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Seeing Through the Psychometric Test
Many graduate employers use psychometric tests as part of the selection process for their graduate schemes. Here's what you should expect, and how you can prepare.
Just when you thought you were finished with tests and exams, out they come again on interview and assessment days! Psychometric tests may be used to assess your abilities, aptitudes and personality alongside more subjective feedback gained – for example – from presentations.
The psychometric test is a level playing field. Employers value them because they are a fair way of comparing different candidates’ strengths regardless of their educational background. However, as with any kind of test, you can improve your performance on these by knowing what to expect, and by practising.
When will I have to take a psychometric test?
Psychometric tests may be used at different stages of the graduate selection process, namely:
- After you submit your online application form, where you may be prompted by a link to an internal or external psychometric test preferred by your prospective employer.
- Alongside a first interview, where you'll be given approximately 15 to 30 minutes to work on it, usually conducted by the human resource personnel who greets you before you meet your actual interviewer.
- At a later stage of the assessment, possibly with a second interview or as part of an assessment centre. You may be re-tested at this point to confirm the results of earlier tests.
What kinds of tests are there?
Psychometric tests can be divided into three types: ability, aptitude, and personality.
- Ability tests
Ability tests measure the general skills appropriate to your education and experience. They are often combined with aptitude tests that assess your potential to pick up new skills. Typical tests include:
○ Numerical: These assess your basic arithmetic and ability to interpret data, graphs, charts or statistics.
○ Verbal reasoning: These tests explore your ability to understand and evaluate written information.
○ Non-verbal reasoning: These reveal your spatial awareness and ability to spot patterns.
○ Logical reasoning: These show off your ability to draw conclusions from basic information.
Employers may also run ability tests to assess your problem-solving skills or ability to identify mistakes accurately (e.g. proof-reading or basic spelling and grammar tests).
- Aptitude tests
Aptitude tests examine your potential to learn a new skill that is needed to do the job you have applied for.
For instance, if you are considering a career in IT, you may be asked to complete a programming aptitude test (this could take the form of a diagrammatic or abstract reasoning test).
For other career areas, such as finance, you may find that any numerical and verbal reasoning tests given tend to be focused on the kind of information you would come across in your daily work.
Ability and aptitude tests are usually conducted under timed, exam-like conditions. Most involve multiple-choice or true/false answers. They can be done on paper, but more and more employers now run these tests via computer-based programmes.
It's important to note that aptitude tests are not meant to pass or fail you, but to compare your ability levels to a "normal" expectation for a demographic chosen by the employer or test provider. This could be the results of a group of previously successful applicants, people with your level of education, or the general public.
- Personality tests
Personality tests assess your typical behaviour when presented with different situations and your preferred way of handling things. They examine how likely you are to fit into your role and the broader company culture.
Your responses may be matched with those of a sample of successful managers or former graduate recruits. Recruiters want to know if you have the characteristics they need for a particular job. (e.g. For a sales role, they may want someone who is very forward, sociable, and persuasive.)
Don't try to second-guess what you think the employer wants to see. Personality questionnaires assess consistency in responses, so just be honest. If you’re right for the job and the employer is right for you, you’ll do fine.
However, if the job and employer isn’t looking for people with your personality, think about it this way – you may have just made a lucky escape!
Practice is the best prep for tests!
The best way to approach psychometric tests is to practise until you become familiar with the typical formats they take and the way questions are asked. It will also help you to improve on speed and accuracy, and identify areas in your ability tests that need work.
Just make sure you don’t get overconfident! While doing practice tests can improve your performance to some degree, remember that each employer’s tests will probably be slightly different.
You can find lots of free practice tests online – simply do a quick Google search along the lines of "free psychometric practice tests".
Or, a better alternative would be to drop by your university career services and ask if they have some available. Chances are, they'll have a better idea of the kinds of tests that specific employers will use.
Exercise your brain!
A good way to prepare for a psychometric test is to increase your mental agility and to get into the habit of recognising word and number patterns. Here are some easy ways to do this:
- Get back to the basics of math: Forget calculus and advanced algebra! Focus on deciphering graphical information, and brush up on percentages, ratios and probability.
- Do number puzzles: Doing Sudoku is a great way to learn how to recognise number patterns.
- Add, subtract, multiply and divide... in your head: When you're at the supermarket, try adding up how much your trolley-load will cost. Or if that cute dress is 30 percent off, try to work out the discounted price in your head!
- Think about meaning: When you read news stories or articles, think about what statements really mean, and how they could be interpreted.
- Do word puzzles: You'll never find a better excuse for wasting time on that crossword app you just downloaded!
- Be aware of commonly misspelled words: What's the difference between "its" and "it's", or "complement" and "compliment"? Be aware as well of the spelling differences between British and American English.