Skills Test

What Is a Skills Test?

Prospective employers who are often inundated by applications for open positions they advertise carry out pre-employment testing to discover which of the applicants are best qualified for the open role.

Those tests allow them to whittle down the list of applicants to those who have the skills and attributes needed to carry out the job. Working like this helps them make an informed decision about who to interview and about who to eliminate from the recruitment process.

The skills test is a useful tool for the employer to make informed decisions about the people best suited to the job.

For the applicant, it is another hoop they have to jump through in their job search.

What Does a Skills Test Assess?

Skills tests can assess any or all of the attributes an employer is looking for in a future employee. Generally, employers have a list of abilities the applicant will need to carry out the work.

Those abilities can be categorized under hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills

Hard skills refer to the skills needed to carry out a particular type of work.
For example, if you have applied for a job as a clerical worker, you are going to need typing skills. Your qualifications will show you have those skills, but the employer may need to know you can adapt those skills to the work they require done.

Soft Skills

But the employer may also need you to have soft skills. They will need to know if you can work well with other employees or if you can deal efficiently with clients visiting the office.

Your skills test for that clerical job can extend beyond a typing test.
It may also include a test on customer service skills. You may have to do Situational Judgment Tests (SJT) assessing how you would deal with workplace scenarios. To get a feel for those, try your hand with the following free sample SJT.

Personality tests assessing if you are a good fit for a particular workplace may also feature in your pre-employment assessments.

Depending on the level of clerical work you will be required to carry out, you could also expect tests on your verbal or numerical abilities.

What Format Do Skills Tests Follow?

Differing tests will follow a different format and time limit. Generally, psychometric tests are multiple-choice. On the surface, this may suggest a level of easiness, but don’t be misled.

For example, in numerical tests, you may have to do calculations to select the right answers. In verbal or logical reasoning tests, you will need to dive deep to come up with the answer. Abstract reasoning tests are another law unto themselves. Practice, however, will enable you to deal more easily with the tests.

Numerical Reasoning Tests

These tests assess your ability to deal with numerical calculations. You can expect questions ranging from basic arithmetic calculations to number problems.

Test your numerical skills with the following question.

How many GBP can be purchased for 7500 CAD?

A. 11.772 B. 4776 C. 477.7 D. 8720 E. 6369

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning assesses your abilities to deal with written information. You may, for example, be given a reading comprehension and asked to select answers to questions.

Writing tests assess your ability to use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as structuring paragraphs.

You may be familiar with numerical and verbal reasoning tests from your school days. However, abstract reasoning, where you need to decipher the pattern at work in a series of images, can be difficult for an applicant who is new to it. Study the following question to get an idea of what is involved here.

This question requires you to work out the pattern that is in use in the top row and then decide which of the images in the bottom row is a natural continuation of the top row.

At first sight, most people will find this challenging but practice on these types of questions will enable you to hone your logical skills and work through questions more easily.

Specific Skills Tests

As well as having the basic skills that the above tests check for you can also expect skills related specifically to the type of work you will be doing if you get the job.

Once again, you may wonder why you are being tested. You already have the degrees and certifications that show your qualifications. In a competitive market, employers are interested in getting the best people they can to work a job.

Bear in mind that even the people with the highest qualifications do, at times, forget things and use your preparation to refresh your knowledge. When preparing for specific skills tests, Job Test Prep can offer you customized tests to take individual employers’ assessments.

If you are preparing for a number of different tests for the same job, they can, for example, provide you with all-inclusive test prep packs.

You may, for example, need to prepare for the WorkKeys Applied Technology Test.

In that case, you will receive a test prep pack containing:

  • 2 Applied Math practice tests
  • 2 Reading for information practice tests
  • 2 Locating Information tests
  • 2 Applied Technology tests
  • 11 Math practice tests
  • 14 Reading Comprehension
  • Video Tutorials
  • Study Guides

You can get similar style prep packs for as diverse a range of skills tests as Data Entry tests, the National Career Readiness Certificate, Java Tests, and many more.

Essentially your skills test is a means of providing your prospective employer with an unbiased evaluation of your abilities to carry out the job he/she is hiring for.

Sure, it is an extra part of the recruitment process for you to navigate but with the right tools to hand and by doing the preparation, you can be a master of your own destiny.

You are being assessed on a level playing field with all the other applicants, and doing well in the tests mentioned above should see you being called to interview and moving a step closer to your dream job. But first, you need to prepare.

Is a Skills Test Hard?

The skills test reflects the difficulty level of the job you have applied for. You have probably gained the skills necessary to carry out the job already and perhaps feel you are ready for the test.

However, in a world where there are many applicants for advertised positions, it is not a question of how good you are but of how many other applicants you can outshine that matters.

Applicants who progress further along the recruitment process are chosen from the top scorers in the pre-employment assessments, and you need to be one of those to get that job.

Skills tests are timed and that is another factor adding to the difficulty level. You will already have the knowledge required to do the hard skills test.

But you will have to use that knowledge under time pressure. If, for example, a test requires you to do calculations or show accuracy in your work, time pressure and mistiming your test can trip you up.

Don’t forget, there may also be tests, for example, the SJT, that are new to you. Unless prepared for this type of test, you may find the style of questioning confusing.

Can I Prepare For Skills Tests?

Positive woman working on laptop and writing in notebook

It is advisable to prepare for any pre-employment testing. Many other applicants will have done their preparation, and to compete on a level playing field, it is essential that you prepare as well.

How you do your preparation will have an impact on your success?

You need to discover what tests you will be asked to do. A job test preparation company will then be able to give you information on the format of the tests and preparation resources.

For this, we recommend using Job Test Prep, a company with 30 years of experience in preparing candidates for pre-employment assessments.

They will provide you with a test prep pack containing the following resources:

  • All the information you need about the test
  • Sample practice papers modeled on the real tests
  • A method for monitoring your scores as you do the tests
  • Detailed explanations for questions and answers
  • Helpful study guides

To get a feel for the type of tests they give you, try your hand at the following free sample personality test.

Job Test Prep supplies similar practice tests on the full range of assessments you may be asked to do.

Skills Test Study Tips

You have put a lot of work into preparing for your chosen career path. Likewise, you will have to put a lot of work into preparing for the job recruitment process.

Try the following tips for effective preparation:

  • Begin your preparation as soon as you can
  • Work to a timetable, ensuring you avoid any last-minute scrambles to get everything done
  • If possible, work in 50-minute blocks followed by 10-minute breaks. You will retain material more easily working like this.

Use your sample papers to ensure:

  • You become familiar with the style of questioning
  • You learn to work within the time limits
  • You can monitor your progress from test to test

Using the test papers will mean there won’t be any unpleasant surprises in the real tests.

Remember that, at this point, it is your performance on the day that will guarantee your success.

You need to approach the tests:

  • Well-rested. Last-minute cramming marathons will sabotage all your efforts.
  • Clear headed. You will be fighting against the clock. Being clear-headed will enable you to work calmly.


Get in there and give it your best. You have worked for this and deserve it!

If you have an upcoming skills test, you will find all the resources you need to prepare for it here.