All of it begins conspicuously with school or college students while making choices about education and career that would set the course for their future. Opting for a college or career simply based on the opinions of what friends and family members suggest or what they did in their own careers can prove to be too inappropriate while taking such an important lifetime decision. There are also instances galore when a student opts for a career seeing only the recent trends in a particular career or highly perceived benefits and salaries. What suits one person or has gone well for an earlier generation may not always work for someone else. Under such situations of making choices, Aptitudes and testing them is critical.
What are Aptitudes?
Aptitudes are defined as the natural, innate abilities of a person to do or learning to do certain things more easily and dexterously than some others. They refer to the physical or mental abilities and talents predominant in a person enabling him or her to execute certain tasks and processes easily and quickly. Aptitudes, to be precise, characterize our natural abilities which are innately present in every one of us. We all are born with certain predominant aptitudes and logically as a consequence, are better in doing certain things better than others. That is precisely why some are good at writing, while some others are better at solving problems, singing, talking and so on. So aptitudes are key to understanding our innate strengths (of course, weaknesses as well) and hence are pointers to what we can learn quickly, what we can do best, what we can enjoy most and can be content and happy with while doing. Knowing our aptitude by self testing at an early stage is essential to choose as to what we study and learn as well as to what we do and work for. To know what we are good at in studies or in careers, taking aptitude tests early on is crucial.
Aptitudes: Pointers to Courses and Careers
Every field of study or occupation/career–it may be engineering, medicine, law, management or any other–uses certain combination of aptitudes. Naturally the subjects and courses one learns efficient and fast, the work one enjoys most and the vocation one succeeds more at work and employment is the one that uses the best of your aptitudes. An engineer not possessing the aptitudes essential to engineering may find the work more difficult, unpleasant and even unrewarding. While this linkage of aptitudes with study and career options one chooses is now well established, aptitude testing conversely, has to be one of the first prerequisite test to be done along with two others Tests of Personality and Motivation. Question thus arises as to when such aptitude testing is required to be taken.
Best Time to Test: The Earliest
Surprisingly, students opt for careers/professions that their parents had opted for as students, either owing to family pressures or due to lack of ability to make a choice about a study or profession on their own. Sure parents can give the benefit of their experiences that will help their kids to choose preferred courses/careers, but more appropriate is that students know for themselves what their abilities, interests and strong points are, so that they themselves can make an educated choice in choosing a profession/career. No surprise that recent surveys have rightly proved that people tend to be better achievers and positive when they choose a career/work that suits their abilities, passions and interests and gives full expression of their highest potential. To do so you need to know what these aptitudes and others really mean and how you get tested on these.
Then what are the better alternatives available for you to choose your courses and careers from? They surely are in knowing and self-testing what are your predominant aptitudes, Personality and Motivational characteristics.
Some of the key questions that ideally a student should introspect on are-
- What are my aptitudes?
- What is the right age to go for aptitude tests?
- What course should I opt for, based on my aptitudes?
- What course or profession should I specialize in?
- How do I later choose my career/profession?
A vast majority of students seek answers to these only after their school/college and sometimes even later. The best time to ask these essential questions for a student is when he/she is in his/her teens, before opting for a college course and much before embarking on their first job.
Multiplicity of choices at college level is bewildering for even the best-informed ones. Also the cost of higher education is now rising exponentially. Thus owing to the variety of options and high costs, it is key for a student to plan his/her education very early on. Also students should have their aptitudes evaluated right when they are in high school, to enable them select a major field of study as per their strong points, talents and interests.
Poor school record or lack of schooling should not deter a student from opting for an aptitude test, especially considering aptitudes are not based on a student’s knowledge or educational background.
Also, there is career planning after the school/college years as well. It is not just students who undergo career blues. Professionals face as many dilemmas about their careers as well. Anyone in the mid-stages of his/her career too ponder over the next steps they have to take:
- If it is a promotion or transfer, can I adjust to the new environment?
- I am considered successful because of my job title or profession, but I am not satisfied–is there a reason that I have not chosen the profession of my choice ?
- Is it possible that I can get good knowledge/skills and advancements in my career if I get additional certifications such as ITIL, PHP or may be an MBA in a specific sector or profession?
- I opted for the law course because my family is one mostly of lawyers, but could I have done better if I had chosen as per my abilities and interests. Should I be doing something else?
