Psychometric testing has generated great appeal recently because of the huge potential it offers to students, graduates, workers and jobseekers alike. While psychologists first used them as an aid in therapy sessions, now they are employed in other fields like career testing, counselling, employment and some areas of business. In fact, more than 70 percent of the world’s employers are using psychometric tests in the recruitment process, and you need to prepare for the tests as much as possible.
If you want to learn more about psychometric tests, this guide can give you some pointers on how to deal with them effectively.
What are psychometric tests?
According to the Institute of Psychometric Coaching, Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure your mental capabilities and behavioural style. Psychometrics literally means ‘measurement of the mind’ and are designed in a way to measure your suitability for a role based on the required personal characteristics and cognitive abilities. Essentially they seek to find how you process and reason information, and how your preferred working style and personality drives your behaviour.
These are divided into the following broad categories:
Aptitude/ability tests: includes verbal, numerical, diagrammatical, abstract, deductive reasoning, technical tests - spatial, error checking, mechanical/electrical reasoning and concertation tests; in-tray exercises (for business), situational judgement tests (evaluating your judgement), cognitive ability tests (general intelligence), critical thinking tests e.g. Watson-Glaser tests, brain teasers and perceptual speed.
Personality tests: assess your workplace behavioural style and preferences – includes personality and preference inventory (PAPI), the Caliper Profile test, Gallup Strengths Finder, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 16 personality factor questionnaire, revised NEO personality inventory, MMPI and DISC personality profile assessment amongst others.
Interests/Motivation tests: focus on your values and motivations measuring the factors that stimulate and energise you to take action.
Skills-based tests: require prior knowledge of concepts associated with a particular field. These include Microsoft Office assessments, computer programming tests and clerical skill tests.
Despite their rejection by many, psychometric tests are statistically examined and are constructed to be objective and unbiased. This is done by using standard methods of assessment so that everyone is presented with the same questions and instructions. The tests are very reliable in predicting candidates’ performance.
How useful are they?
Whether you are a student, a graduate, a job seeker or an already-established professional who is interested in career change, taking a psychometric test can help you. Each type of psychometric test – personality, motivation/interests and aptitude tests, can help you identify various hidden aspects of your personality, but also so much more.
- Help you become more self-aware in terms of your skills and talents
- Gives you an insight into your strengths and areas you need to develop
- Help you explore different employment options
- Help you decide on a career
When you are applying for a job and need to take a psychometric test, preparing for it can be lifesaving since it can:
- Tell you a lot about the company to which you are applying
- Help you identify the skills that are fundamental for the job
- Provide you with an insight into these attributes and realise whether you possess them or not
- Give you a chance to impress without being on the spot as opposed to an interview
When used in recruiting, they can be a powerful and effective tool for assessing a candidate’s suitability for a certain position. The reason why they are so widely used today is that they help them identify the hidden aspects of candidates that are difficult to extract from a face-to-face interview.
- Complement a CV and a job interview giving detailed information about each candidate
- Provide a true picture of a candidate
- Measure skills, abilities, personal qualities and education
- Protect and develop the culture of your workplace
- Encourage consistency in recruitment
How to Prepare for Psychometric Tests
Preparing for psychometric tests can increase your chances of getting employed. Besides, you know what they say - practice makes perfect. Other than that it can reduce stress, lead to better performance, make you a better candidate and employee and help you beat the competition. Now, these are not like regular tests as the answers cannot be learned off by heart and employers want to learn what your natural ability is on a certain subject. So, how can you effectively prepare for them?
While many employers assume you cannot practice for them, the truth is, it can. Given the strict time limitations (only for aptitude tests), if you did not practice beforehand, you will likely get a very average score. What it boils down to is that even people who are very good at verbal reasoning or numeracy will do badly unless they have practised their timing.
So here’s what you can do:
BEFORE THE TEST
- Study the invitation letter
It’s important to take a note of what employers ask from you before you are ready to take the test. In their invitation letter or email, they are more likely to give out information about what to expect on the day of the assessment. When you get invited to an assessment centre, for example, they let you know what they plan to do on the day. While it’s unlikely they will explain what kind of activities will take place, it will give you a rough idea of what to expect and how you can prepare for it. Make sure to pay careful attention to what the email says and understand what it asks you to do.
It’s also worth checking out the website of employers you are applying for. Some organisations like PWC offer free demo material of the psychometric tests they use to help you prepare.
- Practice online
If you want to succeed in psychometric tests, you need to prepare for these as if you are taking any exam or test. This means that you need to take it as seriously as you would have in any other circumstances. Practising with psychometric tests can help you identify the frameworks for solving a range of problems and should give you an idea of what to expect. Also, you can gain an understanding of what the real test looks like and how it operates – giving you a boost of confidence when taking the real test!
Since most tests are administrated online, it’s best to work with online ones. Luckily, many websites offer information on psychometric testing and a great variety of sample tests. These are some that are worth checking out:
CareerHunter – consists of aptitude tests, personality and interests tests providing a full report on suitable careers taking into account your skills and personal characteristics.
CUBIKS Online Assessment – offers ability tests (Logiks Intermediate and Advanced), personality assessments, situational judgement test and assessment and development centres exercises.
Psychometric Success – provides the ability to take free psychometric tests from each type/category and assesses technical and clerical ability.
Open Psychometric Test Resource – offers insightful information for each type of tests e.g. mechanical, critical thinking, inductive reasoning amongst others, and allows you to practice for free.
