The best predictor of job performance: 5 types of cognitive ability tests

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The best predictor of job performance: 5 types of cognitive ability tests

cognitive ability tests as best predictors of job performance

Every time an open role is advertised, recruiters face screening stacks of resumes — many of them almost exact duplicates of each other. Assessing applications by candidate resumes doesn’t enable recruiters to predict future success in the role effectively.

The good news is that cognitive ability testing can. 

With the cost of bad hires soaring, you need a better, data-driven method of predicting job performance.

Here, we go through why cognitive ability tests are great predictors of job performance and five types of cognitive testing you can perform to ensure you hire the right candidate every time.

Table of contents



What are cognitive ability tests?

Cognitive ability tests are pre-employment tests used to measure a range of cognitive and mental abilities, such as problem-solving, spatial reasoning, and numerical reasoning. 

For senior roles, cognitive ability tests help recruiters measure candidates’ abilities to think on their feet and make important decisions while considering multiple variables. For junior roles, these tests help you identify candidates with high potential. 



Why cognitive ability tests are great predictors of job performance 

Cognitive ability tests are not just another tick box exercise. They closely examine how candidates think rather than measure what they know. 

The tests themselves are usually short, and candidates answer multiple-choice questions. Most commonly, they consist of logic puzzles, reading comprehension, or math problems. The tests also have a time limit, which replicates the real working world where candidates will be expected to make quick, intelligent decisions. 

Here are just a few ways in which cognitive ability tests are great predictors of future job performance: 

  • They evaluate a candidate’s agility when navigating a dynamic work environment
  • They assess a candidate’s capacity to learn quickly on the job
  • They help you uncover raw intelligence that a resume might not reflect
  • They help pinpoint the unique skills and abilities that signify strong performers

There are several types of cognitive ability tests that assess your candidate’s capacity for verbal and mathematical reasoning, perception skills, critical thinking abilities, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills. 

Here, we go through five cognitive ability tests that help predict job performance, including the roles for which each is most suitable. 

types of cognitive ability tests to predict job performance



1. Numerical reasoning tests

Numerical reasoning tests are designed to measure a candidate’s ability to interpret and work accurately with numbers. 

Typically, these tests present candidates with a range of standard questions involving sequences, fractions, ratios, and percentages. They also test a candidate’s ability to understand number patterns and interpret tables, charts, graphs, and diagrams.

Numerical reasoning tests are useful when hiring for roles involving data interpretation and analysis, commonly found in the banking and finance sector. 

However, numerical reasoning tests are also valuable for assessing candidates for the following roles: 

  • Engineers
  • Business analysts
  • Architects
  • Researchers 



2. Verbal reasoning tests

Verbal reasoning tests measure a candidate’s verbal agility, including their ability to reason, comprehend, and express themselves verbally or in writing. They also assess your candidate’s ability to make accurate conclusions from written information and how well they can extract important details.

These tests usually ask candidates to identify relationships between words, replicate words with analogies, and answer a series of true/false/cannot be determined questions. 

Although verbal reasoning tests are handy when hiring for jobs that require employees to analyze reports, they’re also used across a wide range of industries and roles. Most commonly, they assess candidates in the legal, engineering, and consulting sectors. 

They are commonly used for candidates applying for legal, engineering, consulting, executive positions (especially in the financial sector), and civil service jobs.



3. Spatial reasoning tests

Spatial reasoning tests evaluate your candidate’s ability to visualize and manipulate shapes, objects, and forms. There are four types of spatial reasoning abilities, including spatial visualization, mental folding, mental rotation, and spatial working memory, each of which is important in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related jobs. 

These tests require candidates to analyze 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional objects and space and often ask them to mentally reconstruct the objects. This indicates how well candidates can visualize a whole shape from its contingent parts. 

This type of cognitive ability test is most useful in industries like architecture, engineering, and game design, but it’s also helpful for assessing candidates for the following roles: 

  • Mechanical engineers
  • Chemical engineers
  • Researchers
  • Designers



4. Critical thinking tests

Critical thinking tests determine a candidate’s ability to logically analyze, conceptualize, and evaluate information, as well as make objective decisions and formulate appropriate solutions. 

These tests measure candidates’ critical thinking skills by asking them to: 

  • Solve syllogisms through deductive reasoning
  • Evaluate cause and effect relationships
  • Interpret sequences and arrangements 
  • Recognize assumptions

Candidates will be presented with both numerical and written data and asked to assess a statement based on this data.

Critical thinking tests are useful in assessing candidates for a variety of roles, including: 

  • Analysts 
  • Executive positions
  • Computer and data scientists 
  • Legal roles 



5. Problem solving tests

Problem solving tests involve asking candidates to solve business problems using deductive, inductive, and quantitative reasoning. Candidates are presented with different scenarios and asked to analyze data and textual information and produce the most appropriate and effective solution. 

These tests present candidates with challenges such as scheduling around diverse conditions and identifying the correct sequence of actions based on business rules. 

Problem solving skills encompass various abilities but are generally related to a candidate’s ability to successfully manage and find solutions for complex and unexpected situations.

Problem solving is a key skill across many industries and a desired skill for the following specific roles: 

  • Customer support
  • Hospitality staff
  • Project and product managers
  • Healthcare workers
  • Managers
  • Engineers

Predict candidates’ future job performance with cognitive ability tests

Cognitive ability tests are great predictors of future job performance. Yet, traditional interview processes aren’t designed to assess candidates’ cognitive skills and capabilities, leading hiring managers to make bad hiring decisions. 

To start making informed hiring decisions that allow you to predict a candidate’s future job performance, get started with TestGorilla for free today.

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