These are scenarios which individuals encounter even at the middle stages of their life once they realize they are not satisfied in their present professions. Even after an individual encounters such mid-career blues, he/she should have the courage to explore new options which suit their aptitudes and interests. Sometimes, it can also be an extension of the career which they are pursuing or they can develop new skills by finding time to explore new avenues.
Taking aptitude tests can provide them an assessment of their abilities that can free them from the career blues which the individual is presently encountering. These help them to focus on their personal strengths and mentally reinforce them to overcome those activities that prove more difficult to master. Attaining a sense of direction by narrowing down various options in their professions through Aptitude Testing can be a strong stimulus in finding a satisfying niche in life.
Thus it is never too late for anyone to take an Aptitude Test.
“ The individual, who knows his own aptitudes, and their relative strengths, chooses more intelligently among the world’s host of opportunities.”
Aptitudes Vs Interests
There is a tendency to mistake interests for aptitudes. Firstly, aptitudes are different from interests though the two factors might influence one another. Both factors are important but major differences are:
- Aptitudes are innate, but interests need not be inherent
- Aptitudes are lasting, but interests are changing and passing
- Aptitudes do not normally get influenced only by external factors, but interests are subject to outside influences
Aptitudes are almost permanent, and are not subject to external factors mainly because they are in-born. Abilities cannot be erased as they are planted in the genes whereas interests at different ages undergo changes. At an younger age, one might be interested in doing certain activities as hobbies.But as one grows older interests may change. This happens mainly due to the experience and education that one acquires and due to a host of other environmental factors through years. As we grow, we discover new areas of interest. But aptitude to do certain things do not alter as we grow.
Aptitudes and Interests should not be considered in isolation while choosing a career. The possibility of failure is high in both of these cases:
- You are interested in doing a certain task without possessing the right aptitude.
- You have the innate ability (aptitude) to do a job, but are not interested in doing it (due to many factors such as lack of motivation etc.)
This is precisely the reason that aptitude testing should be done along with Motivation–the traits which interest is normally associated with and Personality evaluation tests-the testing of the traits of oneself including behaviour, appearances, which are the topics next, in the series.
Aptitudes Vs Skills
The terms, aptitudes and skills, normally are used interchangeably to indicate the same thing. However there are subtle differences:
- Aptitudes are inborn, while skills are acquired, mainly on specific tasks, jobs etc.
- Aptitudes do not necessarily require any special training. But skills are function-driven capabilities obtained during a period of time.
Aptitudes are mostly genetic in nature and acquired at one’s birth but they need to be honed and developed through time to turn them to skills. Aptitudes indicate our potential to learn certain skill sets. Skills are acquired abilities, and only a person with the corresponding aptitude can productively acquire that skill. Hence, there is a need to acquire skills that correspond to your aptitudes.
Aptitudes Vs Job Satisfaction
Job Satisfaction is an ever-elusive concept. It is a concept which is quite difficult to define, as it changes with change of place and time as well. No doubt, salary/ monetary compensation and job location play an important role, but today, people are increasingly trying to understand and quantify the more sensitive issues like their aptitudes, skills, information processing style, personality, values and goals, and relate them to the career/profession that they choose. Comprehensive testing methods now available can guide people towards jobs suited to their profile and also determine what kind of work will be best suited to them.
Types of Aptitudes
Different people are born with different kinds of aptitudes and there is no one in the world who do not possess any one of these aptitudes. Different combinations of aptitudes are normally present in most of the people. Aptitudes are broadly divided into the following:
1. Verbal Ability
2. Numerical Ability
3. Perceptual Ability
4. Spatial Ability
5. Technical Ability
6. Acuity Skills
7. Analytical Ability
Aptitude tests are designed to measure the presence and intensity of these different kinds of aptitudes and combination of aptitudes. Study and career aptitude tests usually measure different kinds of aptitudes and hence, serve as a guide in choosing the perfect study and career option that suits the person’s aptitude and abilities. It is pertinent that there are comparatively few careers that require any one aptitude alone. Most of the careers require a logical mix of more than one aptitude and conversely most individuals too are normally endowed with more than one aptitude.
Verbal Ability is basically about language comprehension ability and at a higher level understanding the logic and reasoning of concepts framed in words and sentences.
Questions on verbal ability and verbal reasoning tests are designed to discover how well the test assessee can grasp verbal logic. The questions can be in the form of passages, followed by a number of statements. These need to be answered by marking “True”, “False” or “cannot tell”. Answers should be provided only from the given passage and should not depend on a prior knowledge in answering them. Career linkages are: Law, Psychology, Literature, Journalism and others.
