Psychometric Testing – What are they and how to approach them?

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Congratulations, you’ve been invited to interview – but the letter states that you will asked to take a psychometric test.  Don’t panic – read this simple guide to know what exactly this means and how to perform well.

Psychometric tests are often used early in the recruitment process and are designed to act as a level playing field to sift candidates without any potential unconscious bias on behalf of an interviewer.  They are impersonal and objective and offer the chance for an employer to assess factors they feel necessary for the role regardless of a candidate’s education or background.

The first step is to find out what sort of test you are being asked to take. Psychometric tests can take several forms, but there are two main categories – those designed to assess your personality and those designed to assess your aptitude for reasoning and/or cognitive ability.  Let’s look at each of these in turn. 

  1. Aptitude tests These are often under exam conditions and you may have a very short time to answer several multiple choice questions on areas such as : - numeracy – interpreting data, graphs and charts or using simple arithmetic - verbal reasoning – understanding complex written material - diagrammatic reasoning – spotting visual patterns - logical reasoning – using information to lead you to a conclusion - situational reasoning – your responses to a given hypothetical situation.  You are likely to be ranked against a sample group and, in this instance, employers are simply looking for a high score as an indication of your abilities.  You are especially likely to be asked to sit an aptitude test if you are applying for a large graduate scheme or a role in engineering, science or IT
  2. Personality Tests There are many different types of these tests, you may be familiar with some, such as the Myers Briggs type test. In most examples you will be given a statement and asked how you feel, or how you would respond, often ranking this on a scale.  Unlike aptitude tests, there are no right and wrong answers, and these tests are often not taken under exam conditions – you might be asked to complete them online prior to your interview

So how do you pass these tests?

Well, it depends on the test.  Crucially there is no way to pass or fail a personality test, and you are very unlikely to be able to present yourself effectively and consistently as someone else.  Instead, be honest in your responses, go with your instant reaction, rather than thinking about what they might be looking for.  Remember, if your personality test results are not a match for their ideal candidate, there’s a high chance you would not enjoy this role anyway!

Aptitude tests are quite a different matter though and the key thing to be aware of is that you can achieve significantly higher marks by practising.

How to pass an aptitude test

  1. Take online sample tests. Familiarise yourself with the concept of online testing – get an idea of the required speed and the various formats the test might take.  Online practise tests might highlight areas where you are less confident and enable you to work on these in more detail
  2. Brush up on maths. Numerical tests, in particular, can be practised for – revise interpreting data in graphs and tables; percentages; ratios; and probability if you have not looked at these for a while 
  3. Verbal reasoning can also be practised – look for meaning in statements when reading a newspaper article; look up any words you’re not familiar with to increase your vocabulary 
  4. Prepare in advance. Check what you are allowed to take in with you – you might be allowed a calculator, but it is unlikely that you will be allowed your mobile phone  
  5. When you are in the test room, read the instructions carefully. Are you expected to answer all the questions or just see how far you get?  Will you be penalised for wrong answers?  If there are tables or graphs, double check you have understood these fully.  Take your time when reading complex written material
  6. Be aware of the time. Some of the tests are designed to be finished and you may lose marks for not answering each question, so make sure you answer quickly – but carefully
  7. If you finish early, go back and check your answers if possible 

If you have a disability, do let the recruiter know and they can make any necessary adaptations to enable you to perform at your best ability in the test.

New developments?

Increasingly, employers are using video game based formats instead of, or as well as, more traditional psychometric tests.  These are often designed as a situational reasoning test, or to give potential applicants an idea of what the role will be like if they are successful.  This new method is known as ‘gamification’ and is an increasing trend in recruitment with several large employers developing games in the last few years.

These tests are designed to be fun but also to encourage applicants to question themselves to see if they feel suited to this type of work.  Although these can be quite enjoyable, it is important to approach games style testing in a similar way to any other psychometric test – it is part of an interview process and should be treated professionally.

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