student taking test

Taking an advanced aptitude test is an attractive option for many high school students. By taking an aptitude test, students can know what natural talents they possess. Armed with these data-driven insights, students possess a powerful self-awareness. This awareness enables them to plan strategically for their future. After all, who wouldn’t want an unbiased awareness of the tasks they’re most likely to excel?

Before rushing out and signing up for an aptitude test, it’s important to understand what the test is and isn’t. This article is written to provide an in-depth look at the benefits of taking an assessment and what to expect.

The following table of contents provides a list of topics discussed in this article. Simply click “jump to section” to be taken to the applicable area.


      1. What Does An Aptitude Tests Do? (jump to section)
      2. Everything Career Aptitude Tests Measure (jump to section)
      3. Where Can I Take An Aptitude Test? (jump to section)
      4. How Long Does A Career Aptitude Test Take? (jump to section)
      5. Find Your Career Aptitude Test Now (jump to section)

What Does An Aptitude Test Do?

student taking test on computer

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Simply put, an aptitude test measures career aptitudes. Career aptitudes comprise the natural abilities a person naturally possesses. In other words, aptitudes are inborn. We have them from birth. And while they develop as our brains mature, there’s very little we can do to change them.

Career Aptitude Tests Are Not Skill Assessments

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Thus, aptitudes are not skills. Skills are learned over time through time, effort, and energy. For example, we can agree that while Mozart put untold hours into mastering music composition (skill), he also had a special “something” (aptitude) that predisposed him to excel as a musician. Aptitude tests are designed to help students find their unique “something.” Skills then are designed to enhance our aptitudes. You get a prodigious professional when you combine a person’s natural talent with training, skill, and experience. Therefore, students who know their aptitudes possess a distinct advantage.

Career Aptitude Tests Are Not Personality Tests

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It’s helpful to understand the distinction between career aptitude and personality tests. Personality measurements show how a person is likely to react in a social environment. For example, introverted people get more drained the longer they interact with others. On the other hand, extroverts recharge their social batteries when interacting with people (but grow more drained when they’re alone). Personality traits can lend great insight, but they only tell you so much.

Aptitudes, on the other hand, measure natural ability. With the proper aptitude test, you can discover actual professional tasks that you have a knack for. For example, there are a few career aptitudes that attorneys often use:

  • Visual Speed: how fast you read or process text
  • Verbal Memory: your ability to remember what you read
  • Concept Organization: raw, analytical problem-solving ability

Students who want to practice law would benefit from having high scores in these aptitudes. Law students spend a lot of time reading case studies and court cases. Therefore, a natural talent for reading fast would help said law student quickly complete their assignments. Additionally, lawyers argue. They make claims and need evidence to back up their claims. A high aptitude in concept organization makes constructing complex arguments easier.

It’s easy to see how helpful knowing your aptitudes can be. A student considering law school can know if they have an aptitude combination favorable for attorneys. With that said, if a student wants a career in law but doesn’t have the perfect aptitude combination, knowing their aptitudes still benefits them. They know which parts of their school and profession will be more challenging.

Everything Career Aptitude Tests Measure

aptitude measures the ability to do something

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I use the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) as my preferred aptitude test. The HAB measures 19 different cognitive abilities. The abilities are divided into three categories: Personal Style, Driving Abilities, and Specialized Abilities. Each of these categories provides incredible insight into the tasks, environment, and professional path that would be ideal for a student to follow. Below is a list of every aptitude in each of the aptitude categories.

Personal Style Aptitudes

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A student’s Personal Style abilities describe their project management aptitude. It does this by articulating what role a student might gravitate towards and the timeframe in which they’ll likely complete those projects. Five abilities are measured that we’ll explore below.

Generalist vs. Specialist Aptitude

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You’ve probably heard the “generalist/specialist” terms before. However, hear me out, as there is more to them than you might think. We test this ability by showing students a series of words. After they see the word, they must type into the space provided in the first word that comes to their mind. Their recorded response determines whether they’re a generalist or a specialist. These results correlate with not only the kind of work a student prefers but also the way they complete the tasks of that work.

Additionally, remember that specialist vs. generalist aptitudes are on a continuum. In other words, the stronger you are in one aptitude means you’ll be weaker in the other. For example, someone who is a 75% Specialist will be a 25% Generalist (the numbers will always add to equal 100).

Specialist Aptitude

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Strong specialists often gravitate to roles where they serve as experts. They typically prefer a deep relationship with their work, allowing them to build precise knowledge of their subject matter. I know many specialists who find it fulfilling to have roles where they can demonstrate their expertise. Being seen as an expert is important to them. Specialists also take their work quite personally.

This means they may need help keeping their work and personal lives separate. As such, a strong specialist doctor has a high chance of coming home and still thinking of themselves as a doctor. Because of their deep relationship with their work, they often don’t take well to being managed. They enjoy independence and more control over how they complete tasks. Also, when they’re in leadership roles, they’ll need to delegate tasks to others consciously. Specialists enjoy completing tasks themselves and, in many cases, will gravitate toward independent work over interconnected projects.

Finally, specialists view the world from a unique perspective. Because of their precise knowledge and deep understanding, they often don’t see the world as others do. In many instances, you can count on specialists not to be on the same page as everyone else. The trick is finding them in an environment where that unique perspective is valued. Working in circles with other experts will often be fun for them (a research lab, law firm, or engineering consultancy) so they can interact with other experts in their field.

Generalist Aptitude

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Strong Generalists are in many ways the opposite of their Specialist counterparts. Whereas specialists prefer independent projects, generalists often thrive working with others. They gravitate toward interconnected tasks. Strong generalists typically get the most excited when teachers announce a group project.

Additionally, generalists value variety. They enjoy diversity in their responsibilities. I’ve noticed that many managers I work with are strong generalists, especially in small businesses where a manager must wear many different hats. This plays to their strengths. Remember when I mentioned how specialists often don’t see the world as their peers do? Well, strong generalists do. They often excel at keeping everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal.

In leadership, generalists can be natural delegators. Unlike strong specialists, generalists typically don’t feel the need to work on projects independently.  Being seen as an expert isn’t as important to them either, so they’re happy to delegate tasks to others they know will get the job done. This is where strong generalists may sometimes get into trouble. They may sometimes come across as not taking an assignment seriously. This doesn’t mean they’re not serious workers, just that they don’t identify as much with their work as perhaps strong specialists do. As such, they’ll need to consciously complete tasks before starting a new one.

Introvert vs. Extrovert Personality Traits

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The words “introvert” and “extrovert” are words you’re likely familiar with. However, the words can mean different things depending on what personality test or Buzzfeed quiz you’re taking. For our discussion today, the introversion and extroversion assessment measures how a person does the following:

  1. Recharges their energy levels
  2. Processes their ideas

Contrary to popular belief, strong introversion doesn’t equate to poor social skills. Likewise, strong extroverts aren’t automatically gifted with magnetic charisma. Also, no matter where a student falls on this continuum, remember that no one always behaves one way. However, the stronger the personality trait is (high introversion or high extroversion), the more predictable these behaviors will be.

Introverted people tend to be more reserved but thoughtful. It’s not that they have nothing or even little to say; they’re just observing and thinking about what’s being said and how they should respond. They prefer to spend time alone or with a few close friends. They may also be more reflective and analytical and find it easier to stay focused on one task for an extended period.

Thus, Strong Introverts are characterized by their need for solitude. This doesn’t mean they’d rather live as hermits and never interact with others. On the contrary, introverts can be powerful communicators. They just need time alone to recharge and unwind. Because of this, they typically prefer to interact through textual communication such as emailing or texting.

Conversely, extroverted people tend to be more outgoing and friendly. They enjoy being around others and engaging in group activities for extended periods. They may also have a natural ability to multitask and have a wide range of social interests.

The Highlands Ability Battery can help individuals identify which traits best describe them and how they may affect their career path. This information can be used to help people choose jobs and activities that are best suited to their natural preferences. For example, introverts may prefer jobs that involve working alone or in small groups. At the same time, extroverts typically enjoy roles that require leading and interacting with large groups of people.

Timeframe Orientation or Foresight

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Timeframe orientation (or foresight) measures how far into the future a person naturally thinks. Don’t be deceived by this definition, though, as there are many benefits to having a low timeframe orientation. Overall, timeframe orientation measures a student’s preferences for short-term or long-term thinking and their overall approach to tasks.

People with a high timeframe orientation are natural long-term planners. They’re also long-term natural thinkers. They can plan and think of possible solutions to problems in the future. While not always the case, I’ve noticed that people with a high timeframe orientation tend to be okay with investing a lot of unrewarding work for something that will eventually pay off. Examples of this could be writing a book, growing a YouTube channel, coding an app that will ultimately make their lives easier, etc.

Students with a high timeframe orientation should be mindful of one drawback. A high timeframe orientation can lead to a lack of urgency. People with a high timeframe orientation may feel free from the pressure to take immediate action, and as a result, they may put off tasks that need to be completed promptly. This kind of procrastination can lead to missed deadlines and a lack of accountability. These people may also need to learn to think quickly and respond to environmental changes, which can lead to missed opportunities. An excellent way to battle this disadvantage is to keep a calendar and system or process to keep track of short-term goals. Keeping appointments on google calendar is helpful. I’ve also met students with a high timeframe orientation who benefit from using daily planners.

Contrastingly, people with a low timeframe orientation focus on the present. They’re often more motivated by immediate rewards, giving them a sense of urgency to accomplish tasks. As a result, they struggle to plan for the future and have a long-term vision.

However, low timeframe orientation can be incredibly beneficial. Those with a low timeframe orientation are often more focused on the present moment. Because of this, they’re often incredibly productive. For example, out of the hundreds of students, I’ve administered the HAB to, five were valedictorians. Of those five valedictorians, four of them had a low timeframe orientation. If you think about it, this makes sense. Excelling in high school means staying focused and on top of short-term tasks.

Ultimately, a student’s timeframe orientation shows the ideal durations for their projects. Students with a low timeframe orientation may find they’re more comfortable with projects that last a few months to a year. Those with a middle orientation might be more comfortable with projects lasting one to five years. Finally, those with a high timeframe orientation will find they’re attracted to tasks that take five to ten years to come to fruition.

Driving Abilities

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The second aptitude category of the Highlands Ability Battery is called Driving Abilities. We call them driving abilities because they “push” to be used and subsequently “drive” a student to solve professional problems in specific ways. In other words, you don’t intentionally use them, as using them is second nature, like breathing. A colleague of mine described driving abilities this way:

Driving Abilities power you. If you are dissatisfied at school or work, it may be because your Driving Abilities aren’t allowed to express themselves. Everyone’s score ranges – low, mid, and high – are significant in assessing academic and job fit.[1]

There are five driving abilities.

  • Classification
  • Concept Organization
  • Spatial Relations Theory
  • Spatial Relations Visualization
  • Idea Productivity

Keep reading to learn how each driving ability impacts you or your student.

Classification – Inductive Reasoning Aptitude

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Classification measures an individual’s ability to categorize things quickly. These things include objects, abstract concepts, and ideas into meaningful groups. This aptitude is related to recognizing patterns and relationships between concepts. One study showed that “Classification most closely resembles inductive reasoning and involves an ability to see relationships between seemingly unrelated events and situations.”[2] Thus, someone who scores high on the Classification continuum prefers a fast-paced and chaotic work environment with few parameters for finding a solution. In contrast, someone who scores low on the continuum prefers a moderately-paced environment that requires patience and developing workable long-term resolutions.

People use this ability for a variety of tasks. Some of my colleagues call this a project management aptitude, as it heavily impacts a student’s problem-solving and decision-making. Students with a high classification have quick pattern recognition aptitudes. This means that problem-solving needs to be at the foundation of their career. For example, ER doctors, cybersecurity analysts, and mechanical engineers often have a high classification. They typically thrive in situations that require them to make quick decisions.

Students with a low classification have a different set of benefits. While they may lack quick pattern recognition with high classification, they make great experiential problem solvers. Thus they use their experience to solve complex problems or difficult situations. People with a low classification are often more reflective and thoughtful.

They tend to ask more questions and ponder solutions longer. A low classification allows students to reflectively analyze a situation from different angles and develop practical solutions. Additionally, they can better identify patterns and trends that they’ve seen work. This can be especially helpful in business, as it allows them to develop solutions that are more likely to succeed in the long term. For example, a divorce attorney would benefit from having a low classification and a radiologist and therapist.

Concept Organization

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A student’s Concept Organization is their ability to organize their thoughts logically. It deals with a person’s compulsion to “create order, your orientation toward process, decision-making, and communication.”[3] One of the major benefits of having a high concept organization aptitude from the Highlands Ability Battery is the ability to organize and prioritize tasks. This aptitude allows individuals to quickly identify key concepts and themes and analyze and prioritize tasks to complete them efficiently. For example, individuals with a high concept organization aptitude can quickly identify the main ideas in a text and then break down the text into more manageable chunks. The talent can then be used to create a comprehensive plan for completing the task. Additionally, these individuals can stay organized and on task when working on multiple tasks. They can quickly identify the critical points in each task and assign a priority level.

