The McQuaig Mental Agility Test
Updated 23 June 2021
Developed from the research of industrial psychologist Jack McQuaig, the McQuaig Mental Agility Test (MMAT) measures general mental agility, speed of thought and decision-making, through a series of 50 multiple-choice questions on verbal understanding, reasoning and mathematical ability, within a 15-minute time limit.
Based on the McQuaig Institute’s ongoing research of over 50 years, the MMAT has an extensive sample with which to draw comparisons, allowing test scores to be provided as a percentile.
This offers employers the opportunity to compare job candidates against each other, against employees already working in that role and against a wider sample.
The MMAT meets British Psychological Society and Psychometric Testing Centre standards and carries a guarantee of success by the McQuaig Institute itself.
What Is the Purpose of MMAT?
The MMAT is designed to assess a candidate’s:
- General cognitive agility
- Ability to consider data at speed
- Decision-making skills
- Ability to perform under pressure
- Problem-solving skills
What Does the MMAT Assess?
The MMAT presents you with 50 questions across math, reasoning and verbal understanding to complete within 15 minutes.
The number of questions you answer correctly is your score; for instance, 27 out of 50. This score reflects your level of general mental agility:
- Over 45 – Exceptional high ability
- 38 to 45 – High ability
- 25 to 37 – Average ability
- Under 25 – Lower than average ability
This score is then converted into a percentile (for instance, the 50th percentile) which compares your result to a relevant sample of other candidates.
A high score, however, does not necessarily indicate suitability for the related role. It might be that a candidate with an average ability is more suited, whereas a candidate with a high or exceptionally high ability would soon become bored in the position, possibly disruptive, and quickly move on.
Who Takes the MMAT?
The intended use of the MMAT is as an investigative tool for employers as part of the recruitment process.
You might be asked to take the MMAT in any of the following situations:
You may face the MMAT when you apply for a job with a new employer. It may be that the test is always used as part of the recruitment process or as a decider when choosing between a group of applicants is difficult.
For example, where five candidates, all equally qualified, interview for the same role, their MMAT result will indicate where each candidate scores on a scale of mental agility.
The employer must then consider where on that scale, and therefore which of the candidates, is the closest match to the needs of the job.
To Inform Recruitment
The MMAT may also be used on an existing employee, or one who has resigned but is still in place, to ascertain an acceptable norm for a particular role.
This will generally be a member of staff who is seen to have performed well in the job.
If we again look at the example of the five candidates who are all equally qualified, it may not be sufficient to have their MMAT results to reach a hiring decision. Having the MMAT results for an employee already in that role, or the employee who is leaving that role, to compare with the candidates’ results will give a real-life picture of the kind of person who is likely to perform well in that job.
To Recruit Internally
When you apply for a vacancy internally or your employer believes you are suitable for promotion, the MMAT may be used to assess your mental agility.
For instance, a company buy-out leads to the creation of a new layer of management positions. Along with an external recruitment drive, current team supervisors are also considered.
The MMAT is used to decide which of the supervisors, if any, would be a good match for a move to management.
What to Expect on the MMAT
So what exactly will you face if you are asked to take the MMAT?
There are 50 multiple-choice questions, randomly arranged, which cover mathematical ability, vocabulary and logical reasoning.
The MMAT can be taken online or on paper, but most employers will use the online format.
Should you take the online version, there will be a timer running on the screen. Electronic devices, such as a calculator or mobile phone, may not be used during the test. However, you will be allowed space for calculations, such as a blank piece of paper.
The MMAT is available in:
The MMAT has a 15-minute time limit. Few candidates manage to answer all of the questions in that time but do your best to answer as many as you can.
Where the MMAT is administered remotely, the employer will generally put some form of safeguard in place to ensure that someone else does not take the test in your place.
The MMAT includes questions on math, vocabulary and logic. Here are six sample questions to show the type of challenge you may face:
Sample Mathematical Ability Questions
Sue bought nine apples for $3.60. How much would four apples cost?_
Answer: If nine apples cost $3.60, then one apple costs $0.40. $0.40 multiplied by four is $1.60.
The correct answer is C.
What is the next number in the following series of numbers?
8, 10, 13, 18, 25, 36, ?
Answer: In each case, prime numbers starting at 2 are added to create the next number.
8 + 2 = 10
10 + 3 = 13
13 + 5 = 18
18 + 7 = 25
25 + 11 = 36
The next prime number is 13
36 + 13 = 49
The correct answer is B.
Sample Reasoning Questions
'Video' is to 'See' as:
A. Picture is to Pencil
B. Aroma is to Smell
C. Sky is to Bird
D. Grass is to Foot
Answer: You see a video, where ‘see’ is a verb and ‘video’ is a noun. You do not pencil a picture, bird a sky, or foot grass. You do, however, smell an aroma.
The correct answer is B.
Which is the odd one out?
Answer: Only one of these items is man-made. The others are all organic.
The correct answer is D.
Sample Verbal Understanding Questions
What is the antonym of solid?
Answer: The opposite of solid is immaterial.
The correct answer is B.
What is the missing word in the following sentence?
Looking back on the disastrous result of the tribunal, the company’s managing director concluded that the lawsuit could have been avoided if there had been clearer lines of ____ between the two departments.
Answer: The only word that makes sense in this sentence is ‘communication’. All the other words have a negative connotation and would not work as a remedy to the situation.
The correct answer is C.
Your MMAT score is calculated from the number of questions you answer correctly; for instance, 34 out of 50. You will not lose points for wrong answers.
This is then converted into a percentile to indicate how your score compares to a related sample.
However, as mentioned above, a high score does not always mean that you are a good match for the job. The employer is looking for a score that is a close match to the target norm for the job.
Key Tips for Preparation
Facing the MMAT can be a nerve-wracking prospect but you can prepare yourself in advance by following our key tips:
Understand What Is Expected of You
This article explains the format of the MMAT, but it is also important to know what the employer will expect of you on the day of the test.
- Will the test be online or in paper format?
- Can you take the test remotely at home or has an appointment been arranged for you to attend a test center or the employer’s premises?
- What happens after you have completed the MMAT?
- Will you take the MMAT at your job interview?
- What can you do, and not do, during the MMAT?
Find out as much information as you can from the employer before you take the MMAT.
Should you be asked to take the MMAT, knowing the kind of questions and format you will face can remove a little of the stress. Practice tests are, therefore, an ideal way to build your confidence.
There are both free and paid-for sample papers available online.
Here are just a few:
Use practice papers to find out how many questions you can answer in the 15-minute time limit and develop a strategy for deciding when you should pass on a particular question.
Taking a practice paper may also indicate which of the three areas – math, vocabulary or logical reasoning – you need to work on. Take extra time to improve those skills.
Using practice tests will familiarise you with the format of questions in the real MMAT.
Key Tips on the Day
With all that preparation under your belt, what else can you do to help yourself on the day of the test?
Arrive/Be at Your Desk in Good Time
Whether you are taking the MMAT online or in paper format, make sure you are at the testing center, workplace or your home desk with time to spare before the test begins. Being fully prepared before you start is the key to a calm, focused frame of mind.
Thoroughly Read the Questions
Although you are working to a time limit, it is important that you fully read each question before you attempt to answer.
For instance, using the sample questions above, you could waste valuable time on Question 1 by hurrying through the problem and assuming the answer required is for the cost of one apple, instead of four.
In Question 5, you might look for the word that means the same as ‘solid’, rather than the antonym.
Make sure you completely understand the question before you answer.
Don’t Dwell on Difficult Questions
If you find yourself struggling over a question, it may be better to move on.
Remember, you only have 15 minutes to answer as many questions as possible.
If you have time at the end, you can always come back to any questions you passed on.
Watch the Time
If you take the MMAT online, there will be a timer on the screen. If you take the test on paper, request some form of timer in view.
Keep an eye on the time as you work through the test to ensure that you do not spend too long on any one question.
Key Tips for Improving Mental Agility
Mental agility is a skill that can be developed with time and regular practice. Encouragingly, there is more than one way to do this.
Here are our key tips to help you:
Find Multiple Solutions
Sometimes there is more than one solution to a problem.
Practice approaching challenges with the mindset that there may be more than one way to solve them.
This can be an excellent way to work on your openness and creativity, both important skills in building problem-solving strategies.
Focus on One Task at a Time
Have you heard of the saying, ‘You can’t see the wood for the trees’? Having a multitude of tasks to complete, possibly side by side, or numerous data sources to interpret can become overwhelming.
Focusing on one task at a time builds your ability to concentrate and teaches you how to shut out distractions.
Forget multitasking. Embrace focus instead.
Learn New Skills
Learning something new forces your brain to work differently. Think of it as adding to your exercise regime. The brain is a muscle after all.
This could be a work-related skill or something completely different. Maybe you learn how to canoe, read a book on astrophysics or join a class to find out how to trim your dog’s fur.
Push through your comfort zone to activate a different part of your brain.
Try your hand at logical, problem-solving and math puzzles.
From puzzle books that you can buy at your newsagent to memory games that you can play online to apps like Lumosity and CogniFit Brain Training, there is a wide variety of mental exercises available to you in all kinds of formats.
You may love historical fiction or non-fiction books on politics. Perhaps your go-to is online news. Whatever your normal and preferred reading material, widening that range will also widen your thinking.
If you generally only read online blogs and news articles, try your hand at a fiction ebook instead. If you love your books, pick up a newspaper. If you are an avid reader of all types of matter and format, read something completely out of your comfort zone such as a different genre of fiction or a non-fiction book on a topic that you know nothing about.
There are many approaches to meditation but at its root is the simple act of quieting the mind.
Maybe you close your eyes and concentrate on something like a flame or you imagine yourself in a particular location. What works for you may be completely different from what works for another person.
As long as you can take ten minutes to simply be and observe your breathing, with eyes open or closed, you can begin to feel the benefits.
Meditation has been shown to improve concentration, but it can also open your mind to a greater learning ability and more efficient problem-solving.
Have you noticed how the answer to a problem often comes to you when you are on the verge of going to sleep or carrying out a mundane task like walking the dog or housework? Meditation works in the same way.
If you gain nothing else from meditation, it can be a wonderful way to shut off from the world and relax.
Exercise has so many benefits, from developing physical stamina and pumping the heart and lungs, to building up your vitamin D supply when you go for a walk in the sunshine.
Exercise can build new brain cells, reduce stress, prevent cognitive decline and improve your memory skills.
When you are faced with the MMAT, whether as a job seeker or an employee, it is always recommended that you prepare in advance to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful performance.