Assessment Centre Clinic – Part 7
This post is part of the Trainee Solicitor Surgery Assessment Centre Clinic blog post series. Start at the beginning of the series here…
Numerical Reasoning Tests
More widely used in assessment centres for accountancy and finance, numerical reasoning tests are, nonetheless, still used by some law firms in their recruitment practices. Far from being a test of mathematical ability, these assessments are generally designed to see how well you can interpret data and statistical information.
What to expect:
The format of numerical reasoning tests may vary from one employer to the next but most commonly they take the form of a graph, chart or table presenting statistical or numeric information followed by a series of questions relating to the data. This will be a timed exercise and you will need to work through as many questions as you can in the given time. Some tests may even permit the use of calculators.
Whilst this is certainly the most used format of numerical reasoning test, it is not the only one. Other tests exist which focus on, for example, a sequence of numbers, requiring you to examine the relationship between them and identify patterns.
Whatever format the tests take, the mathematics involved will not be high-level; the difficulty comes in the form of time pressure. The calculations you will be expected to perform will typically be limited to addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, fractions, averages (mean) and ratios. Some of the questions may be set within a business context where you are examining, for example, cost and sales analysis, rates and trends, and currency conversions.
What are the assessors looking for?
- The ability to understand and interpret statistical data
- The ability to work logically
- Evidence that you can work both quickly and accurately
- A pass mark – companies will often set a clear pass level. Failure to meet this may mean that you application will not proceed any further, regardless of your performance on other tests. Some employers, however, may adopt a more flexible approach, particularly to borderline candidates
- Do not enter into the tests with a negative mind-set if you struggled with maths at school. These tests are assessing something quite different and results often prove that people with a mediocre academic record in mathematics do score very highly in these tests, which are more data-focused.
- Practice, practice, practice. Particularly for those of you who have not used maths on a day-to-day basis for a number of years, it is certainly worth re-familiarising yourself with concepts such as percentages and fractions. There are a number of free tests available on the internet (see below) that will allow you to experience the test format and to practice working against a clock. It is highly recommended that you do some of them. Some employers may even be prepared to tell you which test publisher they are using, so that you can practice their tests specifically.
- Timing is essential. Make sure you are aware how many questions there are and how long you have to complete them. Work at a steady pace which will allow you to work through the majority of questions (you will not always be expected to complete them all). Do not spend too much time on a single question as each question will likely be allocated equal points. If you are really stuck, move on to the next question so as not to waste time.
- Be aware if the test works on a negative marking basis – this means that you will have marks taken away for wrong answers. If this is the case, it is better to leave questions blank than to make risky guesses.