Thank you for your question.
My short answer to this question is yes - there can be substantial differences across types (aptitude v ability), categories (numerical, verbal, abstract reasoning) and formats (SHL, Kenexa, Saville, TalentQ, etc). The differences arise due to the nature as well as types of skills and/or abilities various tests have been designed to assess. We at graduatemonkey focus on various types and categories of tests and develop suitable test preparation packages for test takers.
Generally speaking, the skills and/or abilities sought depend on the nature of the position or recruitment purpose. For example, is the purpose of recruitment to put the right candidate to the right permanent position that requires specific but limited mental capacity (e.g. some administrative roles) OR is it to develop the candidate to a higher professional level and therefore mental capacity over time (e.g. graduate or managerial development roles). To those ends, graduate employers (or recruiters) choose to use either ABILITY or APTITUDE tests.
Further, the category of the test depends on the type of mental skill(s) the employer is looking for. E.g. if it is a law firm, they are more likely to emphasize verbal critical reasoning skills relative to abstract reasoning skills. However, for IT and programming jobs, the latter (i.e. the abstract reasoning skill) is much more important than any other skill category.
Now let me explain the difference between the aptitude and ability tests. Aptitude tests measure the so-called innate (i.e. inherent) skills and talents in candidates and therefore are not as much biased towards certain academic knowledge such as language, grammar, etc. For example, verbal aptitude tests (also called Verbal Critical Reasoning Tests) attempt to assess your critical reasoning skills more than your command of grammar, spelling or even vocabulary. On the other hand, verbal ability tests may focus more on your vocabulary and grammar knowledge as much as your critical reasoning skills.
Regarding the test formats, there are many formats so to make it easier for you to understand and remember, I will try to put them into a few categories. Let me begin with the verbal reasoning tests.
VERBAL REASONING TESTS
- Within the ability tests, there is one popular category called Cognitive Ability test or assessment. The verbal part of the test requires candidates to various questions ranging from vocabulary assessment and sentence completion to verbal logical thinking tasks. The two common formats are known as PLI Cognitive Ability Assessment and OneTest Cognitive Ability Test. There are also other verbal ability test formats such as Watson Glaser Test that uses five dimensions of verbal critical reasoning (based on their proprietary R-E-D model) and may involve 40 questions (in the Short W-G test Form) in total to be answered in 12 minutes time.
- Within the aptitude tests, the most popular format is known as Verbal Reasoning Test in SHL-Kenexa-Cubiks (3 independent test publishers) format where the test taker is presented with a short text passage and a corresponding statement that must be True, False or Uncertain (Cannot Say) based on the above passage. No additional assumptions or prior knowledge can be used to answer the questions in this test format. The number of questions in these tests may vary from 24 (Kenexa) to 40 (Cubiks) and the time pressure may also be mild (Kenexa - 20 minutes for 24 questions) to severe (Cubiks - 20 minutes for 40 questions).
NUMERICAL REASONING TESTS
- Numerical ability tests normally refer to the academic-type tests from high school level (such as SAT and ACT) to MBA level (GMAT and GRE). PLI and OneTest Cognitive Ability assessments can also be called basic forms of ability tests.
- Aptitude tests on the other hand assess one’s innate ability to comprehend, analyse and interpret mixed data in the form of data tables, graphs and/or diagrams in matter of seconds. The computations involved are basic but they are presented in the context of real world data and information, in general. The most common formats are Numerical Reasoning Tests in SHL, Kenexa, Cubiks formats, Saville Numerical Comprehension and Analysis tests and TalentQ Numerical Analysis skills tests. You can see sample test tutorials on Free Tutorials section of Graduatemonkey site. In terms of time pressure, the SHL format can be viewed as most relaxed (standard test provides candidates 25 minutes to attempt 18 questions). The Kenexa format typically gives the candidate 1 minute per question whereas the TalentQ format may vary the time given for individual questions from 90 seconds down to 45. Also, the Cut-E test provides the question in a slightly unconventional format where the candidate has to click various tabs on the test screen to search and find information, tables or graphs relevant to each question. Cubiks and TalentQ numerical reasoning assessments are referred to by many test-takers as the most challenging tests.
I hope this helps.
I will be happy to elaborate more on each of the above, should you need more detail.