The focus of each question is to interpret the data presented and then manipulate it in some way. That could be to find a missing data point, convert a number into a different currency or convert the data points into a common measurement.
The good news is that you don’t need anything more than GCSE maths to pass a numerical reasoning test. The maths involved in numerical reasoning is usually constrained to a select few:
All of which can be mastered by themselves with practice but numerical reasoning places as much importance on being able to extract the right information as being able to use it to find the right answer.
The first thing that practice will teach you is that attention to detail is crucial during a numerical reasoning test. That is because there is often a variation in the unit of measurements used in order to catch out applicants. In this scenario, if you don’t convert all the data points into a common unit then you won’t be able to calculate the right answer.
Once you do have the right numbers to work with you must have solid calculation skills. That is to do the right thing with the right numbers. All numerical reasoning tests allow the use of a calculator so as long as you are comfortable adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying on a calculator you will be able to do the required calculations.
There are a variety of numerical test providers used by employers and the more questions you have practiced the better your brain is likely to be at consuming and digesting the information presented. In the case of numerical reasoning tests, practice really does make perfect. The most common providers of online tests are SHL, Kenexa and Cubiks.
Pay attention to whether the test is negatively marked or not. A test that is negatively marked punishes wrong answers and in this case, you are in fact better to only answer the questions where you are sure of the answer. This is because even very able candidates that guess score low on these tests and so you do not need many right answers to beat the average. For example, Oliver Wyman, a top-tier consultancy uses a negatively marked test and the pass requirement is not much more than 50% as a result.
The final dimension of the test to be aware of (and probably the most important) is time. All numerical reasoning tests are timed and allow 1-2 minutes per question. Inevitably there will be questions that you get stuck on during a numerical reasoning test and good applicants are disciplined with their time and comfortable moving on when they have spent enough time on a single question. Of course, you will be able to answer some questions faster than average and in others you will be slower but keeping an eye on your progress through the test versus the time taken is important. Using 50% of your time on 20% of the questions is inefficient and actually you are better off moving forward and attempting another question, which you may be able to answer quicker.