Many graduate employers use psychometric tests as part of the selection process for their graduate schemes. They are often used as a filtering mechanism at an early stage in the recruitment process, and employers like them because they are an objective way of comparing different candidates’ strengths regardless of educational background.
They help identify a candidate's skills, knowledge and personality and may be used at different stages of the graduate selection process, either after you submit your initial application form, alongside an interview, or as part of an assessment centre day.
Types of Tests
There are generally two types of tests that you will take: aptitude and personality.
Personality tests explore your interests, values and motivations, assessing your typical behaviour when presented with different situations and your preferred way of going about things. They examine how likely you are to fit into a company culture and assessors may match your responses with those of a sample of successful managers or graduate recruits. They might also be used to look at where you would be a best fit for the company. Employers may also look for people with certain characteristics for particular jobs, for example in a sales role they may want someone who is very forward, sociable and persuasive.
They typically take 10-15 minutes to complete online, with the number of questions varying from around 50-200. You'll usually be presented with statements describing various ways of feeling or acting, and asked to record how much you agree on a two-, five- or seven-point scale. There are no right or wrong answers, but practising them will help you become familiar with their style and format.
Don't try to second guess what you think the employer wants to see. If you’re right for the job and the employer is right for you, you’ll do fine, while if you don’t pass the test it’s more than likely you’ve made a lucky escape.
Aptitude tests assess your reasoning or cognitive ability, determining whether you've got the right skillset for a role. Usually administered under exam conditions, you'll often be given one minute to answer each multiple choice question. Your 'intelligence' levels are compared to a standard, meaning that you must achieve a certain score to pass.
Examining your potential to learn a new skill, you will complete different tasks depending on the job you have applied for. For example, if you are considering careers in IT you may be asked to complete diagrammatic, abstract reasoning or inductive reasoning test, whilst other career areas, such as finance, may ask you to complete numerical and verbal reasoning tests are focused on the kind of information you would come across in your daily work.
Common tests include:
Deductive reasoning tests assess a different type of logical problem solving. Broadly speaking, inductive reasoning moves from observation of specific instances to forming a theory that can be used to make predictions. Deductive reasoning starts with a number of rules and applies them in order to work out what happens in specific cases. Inductive reasoning can arrive at new solutions rather than using what is already known to solve a problem, so you can see why employers who focus on technological innovation are interested in it.
Abstract reasoning tests are believed to be fine indicators of your ability to learn new things quickly. They measure your ability to identify a set of rules and apply them to a new situation, judging how well you follow information or spot patterns.
Questions often consist of a series of pictures, each of which is slightly different. You must then choose another picture from a number of options to complete the series. These aptitude tests are particularly common for IT, science and engineering roles.
Data checking tests measure how quickly and accurately you can detect errors. They're common for clerical and data input vacancies.
Fault diagnosis tests, meanwhile, test your ability to approach problems logically. This method of psychometric assessment is often used to select technical personnel who must discover and repair faults in electronic and mechanical systems.
Logical reasoning tests: assess how well you follow through to a conclusion given basic information, or using your current knowledge or experience. These include deductive reasoning tests, in which you are given information or rules to apply in order to arrive at an answer.
You are particularly likely to come up against inductive reasoning tests when applying for engineering, science and IT roles, including software development jobs and positions that involve technical design. They tend to consist of multiple choice questions that you have to complete against the clock. Each question might consist of a series of simple pictures, each one of which is slightly different. You might then be asked to choose another picture from a number of options to complete the series. Try to find out in advance if you are likely to be set an inductive reasoning test as part of an assessment centre, as this will give you the chance to seek out examples and practise. Don't panic if you can't complete all the questions on the day; the test may have been devised so that it is almost impossible to finish before time is up.
These aptitude tests assess your interpretation of charts, graphs, data or statistics, investigating your ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately. Numerical psychometric tests may also challenge your knowledge of rates, trends, ratios, percentages and currency conversions.
Your ability to perceive, construct and manipulate shapes is measured by these tests. You may, for example, be asked to mentally flip, rotate or fit together objects. Alternatively, you might have to visualise three-dimensional objects that are presented as two-dimensional pictures.
These aptitude tests assess your understanding of written information, evaluation of arguments, and communication of concepts. You must read short passages of text before answering questions that assess your comprehension. Verbal psychometric tests challenge your ability to think constructively and use written information to construct accurate conclusions. Some tests also assess your spelling and grammar.
What to expect
Aptitude tests are usually conducted under timed, exam conditions. Most involve multiple-choice or true/false answers and are done in a dedicated computer room with desks are laid out in rows and there may be up to 25 other candidates. You will be provided with all of the materials you need including pencils and pocket calculators.
Before the test begins you can expect the test administrator to provide a thorough explanation of what you will be required to do. For example you will be told the type of tests you will be taking and the duration of each. You will also be given the opportunity to ask any questions you have before the test begins.
Pay no attention to how any other candidate is progressing, you have nothing to gain by knowing whether they are ahead of you, and use the knowledge you gained in your practise tests to go through the questions at your optimum speed (the speed at which you are making the best compromise between progress and accuracy).
If you think you are not going to finish the test, don’t panic! Some are designed to be impossible to finish and you will only under-perform if you start to panic.
The best way to approach graduate psychometric tests is through practise. This will help you familiarise yourself with the typical formats and the way questions are asked, as well as help you to improve on speed and accuracy and identify areas in your aptitude tests that need work.
If you are currently at university, your careers service will provide you with practise psychometric tests while you can also check out: