The CCAT Test
Updated 23 June 2021
One of the most popular pre-employment tests available, the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT) is a psychometric test used by employers during the hiring and recruitment process to gauge potential talents’ skills in many areas: problem-solving, attention to detail and spatial reasoning, to name a few.
This article describes the ins-and-outs of the test and offers aptitude test sample questions to help you practice for the CCAT.
What Is the CCAT Test?
One of developer’s, Criteria Corp's, most favored tests, the CCAT is a cognitive ability exam is formed of 50 questions and has a 15-minute time frame.
During it, you will be tested on your ability to obtain a fresh skill set, put your skills into place, and quickly solve problems – according to statistics, most people cannot complete the full 50 questions, so finishing all the questions in the 15-minute timeframe shows excellent speed and efficiency too.
The CCAT test was developed to help recruiters in a variety of different fields decipher potential candidates sooner and save time and money if they were unsuited to the role.
You might have an interview for a software development company that requires you to take the CCAT test. They ask you to do this within the first interview to get an idea of your cognitive abilities before moving to the next stage.
Why Is It Used?
This cognitive ability test also helps recruiters figure out what skills you have developed from previous employers and how you can incorporate these into a new role.
The test, combined with a face-to-face meeting and your work history, sets the tone for the employer and gives them a broader understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
Within the exam you will come across the following kinds of questions:
Candidates cannot use a calculator when taking the test.
More and more employers are getting on the cognitive ability test bandwagon, mainly because it can help them with the training and onboarding process, giving them an idea of the candidate’s ability to learn new skills and information.
Each area of questioning can give hiring managers insight into how fast a person learns and can use logical thinking, an important skill in many roles.
Another benefit of the CCAT test for the employer could be to save time and money.
Sometimes, an interview process for a business – think technology, accounting and finance – can take a while, with multiple rounds, so doing the exam can save both hiring managers and candidates time if the candidates’ cognitive ability does not match with the role they are interviewing for.
The sooner a candidate knows they will not get the role, the sooner they can turn their attention to a new application.
What Can Help Increase Cognitive Ability and Get a Better CCAT Score?
If you are unsure where you stand with your own cognitive abilities, there are many factors to help you improve.
Think of it like exercise – by doing brain training, you keep ‘moving’ your mind and it gets stronger.
Here are five things you can do to improve your cognitive abilities before taking the CCAT test:
Exercise – Physical movement can really help focus your mind. It relieves the stress you may not even know you were carrying. It releases endorphins, which are chemicals that relieve stress and pain, making it a great way to relax – especially yoga and Pilates.
Sleep – Most people need at least 8 hours of good sleep per night. This cannot always happen, of course, due to various issues. But the more sleep you get, the more your mind and cognitive function benefits. Improve your sleep by setting a regular bedtime routine, which should involve turning off electronic screens an hour before bed.
Read – In that hour before bed with no screen time, consider reading. With every book or article that you read, your brain obtains information it might not have had before. This could be specific facts from the book’s content or more generally, building up your understanding of how to think well. This information stays within your subconscious, so even though you might not know that you know something, it can rise to the surface in response to questions or situations.
Play – Humans are one of the few species that consistently plays into adulthood, because it helps us learn. Playing an instrument or thought-provoking boardgame can test the brain and put it into action while being self-rewarding so you do more of it. So, if one of your hobbies is playing the guitar or puzzle games, then try and do more of this before the test.
Relax – Relaxing your mind and switching off can help your cognitive behavior. Removing stress frees up more mental capacity to work on other things, such as psychometric tests. You could even try meditation, which allows you to be more mindful and gain focus. Hanging out with people that make you happy is also a good way to improve your cognitive function, as conversing with them is learning too.
What to Expect
As mentioned above, the CCAT test contains 50 questions ranging in topic from math to verbal.
You are given a time limit of just 15 minutes to complete as many questions as you can – past results show just 1% of candidates complete all 50 questions. So, you are very much not alone if you cannot complete all the questions.
