Preparation for Australian Public Service (APS) reasoning and personality tests

APS Cognitive, Personality & Psychometric Tests

If you are applying to join the Australian Public Service (APS), you will be required as part of your application to take several challenging Cognitive and Personality Psychometric tests.  Most federal and local government departments use an assessment of these test results to determine your suitability for a role.  In fact, it’s one of their fundamental deciders.  The APS, however takes it to the next level by applying various styles of test questions to assess you.  Our preparation will provide you with all the relevant styles of test questions the APS uses so that you are more than ready to take on all the challenges.

APS Abstract or Logical reasoning test 

One of the major determiners in being selected for a role with the Australian Public Service is the Abstract or Logical Reasoning Test.  The APS uses Abstract and Logical Reasoning tests to learn about your ability to solve problems and think in a strategic and lateral manner.  These tests are non-verbal and require you to review a group of shapes or patterns to identify the missing shape, odd-one-out or final figure.

Test timer

The Australian Public Service (APS) times all of their abstract or logical reasoning tests. While most have a timer for the entire test, some departments use a style of test where each question is timed.  Our preparations include proven methods that assist in developing quick analysis of these patterns and shapes.  It’s not about deciphering the entire question, it’s about knowing the quickest way to get to the answer using a proven step by step process.  We will ensure that you are prepared for all relevant styles of Abstract or Logical Reasoning tests used by the APS.

Please review some example Abstract or Logical Reasoning test questions similar to those the APS uses:

 What is the next shape?

To answer this test question, we need to first identify the patterns and logical rules that are relevant to the group of shapes in the test question. In this series, there are two logical rules moving left to right. The first is that all the inner shapes move one place anticlockwise at each step. The second rule is that, at every step, the triangle alternates with a black square. At step five, there is a triangle at the top – therefore, at the next step, it will move anticlockwise into the left place and become a black square. 


Another example aptitude test - abstract reasoning test question,  is one that is used by companies such as Hudson to assess candidates applying for the APS and we prepare you for  it. In this free example aptitude test you need to find what specific buttons do to a group of shapes in the question line based on several example lines in the Base Screen box. Once you find what the buttons do your then can find what the correct final figure is in the question line. Let's examine the following abstract test example: 

In this abstract test question you need to find what buttons 1, 3 and 5 do.

From the first line, we see that the original figure (the three shapes to the left) goes through two transformations to form the figure on the right: (i) a change in the shapes (square to circle, or circle to square); and (ii) a change in colours (black to white, or vice versa). Two buttons are active in this line (1 and 2); however, we still don’t know which one changes the shape, or which one changes the colour.

The second line also shows a figure that swaps the colour of its three shapes, but there is no change in those shapes. This time, buttons 2, 3 and 4 are ‘active’ – so, button 2 (the only common ‘active’ button with line 1) must be the one that swaps colours; and we can now deduce that it is button 1 that changes (or toggles) the shapes. Buttons 3 and 4 must, then, be the ones that modify the horizontal and vertical lines, so we will need to refer to the third line to work out their individual functions.

In line three, because buttons 1 and 2 are ‘inactive’, we know that there will be no transformation of colour or shape.  Buttons 4 and 5 are ‘active’, and we can see that the right figure has been made smaller and a vertical line removed. Line 3 shares only one active button with line 2 (i.e. button 4), and there is only one common transformation between these lines: the vertical line has been switched ‘on’ or ‘off’. Therefore, button 4 is a vertical line toggle switch, which means (from the previous line) that button 3 must be the on/off toggle for horizontal lines. Button 5, therefore, can only be for changing (or toggling) the size of the shapes in the figure (from big to small, or vice versa).

We can now summarise the button functions thus:

  • Button 1 – toggles the shapes within the figure (squares to circles, and vice versa)
  • Button 3 – toggles the horizontal lines on or off
  • Button 5 – toggles the size (big or small) of the shapes within the figure.

Now, we can apply those button functions to our question line:

  • Button 1 – will change the figure to a circle and a square.
  • Button 3 – will add a horizontal line to all shapes in the figure.
  • Button 5 – will toggle the shape sizes – the first from big to small, and the second from small to big.

The corrrect answer is:


APS Verbal reasoning test 

Another important assessment tool the APS uses to determine eligibility is the Verbal Reasoning Test.   This test assists the department in learning about your ability to logically deduct conclusions based on facts and the information provided. 

Verbal reasoning tests used by the  Australian Public Service (APS) include several styles of test questions:

  1. ‘Paragraph’ style Verbal Test questions:

With these style of test questions APS gives you several passages to read. Each passage has 3 or 4 test questions which you need to answer based on the information provided in the passage.

Please review the following examples:

Dear Employee:

You have completed another year with the company, and you have continued to do a very good job overall. Your punctuality, professional demeanour, and attention to detail all continue to be at a very high level.

There are, however, a few aspects of your job performance that need improvement. First, as a regular daily occurrence at practices, you often fail to gather the balls and put them back on their racks in a timely enough fashion; our players want those balls back on the racks as soon as possible so that they can continue practicing without delays and without losing their rhythm. Second, water needs to be available to any player at any time and, occasionally, you have been slow to get water to the players as soon as they come off the court. Be sure to have the water ready for a player as soon as it is needed. Finally, you should always be available to immediately retrieve balls that bounce away from the court. Recently, after one player shot an air-ball, you didn’t retrieve the ball until after free-throw shooting drills had begun. Please make a point to retrieve balls as quickly as possible.


The employee has done a great job in the past year in terms of making water available.

Based on the passage, is this statement:



or Can't say?

To answer this question, we need to read the passage. The report’s second point states that the employee needs to do a better job in water availability. Therefore, the correct answer is 'False'.

Another example is:

Please read the following passage and answer the question at the end of the passage:

E-cigarettes are electronic, battery-powered devices that usually resemble traditional cigarettes and simulate the experience of smoking tobacco.  Users of e-cigarettes inhale a vapor as opposed to cigarette smoke.  They are generally thought of as safer, healthier alternatives to smoking traditional cigarettes that contain tobacco and nicotine, but e-cigarette vapor is made up of a variety of particulates, including nicotine and other known toxins and carcinogens. 

Still, even though some of the ingredients of some e-cigarettes are unknown, they are generally thought by many to be healthier than traditional cigarettes, which contain far more toxic chemicals and in larger concentrations.  Some dangerous toxins that do not exist in traditional cigarettes can also be found in e-cigarettes, and most e-cigarettes also contain nicotine.  This means that even if they are not quite as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are still usually highly addictive.

Because of the addictive nature of nicotine, even if e-cigarettes are generally at least a little safer than traditional ones, a frequent user of e-cigs will still find it difficult to quit using them.  Thus, even if e-cigs are a little safer than traditional ones, many e-cig smokers will likely suffer health problems from prolonged exposure to the nicotine and other harmful toxins and chemicals in e-cigarette vapor.  Those who continue to smoke traditional cigarettes, or to take it up in the future, will face the possibility of a variety of health concerns related to the practice, but the e-cig smokers face potential dangers of their own, too.

Which one of the following statements applies to traditional cigarettes?

a. Since the advent of e-cigarettes, almost nobody smokes traditional cigarettes anymore.

b. E-cigs are not the only smoking product that people use; people do still smoke traditional cigarettes, as well.

c. They are not addictive.

d. They are battery powered.

e. They do not contain nicotine.

f. They produce exhalations of both smoke and vapor.

Answer explanation: The final sentence in the third paragraph establishes that traditional smoking does, in fact, still occur. Therefore, B is the correct answer.

  1. 2.      ‘Deductive Facts’ style Verbal Test questions:

In this style of test questions, the APS gives you several conclusions and your taskis to find which statements or facts  prove each conclusion to be true.

Let’s review the following example:

Which two statements together prove that Tim has a red car?

A. Gil likes Tim's car colour

B. Tim likes fast cars

C. Gil has a fast car

D. Gil likes only red cars

E. Tim's car is not silver

To answer this verbal test question, we need to first examine what each statement says. If we take statement A ‘Gil likes Tim’s car colour’ and combine it with statement D ‘Gil likes only red cars’ then those alone prove that Tim has a red car. The logic is that if Gil likes only red cars (D) and he likes Tim’s car colour (A) then Tim’s car must be red.

  1. 3.      ‘List of Words’ or ‘Word Association’ style Verbal Test questions:

In this style of test questions APS gives you either a list of words and your task is to find the odd-one-out, or pairs of words and you are asked to find similarities.

Let's examine the following example test question:

Which are the two odd-ones out?

A. Borrow

B. Trade

C. Sell

D. Rent

E. Loan

F. Lease

  1. 4.      ‘Cognify’ style Verbal Test questions:

In this style of test questions, the APS gives you two game based verbal tests. The first test is called ‘pop-up’. In this test you are given a target which is a name of a colour written in a different colour. For example: purple (the word purple written in the colour red).  Your task is to identify the correct colour in which the word is written, ie: purple. The second  game based test is called ‘proof it,’ which has several slabs of text that contain grammatical errors such as typos, misspellings and punctuation errors. Your task in this test is to find all errors in the text.

Test timer

The Australian Public Service (APS) uses only timed Verbal Reasoning tests. Again, while most verbal tests used by APS have a timer for the entire test, some departments use a style of verbal reasoning tests where each question is timed.

Our preparation will ensure that you are prepared for all relevant styles of verbal tests used by the APS.

APS Numerical reasoning test 

Another core determiner of suitability for a role within the APS is the Numerical Reasoning test.  This test assists the APS in learning about your ability to understand numerical information and using it to solve problems.

Numerical Reasoning tests used by APS include several styles of test questions:

  1. 1.      ‘Tables and Graphs’ style Numerical Test questions:

In this style of test questions APS gives you several graphs and tables to review. Each table or graph has 3 or 4 test questions which you need to answer based on the information provided in the table or graph.

Please review the following examples:

  • Example numerical reasoning test question for Macquarie


What is the ratio of the differences in actual sales to target sales in Thailand and Italy during the fourth quarter? 

a. 2:1

b. 3:4

c: 1:2

d: 4:3

e. 3:2

f. 2:3

To answer this test question, we need to review the information provided in the table. According to the table, Thailand’s fourth-quarter sales target was 550, but actual sales were: 205 + 105 + 260 = 570. This is a difference of 20 (570 – 550). Italy’s target was 600 sales, but actual sales were: 125 + 250 + 240 = 615. The difference here was 15 (615 – 600). Therefore, the Thailand to Italy ratio of differences is 20:15 = 4:3.

  1. 2.      ‘Numerical Information in Text’ style Numerical Test questions:

In this style of numerical test questions, the APS gives you several short passages with numerical information. Your task for each passage is to solve a numerical problem based on the information provided.

Let’s review the following example:

Tom has been flying his small jet for 30 minutes and has travelled 200 Kilometres. What has been his average speed in Kilometres per hour?

To answer this question we need to first identify the connection between the figures given in the question. In this case, the connection is Time multiply by Speed = Distance. Before we plug in the numbers we first need to change the given Time of 30 minutes to Hours so we can get the speed in Km per Hour. To convert minutes to hours we need to divide the minutes by 60: 30 minutes / 60 = 1/2 Hour. Then we can plug the numbers to the formula: Time x Speed = Distance. 1/2 x Speed = 200 Km. Then Speed = 200 Km / 1/2 Hour = 400 Km per hour.

  1. 3.      ‘Number Series’ style of Numerical Test questions:

In this style of test questions APS gives you either a traditional number series (a list of numbers that have a pattern) or a table of 3 by 3 number series. Your task is to find what the missing number is.

