Written by Emma Butler, Careers Consultant
An invite to take some psychometric tests can strike the fear in many students, but with some preparation and practise, it is possible to ace these tests and get the job you want.
Why do employers test?
Results in psychometric tests can often demonstrate to an employer that an individual has an aptitude in a specific skill which is necessary for the job they have applied for. The most commonly taken tests are the numerical ability and verbal reasoning, but situational judgment tests are also on the increase. These are normally always taken online before you are invited for an interview. Your results from these tests are compared with the results of many other students and graduates who have taken the test before to see how you compare with your peer group. In most cases, you are asked at the beginning of these tests to state if English is your first language, if not your results should be compared with other international students’ results. Likewise, if you have a disability and have declared this before you take the tests, they will take this into consideration when they look at your results.
Numerical reasoning tests
The questions in these tests can range from finding the next number in a sequence to interpreting data from a table or graph. If it has been a while since you had to work out percentages or do GCSE type questions it is worth doing some practise tests! As you are competing against the clock, you are looking to get as many right answers as possible in the time given. Even students studying maths can struggle with these tests – often because they are over complicating the questions! If you try out the practise ones and realise you need some help in answering these questions go to the maths support centre for help http://www.reading.ac.uk/library/maths-support/training/lib-ms-training.aspx. Try not to panic if you can see you are running out of time but have more questions to answer; they are not typically designed for people to finish and the pass mark can be between 50-65% depending on how much maths is involved in the job role you have applied for.
Verbal reasoning tests
Again, these tests can vary from finding a word opposite to the one given, to a passage of text where you are then asked to answer a series of questions to check you have understood what you have read. Some people find it easier to read the questions first and then to read the text while others prefer to read the text first. By taking some practise tests, you will work for yourself which method works best for you. If you have applied for a job role that requires more report writing or pulling together lots of information, the pass mark will be higher.
Situational Judgement tests
These can have different names, but, basically, you are given a series of scenarios and you have to pick the most effective and/or the least effective response. To do well at these, you need to imagine yourself in the job role – this is harder than it sounds especially if you haven’t done anything like this before, but try to think about the job role you have applied for, what is the level of responsibility that comes with it? Have they said they want people who can negotiate or persuade well? In which case, ensure you are demonstrating you would plan to use these skill in the job role. Again, try the practise ones available here. If you want to learn about the Civil Service Situational Judgement tests, read our top article on this subject matter available here.
Other psychometric tests
These can include personality assessments (not so commonly used anymore); the best advice here is to try and answer these as honestly as possible because the tests have a key built into them that measure inconsistencies with answers. If the inconsistency level is too high, they will assume you haven’t answered honestly. E-tray or In-tray exercises – these literally sit you in front of a busy inbox and require you within a time frame to decide which order to answer the tasks or messages. Somewhere within the information you’ve been given, there will be some key detail such as an organisational chart or the organisation’s key objectives. Look out for these to help you decide on priority. More about e-tray exercises, here.
The overall key message is to practise, get advice if you’re not performing at a good level with these tests, and to try not to panic. Just like exams, it is important to read the instructions carefully!