CEB/Gartner - allows you to practice tests and familiarise with the online testing experience. You can check a variety of example questions or take a full-length practice test for each.
Practice Aptitude Tests – there is the option to take tests for free either to practice or check your overall score.
Assessment Day – has free practice tests but also premium packages for which you can get 12 months online access and practice for SHL, Kenexa, Saville, Talent Q and Cubiks tests.
Job Test Prep – offers online preparation for assessment, free practice tests and aptitudes tests that are specific to a profession/industry.
Graduates First - apart from reasoning tests, it offers an interview question identifier tool, a work personality questionnaire and an assessment centre preparation test which you need to buy; alternatively, you can take the free sample practice tests.
Institute of Psychometric Coaching – provides an introduction to psychometric tests and offers free samples for practice.
GRE – offers a comprehensive set of assessment material including a general test and subject-specific.
The University of Kent Careers - offers useful example questions and answers based on feedback from GraduatesFirst.
NumericalTestPractice – includes numerical and other aptitude tests that allow you to test your knowledge in Accountancy or Finance and prepare for the interview.
- Familiarise yourself with the questions
While you may not get the identical questions in every test, practising with sample questions can help you gain a greater insight into these tests. Knowing what material you are being tested on and understanding the question styles that are used can help to improve your scores. When you know what to expect, it becomes much easier to manage stress and decide how much time you will need for each question considering you will be working on a strict timeline.
- Learn more about psychometric tests
If you want to learn more about psychometric testing, it might be a good idea to buy books that can tell you how to practice and provide advice on how to take them. These are usually written by people who create the tests themselves, so they know what they are talking about. Alternatively, you can learn more about the tests providers - IBM Kenexa, Saville Consulting, TalentQ and Criterion Partnership. If you know who designed the psychometric test you are going to take, check out their site and get more information about that specific test e.g. time limit, example test questions, or negative marking.
- Work on specific skills
If you want to do well, you need to work on your skills. First, choose what area you want to focus e.g. abstract reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning etc. and practice on your skills. This is especially important for verbal reasoning tests, which requires you read and answer questions based on large pieces of text very quickly.
DURING THE TEST
- Understand what you are being tested on
As mentioned above, there are many types of tests and each one assesses different skills and abilities. The first thing you need to do is figure out what employers are looking for in each one. Glassdoor’s company reviews is a great resource to find out what each employer is doing in their selection process, but you can never be 100 percent sure of what to expect.
Most employers choose personality questionnaires which helps them assess your work styles and values. IQ and EQ tests are common and the least common are skill specific, because they’re only used in certain industries. Whatever the case, don’t forget to read the instructions carefully.
- Let the employer know if you are not happy
When you are being asked to complete a test, a test administrator will explain what you need to do and go through the test instructions with you. This is probably the best time to speak up if you feel that you haven’t understood what it is being asked of you. It’s also the right time to check that you have everything you need and you are ready to begin. Just like in any exam you need to tell the examiner if you are not feeling comfortable with anything and check whether your calculator and pen work properly.
- Plan your time effectively
It’s important to remain calm not only because you might get stressed and forget everything you know, but also because you have a limited amount of time to answer each question in timed aptitude tests. If you are taking a test at home, make sure that you are in a safe and quiet room without any distractions. If you are at an office or an assessment centre, try not to get distracted by what everyone else is doing. Time is critical so you need to allocate time for each question (about 1 or 1:30). Most importantly, don’t rush it. Don’t spend too long on a question. If you don’t know the answer, just move on to the next one.
- Use rough paper
In an aptitude test, you can use rough paper to work out calculations or write down parts of what you are doing. This helps you find a balance that works best for you, and maintain a pace that you feel most comfortable with. You might not have the time to write down everything, but this can make the information-processing a lot easier and help you keep track of what you are doing.
AFTER THE TEST
- Ask for feedback
If the employer follows industry-standard best practices, they will provide you with feedback after the test even when you were unsuccessful. This is a standard procedure that is instructed by the British Psychological Society, and all psychometric tests administrators need to adhere to them, although they are not legally bound to it.
General feedback can be given on the following:
- the number of questions you attempted and how many you got right
- where your score sits relative to a group of other people expressed as a percentile score
- whether your test-taking style was fast or cautious
- in what types of role or work situation you are likely to work best
- suggestions for how to improve your ability to work with numerical and verbal information
- areas of strength and weakness
Not every company provides individual feedback on psychometric tests because they often get large volumes of applicants. However, it’s worth finding out if you can be given any. Doing so can be useful as it can help you find out how to improve your test performance.
- Move on to the next test
If the employer needs you to complete a series of assessments e.g. when you are invited for an assessment centre, you need to move on from the one to the other quickly. If you think you have done badly on the previous one, try not to think too much about it because this can ruin your overall results. Keep in mind that you are not going to be assessed for just that one, and employers will look at your scores from all psychometric tests, exercises and other activities you were required to carry out.
It is interesting that for a test you supposedly cannot revise for; you actually need to practice in order to pass. This is especially true for the aptitude tests e.g. verbal, numerical, abstract reasoning tests, etc., where it is possible to brush up on your math, reading or writing skills – if need be.
Doing some preparation before taking any psychometric test is crucial to success. While personality and interests tests don’t measure ability – compared to aptitude, it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with every type of test so that you are ready whenever you are searching for a job or trying to decide on a career. If you are planning to do this anytime soon, make sure to follow these tips and advice to help you out.
Have you ever taken a psychometric test? What are your thoughts on it? Feel free to add any comments below…