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Their widespread popularity in hiring and academic assessments evidence the advantages of aptitude tests. When used well, these tests help measure intelligence highly accurately. Concurrently, understanding their limitations is also critical. Since aptitude tests lean on general mental ability and reasoning, they have some cons that cannot be overlooked. So, if you seek an unbiased overview highlighting both the advantages and disadvantages of aptitude tests, you will find this article extremely useful.
An aptitude test comes with a set of questions that help gauge a candidate’s intelligence in a specific domain. Depending on the demands of a specific role, the test’s insightful results offer a well-rounded understanding of a candidate’s aptitude.
The purpose of an aptitude test is to help analyze an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in areas such as problem-solving, logical reasoning, verbal comprehension and the knack for decision-making. Uses of aptitude tests also involve gaining predictive insights into future job performance, specific abilities and areas in which an individual is likely to excel.
One of the advantages of aptitude tests is that they put candidates through a specific assessment that measures specific job roles’ competencies. They can provide reliable assessment metrics corresponding to the job roles. For instance, one must thoroughly assess data processing and decision-making skills to ascertain a candidate’s fitment for a business analyst role. Conversely, abstract reasoning and verbal ability help determine a candidate’s suitability for a marketing role.
Furthermore, aptitude tests offer an unbiased score on intelligence or mental ability. And such a score can enhance the assessment’s effectiveness, enabling better L&D initiatives. For instance, a person with high aptitude can fit into multiple roles when empowered with the necessary training. A suitable aptitude assessment can help identify such high-aptitude individuals.
It is challenging to shortlist the right candidates for a job role or an educational program unless some data can vouch for their ability to learn and utilize that learning to perform. Aptitude tests can set the base for that data because they help evaluate several aspects of the test-taker’s cognitive intelligence. The following section delves deeper into the subject.
Before we delve deeper into the aptitude test’s advantages and disadvantages, we must understand its relationship with intelligence.
Human beings can acquire knowledge and apply it purposefully, which includes learning from experiences, understanding abstract concepts and processing available information. It primarily comprises cognitive and emotional intelligence. One of the most significant aptitude test benefits, therefore, is their ability to measure several traits that define human intelligence.
Cognitive intelligence refers to the understanding that comes with thinking, experiences and senses. It also includes intellectual functions such as attention, knowledge, memory, judgment and reasoning. It also marks the ability to generate new knowledge using existing knowledge.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor emotions and discriminate against different kinds of emotions. It also includes using emotional information during one’s thinking process and behavior. Emotional intelligence is all about perceiving, using, understanding and managing emotions.
Fluid intelligence refers to the abstract reasoning abilities that help a person analyze a given situation and devise a solution. Fluid intelligence doesn’t depend on acquired knowledge and works in spontaneity. Pattern recognition and using logic to solve new problems are central to fluid intelligence.
Crystallized intelligence includes all the facts, information and skills acquired through experiences. While solving problems, addressing an issue or answering a question, cognitive intelligence uses pre-existing knowledge acquired through continuous practice.
It is cumbersome to categorize the candidates on their abilities, considering all the aspects of intelligence mentioned above. And aptitude tests are the most standardized way to evaluate them thoroughly, essentially because these tests remain consistent during various testing environments. They can be used repeatedly to assess candidates in large numbers.
We know that aptitude testing facilitates objective comparisons of shortlisting candidates. They are a quantitative metric to understand if an individual’s ability to perform is in tune with a specific role’s requirements. However, the advantages of aptitude tests are many, which we have elaborated on in the following section.
Measuring human intelligence is not just about focusing on one skill. Rather, it is more effective to focus on a cluster of skills and abilities. These skills are cumulatively known as ‘competency’ that can be easily targeted with a good-quality aptitude test. Among the key benefits of aptitude tests is that they can assess several skills cumulatively. Therefore, irrespective of a company’s competency framework, aptitude testing can offer accurate evaluations.
The key to a successful recruitment process is to assess the candidates objectively. It is not easy to quantify human intelligence. However, using aptitude tests, recruiters can measure the candidates’ cognitive intelligence and ensure that the selected candidate is the right fit for the job. Objective assessment is one of the core benefits of aptitude tests. It overcomes the limitations of traditional methods.
Even the most ideal resumes may not capture the candidates’ diverse qualities adequately. For example, if a graduate in computer science is not skilled at logical reasoning, he/she would likely not do well in the job role that requires programming skills. Aptitude tests spontaneously assess the candidates, ensuring that a particular applicant would fulfill the current role’s needs. When candidates exaggerate their skills in the resumes, one can cross-check them, thanks to the aptitude tests’ reliability.
Thousands of applications vie for a handful of job openings. Hence, efficient screening can be a daunting challenge. Therefore, the importance of aptitude tests grows further because they expedite the screening process by filtering out incompetent candidates during the initial stages.
Aptitude tests are a standardized way to assess candidates and help save time by focusing on relevant mental abilities. These tests are fair and unbiased as the results are independent of educational backgrounds and work experiences. Also, one cannot manipulate the test results.
Aptitude testing is now a widely accepted practice in most organizations for planning and undertaking L&D initiatives as they can use them to gain rich insights into their existing workforce’s training needs and skill gaps. Additionally, employees switching to different job roles can use aptitude tests to re-evaluate their decision.
