Cognitive Ability Test: Guidelines & Practice Examples


Companies can use various methods to identify which candidates are the best match for a vacancy during the application screening process. One of the most common ways is to use cognitive ability tests - a standard tool to assess job candidates for basic qualifications and determine who will succeed.

It is challenging to pass a cognitive ability exam. You can, however, perform at your best with appropriate preparation.

So, what exactly is a cognitive ability test, and how can you ace this test? In this article, we will provide you with information about test areas, passing scores, tips as well as some materials for preparation.


What is a cognitive ability test?

Cognitive ability tests are assessments that gauge a person's mental abilities as well as cognitive abilities. Measuring many areas of cognitive ability allows you to have a comprehensive knowledge of someone's cognitive processes. Employers use cognitive ability tests to assess candidates' ability to carry out various job duties and gain new skills.

Common cognitive ability test areas

Verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning assessments test your understanding and comprehension abilities.
The candidate will be given a short paragraph of text to read and then answer questions about. These are generally in the 'True, False, Cannot Say' multiple-choice structure, but other alternatives exist.

Verbal comprehension tests are an effective way to assess a person's capacity to absorb directions and grasp new information by themselves.

Question example:

Studies report that nature exposure is associated with nature proximity. Specifically, the results of previous studies showed that the availability of nature and green spaces in a living environment is associated with higher nature contact, especially in high urbanization cities. Mounting evidence suggests that nature exposure has numerous effects on physiological and psychological health, such as reduced stress, decreased blood pressure, enhanced immune system resources, increased physical activity, enhanced positive body image, lower depression and anxiety, better sleep quality, and happiness and restored cognitive function. Exposure to natural environments is associated with affective benefits such as reducing stress and adverse effects and increasing positive effects and subjective well-being.

Which is NOT included in the passage as a benefit of the availability of nature and green spaces in a living environment?

A. improve mental health

B. restore brain performance

C. longer deep sleep time

D. better positive body image"

Correct answer: A


“Mounting evidence suggests that nature exposure has numerous effects on physiological and psychological health, such as reduced stress, decreased blood pressure, enhanced immune system resources, increased physical activity, enhanced positive body image, lower depression and anxiety, better quality of sleep, happiness and restored cognitive function.”

The bold text is the part listing the effects of nature exposure on physiological and psychological health, with reducing stress and lower depression and anxiety leading to better mental health, restoring cognitive fuction of the brain and enhancing positive body image. However, it is mentioned that the quality of the sleep will be improved, not the increase in the deep sleep time.

Numerical reasoning

Numerical reasoning assessments measure your ability to manipulate numbers accurately and quickly. These assessments contain short-answer or multiple-choice questions about ratios, percentages, numerical sequences, data interpretation, financial analysis, as well as currency conversion. Numerical reasoning assessments are very helpful for jobs that involve math or data analytic skills.

Question example:

Source: MConsultingPrep

What was the growth rate in the number of students of Public College between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 compared to the growth rate for Community College in the same period?

A. More

B. Equal

C. Less

D. 3/2

Correct answer: C. Less


Growth rate of Economics students in Public College = (120 - 100) / 100 = 20%

Growth rate of Economics students in Community College = (70 - 50) / 50 = 40%

Thus, the growth rate of Economics students in Public College is less than that of Community College in given period.

Abstract reasoning

Abstract reasoning assessments are another name for inductive and/or diagrammatic reasoning assessments. They ask you to discover rules and relationships between visual sequences and then use them to choose the proper picture from a number of options, whether a missing element or a completion of the series in question.

Question example:

Source: MConsultingPrep

Which of the boxes comes next in the sequence?

Answer: B



There are four elements: a triangle, a square, a white circle and a black circle


There are two rules: Replacement and quantifier rules

1. A circle will turn a square, a square will turn a triangle, a triangle will turn a circle

2. A circle will be black in the first row, second row, and third row and come back to the first row

So the next figure has black circle in second row, and a circle will turn a square, a square will turn a triangle, a triangle will turn a circle compared to last figure at the sequence". 

Logical reasoning

Logical reasoning assessments are a kind of psychometric test that is used to assess problem-solving abilities. They can take different forms, but the main goal is to test your logical aptitude and ability to derive conclusions from a given collection of data. These assessments are an effective predictor of someone's problem-solving, risk adjustment, and prioritizing abilities.

Question example:

1. Teenagers only listen to pop songs

2. Some pop songs have lyrics

3. All children do not listen to pop songs

4. Some teenagers go to the festival

5. Some children go to the festival

Given that the above is true, is this conclusion follow the logical deduction?

Conclusion: No pop songs are played in the festival.




Correct answer: C



~ T: Teenagers

~ PS: Pop songs

~ L: Lyrics

~ C: Children

~ F: Festival

1. Analyzing the statements

Teenagers only listen to pop songs ⇒ PS ⊂ T

Some pop songs have lyrics ⇒ PS ∩ L

All children do not listen to pop songs ⇒ C ≠ PS

Some teenagers go to the festival ⇒ T ∩ F

Some children go to the festival ⇒ C ∩ F

Using Euler circle, we have the following diagram (at the end of the page)

2. Checking the conclusion

No pop songs are played in the festival

If one is Pop songs, it must be Teenagers (PS ⊂ T)

If one is Teenagers, it can be Festival (T ∩ F)

⇒ If one is Pop songs, it can be Festival (PS ∩ F) => If one is Pop songs, it can not be Festival (PS ≠ F)

⇒ Data is insufficient to support the conclusion.

