Situational Judgement Tests: The Basics

quiz-1373314_960_720A situational judgement test (SJT) forms part of the recruitment process for many graduate schemes. From an employer’s perspective, they are an efficient way to sift through high volumes of candidates. Candidates are presented with a multiple choice test that consists of short descriptions of job-related situations, and for each, several actions are listed that could be taken in response.

The task could include:

~ ranking a list of 4 or 5 responses in order of merit

~ choosing the best answer from several possibilities

~ deciding on the most effective and least effective answers

The tests measure your ability to make the right decision in a difficult situation and scenarios may range from ethical dilemmas to difficulties with workload, colleagues or clients. See WikiJob for some example questions, with explanations for each answer. For some detailed information about each question type and what they look like, see this excellent resource from Assessment Day. You can also find a free situational judgement test to practise.

When you are choosing your response:

  • Think about the qualities and skills the employer has said they are looking for. Which response demonstrates these?
  • Make sure you read each response carefully before choosing, so that you have understood the full information. Don’t panic and rush into answering.
  • Think about the long term consequences of each of the actions. Which would lead to the best outcomes for the organisation in the long run?
  • Consider how actions would affect different stakeholders, and which stakeholders are most important. For example, if you have to let someone down or miss a deadline, it is probably better to let a colleague down than a client.

Where can you practise?

Useful tools to practise psychometric tests and interviews

We’ve spoken to lots of students this week who are looking for ways to practise psychometric tests and interviews. 

Psychometric tests:

These often form part of the recruitment process for many graduate schemes and are typically timed multiple choice tests that are to be completed independently by applicants. Employers may use these tests to 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 many different types of tests, including:

  • Numerical reasoning – testing your ability to analyse data in the form of ratios, percentages, graphs and tables.
  • Verbal reasoning – a test of logic, from a given written statement. You might be asked whether a statement is true, false, or if there’s not enough information to draw 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 (usually you’ll need to rank options).
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – tests that assess visual problem solving and processing skills.

So how can you practise?

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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.

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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!

Psychometric tests – what are they and how can I do well?

What are they?

Otherwise known as aptitude tests, you will be asked to answer a number of questions within a given time limit. These questions could be used to measure your numerical, verbal, or critical thinking skills for example, and are another way (in addition to application forms and interviews) for employers to see whether you are right for the job.

What do they look for?

High scores! It is important here to balance speed and accuracy. You need to make sure you don’t spend too long on each question, but you also need to spend long enough so that your answers are correct! The time limit also puts pressure on you, so be aware of this too.

How do I do well? 

Well, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Trying both sample questions and full-length psychometric tests before you sit the real thing will give you an insight into what to expect, will boost your confidence and will help you improve your exam technique. It will also give you a sense of where to focus your revision if there are certain types of questions that catch you off your guard.
Register here https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/qmul using your qmul email address to access a range of sample tests and their answers. You can also visit www.careerstagged.co.uk and use the tag ‘psychometric tests’ to find more practice questions.

What to avoid? 

Spending too long on one question, leaving questions unanswered and leaving your preparation to the last minute. If you are applying for graduate schemes you can almost guarantee that you will be given a psychometric test during the process, so try and put aside some time every week to practice.

‘I just can’t do numerical reasoning!’: What to do when you can’t pass recruitment tests

Often in my role at the Careers & Enterprise Centre I speak to students who are anxious about upcoming psychometric tests or assessment centres. Sometimes – they might have failed previous psychometric tests or underperformed at assessment centre tasks. We have a range of information and advice we can provide to prepare, but you might always want to have a think about your other options.

Why do employers use assessment centres?

