Top 5 Graduate Screening Tests used by Big Four Audit/Consulting Firms

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To ensure they get the best employees, top auditing and consulting firms will put their potential candidates through a series of aptitude tests to screen graduates looking for a top job. These tests are designed to reduce the number of candidates before their application can advance.

With so many graduates applying from so many countries, it is important for recruiters such as PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG to find out who is a good fit before they make any decisions.

The tests challenge the candidates in different ways and require different skill sets such as using their judgement, verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning, here is a list of the top 5 screening test used by the big four audit/consulting firms.

1) Situational Reasoning or Situational Judgement Tests

These are designed to show how you might address a workplace-related problem. Generally, these are created by asking you a question based on some job setting and ask for an answer based on multiple choices of responses, or by ranking the answers in a particular order.

These tests can be provided by particular companies such as CAPP, Cut-e and SHL.

CAPP format does not impose on you a time limit for taking the test, although they do record the amount of time it takes for you to complete it. The best thing to do is to answer the question to the best of your abilities and not dwell on anything for too long. This being said it is important not to rush through, think and assess the question before choosing an answer.

The questions are designed to provide realistic insights into the working life at the company you are applying for. Cut-e in particular is focussed on questions related to everyday problems that someone who is applying for the role may actually have to deal with.

For any existing test format and category, there are numerous practice (mock) tests to prepare you for the actual test(s) you will take. This is the best way of giving you a strong chance when it comes to the real test.

You can practice any of the above test formats through test preparation services online such as In addition, the test providers themselves provide some practice tests. SHL, for example, provides a test that puts you in several different scenarios and with questions to follow. The practice (mock) tests are generally expected to take around 25 minutes to complete.

2) Numerical Reasoning Tests

These tests are designed to test a person's knowledge of percentages, ratios, analysis of sales and a lot more. They are used by Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG to name a few.

Far from being just a math-based test, these are usually multiple-choice based and require no submission of the actual calculations.

It is recommended that you take a calculator, pen and paper, and find out beforehand if they are acceptable or not, this will be determined by the expectations and rules of the specific test you are doing.

They are designed to replicate a situation that you might come across in the workplace of the environment you are applying for. Most tests have a mathematical difficulty level you might have experienced in the later years of secondary school. Mostly your basic skills including adding subtraction, division, multiplying are the most common, along with ratios and percentages.

TalentQ change the difficulty of each question depending on your ability to answer the previous question. Generally, you will get around 90 seconds to answer a question.

Cubiks give around a minute to answer each question and are designed to give the user a numerical test with a lot of business-minded questions thrown in.

SHL tests are the probably the most common Numerical Reasoning Tests you will come across, you will have between 17 and 25 minutes generally to complete the test.

Kenexa test typically includes 24 questions and provide a time limit of 20 minutes; these are also one of the more common test creators in this field.

For test preparations we recommend Graduatemonkey as a reliable source, they have many resources that will prepare you for the difficulty of numerical reasoning tests and will help you to know what to expect in advance.

3) Logical Inductive Reasoning Tests

These tests come in different forms such as Deductive reasoning where you will use logic to answer a question based on a general rule based on information that is given to you. Don't jump to any conclusions and ensure that if something doesn't look right, you make it known.

There is also an Inductive Reasoning assessment where you will analyze different patterns made out of a particular event. Usually you will see several diagrams and make sense of the pattern and choose the next pattern or diagram that should fit.

Abstract Reasoning (e.g. Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices) is another where you will have to view a diagram or pattern and answer questions on patterns and the relationship between them. Look through the images to decide on the correct sequence or code. Critical thinking will require you to use logic to dissect the question whilst you analyse the argument in front of you.

For a more in depth analysis and tests to prepare you for your logical inductive reasoning test we recommend Graduate Monkey which has a wide range of resources to help you understand this more.

Most commonly put together by a select few companies such as Kenexa who give you 24 questions and only 20 minutes to answer. Mostly you will get 5 options for each question and they are based on diagrams and patterns.

TalentQ change the difficulty of your current question depending on how you answered the previous one. With around 75 seconds to answer each of the 12 questions, this is one of the shorter tests.

Raven’s are another test provider, theirs come in two forms depending on what level you are expected to answer - the standard test presents 28 questions over 47 minutes making it one of the longer tests you will face.

4) Verbal Reasoning in True/False/Cannot Say Format

These tests most often start out as an overview of a situation with a question following asking the graduate to provide a true/false/cannot say answer.

The answer will be determined by what sense you can make of the question so a true answer means you can say that the statement that follows is correct based on the information provided. False would conclude that the statement does make sense following the passage and cannot say means there is not enough information provided to make a conclusive answer either way.

Your ability to break down and reason with the information given to you is what the examiners are looking for. Your vocabulary is not important, you ability to make sense of a situation is.

The most common source of tests are from SHL who will most likely keep you at a decent pace due to the 17 questions being asked with a time limit of 19 minutes.

Kenexa have two tests within the verbal reasoning field. The graduate test gives you 25 minutes to answer 32 questions so the speed of your answers will be important.

Cubiks tend to favour office- based questions, giving a good insight into life at the company. With under a minute to answer each question, you will be required to think quickly.

There are many good resources at Graduate Monkey for verbal reasoning test preparation. If you are like many other graduates who prefer to be prepared then there is a lot of useful information available from Graduatemonkey.

5) Diagrammatic Reasoning Tests

These tests will require the graduate to analyse complex problems and use logic to answer the question. Problem solving is one of the key strengths that will be tested here.

Using diagrams and patterns a lot of the questions will take the form of shapes and ask the user to decide which group of the images provided does a new image belong to and similar questions to this.

There isn't any previous experience you can have to prepare you, but looking more in depth will help you to know what to expect come the time of the test.

There are two main test publishers that you are most likely to come across for a diagrammatical reasoning test, the most prominent being Saville Consulting who have a diagram heavy test that will require the graduate to answer 32 questions in 24 minutes.

The other well-known is Cubiks which features diagrams of two groups of patterns or images and ask the user to decide which group a new symbol or image belongs to.

If you have never taken one of these tests before then we recommend you do further research into what is to come. The questions asked are not something many would come across often which is why potential employers favor them.

If you are looking for more resources or wish to be as best prepared as you can be then we recommend Graduate Monkey as a source of test preparation for youe diagrammatical reasoning test. This will help you get your brain ready for the upcoming types of questions.