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The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT): Why we use it and how you can prepare

Hack Reactor

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Our admissions process was designed to figure out if your interests, skills, and passions align with what we offer through our Software Engineering Immersive programs. We know that a bootcamp is a significant investment of time, money, and energy, and it’s important that you embark on a learning journey and enroll in a program that fits your learning style, desired pace, and skill set.  

To that end, we require all applicants to take two non-technical admissions assessments to help determine overall program fit. These assessments are: 

In this post, we discuss the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT) specifically, including why we trust it, how it works, and how to prepare for it. 

What is the CCAT and why do we require it? 

The CCAT is a proven, scientifically-validated aptitude test that measures an individual’s ability to solve problems, digest and apply information, learn new skills, and think critically. It’s been administered more than 5 million times in the United States. 

We chose the CCAT because it’s created by an unbiased third party and helps us learn about you in a unique way that’s not dependent on your previous jobs, careers, or level of education. Research shows that cognitive aptitude is one of the most accurate predictors of job success: twice as predictive as job interviews, three times as predictive as experience, and four times as predictive as education level. 

How does the test work? And how do we measure success?

The CCAT is a 50-question test and you’ll have 15 minutes to finish as many questions as you can. Very few people (less than 1%) finish all 50 questions, and that’s ok! Do the best you can during your allotted time. You’ll run into three different types of questions: verbal, math and logic, and spatial reasoning. 

After you’ve completed the test, we receive your raw score (the number of questions you got correct) and your percentile (how you did compared to everyone else who’s taken the test). From there, we see if your score lands within the range we’ve determined best predicts success in our bootcamps and in the software engineering field at large.

According to the CCAT website, studies have shown that CCAT results correlate significantly with job performance for a wide variety of jobs, but it is an especially effective predictor of performance for jobs that require enhanced abilities in the areas of problem-solving, learning, critical thinking, and verbal and mathematical reasoning. Examples of jobs for which the CCAT has high predictive validity include managerial positions, software engineers and other technology workers, financial analysts, auditors, and many others.”

Helpful tips to prepare for the CCAT (sources:
JobFlare and Criteria): 

  1. Find somewhere distraction-free with a good internet connection.

  2. Warm up your brain via some vetted brain games.

  3. Have some scrap paper on hand so you can work through questions in real-time.

  4. If you don’t know an answer, don't worry! On the CCAT, there’s no penalty for wrong answers, so if you’re having trouble with one particular question, and/or if you realize you’ve spent more than one minute on a single question, it’s best to guess and move on. 

  5. Relax as much as you can! We know test-taking can be stressful, but do your best to approach it with a relaxed attitude so you can perform at the top of your game. 

Other resources to prepare for the CCAT: 

For those who want an introduction to some of the concepts contained within the CCAT, here are a few effective resources we like to share: 

Sample CCAT questions
(source: Criteria):

Sample CCAT Verbal Question:
Choose the word that is most nearly opposite to the word in capital letters.


A. abdicate
B. truncate
C. elongate
D. stifle
E. resist

Sample CCAT Math Question:
A group of 3 numbers has an average of 17. The first two numbers are 12 and 19. What is the third number?

A. 17
B. 19
C. 20
D. 23
E. 30


Learn more about the CCAT here. And if you're ready, log into your admissions portal to schedule your non-technical assessments. (If you haven't yet started the admissions process, click here to begin Step 1: Fill Out An Application!)