An aptitude test is a test which is designed to predict the test-taker's future success. Rather than testing knowledge, aptitude tests are designed to test innate skills and the capacity for learning and acquiring new skills. These tests are used in a wide variety of settings, from schools to employment placement agencies. Like many tests which are designed to generate standardized results, aptitude tests are sometimes criticized because such tests can contain biases which make it difficult for people in certain groups to pass the test.
Aptitude tests can explore things like reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, mathematical abilities, logic, and so forth. The test taker does not need to have knowledge in a particular area to take a generic aptitude test, but he or she does need to have a basic education so that reading comprehension and math problems will not be too difficult. The aptitude test also requires the test taker to learn skills from the test as the test proceeds, challenging thinking skills on the fly.
Some industries have their own specific aptitude tests which require at least basic skills. Computer programmers, for example, can take aptitude tests which explore their programming skills and push them to pick up and apply new skills over the course of the test. Aptitude tests can also be designed to reveal the test-taker's suitability for a particular profession. Employment placement agencies, guidance counselors, and some employers use these types of aptitude tests to place people in careers where they will fit in.
A number of free aptitude tests are available online, usually aimed at people who are interested in aptitude testing to explore possible new careers. These tests are fairly easy to complete, and can vary in length from a few minutes to well over an hour. Some companies may use an online aptitude test as a recruiting tool, offering job listings to people who complete the test or asking people to complete such tests as part of a job application online.
A variety of factors can influence performance on an aptitude test. These tests do not examine intelligence, and often there is no formal score, because there are many right answers, and the test is designed to group the test-taker into a specific class of people, not to measure test-takers against each other. If an aptitude test does have a concealed bias of a test-taker is the type of person who gets strained while taking tests, the results can be skewed, which is why it can help to take several such tests to get a broad spectrum of results.