The Complete Guide to Career Testing and Assessments

career tests

Many professionals have doubted the validity and the effectiveness of psychometric testing over the years, yet many career tests and other types of assessments have proven to be useful in the professional world. Apart from the field of psychology, psychometric tools can be used in relationship and career counselling, employment testing, occupational health and safety and in some branches of business, like customer interaction management. All types of tests have their usefulness – to some extent when they are used effectively and with caution.

To help you understand what career testing is, this article provides a guide explaining the career tests that are currently available out there, providing an analysis of each one.

What is career testing?

Career testing refers to the career assessment tools or psychometric tests that are designed to help you develop self-awareness. These can help you identify your interests, personal values, preferences, motivations and skills by taking a closer look at the multiple and complex facets of your personality, talents and abilities. In essence, career tests can be used in a range of situations and work as an excellent guide to evaluating and learning more about yourself.  

There are many types of career assessments, and each one is different in terms of the structure and questions it asks, elements that are tested and of course, the results they produce. The information that you get out of a career test is also different as this depends on your own needs and personal preferences. As such, choosing a reliable method of career assessment is crucial to personal development because this offers accurate information that you can rely on.

Why take a career test?

A career test can be helpful in many ways. For starters, it allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses so you can discover your full potential. If you are concerned about what you need to do in your career, you can take a test to figure out where you are and find out where your talents and abilities lie. This information can help to come up with a plan, set realistic goals for the future and work out the steps you need to take to realise your aspirations.

Taking a career test is helpful because:

  1. It introduces you to more career options.
  2. It helps you come up with a career plan.
  3. It allows you to evaluate and get to know yourself better.

Depending on the type of the test that you take, you will get results on different characteristics. Putting all of this information together can help to make the process of choosing a career a lot easier, allowing you to explore all the options that you have. If you are not sure about the different options and possibilities, a career test can help you explore a profession or industry that you are interested in, in more depth.

When should you take it?

You can take a psychometric test at any point in your life regardless of where you are in your career. This can prove useful to you whether you are a high school student, a college/university student, graduate, jobseeker or an established professional. It can also be used on numerous other occasions.

You might want to consider taking a career test when:

  • You are unsure about what you want to do in your career.
  • You want to test your skills, interests and talents.
  • You are applying for a position where employers are looking for specific skills - in this case you may be required to do it.
  • You are discussing your career options with a career counsellor - the test can work as a supplementary tool to help the advisor understand your needs better.

Who offers these tests?

Career tests can be administrated by individuals, organisations, university career services, career counsellors, outplacements companies, recruitment companies, executive coaches and vocational rehabilitation counsellors to help you make a well-informed decision about your career and gain self-awareness. Many employers often administrate specific types of tests to job applicants to determine if they are a good fit for the position and company culture and may use it alongside interviews, application forms, references, academic results, during assessments centres and other selection methods.

As far as it concerns career assessment, it can cover a number of testing areas that we will examine in more depth. There are many types of tests, but these are classified into two broad categories - aptitude and personality tests.

Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests are amongst the most commonly used types of career tests and can help to assess how you perform on certain tasks or react to different situations. These offer a standardised method of assessment where your results are compared with others (e.g. other applicants, the general population or current employees) and typically are administrated on a computer.

The purpose is to identify certain skills, abilities, talents and signs of intelligence in specific areas of study, a profession or industry. They are more popular in recruitment than career guidance and counselling situations. Employers will often ask applicants to complete these to determine cultural fit, matching your skills with the requirements of the position.

Aptitude tests evaluate and examine skills and abilities such as numerical reasoning, logical reasoning, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, logic, computer skills, mathematical competence, lateral thinking, teamwork and leadership amongst others.   

Characteristics of aptitude tests:

  • They are timed.
  • There are right and wrong answers.
  • They examine your skills, abilities and competencies.

Here are some examples of aptitude tests:

Verbal reasoning

This involves reading passages of text and then selecting the most appropriate answers you have available for each, which are usually Agree/Disagree/Cannot Say. Verbal reasoning tests are used by employers to assess your ability to think constructively rather than just assess grammar and punctuation.

The tests are often administrated when applying for office-based jobs or positions that require a lot a communication. As such, they may also evaluate spelling and punctuation, grammar and written comprehension to test your ability to use the English language. The tests include questions on spelling, grammar, sentence completion, analogies, word groups, instructions, critical reasoning and verbal deductions.

Numerical reasoning

This involves the interpretation of charts, graphs and statistical data and evaluates your ability to work with numbers quickly and accurately. Numerical reasoning tests assess the numeracy skills and mathematical competencies such as rates, trends, ratios, percentages and currency conversions that are important for the field or the position you are applying for.

Diagrammatic reasoning

Also known as ‘inductive reasoning’ tests, these aim to assess your logical reasoning ability. They often include multiple choice questions and represent a series of diagrams e.g. letter and number diagrams or shape diagrams, from which you are required to gather a set of rules and apply them to new situations. The idea is that you interpret what the diagrams are saying with the information that you are already given.

Abstract reasoning

Also known as ‘inductive reasoning tests’, these assess how well you can follow and interpret diagrammatic information. There are however some obvious differences to diagrammatic reasoning tests because they tend to focus on concepts and abstract ideas instead of letters and numbers. These tests challenge your ability to reason logically asking you to spot certain patterns and motives, extract rules, analogies, and structures that you need to use to come up with the correct answer. Abstract reasoning tests are often used as part of IQ tests, training and job assessment routines.

Spatial reasoning

These tests assess your ability to visualise and manipulate two-dimensional or three-dimensional shapes or patterns which is an essential skill in the fields of architecture, science and mathematics. There are many types of spatial reasoning tests, and these are different in their structure and form as well as what they test. So they may ask you to combine shapes, recognise and match cubes, shapes and rotated groups, explain maps to challenge your ability to give and follow directions. This last type of spatial reasoning test is administrated by employers when you are applying for a position in the emergency services, military and law enforcement.

Error checking

Evaluate your attention to detail, analytical skills and ability to check information quickly. Often they require you to analyse a given collection of letters and/or numbers and select the match from a list of possible answers. Error checking tests can be tricky because they are designed in a way to confuse you and the numbers are deliberately chosen and displayed in a way that 's hard to spot the errors. They might include questions that are negatively marked so it’s a good idea to learn what you are required to do beforehand. These tests also assess your current performance level and knowledge in certain industries such as banking, finance and engineering.  

Mechanical reasoning

Measure your knowledge on mechanical and physical concepts and evaluate how well you can apply reasoning in a practical environment. You will be required to complete these tests if you are applying for jobs in engineering, emergency services, military and other related areas. Mechanical reasoning tests ask questions about electrical circuits, pulleys, levers, springs, tools, gears and maps. The tests may ask you to identify the most appropriate tool to use to complete a specific task that is related to problems or scenarios you are more likely to come across in your chosen profession.

Other less-known types of aptitude tests include:

  • In-tray exercises: they include a business-related scenario that assesses your ability to prioritise tasks. These are often included in assessment centres.
  • Situational judgement tests: these are psychological tests that evaluate your judgement in resolving work-related problems.
  • Cognitive ability tests: they measure general intelligence and often integrate other aspects of aptitude tests.
  • Watson Glaser tests: these assess your ability to critically analyse arguments and are often used by law firms.

How to succeed in aptitude tests:

  • Evaluate your time efficiently and use it wisely.
  • Get to know the syllabus and make sure you are well prepared.
  • Take a calculator with you in case you need it for the numerical test.
  • Prepare for the assessment and practice with some sample tests.
  • Exercise your brain with number puzzles e.g. Sudoku, and solve as many quizzes as you can find.
  • Ask other people who have already taken these tests to give you some tips and advice.

If an employer ever asks you to complete any of these types of tests as part of a recruitment stage, it might be a good idea to ask to see a sample of each one to familiarise yourself with the tasks and prepare accordingly.

Personality tests

Personality tests are designed to help you understand yourself better in terms of your emotions, behaviours and relationships with others in a variety of settings. This is done through a range of carefully-thought-out questions that try to uncover your ‘hidden self’. Personality tests can help you identify different aspects of your character that were previously unknown to you using a more systematic and scientific approach. Unlike aptitude tests, these aren’t focused on abilities or skills, rather personal interests, hobbies and motivation. As such, they seek to find out how you do certain things, how you behave in certain circumstances as well as what are your preferences and attitudes.

These tests are more relevant in career counselling, though, in some industries they are quite useful. In recruiting, for example, personality tests can help employers determine whether you match the attitude, beliefs, work values and the culture of the organisation. It helps both you and the employer determine whether you are a good fit for each other quite early in the process.