Find the missing number in the following set:

144, ? , 48 , 2 , 24 , 4 , 6

To answer this question, we need to identify the pattern in this number series. A pattern is a rule that explains why all numbers are positioned where they are. In this case, we would start analysing the numbers to lthe right of the missing number as this offers us much more numbers to work with. First we look at the 3 following numbers - 48, 2 , and 24. Can we see some rule here? Yes, 24 times 2 is 48. Let's check if this rule applies to the other numbers - 24 , 4 and 6. Yes, as 6 times 4 is 24. If we apply this pattern or rule then 48 times ? is 144. Therefore, the missing number is 144 : 48 = 3.

  1. 4.      ‘Cognify’ style Numerical Test questions:

In this style of test questions, the APS gives you two game based numerical tests. The first test is called ‘Number Bubbles’. In this test you are given two sets with numbers in bubbles. Your task is to add up all the numbers in each set to find which set has a higher total. The second numerical test is called ‘Tully-up’. You have two sets, each containing equations inside bubbles. For example, ‘2 x 5’ or ‘3 + 7’. Your task is to find which set has a higher total.  

Test timer

The APS uses only timed numerical reasoning tests. While most numerical tests used by APS have a timer for the entire test, some departments use a style of numerical reasoning tests that have a timer per question.

Our preparation will ensure that you are prepared for all relevant styles of numerical tests used by the APS.

Assessing your Personality profile for APS 

  • What to expect in your Personality Test for APS

Contrary to the common belief - and what Psychometric test developers would like you to believe - you can and should prepare for your Personality Test with the APS. Achieving a bad personality profile will most definitely eliminate you from the recruitment process. The risk is that it is very easy to respond incorrectly to the Personality Test questions and end up with a bad profile. Your Personality Test will include just over 100 test questions. Each test question has three statements, requiring you to select which is most and least like you.

  • Example of an APS Personality Test question:

Which of the following statements is the MOST and LEAST like me?

I tailor the information I present to the needs of the audience.

I usually find my way around if I have been somewhere before.

I like to plan ahead.

To answer this question, it is important to consider what are the critical competencies or behaviours for the job you are applying for. The first statement focuses on measuring your stakeholders’ management, eg: are you focused on customers? The second statement focuses on measuring your ability to see the bigger picture vs focusing on the details.  And the third statement focuses on measuring you execution skills and being a forward thinking person.

The correct answer depends on the relevant competencies.  The key is understanding which personality traits are most prized in relation to the position you are applying for.APS.

How IPC can help with your tests for APS

The Institute of Psychometric Coaching (IPC) has developed a variety of tailored preparations to ensure you are ready for your tests with APS.  Our professionals have analysed APS’s strategies and techniques and developed a full range of countermeasures.  Our preparations include:

APS online Cognitive & Personality practice tests

  • Online Cognitive & Personality Practice tests – tailor made for APS
  • A large pool of timed practice tests online – Abstract, Verbal & Numerical Reasoning tests
  • Step by step solutions at the end of each cognitive test
  • Test scores in comparison to others
  • Feedback on how to improve

Benefits include:

  • Based on real APS test questions
  • Timer mimics the pressure of taking the real test
  • Immediate access

APS online Cognitive & Personality test courses

Take your learning to the next level with IPC’s online courses that specialise in APS’ psychometric testing. 

Our courses include:

  • Specialised Cognitive tests course online with all the knowledge you need to pass APS’ cognitive and personality tests
  • Abstract Reasoning Test Course with example test questions
  • Verbal Reasoning Test Course  with example test questions
  • Numerical Reasoning Test Course with example test questions
  • Personality Test course with all the knowledge you need to pass APS’s test
  • Immediate Access

Personal Tutoring for your Cognitive & Personality tests for APS

Experience gold standard service with IPC’s personal tutoring.  Our personalised service includes:

  • Customised service delivered by expert psychometric test trainers.
  • Face to face sessions (in our Melbourne and Sydney offices) or via Skype live.
  • In depth analysis of your cognitive weaknesses and personality risks  to focus the session and maximise your scores.
  • Working together to ensure you reach maximum potential and capabilities in APS’s tests.
Need Help question mark
minimize close
Need Help question mark
Please fill out the form below and one of our Psychometric test experts will contact you soon.
Your message was sent. We will contact you shortly.
There was a problem sending your message. Please try again in a few minutes.