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Numerical tests for graduate engineering jobs

Surprisingly, engineering graduates don't always score highly on numerical tests. To beat the competition and bag that job you'll need to get to grips with the figures.

A degree in engineering can demonstrate your expertise in dynamics and calculus but employers want to know that you can meet the basic mathematical requirements. Numerical tests are a good way of doing this.

What the tests involve

Numerical reasoning tests your interpretation of numbers, charts and graphs: you may be asked to read data from a statistical table or solve problems using percentages, fractions or ratios. For all questions basic arithmetic is essential. Unless you are asked to do a technical case study, basic GCSE maths will be more useful for numerical tests than the advanced maths you have tackled for your degree.

Basic GCSE maths will be more useful for numerical tests than the advanced maths you have tackled for your degree.

Most numeracy tests are multiple-choice with up to ten possible options and only one definite right answer. A typical test might take about 30 minutes for 30 questions and will be carried out under exam conditions. Tests without a time limit become more difficult as you go on and are designed to see how many questions you can possibly answer.

Practice numerical tests

Practice tests are a great way to brush up your numeracy skills. Even if you're confident that your maths is up to scratch it is definitely worth familiarising yourself with the format and timing of a typical numeracy test. You can practise a range of numerical tests online with Assessment Day. Your careers service may also hold testing sessions and have books and leaflets that you can take away.

During the test

Ask questions at the beginning if you're unsure about anything. Don't spend too long on any one question – if it’s taking you ages, move on. Read the questions carefully and check back over them if you have time at the end. Most numeracy tests are designed so that candidates rarely finish in the time given.

How test results are used in decision-making

Employers who use tests at the beginning of the application process are likely to make their decision based largely on your score, while those who test at the end are likely to use your score to supplement information they have already gathered. In the second case, you may be able to compensate for a low test score with an impressive interview or a high score in another aptitude test.