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n today’s fiercely competitive business world, organisations
only want to invest in the most promising graduate trainees.
As the number of graduates has increased dramatically in
recent years, employers have turned to ability tests in order to
distinguish between many qualified applicants. Numeracy tests
are one effective way of assessing large numbers of graduates. As
a result, they are commonly used on the graduate milk round.
You are also likely to encounter them at an interview for a first
or second job. You could also be asked to take a graduate-level
numeracy test as part of a development programme, or if you are
receiving career guidance to see how you would fare when
dealing with lots of complex numerical information.
How are they taken?
These tests are available in both pencil-and-paper and online
formats. Typically, if you pass an online numeracy test you will
be given a follow-up test at a later date. As a rule of thumb, the
tests usually contain between 20 and 40 questions and have a
time limit ranging from 25 to 35 minutes.You will be able to use
a calculator to answer the questions.
What do they look like?
Expect to be given a set of figures in either a table or a graph,
followed by several questions that ask you to interpret and
manipulate these figures. You might be given line graphs, bar
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188 brilliant numera cy tests
charts, pie charts any format that can appear in business and
professional reports. There may be text-based questions, graph-
based questions or a combination of both, as per the practice
questions here.
It is worth thinking about the types of tables and graphs that you
would encounter in a business context: sales figures, attendance
figures, costs, budgets, and such like. That’s exactly the sort of
thing that appears in these tests.
How hard are they?
Just as there is a range of numerical ability amongst the
graduate population, graduate numeracy tests also vary in
difficulty level. The difficulty of the test you encounter will
reflect the degree of numerical complexity involved in the
role you are applying for. If the job is in Accounts or
involves managing large projects then you should expect to
be given one of the more difficult numeracy tests. Graduate
numeracy test questions will invariably be set in a work
context and will require you to interpret complex numerical
If you want additional practice, you can answer the questions in
Chapters 8 and 10. The hardest UKCAT questions are of a
comparable standard to graduate-level tests. The senior mana-
gerial questions are more difficult than graduate-level tests, and
thus are a great way to challenge yourself in your practice ses-
There are many websites that offer free practice opportunities for this
popular test format. Search under ‘numerical reasoning test practice’ and
take your pick of the sites.
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Always read every single word in the question very carefully.
Think through what the question is asking before diving into the
Remember that the average length of time that you should use
to answer each question is approximately one minute. Try to
stick to this time limit when you complete the practice ques-
Graduate-level numeracy tests 189
G Keep things simple whenever possible so that you can focus on
getting the calculation correct.
G Don’t be distracted by complex business language, the size of
the figures or the measurement units. Nine times out of ten the
measurement units will be constant throughout the question
and answer.
G Also, if you can get the right answer by doing a rough
calculation then by all means do so.
G Similarly, if you can get to the answer by looking at trends in
the graph then great! Rather than spending valuable time on a
calculation you may only need to scan the graph to see where,
for example, the biggest and smallest differences occur.
Practice questions
1 A financial company’s balance sheet includes property
assets of £212 million and £40 million in derivative assets.
What is the effect on the balance sheet of the property assets
rising by a quarter and the derivative assets dropping by
three tenths?
(A) £265 million lower
(B) £41 million lower
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