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What are the different types of Cognitive Ability tests?

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Intelligence bears several facets, and there are many cognitive abilities an individual may possess in varying degrees. Thus, there are many cognitive abilities tests available for use by recruiters while selecting a candidate. Each job role requires the employee to have a specific set of cognitive skills to perform the job as expected. Therefore, the cognitive ability tests deployed must be chosen in such a way as to assess the abilities required by the job.

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Designing a cognitive ability test requires attention to detail and precision. Each test must use questions explicitly targeted at the cognitive ability being measured. An examination of verbal reasoning must not pose math questions, and a test of perceptual speed and accuracy must limit the time provided to the candidates.

There are a number of manual cognitive ability assessment tools available for this purpose; however, those are always prone to error, so an automated process is ideal.

Now, let us look at the list of cognitive tests available and how they should be chosen while hiring for various job roles.

1. Associative memory

Associative memory defines the ability to recall relationships between different objects or an object and its context. It allows individuals to make connections and inferences even when those connections are not clearly defined. The quality of candidates’ associative memory significantly dictates how they perform in the workplace.

Assessment format

Participants see several randomly assorted pictures of objects and their names and are asked to reproduce the correct pairs. Photographs and moving images, such as GIFs, are standard formats for testing.

Sample Question

Question: Write down the alphabets in proper sequence.

2. Data interpretation

Today, organizations need to deal with a vast amount of complex data, requiring individuals to interpret and analyze large data sets. Data interpretation tests measure an individual’s ability to evaluate data, perform calculations, and draw appropriate conclusions.

Assessment format

Candidates are presented data in tables, graphs, charts, trend lines, etc., and must answer questions based on their analysis.

3. Quantitative aptitude

Quantitative aptitude measures an individual’s ability to work with numbers and solve arithmetic problems. Candidates need to answer a worded question by forming an appropriate logic using the critical facts provided.

Assessment format

Graphs, tables, and charts are standard formats of assessment in these tests. Candidates need to infer the correct data, make conclusions, and answer the questions.

4. Perceptual speed

Perceptual speed defines the ability to quickly and accurately perceive similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. It may also include comparing a presented object with a remembered object.

Assessment format

Candidates may be asked to identify the odd one from a group of similar-looking objects or identify differences between two pictures. The time taken to arrive at the answers is the measurement of the candidate’s perceptual speed.

Sample Question

Question: Choose the odd one out.


  • (i)
  • (ii)
  • (iii)
  • (iv)

Correct Answer:

  • (ii)

Topic: Odd man out

5. Logical reasoning

Logical reasoning determines how we use what we know to make decisions in our daily lives. Similarly, sound logic is a vital attribute to have in the workplace. Logical reasoning defines the ability to analyze logically and solve critical problems.

Assessment format

The candidate taking the test must extract rules and analogies and use them to find a correct answer among a set of possible outcomes. The test (generally) measures non-verbal abilities. The Watson Glaser appraisal, statement analysis, inductive reasoning, and puzzles are most commonly used to test logic.

6. Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking is the ability to resolve complex issues by evaluating and utilizing the information you have gathered and organized. It involves turning data into action. Analytical thinkers can arrive at creative solutions by finding patterns between datasets.

Assessment format

Employees need to parse through text, diagrams, charts, etc., and gather the most relevant information at the workplace. Thus, the analytical thinking test measures how effectively a job applicant will find critical elements and patterns within such data. The test presents data in written passages, graphs, tables, or shapes and asks questions that need to be answered after analyzing the data to simulate the job requirements.

7. Numerical reasoning

Numerical reasoning is the ability to interpret and derive critical insights from data presented in tables or graphs. Crunching numbers is an essential aspect of many job roles, especially in the IT sector. Thus, the numerical reasoning test has significant value in recruitment tests.

Assessment format

The test is designed to resemble the kind of data an employee will face in the job role. Commonly, a mathematical question is posed in words, and the candidate must apply the necessary logic to provide an answer. The candidate would also deal with graphs, tables, number sequences, etc., to reach a conclusive answer.

Sample Question

Question: The bar graph given below shows the sales figure of a company from 2011 to 2015. Using this graph, answer the question given below:


  • 110%
  • 125%
  • 150%
  • 175%

Correct Answer:

  • 150%

Topic: Bar Graph

8. Spatial reasoning

Spatial awareness is a necessary trait to possess in specific job roles. The employee must visualize 2D and 3D objects, spot patterns between shapes, and visualize movements and changes in those shapes. One must be able to draw conclusions about objects and space from limited information.

Assessment format

A range of question types is used to assess the spatial reasoning ability of job applicants. Some of them are:

  • Shape matching: Examining two groups of different shapes in different layouts and rotations before matching those that are the same.
  • Group rotation: Individuals will be shown a shape and then lots of possible alternative views of the same shape - they will have to select the correct one.
  • Mirror images: Find the mirror image of the 2D or 3D shape shown.

Sample Question:

Question: Which figure will continue the given series?


  • (a)
  • (b)
  • (c)
  • (d)

Correct Answer:

  • (b)

Topic : Patterns

9. Attention to detail

Thoroughness and accuracy improve workplace productivity, efficiency, and performance. Thus, companies consider attention to detail an essential trait while hiring.

Assessment format

To ensure that the job applicant would be effective in their roles and would be unlikely to make errors in work, the attention to detail test uses various assessment formats. It may ask individuals to match or filter information, compare statements for differences, or check data consistency. Comparing texts, numbers, images, and visuals for identifying similarities and differences is also a common way of assessing attention to detail.

10. Abstract reasoning

An abstract reasoning test measures the accuracy and speed with which a job applicant interprets the relationship between a collection of shapes and patterns. It is designed to assess one’s lateral thinking ability. Employers primarily use the test for job roles that involve:

  • A high degree of problem-solving
  • Complex data or concepts
  • Developing strategies or policies
  • Taking the initiative in non-routine tasks

Assessment format

The test may ask candidates to recognize patterns between shapes and figures. They may be asked to select, out of several possible options, which image completes a sequence, which image is missing from the overall picture, or which image stands out from the given set.

11. Verbal comprehension

Verbal comprehension defines the ability to understand the language used by others and is determined by the individuals’ vocabulary and receptive language skills. Employees, especially in the IT sector, must comprehend and use language effectively while performing their jobs.

Assessment format

The test assesses reasoning and logic through an individual’s understanding of the language. It usually presents a written passage followed by questions with True or False questions. Questions may also test the ability to apply logic by confirming whether a given statement verifies the information provided in the passage. Such formats assess whether candidates jump to conclusions or misinterpret information.

Sample Question

Question: Choose the word that best expresses the opposite meaning of the given word.



  • Superficial
  • Wistful
  • Pertinent
  • Patient

Correct Answer:

  • Superficial

12. Word fluency

Word fluency determines the familiarity of job applicants with English words and their respective definitions. The test ensures that the hired employees have the language skills needed for a particular job role.

Assessment format

To prove their word fluency, candidates need to produce as many words as possible from a category. They may be asked to produce unique words from a semantic variety, such as animals, fruits, locations, etc., or those starting from a particular letter.

Sample Question

Instructions for candidate: Please look at the camera and speak into the microphone while giving an introduction of yourself.

Question: Talk about three achievements you have had in the last year.

Topic: General Introduction

Instructions for recruiter: In order to accurately gauge a candidate’s word fluency, instruct the candidate to speak for a minimum of 1 minute up to a maximum of 2 minutes.