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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.  

While our different bootcamps have different requirements when it comes to programming knowledge, each requires an ability to solve problems, digest and apply information, learn new skills, and think critically. For example, problem solving is a critical skill in programming but it’s not something we have time to teach during our bootcamps, when students are learning so many other skills and technologies. With all of this in mind, we require all applicants to take two non-technical admissions assessments to help determine overall program fit and to test for problem-solving skills and other foundational prerequisites. 

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 cognitive ability. It’s been administered more than 5 million times in the United States and is trusted by companies, hiring managers, educators, and many others.

We chose the CCAT because it’s created by an unbiased third party and helps us learn about applicants in a unique way that’s not dependent on 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.

As mentioned above, no matter which of our programs you’re interested in, skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and an ability to learn and apply new knowledge are essential to student success and fulfillment, and the CCAT helps us determine overall course readiness. 

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 score and determine if it falls within the suggested range provided by Criteria, which we see as an objective, third party industry standard that best predicts success in our bootcamps and in the software engineering field at large. As long as your score falls anywhere within that range, you pass. On the other hand, if you score below the range, you do not pass the CCAT and you’ll need to wait one year before taking it again. Since we began requiring the CCAT, we’ve seen an approximately 80% pass rate. 

According to the Criteria 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. Start by visiting the Criteria prep page for a roundup of great information and resources. This page contains everything you’ll need, including warm-up brain games from Jobflare (a Criteria company).  

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

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

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

  5. 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. 

  6. 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. 


Sample CCAT questions
(source: Criteria):

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

LENGTHEN

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

___

When you’re ready, log into your admissions portal to take your non-technical assessments. And if you haven't yet started the admissions process, click here to begin Step 1: Fill Out An Application!