While they can be daunting, psychometric tests don't have to be a stumbling block - this is one part of the interview process where practice really does make perfect
What is a psychometric test?
Graduate psychometric tests help to identify your skills, knowledge and personality. They're often used during the preliminary screening stage, or as part of an assessment centre. They're objective, convenient and strong indicators of job performance - making them very popular with large graduate recruiters.
The majority of psychometric testing is completed online, though some paper questionnaires remain. Most tests are timed, but some can be completed in multiple sittings.
Types of psychometric testing
There are two main types: personality tests and aptitude tests.
Personality tests explore your interests, values and motivations, analysing how your character fits with the role and organisation. They analyse your emotions, behaviours and relationships in a variety of situations.
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. Common tests include:
- diagrammatic reasoning
- error checking
- numerical reasoning
- spatial reasoning
- verbal reasoning.
Taking a personality test
There are lots of tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which places you in one of 16 personality groups, and the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ), which tests your personality to check that it fits with the job.
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 - this, plus the fact that enforced pressure reduces accuracy and discourages honesty, means that personality tests aren't typically completed under exam conditions.
While there's generally no time limit, you should expect to spend between 15 and 30 minutes answering anything from 50 to 200 questions, usually online. The best way to prepare is to practise personality tests so that you're familiar with their format and the questions they ask. Make sure you've read the job description, know what the employer is looking for and how the test you're taking will measure this.
When taking a personality test, make sure that you:
- take the test in a quiet, familiar environment
- read the instructions carefully, paying close attention to what you're being asked
- stay calm by breathing slowly and deeply
- work briskly and accurately, omitting any questions that you don't understand
- are honest and consistent in your responses
- trust your initial reactions, and don't simply try to guess the 'best' answer.
How to pass an aptitude test
- Lots of practice - the test will probably be online so get used to working on a screen. As well as giving you a feel for the questions, practicing will also highlight any gaps in your knowledge.
- Have the right equipment - you should take a few pens, rough paper, a calculator (you won't be able to use your phone in most cases), a watch and a dictionary. The employer may insist that you use their equipment but it's better to arrive prepared. Make sure you've practiced with these tools, as the more familiar you are the quicker you'll start working and the more you'll get done.
- Read the instructions - before you start make sure you understand what you're being asked to do and how long you've got to do it. Double check any graphs, tables or images to ensure that you haven't missed anything and know what they're showing.
- Be aware of the time - make sure you know how long you've got for the overall test and each question. If you get stuck on a question just move on and come back as some questions can take longer than others.
These tests assess your interpretation of charts, graphs, data or statistics, investigating your ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately. Numerical reasoning tests may also challenge your knowledge of rates, trends, ratios, percentages and currency conversions.
Your understanding of written information, evaluation of arguments, and communication of concepts is being tested here. 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.
This is your chance to demonstrate your ability to learn new things quickly. Abstract reasoning tests 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.
You'll be given a hypothetical work-related situation and asked to choose a preferred course of action from a list of options. You may be asked to choose the most and least effective response, rate the responses in order of effectiveness or choose only the most effective course of action, so make sure you read the instructions carefully.
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 recruit for technical roles, discovering and reparing faults in electronic and mechanical systems.
Practice psychometric tests
Your university careers and employability service may provide psychometric test training. Some large graduate recruiters also provide practice testing and advice on passing psychometric tests. For advice, information and free psychometric tests online visit:
- Graduates First
- Institute of Psychometric Coaching
- Procter & Gamble
- SHL Talent Measurement
Find out more
- Read all about the interview tests and exercises you might face.