Students with a low concept organization can simplify large chunks of information. Instead of organizing swaths of data, they can “cut the fat off” to get to the meat of a problem. They’re practical thinkers who can simplify complex issues and not get weighed down by details. Therefore, these students can easily break down complex issues into simpler elements. Students with a low-concept organization aptitude can take abstract ideas and make them more concrete. Once they understand the details of a complex topic, they can summarize them in a way that is easy for others to understand. This is a valuable trait for anyone working in a team environment. Many CEOs and top executives of companies benefit from having a low-concept organization. Lastly, any management position benefits from it as well. For these reasons, low concept organization aptitude can be a great asset in many fields.

Idea productivity

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Idea productivity determines how quickly someone can generate many ideas. The key here is to remember that Idea productivity does not measure the quality of a person’s ideas but rather the number of ideas generated in a given amount of time. Like all aptitudes, there are benefits to having a low and high score in this aptitude.

A benefit of having low “idea productivity” is decisiveness. This aptitude can be an asset in a work environment where quick decisions must be made. Another advantage of having low idea productivity is that people with this aptitude are usually not the best brainstormers. Still, they are often more open to ideas that have worked in the past. Thus, they will be more likely to choose solutions that have been tried and tested. This allows for a certain level of consistency, which can be helpful in a work environment. For example, a heart surgeon might benefit from low idea productivity. After all, surgery requires a surgeon to use tried and true methods, not invent new ones on the fly. However, a medical researcher pioneering new surgical techniques might benefit from having higher idea productivity.

Contrastingly, having high idea productivity is a powerful tool. People with this aptitude can generate many ideas and solve complex problems. However, remember, this aptitude does not necessarily determine how good the ideas are but rather how many thoughts a person can develop at any given time.

People with a high idea productivity aptitude can be incredibly powerful brainstormers. With training, they can come up with innovative solutions to a variety of challenges and can inspire and motivate others in their team. Furthermore, they can use their ideas to create new opportunities, develop strategies, and create positive changes. They are often able to think “outside of the box,” which can help to bring new perspectives to the team. However, having a high idea productivity aptitude can sometimes make people indecisive. Choosing the best idea out of many options can be challenging, and sometimes it can be difficult to focus on one particular idea and execute it.

Spatial Relations Theory

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A high Spatial Relations Theory (SRT) aptitude means you’re a natural systems specialist. In other words, the student will have an aptitude for understanding how systems interact and function. People with a high score in this aptitude can look at the bigger picture of a system and understand how its various parts interact and work together. They can also identify patterns and connections between the various components of a system and how they interact.

Engineering to the corporate world, psychology, and business theory all would use a high SRT. Students who are high in Spatial Relations Theory are typically attracted to the more theoretical aspects of a system. They can look at a system as a whole rather than focusing on one particular part. They can also recognize patterns and connections between the various components of a system and how they interact. For example, when planning a political campaign, a student with a high SRT aptitude could see the campaign’s big picture. However, someone with a lower score in this aptitude would be better suited to specialize in a particular part of the campaign, such as social media advertisement.

Overall, students with a high SRT aptitude are more likely to be drawn to theoretical concepts. They’ll often prefer this over mere practical knowledge. They are more likely to be able to recognize patterns and connections between the various components of a system and how they interact. This ability is helpful in multiple professional settings, from engineering to the corporate world, psychology, and business theory. This aptitude can be highly beneficial in helping students understand how systems work and how they can be improved.

Having a low Spatial Relations Theory (SRT) aptitude is also beneficial. It means that the person prefers practical knowledge rather than theoretical knowledge. This aptitude is beneficial in certain career paths, such as nursing. After all, nurses specialize in the care of patients and need to be familiar with the practical application of medical knowledge instead of relying on abstract theories.

Furthermore, low SRT aptitude benefits those in executive roles, such as CEOs. To effectively run an organization, one must think practically and develop strategies to help the organization reach its goals. For example, a CEO must be able to analyze data, understand the organizational structure, and develop effective and efficient strategies. A low SRT aptitude means a person can better focus on the practical aspects of running an organization rather than being overwhelmed by the theoretical aspects.

A low SRT aptitude is helpful in the classroom as well. Students with a low SRT aptitude are more attracted to information directly relevant to them, which can help them with their current tasks. They are less interested in theoretical knowledge because they focus more on what needs to happen to complete their work. This means they are better able to focus on the task at hand and less likely to get distracted by peripheral projects.

Spatial Relations Visualization

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The next ability is spatial relations visualization (SRV). ​​Those with a high SRV are often naturally drawn to handling physical materials they can touch. Essentially, students high on the SRV continuum can see two-dimensional things and envision how they work in the three-dimensional world. This aptitude allows a person to excel using tangible objects and concrete ideas.

Those with a high SRV tend to be adept at constructing and operating technology, data, and scientific facts. In the medical field, SRV is an extremely valuable aptitude for doctors. In many ways, spatial relations visualization is a robust medical aptitude. Since the human body is a physical reality, those with a high SRV can better imagine how the body systems work. No wonder this is a massive determinant for medical aptitude testing. Not only do doctors need to understand the science and medicine behind their diagnoses, but they also need to be able to visualize how the body works in three-dimensional space.

However, this aptitude is for more than doctors. Structural reasoning is also vital for engineers and architects, who need to visualize how a structure will look and function in a physical environment. Finally, many technology experts have a high SRV. Website designers, computer app developers, and cyber security specialists need to visualize how a digital product will look and function in a digital space. Therefore, high SRV aptitude on the Highlands Ability Battery is vital for many students. Those with a high SRV tend to excel in physical and tangible activities, such as those in the medical field, engineering, architecture, and technology. As a result, many professionals in these fields often possess a high SRV. Thus, students must cultivate skills that capitalize on this aptitude to work in these industries. These professionals need to imagine how a product will be used and how it will interact with other digital system elements. A high SRV aptitude is essential to success in these areas.

The Johnson O’Connor Foundation recently released a study report. In that report, it showed that people with a low structural reasoning (or low SRV) often themselves in roles within the following industries.[4]

  • Management
  • Business
  • Law
  • Editing
  • Psychology
  • Nursing
  • Sales
  • Advertising/PR

As you can see, a low SRV is incredibly useful. First, it can open up opportunities for students to pursue careers that deal with intangible content, such as corporate law and teaching. This is because these roles require understanding ideas and concepts rather than the physical and tangible ones. For example, a corporate attorney must understand the legal nuances of corporate law rather than the physical materials associated with it.

Similarly, educators often have a low spatial relations visualization. After all, teachers must understand pedagogy, the study of teaching, which is an intangible concept. Additionally, CEOs often have a low SRV, as their focus is on what needs to happen to run a company effectively, not the ins and outs of how every task is completed. Having a low SRV is also beneficial because it can help students better understand how to work with others. Things like emotions, morale, and motivations are intangible phenomena.

Yet, those with a higher SRV find navigating these concepts more difficult. With a lower Spatial Relations Visualization, a student is more likely to acquire soft skills in the workplace.

Specialized Abilities

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Specialized abilities enhance the way you use your driving abilities. This is why we call them enhancers. Technically, the specialized abilities don’t “push” to be used as hard as the Driving Abilities. However, they’re still incredibly helpful to be aware of. For example, practically all students’ foreign language abilities come from specialized abilities. This also goes for musical aptitudes and many artistic aptitudes. However, the most academically useful specialized abilities are the learning channels. The learning channels are divided into five learning aptitudes:

  • Design Memory
  • Verbal Memory
  • Tonal Memory
  • Rhythm Memory
  • Number Memory

Knowing these can be a game changer for students’ study habits. When students take the Highlands Ability Battery, they can understand exactly how their mind best processes and recalls information. This leads to more strategic study habits so a student doesn’t look like this the night before a test:

Stressed out student

Design Memory – Visual Learning

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Design Memory allows students to quickly and accurately recall visual information. It involves recognizing visual patterns, mapping, and creating mental images. Design memory is also a medical aptitude, as it helps students in medical school. Much of medical school requires students to memorize visual information: anatomy charts, diagrams, and medical illustrations. Doctors benefit from a high design memory even beyond med school by remembering medical imaging data. If a doctor wants to specialize in radiology, they’ll also benefit from a high design memory.

chart on learning

Additionally, it’s one of the primary artistic aptitudes. Almost all of the visual artists I know have a high design memory. Artists I know who work in fine art, digital art, and web design all benefit from high design memory. Finally, careers in marketing often benefit from design memory. I even interviewed one YouTube influencer (a videographer with around +300,000 subscribers). His highest ability was design memory, which makes a ton of sense, as YouTubers spend countless hours working with images.

Verbal Memory – Learning by Reading

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The verbal memory aptitude has a variety of uses. This aptitude measures a person’s ability to remember and recall words and language and to process and retain written information. It is one of the strongest predictors of academic success and is a valuable tool for educators and employers. Verbal memory can help individuals remember written text more efficiently, enabling them to recall words or phrases from a passage. This can be especially useful when learning a foreign language, as it can help individuals quickly recall the spelling and pronunciation of words. Expanding vocabulary is also made easier by verbal memory aptitude, as it helps individuals learn new words and their meanings.

High verbal memory aptitude makes remembering what you read easier. This means traditional studying is much easier. In addition, students with high verbal memory find studying the conventional way (reading your notes) quite effective. This also means that law school becomes easier, as you do a lot of reading in law school. Finally, many business experts and executives use verbal memory to improve their literacy in their respective industries.

Tonal Memory – Auditory Learning

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This aptitude measures an individual’s ability to remember sounds and tones. This means they can more easily recall the music, podcasts, lectures, and other spoken information than others. People with high tonal memory aptitudes can accurately remember these sounds and tones and recognize them in great detail. Those with high tonal memory aptitudes are more likely to excel in various areas of music, such as singing and instrument playing. Thus, tonal memory is the primary musical aptitude. In addition, those with a high tonal memory aptitude can often pick up speaking new languages more quickly. However, remember that this only applies to learning to speak a language, not reading one (as verbal memory would).

Rhythm Memory – Kinesthetic Learning

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Rhythm memory measures one’s ability to recall physical movements. It is often used to measure a person’s capability to store and retrieve information. This type of memory is typically seen in rhythmic activities such as dance, music, and sports. By recalling information through physical movements, the individual can remember information better and more quickly. It is helpful for physical activities that require people to remember and execute a sequence of actions.

Overall, athletes and performers often possess a high rhythm memory. And reasonably so, as rhythm memory impacts large muscle memory. It is also a form of observational learning, in which one learns by watching and imitating others. Rhythm memory also involves motor memory, remembering and recalling movements without consciously thinking about them. If an individual’s rhythm memory is high, they’ll have a harder time sitting still, as this aptitude pushes to be used. This also means that sitting still is easier when a student has a low rhythm memory.

Number Memory – Learning by Numbers

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Number memory is just how it sounds: your ability to remember numbers. As someone with a high Number Memory, you may not realize how much effort is required to recognize numbers and miscellaneous facts. However, this ability can be highly beneficial in any situation that calls for instant recall of numerical information. Think of number memory as your trivia aptitude. The higher the number memory, the more quickly your mind will remember random numbers and facts.

Thus, you’ll also be at an advantage when taking on roles that involve an extensive knowledge base. But, again, this can be very useful in a variety of settings.

Jobs or career industries that benefit number memory include the following:[5]

  • Pilots
  • Computer Programing/ Systems
  • Budget/Management Analysis
  • Writing
  • Economics
  • Accounting/Finance/Auditing
  • Editing
  • Engineering
  • Law

On a final note regarding number memory, it doesn’t impact math as much as you think. Sure, a high number memory will help you remember raw numerical data, but the difficult problem-solving and computational methods required in advanced math don’t involve number memory that heavily. Spatial Relations Theory impacts this ability more. So, if you or your student has a low number memory, don’t worry that they’ll always struggle in math.


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Like its predecessor, Number Memory, the observation aptitude’s function is self-explanatory. Observation measures a student’s ability to notice visual changes in their environment. I call this the Sherlock Holmes ability. People with high observation notice everything, and I mean everything. Very little gets past them. What is interesting about this career aptitude is that people use it without realizing it. In other words, observational people don’t make themselves observant; they just are.

Forgive the perhaps too personal example, but my wife Nikki has a high observation aptitude. Nikki’s had a remarkable career in theater for eighteen years. She’s a costume designer responsible for designing, building, and outfitting actors in their costumes when they perform. Nikki has a remarkable observation and uses this aptitude in her costuming career as second nature. When actors rehearse, she spots any adjustments or alterations she has to make to ensure the costumes hold together during their performance. She must also ensure they don’t impede the actors’ movements.

Again, forgive the boasting of my wife’s talents, but she illustrates this aptitude’s strength. Nikki is also incredibly perceptive. She notices body language, facial expressions, moods, colors, and clothes shifts. In short, she notices everything. She sees when people get new haircuts and change their earrings or shoes. I, on the other hand, have an incredibly low observation. I notice none of these things. Fortunately, my job doesn’t require me to be observant. Nikki’s does.

Here are other career fields that benefit from having a high observation:[6]

  • Real Estate
  • Film
  • Law Enforcement
  • Art and Fashion
  • Manufacturing

In short, this aptitude is incredibly useful in spotting visual stimuli and minutia. Insurance adjusters use it, as well as any career in law enforcement. Finally, if any project involves an integral visual component (presentations, web design, or data visualization), it’s good to have someone with a high observation give it a look.

Pitch Discrimination

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Pitch discrimination is, in my opinion, the strangest ability. On the surface, it appears as one of just another one of the musical abilities. This is true enough. High-pitch discrimination allows you to notice subtle nuances in sound, which lend themselves to musical talent, particularly string instruments. However, there’s a lot more to it.

Read this definition of pitch discrimination from a recent aptitude report. Pay close attention to the last part:

“The stronger your Pitch Discrimination, the more naturally able you are to sense the tiniest of differences in what you hear, smell, feel (tactile) and/or taste.”[7]

Did you catch that? Pitch discrimination doesn’t just impact your sense of sound. This aptitude measures your ability to smell and taste as well! Weird right? Essentially, this captures the way your brain processes subtle sensory information. Now, you may ask when you’d ever use this. However, it might surprise you that chemical engineers often have high-pitch discrimination and chefs!

Two of my best STEM tutors have high-pitch discrimination (yes… I’ve tested them). Both were chemical engineering majors in college. If you want to be a chemist or an engineer that works with chemicals, you sometimes use your smell to process the odors of said chemicals. And yes, pitch discrimination measures this. This is also why gourmet chefs often have a high-pitch discrimination aptitude. Chefs have to be able to hear food cooked and smell a recipe when it’s done.

Visual Speed and Visual Accuracy

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This attitude is one of the most important abilities the HAB measures. Your or your student’s scores on this determine how adept a person is at processing large amounts of text. Students with high visual speed are fast readers. They’re also less likely to get overwhelmed with a lot of text. Students with a low visual speed will be slower readers. This doesn’t mean they can’t read well; it just means they won’t read as fast as others.

Visual Speed on choosing the Right College Size

Now, why is this aptitude so important? As it turns out, there’s research that indicates that visual speed influences the difficulty a student will have at a large college.[8] As you can imagine, parents and students pay particular attention to this when I advise them in their college planning. You see, large universities have more modulated assignments than smaller colleges. After all, a professor who teaches 300 students in a class won’t have time to grade homework as much as a professor who teaches 30 students.  For example, if you take college algebra at UCLA, you’ll likely need to complete your homework via an online component.

Bigger classes mean you’ll need to solve the problem, find the answer, then enter the answer correctly into the course’s online operating system. Completing assignments this way may sound straightforward, but it can add up when you have to solve fifty problems three times a week. Students with a high visual speed will be able to complete this kind of coursework more efficiently. On the flip side, students with a low visual speed will likely get more overwhelmed. A low visual speed doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t go to a larger university, just that they may have a harder time.

Visual Speed on the ACT and SAT

Students with a high visual speed will find they have an advantage on the ACT and SAT. On the reading and science sections of the ACT (and the reading section on the SAT), students with a high visual speed won’t struggle as much with the timing issues on the test. This is a game-changer for many students. As an ACT tutor, I’ve found that helping students increase their accuracy is much easier than increasing their speed. The added pressure of the ACT’s time constraints keeps many students from scoring as high as possible. Thus, while a high visual speed doesn’t guarantee a 36 on the ACT, completing the test on time is significantly easier.

Students with a High Visual Accuracy

Visual accuracy relates to the level of detail in which a student processes text, not the speed. Editors often boast high visual accuracy scores. Higher visual accuracy means they can more accurately catch errors, especially in textual or visual situations. If they know basic grammar mechanics, a student with high visual accuracy serves as a human Grammarly application. High visual aptitudes also equate to excelling at repetitive tasks that require detailed accuracy (like data entry and accounting).

General Vocabulary

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Now, in all fairness, vocabulary is now an aptitude. Vocabulary lies more in the realm of skill, not natural ability. Remember, skills hinge on repetition and practice. The more you do or use something, the more you master it. This is especially true with vocabulary. Your vocabulary is something you use in tandem with your aptitudes. No matter your skills or aptitudes, you won’t be seen as competent in your job or college major if you don’t have the precise vocabulary to describe it.