Many large organisations use these types of recruitment practices as a way of filtering, in a cost-effective way, the thousands of applications they get for their vacancies. However, a large proportion of the UK workforce is actually employed by SMEs (small to medium enterprises). Because smaller companies receive fewer applicants they tend to have more flexible recruitment practices. SMEs are not an easy option, and you may still have to sit certain skills tests: it’s just that if you might have more opportunity to shine when applying to a smaller organisation. In fact, speculative applications are a great way of finding work in an SME. Which leads me to my next point…

Recruitment Flexibility

To ensure standardisation of its recruitment, large companies may have set hiring practices with managers unable to deviate from these norms. They may have specialised recruitment staff so that the person who hires you is not necessarily the person you’ll be working under. This is often designed to rule out accusations of bias or discrimination, but it also can sometimes mean less chance for you to demonstrate your personality. Smaller companies tend to have more flexibility in this regard. So if you make a good impression on the interviewer, they are more likely to be able to hire you based on their own judgement.

Networking

As an anonymous applicant – one among hundreds if not thousands – one way for a large organisation to try to glean more about your personality and abilities is via psychometric testing and assessment centre tasks. A way to avoid these practices is by making yourself known to an employer before applying for a position. Again, this works better with SMEs, but even large companies are more likely to hire you for a permanent role if you have already interned for them, because they know who you are. Indeed, in certain sectors, such as the creative industries, recruitment is done almost entirely by personal connection and reputation. So use the power of social media to get talking to people.

You haven’t failed

I understand that, if you’ve had your mind set on a particular job or a particular company, it can be hard to accept that you just might not be able to pass their tests. I’ve seen a number of students who find this demoralising. But instead of feeling like a failure think of this as an opportunity to reassess your job hunting plan. Also consider: if you are struggling with the way a company recruits, would you actually be happy working at that organisation anyway? You never know – by accepting you limitations and focusing on your strengths you might find a job much more suited to you.

Interested in finance? What is the BAT?

You may have heard about the Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT) but be wondering what it is. Here’s a description written by one of Bloomberg’s Queen Mary campus ambassadors along with how it helped him gain an internship with RBS. It’s by an ambassador, so of course it’s positive! For a balanced view, you might like to make up your own mind about what the BAT could offer you by taking a look at http://about.bloomberginstitute.com/ or by speaking with a Careers Consultant. 

During my first year at Queen Mary, I knew that I had little chance to get a summer internship in a big bank.

However, I was very surprised and excited when I got an email saying that the RBS would like to see me as their potential candidate for a summer internship. I was unbelievably happy and I knew that it is all thanks to the BAT!

BAT (Bloomberg Aptitude Test) is a free 2-hour test designed by the world’s leading financial data analysis and news company Bloomberg. It was specifically designed for students interested in a career in finance in order to facilitate their search and increase their chances to get a job in the finance area.

I heard about the BAT from my friends who had already taken the test at their universities.

I quickly became interested in taking the BAT because it was absolutely free and, what is surprising, it doesn’t need any preparation. All what was needed were 2 hours of my time. So I said to myself: “Why not?”

After I got registered to take the BAT on Mile End campus, I was surprised with the fact that students from different years of study and very different backgrounds (physicists, engineers, medics) were also registering for the test. And it’s all because BAT is not a knowledge test, it is an APTITUDE test meaning that a student from any background might succeed in a particular section of a test!

The BAT not only provided me with an opportunity to accurately check my finance knowledge and skills but also the chance to get to know the most common practical problems that many financial agents face each day.

The 2 hours of completing the test provided me with invaluable and tremendously beneficial feedback.

First of all, I found out how I stand against other test takers around the world because besides providing your score in individual section, the BAT puts your score as relative to the global mean. To my high interest, I found out that my maths, global markets and analytical reasoning skills were higher than the global average.

Secondly, I got a taste of all the questions that are most likely to pop up during my many future interviews and I was already trying to find the answers for questions that I saw in the BAT in order to prepare for interviews.

And finally, within few weeks I received an email saying that the RBS is interested in contacting me because they were happy with my score. So it was like a fast-track and added bonus to my application to the bank.

All in all, the BAT not only gave me an in-depth feel of finance industry-specific tasks and increased my chances to get a desired internship but also boosted my confidence and interest in a career in finance!

I definitely recommend all students to take the BAT because it will definitely increase their chances to get a desired job in finance!