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How Hard Is the CCAT Test? An Inside Look [+ Proven Prep Tips]

The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT) is notoriously known for being a tough test.

But how hard is the CCAT test exactly?

On this page, you’ll get an in-depth overview of the things that make this test so difficult.

And more importantly, you’ll see how to beat them and ensure you pass with a high score.

Let’s dive right in:

What Is the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test?

The Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test (CCAT) is a pre-employment test used by thousands of companies worldwide. It’s 15 minutes long and has 50 questions, including math, logic, verbal, and spatial reasoning. CCAT’s purpose is to measure your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and your ability to use new information.

The CCAT is taken through Criteria’s online testing platform, called On Demand Assessment.

What Makes the CCAT Test So Hard?

In one word: time.

The CCAT is a super fast-paced test. And If you’re planning to finish all 50 questions (1% of CCAT’s test-takers manage to do so), know that you have only 18 seconds per question.

But besides the tight time limit, the questions themselves are also not a walk in the park.

You’ll see questions that are hard to solve even without the immense time pressure, such as matrices questions, complex math word problems, and number series.

And the worst part?

They are thrown at you without any specific order or categorization, so you can never know which question type comes next.

Get to Know the Most Difficult CCAT Question Types (and How to Solve Them Fast)

The CCAT test starts easy, and you should be able to solve the first questions pretty fast.

But as you dive deeper into the test, the questions become much more complex and take longer to solve.

Here are some of the most challenging question types you’ll face on the test (plus examples with full solutions):

Matrix Completion

Matrix completion questions are CCAT’s most challenging spatial reasoning questions, consisting of 3-by-3 matrices in which one element is missing.

These questions take longer to answer as it takes time to understand what’s going on and choose the right course of action.

That said, there’s a useful tip that can help you solve these questions much faster:

3-by-3 Matrices are three parallel figural sequences (no diagonal sequence). Two of these series are always complete, and only the third one has a missing element.

The rule behind every sequence will run either horizontally (by row) or vertically (by column).

So, to solve the questions quicker, stick only to the row OR column series (don’t try to solve them both at once). 

Then, look at the two complete series, and try to figure out the rule behind them. Once you have an assumption, go over the answer choices and look for your answer. Usually, you’ll be able to eliminate 2-3 options on the fly, making it way easier to find the correct answer.

Try this technique in action on this CCAT Matrix Completion sample question:

Which of the following boxes should replace the question mark (?) to complete the pattern?

CCAT Matrix Completion Sample Question
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E

The correct answer is B.

In this matrix:

Across a row and down a column, within every frame, each position has a different shape, and the upper-right corner is always empty.

You can eliminate the 3rd answer option because it has an empty spot in the wrong place. Since in the third row and column you do not have an O in the lower-left corner, you should look for an answer option with an O in the lower-left corner, and eliminate the 4th and 5th answer options.

You can also eliminate the 1st answer-option because there already is a frame with an X in the lower-right corner.

Therefore, you are left with the 2nd answer option as the only correct answer.

Next in Series

In CCAT’s Next in Series questions, you get three to five figures that follow a specific rule. Your task is to find the figure that continues the series or is missing from the middle.

Trying to solve these questions under time pressure without prepping beforehand can be extremely difficult for most people. That’s because trying to solve them randomly without any proven tactic can take a long time, which you just don’t have on the CCAT.

Try this CCAT Next in Series sample question and check out the explanation to see a helpful solving tip:

CCAT Next in Series Sample Question
CCAT Next in Series Sample Answer Options

The correct answer is:

CCAT Next in Series Example Correct Answer

The watch-like shape moves in a clockwise manner both around itself and around the square in the middle. The rotation angle around itself increases by 45 degrees in each step. 45° in the first step, 90° in the second step, 135° in the third step, etc.

The square is diagonally divided into gray and white areas. These areas rotate by 90 degrees counterclockwise each step.

Solving tip: when the question mark is in the middle of the sequence rather than at the end, we should look into the longest sequence available to uncover some of the rules. 

