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How to Create an Aptitude Test for Prospective Employees

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Screening applicants to determine the level of their abilities and their chances of excelling in a particular position has become a popular way for employers to find the most qualified candidates for their openings. However, creating an aptitude test for prospective employees is not as simple as thinking up a few general questions. Exams must be relevant to the job to be effective.

Determine the Basis

Before you begin creating your aptitude test, establish exactly what you are looking for. Review the responsibilities or requirements associated with the position you need to fill and generate a list of ideal characteristics and necessary skills an applicant should possess. Common qualities examined in aptitude tests include critical-thinking skills, communication skills, mental and emotional stability, agreeableness, awareness and conscientiousness. For vacancies above entry-level, or that require supervisory experience, make a note to add questions that gauge an applicant's perception of leadership and teamwork.

Establish the Format

Decide on the types of questions you would like to incorporate and how you will format them. Although the exact questions will vary from industry to industry, and even employer to employer, a thorough test typically includes skill, ability, knowledge and personality sections. According to the HumanResources website, skills questions cover tasks particular to a job, such as typing speed. Knowledge questions measure how much a job candidate knows about a particular aspect of the job. Ability questions are used to gauge someone's cognitive abilities. Personality questions might help you determine whether a job candidate is extroverted or introverted. Abilities and knowledge questions are usually formatted using a series of multiple choice and true or false questions. Skills and personality traits are best discovered in short answer sections. You can also choose to administer a paper exam for the ability and knowledge portion, while integrating skill and personality inquires into the oral interview.

Create the Questions

Begin with the first quality you listed as a necessity for the applicant to have, and then work your way down the list, creating a question for each one. Include a mix of simple inquiries, such as asking what the candidate would do if he found a $100 bill on the street. Answers will help you determine an applicant’s honesty and integrity. Balance these with critical-thinking and ability focused questions. For example, have applicants mentally rearrange the letters in the word “below” to form a new word and select which multiple choice answer describes the new word. The correct answer would be “a part of the human body,” though varying selections should be included like an animal or a transportation method. These questions can help you gauge a job candidate's ability to work through problems and think on her feet.

Review and Finalize

If possible, use current employees to test your exam's accuracy and find any errors you may have overlooked. A particular question may not be phrased correctly, or in a way that only makes sense from the point of view of someone who does not know the ideal or correct answer. Ensure each question has a distinguished purpose and that no part of the test violates an Equal Employment Opportunity law by asking something inappropriate such as if an applicant has children or smokes.


Based in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Megan Torrance left her position as the general manager for five Subway restaurants to focus on her passion for writing. Torrance specializes in creating content for career-oriented, motivated individuals and small business owners. Her work has been published on such sites as Chron, GlobalPost and eHow.

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