Completing more questions does show greater efficiency, but it is more important to get the questions correct than it is to answer all of them. Quality over quantity.
Some questions on the exam might seem strange or make you panic because they are not based on specific knowledge. These are testing your ability to think logically – to look for patterns or underlying reasons why something is the way it is.
Answer these to the best of your ability. You can practice logical reasoning tests here.
The CCAT is just one of the factors recruiters will take into consideration, so try not to worry too much about the exam – it is just one part of the process.
How Is the Test Formatted?
Before you start the test, you will be given thorough instructions. You must read these thoroughly before starting the exam timer, as you do not want to miss something that was ironed out at the beginning.
The test will be formatted into different sections based on subject, as mentioned above, with multiple-choice questions in each. Sometimes the answers are text and sometimes images.
If you are unsure about a question or just flat out do not know the answer, it is better to take the chance and answer the question then leave it blank – you might choose the right answer and you are not penalized for wrong ones.
Once the 15 minutes are up, your results will be sent directly to the hiring managers so they can see how you scored.
The results will be separated into categories of math, verbal and spatial reasoning, with a score for each section – this allows the recruiter to see your strengths and weaknesses clearly and concisely.
You may be allowed to take a practice test beforehand to prepare yourself more.
How Is the CCAT Scored?
The hiring manager will be sent your raw score and your percentile ranking once you have completed the exam.
The raw score is the number of correct questions you have answered. The percentile is how well you did in comparison to the others taking the test.
Your results will be shown on the front of your test in both number and chart form, as well as percentiles relating to more specific categories, such as spatial reasoning.
In a nutshell, a percentile rank of 45 would mean you scored better than 45% of the others taking the test.
The scoring system is determined by the position you are applying for.
For instance, a senior management role will require different scores to a more junior or mid-level position.
The overall average score is usually 24/50. However, if you are applying for a more senior role in an industry like tech or finance, it would be good to score at least 30/50.
If you score between 35-45 you would be in the top 30%.
Here are a few examples of score ranges per industry:
- Computer programmer – 23 (low) to 40 (high)
- Financial analyst – 23 (low) to 38 (high)
- Network administrator – 23 (low) to 37 (high)
Scores are calculated immediately and as soon as you have completed the test your results will be sent directly to the hiring manager who initiated the exam.
The second page of your report shows how you did in relation to Criteria Corp’s expected ranges for various roles.
Some employers will go through the exam with you and provide feedback, whereas others might be more discrete.
How to Prep for the CCAT
Like studying for an exam, you can prepare yourself for the CCAT test. The hiring manager of the job you are applying for should give you enough notice beforehand so you have time to prep and do a practice run or two.
The strategies mentioned above regarding improving your cognitive abilities definitely apply here, and here are seven more:
Keep energized. This might go without saying but try to stay energized – this does not mean overdose on coffee, but stay hydrated enough and eat a balanced diet. It will help you have a clear head and feel ready for the exam. You do not want to feel lethargic before a test.
Do practice tests and note down any of the main criteria where you are lacking. For instance, you might not have scored that well in math on the dummy run, so you can study some math questions to be ready for the real thing.
Time yourself. This will help you get accustomed to the 15-minute time limit, making it something that you are used to rather than one more stress. The time taken to read the instructions will not count towards these 15 minutes, so you can focus all your time on the questions. The more practice you get the better.
Prioritize the subject you excel at. For instance, if you are better at math than verbal, then do all those questions first or leave yourself more time to do them. This way you will be devoting more time to questions you are more likely to get correct.
Take time out between practice runs and your actual exam. The questions on the practice paper will always be different from those on your specific exam as they are curated based on the industry and job you are applying for, so having them swirling in your mind could be unhelpful. You need your mind to be as focused as possible; a short break will refresh it without losing any gains.
Explore shortcuts to cut down your time per section. These can be learned during practice runs. Every little helps.
Consider investing in an official CCAT course. If the exam is the main factor in you getting your role, this will ensure you are fully prepped to answer as many questions as possible. Criteria Corp has developed an app to help you practice the skills measured by the CCAT.
