The Types of Aptitude Testing

Aptitude tests help measure capabilities.
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An aptitude test is designed to assess what a person is capable of doing or to predict what a person is able to learn or do given the right education and instruction. It represents a person's level of competency to perform a certain type of task.

Aptitude tests are often used to assess academic potential or career suitability and may be used to assess either mental or physical talent in a variety of domains.

Examples of Aptitude Tests

People encounter a variety of aptitude tests throughout their personal and professional lives, often starting while they are children going to school.

Here are a few examples of common aptitude tests:

  • A test assessing an individual's aptitude to become a fighter pilot
  • A career test evaluating a person's capability to work as an air traffic controller
  • An aptitude test is given to high school students to determine which type of careers they might be good at
  • A computer programming test to determine how a job candidate might solve different hypothetical problems 
  • A test designed to test a person's physical abilities needed for a particular job such as a police officer or firefighter

Aptitude Tests in School

Students encounter a variety of aptitude tests throughout school as they think about what they might like to study in college or do for as a career. High school students often take several aptitude tests that are designed to help them determine what they might want to study in college or pursue as a career.

These tests can sometimes give a general idea of what might interest students as a future career. For example, a student might take an aptitude test suggesting that they are good with numbers and data. Such results might imply that a career as an accountant, banker, or stockbroker would be a good choice for that particular student.

Another student might find that they have strong language and verbal skills, which might suggest that a career as an English teacher, writer, or journalist might be a good choice.

Unlike achievement tests, which are concerned with looking a person's level of skill or knowledge at any given time, aptitude tests are instead focused on determining how capable of a person might be of performing a certain task.

Aptitude Tests Versus Intelligence Tests

So what exactly makes an aptitude test different from an intelligence test? Many intelligence tests are designed to measure what is known as general intelligence, or an underlying global mental capacity that affects performance in all areas.

Intelligence encompasses many different abilities including problem-solving, reasoning, memory, knowledge, and ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Aptitude tests, on the other hand, are designed to measure a much narrower range of abilities than IQ tests do. However, some aptitude tests might have a very narrow focus that limits what they are able to predict. Other tests that look at multiple domains are much more similar to intelligence tests.

Special Aptitude Tests

Special aptitude tests are designed to look at an individual's capacity in a particular area. For example, a business that is looking to hire a computer programmer will consider a candidate's work history and interview performance, but they might also want to administer an aptitude test to determine if a person possess the necessary skill to perform the job.

In this case, the special aptitude test is designed to look at a very narrow range of ability: how skilled and knowledgeable the candidate is at computer programming.

Multiple Aptitude Tests

Multiple aptitude tests are designed to measure two or more different abilities. In some cases, such tests may even resemble intelligence tests in terms of their focus and scope. The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) that high school students take during their senior year is a good example of a multiple aptitude test.

The SAT measures aptitudes in areas including math, reasoning, and language and is often used by colleges and universities to determine if an applicant is prepared and has the ability to do well in college.

The Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE), as well as the specialized tests required in order to get into medical (MCAT), law (LSAT), and business graduate programs, are also examples of multiple aptitude tests.

A Word From Verywell

Aptitude tests can help you get an idea of what you are good at or what you might be good at given the right training. However, these tests cannot tell you everything. Consider your results carefully and evaluate other factors such as your interests and experiences. Then, use this information to explore career options.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Psychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology: Specific Ability. Published Online.

  2. American Psychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology: Multiple Aptitude Test.

Additional Reading
  • Kline, P. Handbook of Psychological Testing. New York: Routledge; 2012.
  • Salking, N. & Rasmussen, K. (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology, Volume 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications; 2008.