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Numerical Reasoning And Critical Thinking Multiple Choice Questions

The difficulty level of the maths involved in a numerical reasoning test is only about as difficult as GCSE level. The tricky part is interpreting the numerical data and figuring out what calculation is required, under the pressure of the count-down timer. Here is a list of the most common operations you can expect in your numerical test:

If you don't feel comfortable with any of these questions, focus your practice on that type of question. You could also dig out your GCSE notes if you still have them. And remember you are more often than not allowed to use a calculator with these tests.

Try to work both quickly and accurately during your test. Most tests don't employ negative marking but some new tests are starting to, so ask the test administrator about this before you start. Whilst they might not tell you, bare in mind that your accuracy score is visible to the employer, so guessing answers will result in a low accuracy score and may suggest to the employer that your numerical work is prone to error.

Graduate and professional level numerical reasoning tests are the most difficult, reflecting the calibre of candidate they are trying to select. They still use only the seven basic maths skills listed above but they require you to analyse and interpret more advanced data, and they have several steps to the same question.

  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Percentages (including percentage changes)
  • Ratios

Applying for a role with a big corporate employer? Then chances are you’ll have to take a numerical reasoning test. Not only do these tests assess how well you can interpret and manipulate mathematical data; they also give employers an insight into your overall intelligence, judgement and business acumen.

Mastering the numbers

They’re usually multiple-choice and timed, and include:

  • interpreting data from tables, graphs and charts
  • percentages and proportions 
  • fractions  ratios 
  • estimations 
  • currency conversions 
  • critical reasoning
  • inflation and rebasing, 'real' prices.

Even though numerical reasoning tests can be challenging, they still use only six basic maths skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages and ratios. However, you will need to analyse and interpret more advanced data, and tackle questions that have several steps.

Whether you’re already a maths wizard or find numbers intimidating, these tips will boost your confidence and your chances.

1. Find out who your test provider will be

As soon as you find out you’re going to sit a numerical reasoning test, ask to see a sample of the questions. That’s because all numerical reasoning tests aren’t the same. They’re produced by a number of different test providers – the main ones being SHL, Kenexa, Saville, Cubiks and Talent Q. And knowing which provider is responsible for the test you’ll be doing means you can practise on the right type of test. That will be a big advantage when it comes to the real thing. 

2. Read the questions carefully

Focus on the question before you starting looking at the data underneath it. Then constantly see-saw back and forth between the question and the data that relates to it. Often there’s distracting information in the graphs and charts – information that’s irrelevant to the answer. And it’s easy to be caught out by not reading the question properly. This includes not recognising the units, not seeing the applicability of a graph or table, and making assumptions about implied meaning.

3. Do a sense check

Once you’ve taken a minute or two to understand a graph or table and calculate the answer, it would be mad not to invest a few seconds in re-reading the question to double-check you’ve answered what was asked. It’s a little bit of time that could stop you wasting all the previous time you’ve spent on that question.

4. Manage your time

You’re being measured on two things when you take numerical tests: how many questions you get right and how long you take to answer the questions. So if you can’t answer a question, move on. An easier question may follow as questions aren’t always in order of difficulty. On top of that, you’re unlikely to be negatively marked (marked down for a wrong answer) so it can be worth going with your best guess. And you may well be able to flag the tougher questions and come back to them at the end of you have time.  

5. Take your own calculator

If you’re sitting your numerical reasoning test at an assessment centre, you’ll probably have to use the calculator they give you. But take your own anyway, just in case. Familiarity with the buttons and the functions will save you vital seconds. It’s also a good idea to have a calculator with large buttons and a clear screen – there’ll be a much lower chance of basic entry mistakes.

6. Practise, practise, practise

This is what separates successful candidates from unsuccessful ones. Getting to grips with the types of question you’ll face and the different layouts takes time. Practising increases your confidence, lowers stress levels, allows you to learn from your mistakes and helps you answer each question faster.  

Here’s a handy list of supplier-specific tests: