests have been found to be a strong predictor of job performance at work when compared to other assessment methods. We know this because business psychologists have investigated the power of different selection techniques by conducting ‘validity studies’ that compare scores gathered during a recruitment process with actual performance on the job. 

The results of these studies show that there is a much higher correlation between an individual’s numerical test score and their subsequent job performance than is the case with other assessment techniques. In general, numerical reasoning tests can help predict job performance better than the use of CVs, interviews or just personality questionnaires alone.    

Numerical Reasoning Test Tips


Practice makes perfect.

Try to complete a few practice numerical tests before you begin as this will help you know what to expect in terms of format etc.

You can try a few numerical reasoning test questions by following the links on this page. 

You may be timed.

It’s likely your numerical reasoning test will have a time limit. You can simulate this in any practice tests you do by giving yourself a strict time limit to answer each question.

It can be helpful here to ask the recruiter how long you have to complete the test (along with how many questions there are), then you can work out some rough time limits to practice with. 

Find a quiet place.

If your numerical reasoning test is to be completed online then try to find a suitably quiet and distraction free environment in which to sit your test.

Have an up-to-date browser.

Make sure you’re using an up to date web browser before beginning an online test. 

Read instructions carefully. 

Read the test instructions carefully before you begin and make sure you have fully absorbed any key numerical information you may be required to work with.

Read numerical information twice. Read numerical information twice. 

Read any numerical information that’s presented at least twice before answering any questions!

Double check your answers before submitting. 

ALWAYS double check before submitting your answers.

Try not to guess if possible. 

Do not simply guess your answers – if you need to do this try to at least make your best educated guess.

Complete the test in one go. 

Complete the test in a single sitting. If it’s online and you fail to do this, you will likely have to contact the recruiter and ask them to reset your test, meaning you will have to start all over again.

Review your answers if allowed. 

If the test allows you to go back and review your answers then you should use any spare time at the end to do this (many online tests won’t allow you to do this, so check your answer before answering the question).

Don’t panic. 

If you can’t answer one question then don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a spiral of negative thinking. Answer it as best you can and then move on. 

Developing your  numerical ability 

While answering questions of a numerical nature may come naturally to some, for others it will instil a sense of fear and anxiety. If you belong to the latter category and are expecting to take a numerical reasoning test then it might serve you well to brush up on your numerical ability.

But just how exactly do you develop your numerical ability?

Your numerical ability is like a muscle – and like any muscle it will respond to consistent and regular exercise. Regularly exercising your numerical ability ‘muscles’ will help it to grow stronger, and if you do not, it will become weaker. 

Completing practice questions will help you to ‘exercise’ and therefore develop your raw numerical ability, but the benefits are limited. To build your raw ability to its maximum strength you need to combine regular practice with regular use of that ability. This will encourage your numerical ability to become stronger and more well-rounded.  

Your raw numerical ability can be exercised and developed through any activity that requires you to use it, such as:

  • Completing number puzzles (like Sudoku), word games and problem solving challenges.

  • Adding things up in your head – such as prices when you go to the supermarket or pub (although the latter becomes increasingly difficult the longer you’re there!).

  • Reconciling your current account at the end of each month.

  • Reviewing and interpreting more complex sets of numerical data, such as a set of accounts, financial reports or website analytics data at work.

  • Analysing numerical information to identify and pull out key themes, trends and changes. Or looking at where the biggest differences occur between values, such as income vs outgoings.

  • Taking part in discussions about numerical information. 

Like any form of exercise these activities will be most successful when you integrate them into normal life. If you can perform exercises in a way that becomes habitual, your raw numerical ability will grow steadily. It is often much easier to introduce small changes on a daily basis, such as a daily Sudoku puzzle, than attempt infrequent or overly demanding numerical exercises. 

Remember that there is an upper limit to your numerical ability! Just as we can’t all grow our muscles to the same size as Mr Universe, we can’t all grow our numerical ability to the level of Pythagoras. What you can do however, is combine knowledge of the test, your test-taking strategies and practice to develop your numerical ability to its maximum – this will help you achieve your personal best score.