# Basic math test as part of a job application?

March 9, 2013 3:13 PM Subscribe

Which employers still use a basic math test as part of the application process?

I'm thinking of when I worked at Subway 20 years ago, and they asked three basic arithmetic problems on the application. Do businesses still ask applicants this kind of thing?

If so, which basic math skills are being assessed? Do you have any current examples?

Just so I'm clear, I am not thinking of examples like my friend who had to work some linear algebra and number theory problems for a job at Boeing. Just arithmetic skills: Adding fractions, percent literacy, decimals, proportions, area, etc.

I'm thinking of when I worked at Subway 20 years ago, and they asked three basic arithmetic problems on the application. Do businesses still ask applicants this kind of thing?

If so, which basic math skills are being assessed? Do you have any current examples?

Just so I'm clear, I am not thinking of examples like my friend who had to work some linear algebra and number theory problems for a job at Boeing. Just arithmetic skills: Adding fractions, percent literacy, decimals, proportions, area, etc.

A recently former employer does for any job which requires cash-handling skills. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

posted by faineant at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by faineant at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2013

The decennial Census exam involved basic arithmetic, word problems, alphebetization, and calendar-based problems if I recall correctly.

posted by restless_nomad at 3:25 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by restless_nomad at 3:25 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I worked in a museum bookstore about 10 years ago, this was part of the application. I knew people who were passed over because they didn't pass the math quiz, too.

I have never had to do this for any other cash handling job I've had, nor have I had to do it for office jobs (including office jobs that involved cash handling!).

posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2013

I have never had to do this for any other cash handling job I've had, nor have I had to do it for office jobs (including office jobs that involved cash handling!).

posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2013

Options market making firms like Optiver make applicants do a math test as an initial screening. The questions themselves are just basic arithmetic, but you have to answer a large number of questions correctly in a limited time. From what I've heard the tests have a very low pass rate.

posted by pravit at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by pravit at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2013

Every temp agency will do this.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2013

I had to complete a basic numeracy and literacy assessment as part of an application for a customer service position at an opticians. It included working out fractions, areas and so on, particularly with 'real world' type questions - volumes and costs of paint needed to cover the walls of a room of given measurements and so on - which involved picking out the needed information from a table or a diagram.

posted by pocketfluff at 4:43 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by pocketfluff at 4:43 PM on March 9, 2013

Filtering this question down a bit further, do these math tests expect people to add and subtract fractions, or is decimal understanding enough? In particular, finding a common denominator?

Rachelfaith and pocketfluff, since you mentioned fractions, what did your tests expect regarding fractions?

Thanks everyone for the responses.

posted by klausman at 4:52 PM on March 9, 2013

Rachelfaith and pocketfluff, since you mentioned fractions, what did your tests expect regarding fractions?

Thanks everyone for the responses.

posted by klausman at 4:52 PM on March 9, 2013

A number of firms have asked for me to take the Wonderlic, which has basic math functions. I believe Capital One and Fidelity both ask for one.

posted by playertobenamedlater at 5:00 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by playertobenamedlater at 5:00 PM on March 9, 2013

At the art/drafting store I worked at a few years ago, the application had math problems involving both decimals and fractions. I can't remember any of the exact problems, but I think there were things where you had to convert fractional measurements (1 and a half feet) into feet and inches. In that case, it was pretty directly related to job duties since we had papers in big rolls that we sold by the foot. There were also questions about making change, and about calculating area. They were all very much phrased as word problems (since that was how something would be presented by a customer) rather than directly as math problems.

posted by duien at 5:43 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by duien at 5:43 PM on March 9, 2013

Our financial planning office does this. I am in charge of administering the tests. They're 3 questions, ridiculously easy, imo, and you're allowed to use the calculator, and yet people fail them more often than not. I used to feel embarrassed to put such accomplished people through such an elementary test but now I'm not.

They're things like 20% of 105 is what number? You would be surprised how many people come up with things like 400. If people can't tell that a number is THAT far off, they really won't be useful to us. I always feel bad because they're people often who have had very good jobs previously- better than my current one- and yet never learned basic basic math.

posted by small_ruminant at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

They're things like 20% of 105 is what number? You would be surprised how many people come up with things like 400. If people can't tell that a number is THAT far off, they really won't be useful to us. I always feel bad because they're people often who have had very good jobs previously- better than my current one- and yet never learned basic basic math.

posted by small_ruminant at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I applied to work as a tech support person, the test included fractions and also being able to identify the ports & other items on the back of a standard Dell PC box... with all of the items blacked out. The person who wrote the test apparently didn't realize that computers come in multiple configurations (you were graded on knowing which big black box was the hard drive and which was the CD drive.)

When I took a job as a clerk at Harry & David, I had to do fractions, decimals, and long division - weirdly, so did the warehouse guys doing pick & pack.

Oh, and of course, Civil Service tests everywhere have tasks like this. I'd guess that at least 20% of the ones at my city include math skills beyond simple addition/multiplication/subtraction/division. Bizarrely, we don't seem to test prospective payroll clerks on figuring out tenths of an hour (which is what our payroll system is based on) and no test I'm familiar with includes interpreting military time, which we use everywhere.

(We ruthlessly test for spelling/grammar, or at least used to.)

posted by SMPA at 6:47 PM on March 9, 2013

When I took a job as a clerk at Harry & David, I had to do fractions, decimals, and long division - weirdly, so did the warehouse guys doing pick & pack.

Oh, and of course, Civil Service tests everywhere have tasks like this. I'd guess that at least 20% of the ones at my city include math skills beyond simple addition/multiplication/subtraction/division. Bizarrely, we don't seem to test prospective payroll clerks on figuring out tenths of an hour (which is what our payroll system is based on) and no test I'm familiar with includes interpreting military time, which we use everywhere.

(We ruthlessly test for spelling/grammar, or at least used to.)

posted by SMPA at 6:47 PM on March 9, 2013

As far as fractions are concerned - everything I've seen is simple enough that the person should be able to do things by converting to decimal and then adding/subtracting. It's never as hard as what I remember seeing in elementary school tests.

posted by SMPA at 6:49 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by SMPA at 6:49 PM on March 9, 2013

I remember seeing a litany of them on a test for employment at Chili's. At my current position, there was a test that included basic math concepts as well.

posted by Selena777 at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2013

posted by Selena777 at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2013

When employing support workers for people with disabilities I always set a numeracy and basic arithmetic test. No fractions, just addition and subtraction really - skills they need to support people with money. A substantial number of applicants don't pass.

posted by goo at 5:20 AM on March 10, 2013

posted by goo at 5:20 AM on March 10, 2013

This thread is closed to new comments.

Both warehouse employees and office employees need to have at least basic math skills in order to do their jobs correctly.

posted by rachaelfaith at 3:16 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]