The Basics: Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests – one of those things that your parents probably never had to worry about when they were applying for work. But now it looks like you can’t get a job without acing one of these tests. But what exactly are they and how do you do well on them?

What are they?

Psychometric tests (also referred to as aptitude tests) are used by many larger recruiters.These are typically timed multiple choice tests that are to be completed independently by applicants. Different employers might use these tests for different reasons – whether to objectively filter down the number of candidates that they invite to interview, or to benchmark a candidate’s attributes against those who have been successful in that role.

There are a number of different test providers, such as Watson Glaser, and within those providers, there are many different test types, including:

  • Numerical Reasoning – deducing an outcome from data in the form of ratios, percentages, graphs and tables.
  • Verbal Reasoning – A test of logic, from a given written statement. Typically candidates might be asked whether a statement is true, false, or if there’s not enough information to draw such a conclusion.
  • Critical thinking – tests a candidate’s ability to solve new and complex tasks – closely related to verbal reasoning.
  • Situational Judgement Test – tests how you might approach a variety of scenarios in the workplace – giving you options of how you might best respond.
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – tests that assess visual problem solving and processing skills.

The type of tests you are asked to do will likely depend on the nature of the role. For example, if you are applying for an engineering role, you will more likely be faced with a diagrammatic reasoning test, than if you were applying for a law graduate scheme – where you might more likely face a situational judgement test, along with verbal and critical reasoning.

They sound scary!

Many students feel anxious about psychometric tests. Some might feel they are impersonal and don’t reflect their abilities, while others feel they oughtn’t prepare for them since employers should already be able to deduce that they have good problem solving skills from their CVs and experience.

Psychometric tests are nothing to be scared of. There are definite ways to improve your likelihood of a positive outcome (discussed further below), and employers aren’t trying to trip you up.

students 2

How are they scored?

Typically, tests are not scored in terms of getting more than x% means you have passed. Instead, psychometric testing bodies test people who have been successful in their chosen career areas, and used these scores to benchmark applicants against. Therefore, there’s nothing to say that achieving 40% won’t mean you progress – it all depends on the benchmark – and this is something we cannot know. It’s always a good idea to do your best!

Ok, so how can I best prepare?

You can do a lot to increase your likelihood of scoring well. Familiarity & confidence have been shown to positively impact psychometric test scoring by up to 30%.

Do the test on the last day you can to give yourself time to best prepare. Typically you will be given a 3-7 day window in which to complete the test. Use those intervening days to try as many of the following tips as possible.

Practice intelligently – if the test requires you to do 30 questions in 30 minutes, it’s potentially a really good idea to do many of the practice tests under no time conditions at all. Many candidates have reported doing really well after taking 10 minutes to answer 1 question in practice – in order to understand the different ways in which they might approach the question, and also try to understand how the test writers are operating. In this way, candidates can better appreciate their favoured method of answering certain question types, and so can save time in the real test as they already know how, for example, they’ll approach a question relating to ratios.

In this way, let the speed build naturally.

Find out what kind of psychometric test the employer might be using: websites such as Glassdoor, Wikijob and Studentroom might help, or failing that, phone up and ask the graduate recruitment team! Use this information to ensure you’re practising on the right kind of tests.

Check out the QMUL Careers & Enterprise website – we have some terrific resources there which tell you all about psychometric test and you can have a practice using the Assessment Day website which we have a subscription for.

Always read the instructions of the tests – specifically around possible negative marking for incorrect answers.

Lastly – be fully rested, and find a room where you won’t be disturbed for the test.

The team at QM Careers are completely behind you, and wish you the best of luck!


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