In grade 9 and matric, there’s usually quite a buzz around the phrase ‘aptitude test’. Everyone is discussing the good, the bad and the worth of them. Let’s discuss…
When it comes to making decisions, I am the worst person to ask. This is why I love aptitude tests; someone else is literally going to tell me what kind of person I am, what subjects I should take and where I should direct my career path. It’s almost as easy as finding out which Disney princess you are! If you can’t smell the sarcasm – it is most certainly not that easy.
The Very Beginning
Before we discuss any of this, let’s start off by looking at the definition of ‘aptitude’.
Aptitude is a person’s natural ability to do something.
So, an aptitude test is a test designed to determine a person’s ability in a particular skill or field of knowledge. Aptitude tests usually consist of a variety of questions covering a range of categories in order to try and determine your character, skill and strengths.
I went for two aptitude tests in high school: one before I made my subject choices and another when I was deciding what to study. The tests were in line with career counseling, so the result of my character was used to determine which career path I should pursue. Looking back, I find this such a great way of approaching what career to pursue. Although what you do doesn’t define who you are, choosing a career that lines up with what you are passionate about does make for a fruitful life and career path. The tests that I took required going to Professor Zak Nel’s practice and completing a bunch of tests. When I was finished, Prof. Nel looked at my answers, did some analyses and then explained what he thought my best options were, in terms of subject and career choices.
The categories he uses to describe you are: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. Most online aptitude tests include the categories; Numerical, Verbal, Miscellaneous, Mechanical, General. The categories basically cover all the different ways of thinking and character traits. Based on your answers in the tests, you receive a break down showing how you have scored in each category, giving you a conclusion of where your strengths lie. Thereafter, various career suggestions will be made that may suit you best.
Here’s the Loop Hole
Aptitude tests can either be taken online and calculated by a computer or taken in person and interpreted by a human being. The problem with this is that humans are slightly more subjective and computers are more objective. If a computer is working out your results, it will give you straightforward and factual answer. However, online tests are not as in-depth as with a person. If a person is testing you, their personal opinion may come into their advice to you. The positive thing is that they probably won’t know you, making their conclusions that much more objective. Being tested by a person brings a bit more balance between subjectivity and objectivity.
The second time I went for these aptitude tests, I knew that I was going to come out with the knowledge that I should study something creative. I was not sure exactly what, but I did want to see if this guttural feeling I had would be ‘proven’ correct. I scored highest in the Artistic and Social categories. The Professor suggested I consider the following:
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Therapy
- Commercial Art
- Business Faculty
I didn’t study any of the above. The closest thing to what I ended up studying on that list is Commercial Art. I studied theatre. I am now a designer, performer, writer and theatre-maker. I’m not saying I never considered medicine or the like, but it was never something that I was passionate about. My point is that this Professor, along with the results, had an opinion on what I should study that he shared with me. It may not have been completely subjective, however, it wasn’t completely objective either.
It’s Not a Straight Line, It’s a Guideline
Although someone telling you exactly what you should study and do for the rest of your life sounds super tempting. In the end, it really is up to you. If you take anything from this entire article, take this; aptitude tests are guidelines. Whether you do it online or in person, it is going to give you an interpretation of your character and how, through this interpretation, it thinks you should use the skills it’s picked up on. Objective or subjective – it’s still just an opinion. An opinion from someone you might only meet twice in your life, or a computer that only thinks through facts and algorithms.
These guidelines can be helpful because they put your character into words or confirm what you’ve been feeling all along. After doing one or two of these tests, you could look at careers that line up with these character traits. Here are a few online character tests that will help you better discover what kind of character you hold and which careers are generally associated with these traits.
Now I’m Confused
Often people come out of aptitude tests feeling more confused than when they went in. Why? Because sometimes the more opinions you have, the more complicated your decision becomes. This happens when you’re trying to make everyone you’ve spoken to happy. Maybe you want to do what your parents think is best for you, or you want to do what your friends are doing because it will be fun to study with them, or you put aside subjects or a degree that you think will make you ‘look dumb’. Here are my answers to those thoughts; your parents don’t have to live with the career choice for the rest of their life, you do. You will make new friends. Get over your ego, don’t let what your peers say now make you regret not doing something that you actually love.
If you’re feeling a little flustered about what I’ve had to say about aptitude tests, relax. I still think that they are very helpful and play an important role in helping scholars. Just like the opinion of your parents, friends and peers, an aptitude test is just another opinion you have to navigate your way through. My advice, however, is to not go into an aptitude test without any effort. Don’t go in thinking that your only job is to fill out the questions and then magically have the rest fall into your lap. Your job is to be aware of what your intuition is telling you when you receive your results.
To summarise: trust your internal/gut feeling – trust your self!