Popular cognitive ability tests


How is a cognitive ability test scored?

The cognitive ability tests, like many other assessments, allow you to evaluate your result in two ways: raw and in a percentile.

  • The raw score is calculated by summing the number of properly answered questions. Thus, if you correctly answer 24 out of 26 questions, your raw score will be 24.
  • The percentage score is converted from your raw score once it has been calculated.
  • This score can reveal much about your cognitive reasoning level and ability to learn and do new things quickly. However, it lacks the benchmarking ability, and that's where percentile score comes into the picture.

A percentile score is a statistical measure that indicates the percentage of individuals in a group who scored equal to or below a particular value on a test or assessment. For example, if a candidate's percentile score on a standardized test is 75%, it means that they performed as well as or better than 75% of the other candidates (or the benchmarking/normative group) who took the test.

After determining the percentile, it will be compared to the percentile scores of other candidates, specifically those in your normative group. More specifically, your score will be compared to other candidates who have the same job role, education level, and other qualifications as you.

In certain cases, you will also be given a percentile score for each test topic, such as numerical, verbal, and so on. Other score reports may also indicate your fit for certain professions and jobs.


How to prepare for cognitive ability tests?

Cognitive ability tests are challenging and intended to be difficult, as they aim to differentiate between individuals with varying levels of cognitive ability. However, with proper preparation, you can perform to your utmost.

Below are 4 tips to ace your cognitive ability test.

Identify cognitive ability test type

When applying for a job that requires a cognitive ability test as part of the recruiting process, it's important that you know what type of test you'll be taking.

Knowing the test providers and the type of test can be helpful in preparing for cognitive ability tests. Different test providers may use different formats and question types, so becoming familiar with the particular test that you will be taking can give you an advantage in terms of knowing what to expect and how to approach the questions. It can also be helpful to review relevant study materials and practice tests for the specific test, as this can help to improve your performance and increase your confidence going into the assessment.

If you're looking for information about a company's cognitive ability tests, check their official website. Most companies will include such information in the employment procedures listed on their website. If you need help finding what you're looking for, try contacting the company's recruiting managers or hiring staff directly for more information.

Another helpful way is to seek information in social forums like Reddit and Quora or recruiting sites like Glassdoor. These are places where you can find reviews, comments, and other recommendations from ex-candidates. 

Learn about the test inside out

When preparing to take a test, you should know what you're up against. Before you start practicing or training, take the time to research the details of the test or match you'll be facing.

This can help you to better understand what's expected of you and develop a strategy to succeed. By familiarizing yourself with the test beforehand, you can feel more confident and prepared to go for it.

Here are some basic things to learn about the test:

  • Test format
  • Types of questions
  • Time limit
  • Test setting (online or offline?)
  • Passing rate
  • Which part of the test is the most challenging?

In addition to the basic information, conducting thorough research on the company and the specific role you're applying for is important. Understanding what the company looks for in candidates, including their test-taking strategies, can help you prepare more effectively.

Pinpoint weaknesses and seek improvements

When preparing for a cognitive ability test, it's important to pinpoint your weaknesses and seek ways to improve. Here are some tips to help you do that:

  • Take practice tests: Practice tests can help you identify the areas where you struggle the most. Make note of the types of questions causing you difficulty, and focus on improving your skills in those areas.
  • Analyze your results: After taking a practice test, analyze your results to identify patterns. Are there certain types of questions that you consistently get wrong? Are there areas where you're consistently slower than you'd like to be? Identifying these patterns can help you target your efforts more effectively.
  • Study strategically: Once you've identified your weaknesses, study strategically. Focus your efforts on the areas where you struggle the most, but also pay attention to the other areas. Work on building a strong foundation in all areas of the test instead of over-preparing or underperforming in one another. 
  • Seek feedback: Get feedback from others on your performance. A tutor, a teacher, or a friend who has taken the same test can provide valuable insights into areas where you may need to improve.

Practice, practice, and practice

Remember that practice makes perfect. To achieve the best results on a cognitive ability assessment, you must review and practice extensively.

Cognitive ability tests often have unique question formats and styles that can take time to get used to. By practicing, you can build familiarity with these formats and styles, which will help you feel more comfortable and confident when taking the actual test.

Practicing can also help you improve your speed. With time, you'll get better at answering questions quickly and efficiently, which is crucial for success on cognitive ability tests where time is often a hindering factor.

And most importantly, remember to keep track of your progress regularly by taking practice tests. This will help you see how far you've come and where you still need to improve.


Preparation resources for cognitive ability test 

MConsultingPrep has a lot of preparation resources for your upcoming Cognitive ability test (Aptitude test). Here are the resources listed below.

Free aptitude test: Check out our free trial Aptitude Test here

Free guide for aptitude test: