What are ACER Tests?
The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is an independent educational research organisation. It has been providing high quality support and expertise to policymakers and practitioners since 1930.
As well as conducting research in the education sector, ACER offers assessment and professional development services. In 1999, it established Testgrid, to facilitate the shift to online aptitude testing.
ACER is now one of the world's leading assessment services companies, supplying over 7 million tests a year to organisations across 70 countries. It offers expertly crafted tests, informed by its 90 years of educational research.
ACER tests are psychometric assessments designed to give an objective insight into an individual's skills across several key areas. The tests are used by schools, colleges, universities, training organisations, governments, and a wide range of employers, to adeptly assess students and prospective employees.
As well as its standard test offerings, ACER also provides bespoke testing tailored to an organisation's needs. This ensures that companies are recruiting the right talent into open roles, and that schools and universities can gather the data needed to make decisions around capacity building and improving learning outcomes.
When used in a recruitment context, ACER tests are encountered after initial application submission or at assessment centres, as an unbiased way of streamlining the talent pool.
What are the Different Types of ACER Tests?
The two main ACER tests encountered in the recruitment process are the Core Skills Profile for Adults and the Vocational Selection Test. Both tests assess the verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning skills of prospective employees in a timed scenario. Test takers will need to be clear on what to expect from the assessments, so they can prepare adequately.
ACER Core Skills Profile for Adults (CSPA)
The ACER Core Skills Profile for Adults is an assessment made up of numeracy and literacy tests. It is designed to provide insight into core verbal and mathematical skills, identifying strengths and weaknesses. The test has three main sections: reading, numeracy, and writing.
The ACER Core Skills Profile is an adaptive test, which means that its difficulty is determined by your performance. The first ten questions are used to set the level of the remainder of the test (either low, intermediate, or advanced).
The test has 25 questions in total, and candidates are scored based on all of their responses – both those before and after the adaptive level selection.
The reading section of the Core Skills Profile test presents candidates with a series of texts based around a wide variety of subjects. The questions will be based around the information contained in the paragraphs. You will need to carefully read and analyse the passages, making any necessary inferences or deductions to answer the questions correctly.
You will be able to view both the question and the text simultaneously, as the test is not a memory exercise.
The numeracy section of the CSPA assessment assesses your ability to interpret numerical data and manipulate numbers. The questions will be grouped around the following content areas: numbers and algebra; measurement and geometry; and statistics and probability.
You will need to be comfortable with rapidly performing calculations related to these topics, as the test has a limited amount of time for completion.
The writing section of the Core Skills Profile test provides insight into candidates' writing ability by requiring the composition of two short letters, reports or reflective passages based around a specific brief.
It is likely that the brief will be relevant for the sector or role to which you are applying. The two combined tasks ensure employers obtain a reliable picture of your writing skills.
ACER Vocational Selection Test (VST)
The ACER Vocational Selection Test is an ability assessment used by employers to determine the skill levels and potential of prospective hires. The assessment consists of five possible tests – verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning, and interpersonal understanding.
When taking the assessment, however, you will only encounter three of these test areas, as selected by the employer.
VST Verbal Reasoning
The ACER verbal reasoning test assesses your ability to understand and interpret written text. You'll be presented with a series of passages and related questions. It is a multiple-choice assessment.
As well as the usual style of verbal reasoning question - where you'll be presented with a statement and asked to indicate whether it is 'true', 'false', or if you 'cannot say' based on the information given – the test also features word list and association questions.
Word list questions will require you to select the word that does not fit with the rest. The word association questions will explore your ability to rapidly identify connections between word meanings.
VST Quantitative Reasoning
The ACER quantitative reasoning test is a numerical test that assesses a candidate's ability to process and manipulate numerical information. Unlike most standard numerical reasoning assessments, the mathematical questions on the quantitative reasoning test are written as word problems.
You'll need to extract the salient information and perform the necessary calculation to solve the problem presented. The questions will be multiple-choice.