Synonyms: Alter-change, correct etc. Antonyms: Diminishing –Increasing, Rising etc. Analogies: Add +; = Subtract -; etc.
Numerical/ Quantitative Ability
A person with high numerical ability will be good at comprehending basic arithmetic, basic statistics and number relationships. Some people are good at working with numbers and solving arithmetic problems. A person with high numerical aptitude will be normally good in perceiving, processing and calculating numbers and numerical symbols. High numerical aptitude makes an individual fitting to professions in Banking and Accountancy, IT/Engineering, Computational Maths and others.
Example: Nitin can type 10 pages in 5 minutes. Prasad can type 5 pages in 10 minutes. Working together, how many pages can they type in 30 minutes?
A. 15 B. 20 C. 25 D. 65 E. 75
Perceptual Ability is an aptitude that enables a person to be competent in dealing with and give meaning to a sensory stimulus.The person with a predominant perceptual ability will have good sensory discrimination and sensory modal capacity. A person with high perceptual ability can correlate shapes and symbols well. He/she can make sense out of even abstract information and identify similarities and differences effortlessly. A person with high perceptual aptitude will excel in most of the science and applied engineering including research scientists, laboratory technicians, surgeons and others.
Example: Select the figure that is missing (?) from these:
Spatial ability is a special aptitude to mentally manipulate two-dimensional and three-dimensional figures. A person has high spatial ability if he/she can perceive or solve problems related to relationships between objects, including position, direction, dimension, shape, and distance. A person with high spatial ability can easily figure out technical and drawing sketches, figures, and contours. Creative artists, Photographers, Designers etc. are expected to possess high spatial aptitude. A sample question from a spatial ability test is:
Example: Which group of shapes can be assembled to make the shape shown?
A person is said to have technical aptitude if he/she has innate talent to do or understand practical and mechanical things as compared to theoretical and abstract things. Technical ability tests are formulated to assess basic natural reaction to a practical problem than any academic response. Engineers, Technicians, Equipment Operators and others are expected to be high on Technical aptitude. A sample question of a technical ability test is given below.
Which of the following will consume least quantity of paint while painting their exterior.
Acuity is the aptitude to accurately and quickly perform certain tasks. It also means to be sharp in vision and mind. A person with high level of acuity will find easy to do routine tasks more efficiently and accurately. Most of the Clerical, Computer Operations, Bank Clerical jobs are suitable for individuals with a good acuity aptitude.
Example: Select the option which would appear first in alphabetic order:
(1) Freek (2) Freet (3) Freak (4) Freeze
Analytical ability is non-verbal reasoning. A person with high analytical ability will have the aptitude to think critically and logically. He will be able to understand logical and factual connections to some seemingly unorganized information. The person will finalize on the correct plan of action by breaking down a problem into smaller pieces and assessing the components. This aptitude is essential to solve problems of every kind. Persons with this ability are suited for Analyst; Consultant and IT/BT jobs.
Example: At a college entrance exam, a candidate is admitted according to whether he has passed or failed the test. Of the candidates who are really capable, 80% pass the test and of the incapable, 25% pass the test. Given that 40% of the candidates are really capable, then the proportion of the really capable students who can pass the test to the total students who can pass is about:
Aptitude tests connote to measure of one’s ‘promise’ and ‘future possibility’. Personal goals-educational and career-driven-must be formulated in knowing first what your aptitudes are. If a person’s aptitudes are recognized and energies are channelized in the right path, he/she can be very successful in achieving career ambitions and life goals. Not every one of us might be fortunate enough to have parents, teachers or mentors who can discover the hidden potential in us and mould us in to the right path. But it is never too late to give heed to what your aptitudes are.
If you identify the subjects and courses that nourish and enhance your aptitudes, you can strive to be proficient and skilful in those areas of interest. Also choosing a career field that calls for these aptitudes and skills can be rewarding too. A person will undoubtedly perform better in a certain career, if he has the right aptitude to carry out the tasks demanded of the job.
Students must be encouraged to take aptitude tests, to be better equipped to direct their life into the right learning and vocation paths. This will enable them to steer clear of hurdles in their career trail in future as well.
Now it is high time for you to take a complete Aptitude Test and explore what you are.