Example CCAT Questions
Here are a few examples of typical questions that you might receive in each section.
Math and Logic
The math and logic questions in the CCAT test are not designed to determine your basic math knowledge; instead, they investigate how quickly you can think critically and find a solution.
Most of the questions will need logic to get the answer right.
As mentioned earlier within the article, calculators are not allowed, but you can do your working out by hand if necessary.
Here are what some math and logic questions might look like:
You have been given a recipe for 18 chocolate cupcakes that needs 3/4 cup of caster sugar. How much caster sugar would you need to make two dozen cupcakes using the same recipe?
a) 3/8 cup
b) 1 cup
c) 1 1/3 cup
d) 1 1/2 cup
Answer: b) 1 cup
2. A wireless headset costs $120. Its price increased by 20% and then by another $24. What is the total percentage (%) rise in price for the wireless headset?
Answer: b) 40%
There are several ways to work out the answers to these questions, so if you feel this is your weakest areas you should brush up your skills on percentages and fractions.
There are also helpful guides on calculating ratios.
Here are a couple of example verbal questions to get you started:
1. What is the opposite word to 'introvert'?
Answer: c) Extrovert_
2. Sally tried her best to see the –[blank]– of applying for a new job, but she still was not convinced.
Answer: d) Benefits
The verbal part of the CCAT test allows potential employers to gauge the candidate’s vocabulary, use of context and overall understanding of the meaning of certain words and phrases.
These skills will come in handy if you are applying for a client-facing role and must communicate with people successfully daily.
Industries such as advertising, marketing and sales might require higher communication marks than other industries, so please consider this when prepping for your exam.
This section of the test might seem the most random, however, employers do have good reasons for requiring it.
Spatial reasoning helps a company understand your ability to problem solve, think critically and analyze patterns, amongst other things. It will also show them how well you identify icons and shapes.
Which of the figures below comes next in the sequence of figures shown above?
For this question you will need to analyze each image and the sequence in which they show themselves. Can you notice the pattern?
These types of questions might take some getting used to, however, the practice tests should help you with this and wire your brain to see the patterns emerging.
You could also have a question like this:
Complete the missing frame from the ones below:
This might look like a lot at first but once you get used to it, you will dive right in during the real test. If an image seems incomprehensible, try looking at it both horizontally and vertically.
Now that you have seen the types of questions you might receive; it will give you the chance to prepare accordingly and show the hiring manager your best.
This must seem like a lot of information to take in. Here are the key tips for passing the CCAT.
Once you have taken note of the following, you should be able to prepare yourself as you would for any exam.
- Practice, practice, and practice again – As the saying goes ‘practice makes perfect’, and the more familiar you are with the test structure the more you can concentrate on the questions
- Manage your time and expectations
- Work on your weaknesses
- Take breaks between practice tests and between practice and the real CCAT
- For any questions that feature imagery, look at the picture both vertically and horizontally
- Try not to worry – Your CCAT score is only one of the many features employers look at.
When it comes to the hiring process, employers are looking at several attributes when making their decision, and your CCAT result is just one of many.
Make sure you put a proper amount of effort into the other parts of the recruitment process, such as the interview and other assessment tasks.
If your CCAT score is not what the employer wanted, it means the job would have been a bad fit for you anyway.
Perhaps take some personality assessments to get to know yourself better and find a good-fitting role.
You can also advise the recruiter of the best time of the day for you to take the test. This should be when you are at your most energized and productive. For instance, if you are not a morning person, you do not want to take a test where you must analyze shapes as soon as you wake up. Schedule it for a time of the day when your mind is at its most dynamic.
Try to ensure there are no distractions when you are taking the exam. For instance, if you are taking it at home, you could do it whilst your kids are at school or housemates at work. It is only 15 minutes – make sure you do not have anything else that will require your attention during the test.
Finally, there are many resources and test papers out there that can help you prepare for the exam so just do a little research and you are good to go.