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Mathematics vs Numerical Reasoning Tests


Wyn Davies looks at how numerical reasoning tests differ from mathematics and how common misconceptions about this form of recruitment can create anxiety amongst candidates.

Clients often ask if numerical reasoning (sometimes called numerical ability) tests are the same as maths tests. The answer is “NO”.

The differences are explained below.


Numerical reasoning tests

Designed to measure an individual’s ability to interpret and manipulate data (which is required in many job roles). The more modern tests contain questions and information based on the data you expect to find in the modern workplace. 


Maths tests

Designed to measure your understanding of a mathematics syllabus. Maths exam grades reflect the ability to learn, retain and apply mathematical techniques and formulae, but they do not predict how well a person will interpret data in the workplace.


Separate measures

Both tests contain numbers and a basic knowledge of maths calculations (e.g. addition, division, multiplication etc) is required to complete a numerical reasoning test, although the use of calculators is allowed in many numerical reasoning tests.

Because the two tests are measuring different things, people can obtain different score levels in a maths and numerical reasoning tests.


Fears are unfounded

Of all the ‘ability’ tests utilised in the recruitment phase, numerical reasoning often causes the most anxiety amongst test takers who might not have fared particularly well in maths at school.

As previously mentioned, these fears are unwarranted, due to numerical reasoning tests measuring candidates’ ability to interpret numerical information and not their ability to learn mathematics techniques.


Athena test of numerical reasoning

Pearson’s new test, Athena, was developed to assess numerical data encountered in today’s workplace. It is suitable for general and high ability populations such as graduates, supervisors and managers.

With a huge number of applicants for a limited number of roles, recruiters need up to date, efficient and cost effective ways to attract and select the candidates who are most likely to perform in the role and add value to the organisation.


What does Athena measure?Ability Tests

Athena measures skills relating to the interpretation of data in a variety of question types (multiple choice and free response).

Numerical reasoning skills covered by the test include the ability to:

  • Draw appropriate inferences from data
  • Calculate values using basic arithmetic operators and work with decimals and fractions
  • Understand information presented in tables, charts and graphs
  • Identify when additional data is required to draw particular assumptions


Athena Specifics

23 questions - 30 minutes - online, unsupervised or supervised completion - perfect for both large and small scale sifting out. 

The questions are of varying difficulty and format in order to measure all areas of numerical reasoning ability. A number of the items are in free response format - making it almost impossible to guess the correct answer.

The test is strictly timed which means that it also measures the speed at which an individual can work with data, as the ability to approximate and make calculations quickly is considered to be an important aspect of numerical reasoning ability.


To take a free trial of Athena - please contact us on 0845 630 8888 (calls cost 3p per minute plus your phone company's access charge) or info@talentlens.co.uk

For further information about Athena or other ability tests visit the product matrix or the Athena page. 

Numerical Reasoning

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