The benefits of taking personality tests are plenty as they can:

  • Help you understand how you would like to work e.g. as part of a group or independently.
  • Help you understand where you prefer to work, determining your work environment e.g. indoors, in an office or outdoors.
  • Help you understand where your talents and inclinations lie through your interests and hobbies while choosing to do what you enjoy.
  • Help you understand how you are most likely to behave in certain situations, events and identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Personality tests can take many different forms, and there are different types. In this category of career tests, we find many popular tests and assessment tools that were first introduced by career experts and are widely used today:

The Big Five personality test: this is a test that identifies the five broad dimensions of the human personality looking into the Big Five traits which are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): a questionnaire that measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions in terms of extroversion/introversion, sensor/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving.

Holland Codes (RIASEC): this is a personality-occupation matching approach based on a theory of careers and vocational choice that identifies six personality types forming the RIASEC model: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.  

These three are just a sample of the multitude of personality tests available. Each one offers different advice and information to help you understand yourself better. Just like aptitude tests, you can practise personality tests so that you know what to expect when you need to complete one. As described above, many are different in the style and format, and you will need to familiarise yourself with them to ensure that you get the most accurate results.

Whenever you are taking a test try to find a quiet room where you can concentrate on it fully. Read the instructions carefully and make sure that you understand what you are being asked. It’s also important to be honest and consistent in your responses so that you don’t have to think too hard or spend much time on each question.

Characteristics of personality tests:

  • There is no time limit on these tests.
  • They might take up to 10 or 15 minutes to complete.
  • They often include around 50 to 200 questions.
  • There are no right or wrong answers.

Interests tests

Interests tests try to help you find out what you enjoy doing the most, while examining your hobbies and a range of activities. It is a type of personality test that usually includes a series of statements and describes a situation or activity that you are expected to be doing in a specific job or industry. Usually, you are given five or six statements that you need to choose from and prioritise them according to your own interests as well as to what degree you enjoy doing this activity on a scale from 1 to 10 depending on how many statements each question includes.

An interests test can be useful when you are trying to decide on a career. If you are clueless about what you want to do in your career, looking at your hobbies and interests can work as an excellent starting point.

Motivation tests

Motivations tests are another type of personality tests. Motivation refers to a group of closely related beliefs, perceptions, values, interests and actions. These are elements that are necessary for you to become aware of so that you can gain a better understanding of who you are and give an answer to the whys behind your thoughts, behaviour, needs and wants. In contrast to previous types of tests these aim to explain why-you-are-doing-what-you-are-doing instead of what-you-are-doing underlying the relevant reasons behind it.

Motivation tests are quite popular as a set of questionnaires that are administrated within an organisation. These help employers to find out what motivates each employee to work and how to work looking specifically for certain skills and qualities such as leadership, teamwork, communication skills, confidence, ambition and flexibility amongst others that are considered important to the work you are doing.

Unlike aptitude tests, personality, interests and motivation tests aren’t defined or fixed which means that they don’t have one correct answer. Any type of personality test can help you get a better sense of who you are as an individual. It helps you to come to terms with what you like or dislike and discover where you are best suited in the world of work.

General tips

While there are no specific guidelines on how to succeed in psychometric tests, there are certain things you need to be aware of to get the most accurate results. When preparing for a career test, make sure that you do the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with the type of test/assessment.   
  • Read the instructions of each question carefully.
  • Work swiftly but carefully and don’t rush.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before you take the test.
  • Keep track of the time you spend on each question using a stopwatch (for aptitude tests).
  • Give honest answers to ensure that you get more accurate results (for personality tests).

If you want to challenge yourself and learn more about the different aspects of your personality, you can also take our own free career test on, Career Hunter! After completing an interests test you have the option to take a personality test and other three aptitude tests that can help you pinpoint your strongest and weakest points. These tests can help you identify your interests, skills and talents but also the areas that you need to work on. Most importantly, they give you clear directions in terms of which industry and professions you are suited to and help you make a well-informed decision about your future.

Taking a career test can help you get to know yourself better and identify your career options. Wherever you are at in your professional life, you can find psychometric tools and assessments to be particularly useful. If by any chance you are sceptical about these tests and their effectiveness a single tryout can change your mind.

So, have a look at what we offer here on CareerAddict and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!