Your 'how to' guide to psychometric testing
Psychometric tests are part of the selection process in graduate schemes and used by many graduate employers. When applying to a big employers graduate scheme, you’ll likely be asked to take a psychometric test. Psychometric tests are impersonal, standardised and objective tests.
They are often used as a filtering mechanism at an early stage in the recruitment process, but there are thousands of practice tests readily available online. So, don’t panic! The best way to nail these tests, much like university tests and exams, is prep beforehand and do practice tests!
When could you be tested in the recruitment process
Psychometric tests can be used from any point after your submission of your online applications, to your first interview or at assessment centres. There are 3 types of psychometric tests you may have to take:
1. Ability Tests
These test skills, like problem-solving or the ability to identify mistakes accurately (such as proof-reading or basic spelling/ grammar test) tend to fall under four categories:
- Numerical Reasoning tests:
Assess your ability to interpret statistics, data, graphs or charts. Also basic arithmetic.
- Verbal Reasoning tests:
Assess your ability to evaluate statements and arguments as well as written information.
- Abstract Reasoning tests:
Otherwise known as Diagrammatic Reasoning tests, are inductive (essentially the opposite to instinctive) reasoning tests. They assess your ability to follow diagrammatic information or spot patterns.
- Logical Reasoning tests:
Assess your ability to follow through to a conclusion when given basic information, or using current knowledge/ experiences. Commonly used for engineering, science and IT roles (including software development and positions including technical design). These also include Deductive Reasoning tests (not identical to logical reasoning tests), where you are given information or rules to apply in order to arrive at an answer.
What’s the difference between logical and deductive reasoning?
Deductive starts with a number of rules and applies them to identify the outcome of specific cases. Inductive gets you to form a theory, then make a prediction based on observing specific instances. Inductive reasoning can arrive at new solutions, while deductive uses what is already known to solve a problem, so you can see why employers who focus on technological innovation are interested in it.
A key tip: don’t panic if you run out of time! Some tests are devised so that it is almost impossible to finish before the time is up, but do remember you are competing with others so don’t waste too much time on one.
2. Aptitude Tests
Assess your ability to learn a new skill, one that is needed for the job you applied to. For example, when applying to a finance role numerical and verbal reasoning test are a focus as its information you would come across in your daily work.
Both ability and aptitude tests are usually conducted under timed, exam conditions. Most involve multiple-choice or true/false answers and are mainly done online (although you can do it on paper). But, unlike ability tests, the results of aptitude tests compare you to a ‘normal’ expectation from a chosen demographic group, normally picked by the employer or test provider.
Critical thinking and situational judgement tests assess the natural responses to given situations. They are used in two ways:
To give graduates the chance to evaluate themselves. These tests are usually designed to be fun and appealing, some employers use quizzes or games for these tests.
As part of the recruitment process, to gauge how a candidate operates. This helps recruiters to sometimes decide the area of business you would suit best.
Situational judgement and critical thinking assessments measure suitability rather than ability. So failure is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you have avoided a job or company you do not match to.
To nail these tests; simply remember to be calm and to answer honestly, but most importantly is to make sure you understand the scenario and only use the provided information.
3. Personality Tests
Essentially personality tests examine how likely a fit you are within the company culture and role. They assess your typical behaviour and preferred way of going about things when presented with varying situations. Employers look for specific characteristics from applicants for each role, so they may match your responses to a sample of successful graduates or managers. For example, they may want someone who is very forward, sociable, and persuasive for a sales role.
It’s very important that you don’t try to guess what you think the employer wants to see, personality questionnaires assess consistency in responses. If you’re right for the job and the employer is right for you, you’ll do fine. If they not looking for people with your personality, then count yourself lucky.
The best way to nail psychometric tests is simple; practice.
You’ll become familiar with the way the questions are asked and the typical formats. Not to mention you will improve on accuracy and speed, and be able to identify areas you struggle on and need to work on. While practice helps to improve your performance each employer’s tests will be slightly different.
Some free practice tests:
Psychometric tests from SHL includes verbal, numerical, inductive reasoning, accuracy and motivation tests.
Practice tests and questionnaires from Mark Parkinson, author of How to Master Psychometric Tests
Preparation guides for aptitude tests from Saville Consulting. Various guides including verbal and numerical reasoning and comprehension, and diagrammatic and spatial reasoning.
Example verbal and numerical questions from Criterion Partnership.
Trial aptitude and critical thinking tests from TalentLens (UK), Pearson.
Exercise your mind
The best way to prep for upcoming verbal and numerical reasoning tests is to get into the habit of recognising number and word patterns by;
Get back to the basics of maths: go over some GCSE-level maths, they don’t require advanced algebra. Focus on how to read information presented graphically and definitely brush up your skills on ratios, probabilities and percentages.
Do number puzzles: like Sudoku, it is good for helping you recognise number patterns.
Add, subtract, multiply and divide… in your head: When you're at the shops try estimate your trolleys worth.
Think about meaning: Reading news stories, really think about what statements mean and the possible interpretations of them.
Do word puzzles: Sunday morning crosswords, or even download an app.
Be aware of commonly misspelt words: Most English grammar books and websites have lists of commonly misspelt or 'confusable' words, eg 'its' and 'it's', or 'complement' and 'compliment'. Check you are also aware of the English spellings of words such as liaise, favourite and organise.