In this question, if we look at frames 1-3, we can figure out the square’s movement. This will enable you to dismiss answers 3 and 5. Then, you can use the remaining distracters and see which corresponds with the sequence’s last two frames.

Take more CCAT spatial reasoning practice questions that resemble the actual exam.


Syllogism questions measure your critical thinking and deduction skills. 

On the CCAT, they come in the form of three statements. The first two are assumed to be true, and you need to decide if the third sentence is True, False, or Uncertain based on the given information.

Test your deduction skills with this CCAT Syllogism sample question:

Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final statement:

1) True, 2) False, or 3) Uncertain based on the information provided?

All athletes are hard workers.

Alice is not an athlete.

Alice is not a hard worker.

1. True
2. False
3. Uncertain

The correct answer is: Uncertain.

You can deduce from the first statement that all athletes are hard workers, but you do not have any information about non-athletes.

Therefore, according to the second statement, you cannot conclude anything regarding Alice, which is not an athlete.

Solving tip: For ‘False’  to be the correct answer, you have to know for sure that the statement “Alice is not a hard worker” is not true, which is not the case in this question.

Number Series

Number Series is among the most common math question types on the CCAT.

In these classic math questions, which you probably remember from school, you’re presented with a sequence of numbers, and you need to find which number should come next.

The more you practice these, the faster you’ll be able to solve them. That’s because all of CCAT’s number series questions rely on common patterns and rules, and once you master them, the questions become way more manageable.

Check out the following number series sample question:

What would be the next number in the following series?

3 … 3 … 3 … 6 … 3 … 9 … 3 … ?

A. 3
B. 27
C. 12
D. 6

The correct answer is (C) – 12.

There are two ways to look at this series:

(1) There are two inner series, and each follows a different rule:

Odd terms – remain constant: 3.

Even terms – increase by 3:

3+3=6, 6+3=9, 9+3=12.

(2) Another point of view:

CCAT Number Series Example Solution

The series in this question follows two rules:

(1) The mathematical operations between the terms change in a specific order, x, and so forth.

(2) Every two steps, the number by which the terms are multiplied or divided increases by 1.

Tables & Graphs

Table and graphs are one of the most challenging CCAT math questions. They include lots of details and information and require analysis and calculations.

That said, given enough time, you’d probably solve them correctly. But the problem is you don’t have the luxury of time on the CCAT.

But still, it’s worthwhile to get to know them beforehand, so you won’t be caught by surprise on the test.

Check the following sample question to see what you’re up against:

Cause of ReportReport TypeNumber of Tickets
Failure to stop at a stop signB115
Now wearing a seatbeltB220
Driving in a dangerous mannerA335
Using a mobile phoneB3100
Failing to comply with traffic light signalsC175
Stopping in a prohibited areaC210
Type A – $300 fine Type B – $200 fine Type C – $100 fine

Given that the numbers in the right column are in thousands, how many more tickets were given on account of drunk driving than on account of stopping in a prohibited area?

A. 60
B. 70
C. 50,000
D. 60,000
E. 50
F. 70,000

The total number of drunk driving tickets issued to drivers is: 70,000

The total number of tickets issued to drivers who failed to stop at a stop sign is: 10,000

The difference between the number of tickets issued on account of drunk driving and on account of failure to stop at a stop sign: 70,000-10,000= 60,000.

Take more CCAT practice questions that resemble the actual test.

What’s a Good Score on the CCAT?

To understand what a good CCAT score is, let’s first do a quick overview of how these scores work in the real world.

Employers receive an instant score report for every job candidate who completes the CCAT (as a candidate, you won’t get a chance to see these reports). The score report is divided into four sections:

  • Raw Score: number of questions answered correctly (out of 50)
  • Percentile: indicates how the candidate scored compared to other candidates who’ve taken the CCAT
  • Sub-Scores: candidate’s percentile score for each of the CCAT’s sub-categories – Spatial Reasoning, Verbal Ability, and Math & Logic.
  • Score Ranges: recommended score ranges by Criteria Corp. per position

According to Criteria, the average CCAT score is 24. This means that a candidate who answers 24 questions correctly has done better than 50% of previous test-takers.


