Aptitude Testing Overview

Because this is the most widely used selection tool for apprenticeship programs, CWIT developed and administers an aptitude test as part of the assessment process for the Technical Opportunities Program. This battery of tests serves several purposes. First, sections like spatial visualization, numerical reasoning, numerical computation and reading comprehension, which are abbreviated versions of the tests used by apprenticeship programs, can predict the applicant’s likely performance on and give them the experience of taking a tightly timed exam. The multiplication test was added to gauge whether or not the applicant is proficient enough in this basic skill to keep pace with a fast moving math refresher course and the other tests, trades vocabulary and measuring, are simply pre-tests used to measure progress and inform lesson planning.

Assuming apprenticeship programs in your area administer similar aptitude tests, we think you too will find these tools to be excellent predictors of success.  Each test is evaluated separately as follows:


This multiple choice test is intended to measure how well a participant remembers this foundational skill, so, at 3 minutes for 40 questions, the only way to achieve a passing score of 75% or greater is to have memorized the times tables. Although a passing score is required for admission to the Technical Opportunities Program, students can be accepted to the program with the condition that they are able to pass the test prior to the beginning of class.


Vocabulary is no longer a component of apprenticeship entrance exams in the Chicago area, but we have retained this section as a pre-test to assess progress.  CWIT does not use it to determine anyone’s readiness to take an exam or enroll in TOP, but like the other tests, it is tightly timed, 22 questions in 6 minutes, to mimic the experience of taking an entrance exam.


Applicants will have 4 minutes to solve 15 problems, this time writing the answers on their answer sheet, complete with inch marks. Measuring is not part of standard aptitude tests in Chicago, but clearly the ability to measure is an essential and assumed skill for nearly every trade. The vast majority of applicants score very poorly on this test, which is why measuring is an important part of the program’s curriculum.

Numerical Computation

Mastery of basic math is critical both to competing on an aptitude test and for succeeding in an apprenticeship program. In Chicago, the math included on aptitude tests is limited to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions, decimals and percentages.  CWIT’s abbreviated version of this test requires students to solve 26 problems and 9 minutes. If an applicant scores higher than 75% on this test, she would likely do well on this section of an apprenticeship exam and would not necessarily benefit from the math instruction provided by TOP, which does not go much beyond these basics. A good candidate for the program would score around 40% or higher, though some with lower scores have also been successful.. When in doubt, it is helpful to examine exactly what they answered correctly. If they worked slowly, but got the few questions they answered correct they may be more promising candidate than the person who answered everything and got most wrong, as she might just have been a lucky guesser.

Reading Comprehension

Women taking apprenticeship program exams commonly report that they had trouble completing the reading sections of these tests. For this reason, CWIT has designed its test to be similarly difficult, challenging applicants to answer 40 questions in just 16 minutes. The first twenty are fairly simple multiple choice questions, followed by increasingly difficult reading comprehension questions. Because it is a challenging test, CWIT has assessed the correlation between its own test and that of apprenticeship programs, determining that a score of around 60% is adequate for passing this section of an apprenticeship exam.  Because twelve weeks is insufficient to effectively teach reading, CWIT requires similar scores for admission into TOP.

Spatial Visualization

This test is intended to measure an applicant’s ability to see in two and three dimensions, as is required to interpret blue prints and other drawings. This exercise shows a square of paper that has been folded and punched and asks candidates to select the picture that accurately depicts where the holes will be when the paper is unfolded. This type of spatial visualization test is included on nearly every apprenticeship aptitude test in the Chicago area and is a part of TOP’s training curriculum. To pass, an applicant must answer 75% of the 12 problems in 6 minutes. This is an excellent indicator of a participant’s ability to pass this section of an apprenticeship test and it likely means that they have a strong natural ability in this area, which bodes well for their trades careers.  This test, however, is not usually a part of the selection criteria for TOP.

Numerical Reasoning

This exercise tests applicants’ ability to think logically by requiring them to identify the pattern in a series of numbers. Numerical reasoning is a part of most apprenticeship aptitude tests in the Chicago area and is included here to assess applicants’ ability to pass these tests and provide a base line to measure progress. Students are given 11 minutes to answer 10 questions.

Though not part of this assessment tool at this time, mechanical reasoning is also commonly included on apprenticeship exams. Before adopting this aptitude test for your assessment, you should first research the content of apprenticeship program exams in your area, which may not conform precisely to CWIT’s experience.