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How to Tackle Psychometric Tests

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CC Image: ’Exam’ courtesy of Alberto G. on Flickr

In the last 5-10 years, psychometric tests have become a more and more dominant part of the recruitment process. If you’re a graduate looking for your first full-time job, it’s unlikely that you’ll avoid having to complete an online test in either verbal, numerical or abstract reasoning. Research has shown that psychometric tests tend to give a good picture of a candidate’s ‘general intelligence’, and they aren’t as influenced by socio-economic factors as other selection criteria.

Companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers have recently moved towards making psychometric testing a more central feature of their recruiting process, and away from traditional criteria like A-level results, which Stephen Isherwood, CEO of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, has referred to as a “barrier to social mobility”. However, psychometric tests aren’t something you can come to ‘blind’. Preparation is key, and it’s important to know as much about the tests as possible so that you can tackle them effectively.

Psychometric tests come in two forms: ability and personality. Ability tests assess your intelligence and your capacity to tackle problems in a business environment. Although they’re often described as verbal and numerical tests, you shouldn’t think of them as ‘Maths’ and ‘English’, as they’re more concerned with the way you use and interpret words or figures than your raw mathematical ability or literacy skills.

Personality tests attempt to find out your innate characteristics and the way that these can impact your behaviour in a work environment. The results of personality tests are rarely used to form shortlists: rather, they’re often used to generate questions at interview. For example, candidates whose test results show high tendencies towards extroversion might be asked how they would manage tasks which require individual work. Employers don’t make assumptions about work performance based on personality profiles, as someone who is naturally introverted may well have developed excellent interpersonal skills. It’s important to remember that there’s more than one way to do a job well. 

Top Tips for Psychometric Tests

  • Numerical Reasoning – don’t be discouraged if you don’t think of yourself as being ‘good at Maths’. Numerical reasoning is about using data to visualise a problem and come to a solution using percentages, averages and multiplication.  
  • Improve your familiarity with numerical data by reading the financial press, which displays financial projections in table form.
  • Verbal Reasoning – if you struggle to process complex information quickly, make sure you read as many newspaper articles as you can in the weeks before the test, and practice mentally summarising the information. 
  • Stick to the facts. Verbal tests are assessing your comprehension skills, so even if you think you know an answer from your own knowledge, always base your responses on the information given.
  • Personality – be yourself! Attempts to second-guess what the employer is looking for are rarely successful, so it’s best to answer honestly. You’d be unlikely to perform well in a job that requires you to behave in a way that’s against your personality, so being honest is the best way to ensure the job is right for you.
  • Answering honestly isn’t easy if you don’t always know how you would respond to a particular situation. To help improve your self-awareness, do a mock personality test, and ask your friends to do one too, answering as you. As well as showing you what your friends think of you, this will help you see if you view yourself accurately!

Further reading:

You’re Hired! Psychometric Tests: Proven Tactics to Help You Pass – Ceri Roderick and James Meachin

‘PwC ends A-level criteria for graduates’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32579823

Quiet – Susan Cain (excellent on how introversion needn’t hold you back from career success!)