If CCAT’s average score is 24, it means that any score above 24 is considered good, right?


What is considered a good CCAT score depends on the position you’re applying to. There are some jobs, such as senior management, where even a score of 28 won’t make the cut. However, a score of 31 and above will place you at the top of the candidates’ list for almost any position.

Criteria created a suggested passing score range chart for a variety of positions. While these are only recommendations and may vary between employers, you can use them to understand what score you should be aiming for.

JobCCAT Passing ScoreJobCCAT Passing Score
Accounting/Finance24-39Loan Officer24-38
Administrative20-39Network Admin23-37
Analyst26-42Operations Manager22-40
Bookkeeper20-35Product Manager26-41
Computer Programmer23-40Production Manager18-34
Controller24-39Project Manager22-37
Customer Service18-32Recruiter21-35
Finance Manager21-40Sales (Manager)23-37
Financial Analyst23-38Sales (Rep)21-35
Front Desk18-30Senior Manager/VP29-42
Lawyer29-42Store Manager20-37

Note: There are top-rated companies that use the CCAT, such as Vista Equity Partners, in which the passing scores are higher than what appears in the table above. If you’re applying for Vista Equity or one of its subsidiaries, read this guide to see what score to aim for.

How to Prepare for the CCAT Test So That You Get a High Score?

So, as you’ve already understood, the CCAT is a hard test, and to score high, it’d be wise to set aside some time to prep (here are several pro tips for that).

But which practice option is the most suitable for you and will give you the best results?

Here’s the best CCAT test prep option that we recommend in 2023:

Full CCAT Test Prep Course

JobTestPrep’s CCAT practice includes six full-length (50 questions – 15 minutes) CCAT simulations and 143 extra drills for each test topic (math, verbal, abstract, logic).

All questions come with explanations and shortcut techniques to help increase your solving speed and get more questions right (even the hardest ones).

You can also try their CCAT sample test to get a taste of the real exam.

Take a free CCAT sample test and get full-length CCAT simulations to help you pass the test.

7 Foolproof Tactics to Do Well on the CCAT Test

Here are seven effective tactics to help you improve your CCAT score.

  1. If you’re stuck on a question, just guess and move on.
    On the CCAT, there’s no penalty for wrong answers. So, if you see that you’re struggling with a certain question for too long, make an educated guess and move on.
  2. Use the last seconds of the test for a “guessing frenzy.”
    If you see that there are only several seconds left, try to mark as many questions as possible without even looking at them. You’ll still have a 20% chance to get each of them right! (and you don’t get a penalty for answering them wrong, remember?)
  3. Aim only for the score range you need for the job.
    As seen in the table above, specific passing score ranges exist for every position. So, you shouldn’t try to answer all 50 questions correctly but rather aim for the number of correct questions needed for your job.
  4. You’re not allowed to revisit previous questions.
    If you plan to skip difficult questions and return to them later, forget about it. You cannot return to previous questions, so don’t be tempted to skip questions too fast. If you see you’re not progressing within 20 seconds into a question, start to eliminate answers, guess, and move on.
  5. The difficulty level (usually) increases as the test goes on.
    In most cases, you’ll see easier questions at the beginning of the CCAT, and they’ll
    become more demanding as the test continues. This means you should be ready to answer the first questions lightning-fast and gain quick wins to give you more confidence for the rest of the test.
  6. Learn only what matters, and avoid generic practice questions.
    When you prepare for the test, focus only on the specific question types that appear on it. Avoid practicing generic subjects because it will only distract you and waste your prep time. For example, there are only three spatial reasoning question types on the test, so you don’t need to practice any other types.
  7. Get used to the real test’s conditions.
    If you want to succeed on the CCAT, you must learn how to work effectively under time pressure because that’s the most crucial factor of this test. So, try to complete at least a few full-length CCAT practice tests, to get a feel for the real-time pressure.