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Print The one thing you can do to improve your score at no cost

The one thing you can do to improve your score at no cost

Having trained hundreds of candidates on our website for career tests and psychometric exams, we have heard tons of feedback from our clients on what works and what doesn’t for them.

What is it, then?

One thing that keeps coming back is this: so many times they will find a subtle trap in their numerical reasoning or abstract reasoning test question, and the only reason it was phrased that way is to make sure you are paying attention. So often this costs you valuable points that you simply cannot afford to lose.

An example
The other day I came across a tricky scenario which I thought might be worth sharing with you so that you’re alert to the possibility. Suppose we had the following question (I have shortened the table for brevity but all relevant information is given):
Q. If the population of Switzerland increased by 18,000 between 2005 and 2010, what was the percentage increase in the number of people per capita who hold a drivers’ licence in Switzerland over this period?
A: 1.5% B: 2.1% C: 2.4% D: 3.0% E: 3.6%
So what’s the problem here?
It’s quite possible that because I’ve already told you that there is a potential pitfall here that you have read the question very carefully and decided to do the right thing and don’t even think there is a possible problem.
The problem is that we are used to seeing superfluous information in the data table or as supplementary points but here the question setter has given you some information in the question.
This, on the face of it, seems to be relevant but is, in fact, as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. It is a red herring.
I am referring to the information in the question which states that the population of Switzerland has increased by 18,000 over the given period. This is a distraction and you should immediately ignore it. It is intended to imply that you need to calculate the population of Switzerland in 2010 and then the number of licence holders and so on.
You don’t!
Read the question carefully and look at the data you have again. The most important piece of information is in the table title.
The question asks for ‘the percentage increase in the number of people per capita…’ and if you look at the data table it provides you with the percentages of people with a licence. 
Percentages are, by definition, per hundred which, in this case, is per hundred people. In other words the table data items have already taken into account the increase in population and if you do it as well then, not only are you doing unnecessary work, you are doing incorrect work as well.
The trap & the solution
If you followed this line of work you would end up calculating the percentage increase in the number of people with a licence which turns out to be 3% (answer D). However, this is not quite what the question asked.
So, to answer the actual question all we really need to do is find the percentage increase in going from 61.9% to 63.4% which, as I’ve written before in other articles, is not 1.5% (answer A). It is a rise of 1.5 percentage points but as a proportion of the 61.9% starting point it is:
This is multiplied by 100 to make it a percentage of 2.4% (answer C).
The take-away
What we can conclude from this is a cliché piece of advice which is nevertheless of immense practical value: read the question extremely carefully. Spending 15 seconds more on the question can not only prevent you from going down the wrong path but it can save you from pitfalls and traps that the psychometric test creators placed there on purpose.
The best candidates always read the question, the table headings, the legend and the small print because they know that this is the only way to score higher than their peers. From now, you can do it too!
Still not sure about the best test-taking methodology? Check our huge collections of tips & tricks here!

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