Administering aptitude tests is extremely cost-effective and feasible as they can be undertaken using remote systems. Their scalability and auto-grading features further reduce the need for time and resource-consuming human intervention.
Aptitude tests undoubtedly improve the hiring quality by providing recruiters with detailed insights. These insights can offer a contrast between two candidates by granularly evaluating them. A quality candidate would possess specific cognitive abilities and theoretical knowledge. And aptitude tests can help effectively assess them.
Aptitude tests have been well accepted as a medium to assess a candidate’s ability. However, critics argue that there are several disadvantages of aptitude tests that cannot be ignored. Essentially, these tests fail to consider aspects such as artistic ability, musical intelligence, social ability, etc. The awareness of why aptitude tests are bad or limited in their approach will allow recruiters and companies to have a more accepting approach toward their selection criteria.
Aptitude tests are not designed to measure soft skills. Qualities such as punctuality, motivation, time-management, organizational skills, social skills, etc., do not get measured or credited duly if decision-makers solely rely on aptitude testing to shortlist candidates.
Aptitude tests only measure mental ability. Hence, they do not offer a holistic approach when you need to evaluate domain-specific skills. Recruiters should combine aptitude tests with other forms of pre-employment assessments to better understand a candidate’s suitability.
Anxiety is one of the most significant hurdles for candidates appearing for aptitude tests. One is expected to complete the tests within a pre-defined timeframe, which can further elevate anxiety levels. And it could be possible that a candidate with higher aptitude messes up in the test owing to anxiety. Such a scenario can twist the results. Simply put, these tests may inhibit candidates from performing optimally.
Aptitude test scores are not indicative of desirable or undesirable personality traits crucial for several work profiles. Hence, dedicated personality tests are essential to ensuring a more wholesome evaluation.
Aptitude tests can be an early judgment for some candidates because several reasons can hinder them from performing well. Therefore, sole dependence on these test scores may not be the ideal way to accept or reject an individual unless he/she has also been assessed on other key parameters. Examples of such facets include domain, personality, soft skills, etc.
Despite several limitations of aptitude tests, they remain one of the most popular means to measure specialized abilities crucial for success in particular educational programs and career profiles. It happens because a close inspection of the advantages and disadvantages of differential aptitude test establishes how the pros far outweigh the cons. More importantly, studies have repeatedly validated their accuracy in assessing different aspects of human ability.
However, it is imperative to get past common misconceptions that may hinder these tests’ utility or reliability.
One of the advantages of aptitude tests is that they can be used repeatedly to assess an individual. Unlike common wisdom, the results are not the final word regarding a test-taker’s aptitude. It only reflects an assessment of current abilities, which can be improved over time. Besides, as hinted in the previous section, factors like stress and anxiety may lead to unreliable scores.
The truth is that self-evaluation through aptitude testing can offer clarity regarding a person’s strongest abilities. There is always a balance. Interpreting the scores to get an overview of the weaknesses and strengths can prove to be the much-needed guiding factor in making choices in the early phases of one’s career.
When used in the right manner, aptitude assessments can find a place across the organizational hierarchy. However, with leaders, the degree and type of information needed to make quality decisions are different. So, it is necessary to design a custom test battery that focuses on key attributes such as decision-making skills, creativity, critical thinking ability, etc.
Mercer | Mettl’s job role categorization framework will help you understand the test batteries designed to measure aptitudes at varying job levels: https://mettl.com/cognitive-tests-guide/.
It is essential to choose the right combination of analyses and administer them well to ensure higher accuracy of aptitude tests. Aptitude tests used for any selection process should be legitimate, authentic, rational and unbiased.
The most notable advantages of aptitude tests are that they offer excellent sets of tools to ascertain what a test-taker is good at and what he/she can excel in with the right training. Moreover, aptitude assessment’s vast scope and dynamics ensure a streamlined process for making career choices, academic pursuits and professional growth. However, they cannot be the only way to evaluate candidates. It is essential to carefully weigh all the pros and cons of aptitude tests before using them. The importance of aptitude tests is undebatable. However, they often need to be complemented with other types of assessments to ensure fair and more effective selection criteria.
Yes. Aptitude tests are designed to ensure a fair and unbiased assessment of mental abilities and reasoning skills. The question levels are based on factors such as candidates’ age, academics and job roles.
Aptitude tests are administered on a group of candidates, and a relative marking is done based on their scores. Conducting a virtual aptitude test and preparing a comprehensive report doesn’t need any human intervention. These assessments help quantify the candidates’ abilities through fair and unbiased results.
No. IQ test measures general intelligence, whereas an aptitude test measures ability and reasoning. IQ tests can have questions to test a candidate’s subject matter expertise. On the contrary, aptitude test questions are directed at evaluating a candidate’s ability to apply that knowledge meaningfully.
The best way to prepare for an aptitude test is through practice and attention. Taking different types of timed mock tests can help develop speed and accuracy.
Originally published August 14 2020, Updated August 11 2021
D’ipanjenah is a writer and marketing professional associated with Mercer Mettl since 2020. Her working style thrives on a balanced approach towards standard insights and novel trends. She utilizes creative content and digital strategies to help brands start important conversations. When not reading/writing, she enjoys art and parents a calico.
Aptitude tests, also known as cognitive tests, are assessments to measure the cognitive acumen of a person. Aptitude tests measure skills such as abstract reasoning, visual reasoning, logical reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, numerical ability, verbal ability, etc.