This is why increasing your vocabulary is fundamental to becoming a seasoned professional. Additionally, a high vocabulary can make up for lack of aptitude and skill in a profession. For example, the ideal aptitude combination for a CEO is to be low on all five driving abilities but have a high vocabulary. CEOs are shown to have an extensive vocabulary.[9] They need to be able to use precise words on various topics within various disciplines.

Yet, if you take the Highlands Ability Battery and your vocab is low, don’t worry. The vocabulary of the average high school senior lies in the bottom tenth percentile. Moreover, when you take the HAB, you only get a snapshot of your vocabulary. Most students I’ve met see the biggest jump in their vocabulary while in college.

Typing Speed

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Like vocabulary, typing speed is a skill, not an aptitude. We test typing speed so students can know how they measure against their peers. Students with a low typing speed should take intentional steps to increase their typing speed. College requires scholarship, and scholarship necessitates a lot of research and writing. Students with a low typing speed will quickly get overwhelmed with the daily academic rigor of college life. Students with a mid to high typing speed will find they complete their assignments far quicker than their slower counterparts.

Where Can I Take An Aptitude Test?

where to go

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If discovering your aptitude sounds useful, you’ll ask, “where can I take an aptitude test?” It’s pretty straightforward. You’ll want to schedule a meeting with an aptitude specialist to take an aptitude test. An aptitude specialist is an expert certified to administer advanced aptitude tests to students.

If your aptitude specialist administers the Highlands Ability Battery like me, then you’ll simply reach out to them and schedule an appointment with them. You’ll then need to take the aptitude test and complete it. You take the test remotely on your laptop or desktop. After you finish the test, you’ll need to schedule a time with your aptitude specialist so they can review your results.

Instead of taking the HAB, some high schools may go to an aptitude research center. The Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test and Aims Research Center are the most popular.

Before you pay for an aptitude test, make sure the test is authentic, as the internet is filled with fake aptitude tests. Only take one of the three tests below:

  • Highlands Ability Battery
  • Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test
  • Aims Aptitude Test

How Long Does A Career Aptitude Test Take?

alarm clock in classroom

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No matter where you take an aptitude test, know that they take time. On average, a student should plan on spending three hours taking their aptitude test. The great thing about the Highlands Ability Battery is that students don’t have to take the test all at once. Since the HAB is taken remotely, high school students can instead break the test into manageable chunks.

Afterward, students schedule a 1.5-2 hour meeting to review their results. In this meeting, their aptitude specialist examines their aptitudes with them and their parents. Lastly, the aptitude specialist helps students and parents understand access to and use their aptitude reports.

To see a sample report, click on the links below.

Sample Career High School Aptitude Test Report

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There are two aptitude reports students receive: the career report and the standard report. In my experience, parents and students use the career report the most. This is because the career report contains a list of potential career suggestions students should pursue based on their aptitude.

Additionally, the occupations listed on the career report integrate into O-net. O-net is the US Department of Labor’s data on almost every career occupation in the US.[10]

Click on the image below to see a sample of a Career High School Aptitude Report:

sample report

Sample High School Aptitude Test Standard Report

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The standard report takes a deep dive into each of the aptitudes. I call this the nerdy report. It’s for students and parents who want to understand their aptitudes. In the report, you’ll find a detailed analysis of each aptitude and how they relate to the student. Several of my students rarely look at it and instead focus on using the career report.

photo of sample student report

Find Your Career Aptitude Test Now

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Aptitude testing might just be the advantage a student needs to chart the professional path. High school and college students can discover their natural aptitudes and talents by taking an aptitude test. Furthermore, by understanding their aptitudes and interests, student can pick the right college major and know how to best thrive in college. To schedule your aptitude test, click on the image below. Or, just scroll a bit further and subscribe to our newsletter to receive ten percent off the Highlands Ability Aptitude Test.

Click here to schedule an aptitude test

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[1] Natural Abilities – What Are Driving Abilities? – Highlands Company, accessed at

[2] Using a Natural Abilities Battery for Academic and Career Guidance: a Ten-Year Study. – Brown, Corrie C., et al., Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, vol. 38, no. 3, 2011, pp. 270-277, accessed at

[3] Your Natural Ability to Organize Thoughts. – The Highlands Company, accessed at

[4] Our Book: Choosing Intelligently. – Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, accessed at

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid.

[7] CONFIDENTIAL REPORT for Sample Student. – The Highlands Company, accessed at

[8] News & Resources — AIMS. – AIMS, accessed at

[9] Great CEOs See the Importance of Being Understood. – Schrage, Michael – Harvard Business Review, accessed at

[10] O*NET OnLine – accessed at


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