What are numeracy skills?

The ability to handle numbers, including the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and percentages. Recruiters may also look for the ability to gather and compile statistical data in various formats, and analyse, interpret and present the data in a clear way.

Application form and interview questions

There are instances where a question requiring mental arithmetic is sometimes asked at interview, especially for trading positions in the banking sector or as part of officer selection for the armed forces. These questions are usually very specific in order to ensure that you can think on your feet and meet the job requirements.

Some numeracy questions may be deliberately vague such as: How many light bulbs are there in the country? The purpose of this question is to ascertain the candidates' ability to think laterally by considering all possible objects that require light bulbs.

The majority of recruiters will assess numerical ability via aptitude tests.

Online aptitude tests and assessment centres

Your numerical skills may be assessed through your existing qualifications. However for certain graduate schemes, it is common practice to ask applicants to complete a numeric psychometric test. This may happen online or during an assessment centre, some recruiters test twice in order to ensure that you did not cheat during the online test.

Activities where you could develop numeracy skills

The following activities, which may be undertaken as part of or alongside your studies, can be good ways to develop your numeracy skills:

Opportunities may exist within your degree to complete projects or assignments including an element of numeracy.

  • BBC Skillswise website Re-visit the basics at this BBC interactive website.
  • Blackbullion Develop money management skills employers want.
  • Enterprise Modules Gain a practical insight into self-employment and help develop business skills.
  • Numeracy Refresher If your numeracy skills are rusty try this online guide to brush up on some of the common calculations you will need to be able to do quickly in a numeracy aptitude test.
  • Skills Training Sessions A variety of sessions are usually offered during the academic year, run by an employer or a Careers Consultant. Check CareerConnect for forthcoming sessions that offer numeracy-related activities.
  • Work experience You may get an opportunity to research or handle numerical data.
  • Loughborough University MOOC Free 3 week online MOOC course 'Numeracy Skills for Employability and the Workplace'. Produced by Loughborough University. Runs periodically.