As well as being confident in dealing with fractions, percentages, ratios, averages, general arithmetic, and basic algebra, you'll need to be able to absorb the information in the questions rapidly and isolate the key details.
VST Abstract Reasoning
The ACER abstract reasoning test assesses your logical thinking and problem-solving skills. You'll be presented with a series of non-verbal questions featuring shapes and symbols. You'll be required to analyse the patterns presented to determine the relationships between the components in the diagrams.
Based on your analysis of the connections between and translations of the shapes, you'll need to select the missing element from a selection of answer options.
VST Mechanical Reasoning
ACER's mechanical reasoning test assesses your understanding of basic mechanical principles in applied contexts. You may need to perform calculations around force, pressure, or speed, indicate the next step in an operational processor select the correct tool for a particular job.
Unlike many mechanical reasoning tests, this assessment seeks only to explore a basic knowledge of mechanical concepts. It is sensible, however, to ensure your knowledge is comprehensive to avoid being caught out by a trickier question.
The questions will feature elements such as pulleys, levers, gears, springs, shafts, weights, clamps, and electrical circuits. You'll need to work quickly, as you'll have 20 minutes to answer 42 questions.
VST Interpersonal Understanding
The ACER interpersonal understanding test is similar to a personality test, exploring motivations, behaviours, and personality traits. This section is used to gain insight into a candidate's character and determine if they are a good cultural fit for the company. The questions will likely be tailored to gauge alignment with the organisation's core values.
You will be presented with a series of statements and required to indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the sentiment or course of action. From this, a personality profile will be formed.
Online Writing Assessment for Adults
ACER's Adult Online Writing Assessment (OWA) may be encountered as part of the Core Skills Profile for Adults test, but may also be administered separately. During the assessment, candidates will be set two tasks to assess their writing capabilities. These will focus upon persuasive writing and writing in the style of a report.
The persuasive writing (or argument task, as referred to by ACER) will ask you to present a point of view on an issue in a clear, logical manner. Your argument must be coherent and evidence-based, presenting the facts to effectively support your opinion.
For the report, you will need to rationalise the information you are provided with (which may be in the form of emails, articles, datasets and/or images) and distil the key information into a well-structured summary report.
Writing prompts will outline the subject for each task - these are designed to appeal to a wide variety of sectors and individuals. If the company has requested it, these prompts may directly relate to the sector and role you are applying for.
Top 5 Tips to Prepare and Pass Your ACER Tests
1. Prepare using practice tests
Sitting practice tests is the best way to familiarise yourself with the format, structure, and content of the ACER tests. Psychometric tests are unlike other forms of assessment, so it pays to get used to answering questions in this unique style. Once you've completed a practice ACER test, be sure to review it carefully. This will help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and prioritise your remaining preparation time accordingly.
2. Hone your pace
ACER assessments are timed, so you'll need to work quickly and accurately to prove you can think clearly under pressure and achieve a high score. Try to find out how long you have to complete your assessment and the number of questions involved. From this, calculate how long you have to answer each question. When completing your practice tests, aim for this pace, as you'll need to complete all the test questions to stand a chance of progressing to the next stage in the recruitment process.
3. Get creative with your revision
Practice tests are an important part of preparation, but these can also be supplemented with more creative and fun activities. Complete online puzzles and word games, read and summarise newspaper articles, analyse passages in your favourite book, or complete number games such as Sudoku. All of these activities will help to sharpen your logical thinking, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.
4. Set up your equipment
ACER tests are completed online, so you'll need access to a laptop, tablet, or phone to sit your test. Before you start, check the stability of your internet connection. As the tests are timed, any delays in loading the questions will cause complications. It is also sensible to check that your browser has been updated to the latest version, to ensure the test interface can operate correctly.
5. Don't panic if you get stuck
Some of the questions on the ACER reasoning tests will be challenging, so don't worry if you find yourself stuck on a particular question. Due to the fast pace required to complete the tests, however, you cannot afford to waste too much time mulling over an answer. As the ability tests are multiple-choice, select your best guess and move on to the next problem.