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Weren't tests supposed to end when school did? Not if you're looking for a job that includes a lot of data entry or typing of any kind. Time is money, so employers look for candidates who can enter a lot of data into a computer in a short amount of time and do it accurately. That's why it's common for employers to ask applicants to complete data entry tests as part of the hiring process. These aren't your high-school calculus exams, though; data entry tests often take no more than a few minutes to complete.
Understanding Data Entry Tests
If you're looking for a job that requires a lot of typing – either with numbers or letters – the employer may want to use a data entry test to assess your speed and accuracy. There are lots of slightly different versions of data entry tests out there, but they all test for those two things. Some versions are called 10-key tests because they use the keypad that's on the right side of most older keyboards. A 10-key keypad has the digits 0 through 9 plus an Enter key and other symbols.
Data entry tests are timed. Typically, when you sit down at the computer to start the test, you see a window with either text or numerical data, such as phone numbers or equations. You are instructed to type that data into a second window, going as quickly as you can while still aiming for 100 percent accuracy. When the time is up, the program automatically computes your results. If you typed text, you get a words-per-minute (WPM) score. Some tests calculate the number of keystrokes you type per hour, or KPH. The program also gives some type of accuracy score, often represented as the percentage of strokes you made that were incorrect.
How Data Entry Tests Are Used
Lots of different industries and jobs use data entry exams to screen prospective employees. It's common for temp agencies to give these tests to their candidates as part of a general skills assessment. Some employers design their own tests that reflect the specific kinds of typing that the job involves. For example, if you're applying for a job that involves adding customer information to a database, your test might include long lists of names, addresses and phone numbers. Clerical and administrative jobs often require a data entry test.
Scores to Aim For
Each employer has its own minimum scores that candidates have to surpass to be hired. For typing tests, 40 WPM is about the speed an average person can type. Aim for at least 60 WPM but remember that accuracy matters, too. An applicant who types 50 WPM with an average of two errors per minute is probably more appealing to an employer than one who types 70 WPM but makes lots of errors.
A KPH score of 8,000 is considered average, so employers often use this figure as a minimum speed for 10-key data entry jobs. Aim for a high-speed score of 10,000 KPH to set yourself apart from the competition.
Practicing for Data Entry Tests
If you're planning to take a 10-key test, the first thing you need is a keypad to practice on. Many laptops now have compact keyboards that only have the numbers spread out above the alphabet keys, and that doesn't work for quick data entry tasks or for practicing for tests. If that's your setup, pick up a portable keypad from an office supply store. This gadget connects to a laptop via a USB plug and allow you to easily practice with the 10-key format.
It's tough to do a DIY data entry practice session because it's time-consuming to carefully check the finished product against the example and calculate your speed and accuracy score. However, you can use one of the many sites out there that have free data entry practice tests instead of trying to create your own test.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.