Oil and Gas Maths Test

According to this article in the Daily Telegraph (H/T Tim Worstall), Williams F1 give potential employees a basic maths test and a lot of them are failing.

This is a remarkable coincidence, because for the past few months I have been part of a joint industry committee comprising  several major oil companies which was tasked with coming up with a test to determine if potential employees are able to cope with the type of maths problems they can typically expect to encounter in the oil and gas industry.  The test we came up with is undergoing final approval as we speak, but I have been authorised to offer a sneak preview to my readers.  The test questions are below.

Q1. You are an Engineering Manager (staff, salaried) working in the concept phase of a major LNG project.  Express as a fraction your salary divided by that of your Lead Process Engineer (contractor, day-rate).

Q2. If:

  1. n is the number of change orders your construction contractor submits;
  2. n-2,289 is the number of change orders which are entirely without merit; and
  3. q is the average value of each change order;


  1. How late your project will be if you don’t pay.
  2. How much you will be fleeced if you do.

Q3. Estimate to the nearest $10k how much a 45-year old expat loses in the divorce settlement following a lengthy assignment to Venezuela.  Assume 3 kids under 16, and wifey gets the house in the UK.

Q4. An HSE department in an oil company needs to procure 30kg of hard-hat stickers.  If 7 departmental heads, 4 divisional managers, and 2 company directors are required to sign the purchase request form, how many lives will be saved this year?

Q5. You are working for a major oil company based in Paris, France.  How long is your lunch break:

  1. 1 hour?
  2. 2 hours?
  3. As long as you like?

Q6. A newcomer of Job Group X is sent on overseas assignment.  Express as a function of X the minimum acceptable Job Group of the husband of his wife’s new best friend.

Q7. You have 7 direct reports (staff), 3 of whom are expatriates; and you have 11 direct reports (contractors) 3 of whom are locals; and you have an overall organisation of 42 people, 6 of whom are secondees from a contractor, 1 of whom is a student intern, and they are all drunk.  What is the probability that you are in Russia?

Q8.  An employee is granted 3 economy class flights per year for his annual vacation allowance, each worth $1,762.  Show that by wangling spurious business trips on the back-end of half of his holidays the employee can finish his 3-year assignment ahead to the tune of $1,284.43.

Q9.  You are working for a major oil company in Houston, Texas.  How many alcoholic drinks are you allowed at the annual staff bash:

  1. 0?
  2. Zero?
  3. None?

Q10. If a Project Director decrees that day-rate contractors actually have to come in on Saturdays  in order to get paid, how much money does a contractor subsequently lose over the course of a year if he fails to show up on 63% of Saturdays, expressed as a percentage of his previous annual take-home pay?

Q11. A Senior Piping Engineer working on a major project has 12 years experience, but doesn’t know the difference between a flange and an elbow.  Estimate the probability that the work is taking place in Nigeria.

Q12. Demonstrate, using practical methods, that shooting HR personnel raises productivity by 42.743% across the board.

Q13. You are in a meeting at a major oil company based in The Hague, Netherlands.  The chances of somebody saying something sensible are:

  1. 0%?
  2. 2%?
  3. 2.5%?

Q14. Given the size of apartment an employee of Job Group Y is entitled to is 140m2, and the cost of a cleaner works out at $12/ m2/hour, calculate whether it is worth said employee ordering his nanny to clean the apartment for 25% of her time at $62 per day assuming he has 3 obnoxious brats and a wife who does fuck all.

Q15. Local content laws in Country Z dictate that your project must contain 90% locals regardless of ability.  Assuming one third of those subsequently employed were until last week working on a farm or in the army, and the remainder are related to those doing the recruiting, what productivity factor can be expected during the engineering and construction of a highly complex industrial facility? Answer should be expressed as a negative.


6 thoughts on “Oil and Gas Maths Test

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  2. Re Q10
    Once had to deal with a Nigerian building control inspector on a highly technical matter…. But this was Enfield, North London. I imagine the root cause of our communication problem was that she, yes you heard it correctly SHE, had issues with the lack of corrugated iron & mud in our construction techniques. Fire resistant plasterboards not having penetrated the Nigerian market maybe. Full length cotton robe, headscarf & sandals doesn’t really make it with a hardhat either.

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