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Psychometric tests

How to deal with the different types of psychometric tests used in job interviews and assessment centres: aptitude tests, ability tests and personality tests.

Psychometric tests can be used by employers as part of an interview or assessment centre. These tests are designed to assess your intelligence, logic, reasoning ability, numerical ability and verbal ability. Most employers use a selection of tests. Some employers use tests related to specific types of work, particularly computing.

How employers use psychometric tests

Employers use psychometric tests to help them find the best person for the job. Aptitude and ability tests show whether a candidate has the necessary skills to perform the job – or the potential to learn new skills. Personality tests find out whether a candidate’s character suits the position.

These tests can be seen as fairer than other selection methods, firstly because the results are quantifiable and also because you are measured against an objective standard so you're not competing directly against the other applicants.

Psychometric tests can be used at different stages of the selection process:

  • As a first step, to narrow the field when there are large numbers of applicants. This could be as part of an online application. If you do well in the tests, you’ll be invited to an interview.
  • Alongside a first interview, so the company can decide whether to put you through to the next stage of selection.
  • At a later stage, possibly with a second interview or as part of an assessment centre.

Psychometric tests can help you, as well as your potential employer. If you have the right skills this will come through, and you will learn whether you’ll be happy doing the job. If you struggle, perhaps the job was never right for you in the first place. You should be offered feedback on your performance: use this information to help you find a job that's really right for you.

What to expect from psychometric tests

Most tests involve multiple-choice answers and provide a numerical score. A higher score is not always ‘better’ – tests often measure multiple skills. In skills tests, the results compare your ability levels to those of other people; in personality tests they reveal how much of a certain characteristic you possess.

Psychometric tests are put together by experts to make sure that they are accurate. They are backed up by evidence that shows how well they work, so don't worry about the tests being unfair.

Types of psychometric test

There are two main kinds of psychometric test: skills tests and personality tests.

Skills tests measure how well you do something, and can be split into ability and aptitude tests. These are often confused, since they’re quite similar and many tests measure both.

Ability tests include numerical, verbal and logical reasoning, problem-solving skills, and the ability to identify mistakes accurately. Aptitude tests are more specific, and examine your potential to learn to do a new task rather than testing the skills you already have.

Personality tests assess your motivation, attitude and preferred way of going about things. This helps employers to see whether you match the characteristics needed for a particular job. Personality tests are usually untimed. There are no right or wrong answers, so don’t try to guess which answers the employer wants: there are built-in checks to guard against this. Answer truthfully, but don’t over-think your answers as your initial response will be the most accurate representation of yourself.

Dealing with timed tests

With timed tests, the key is to strike a balance between speed and accuracy. Don't go so fast that you start making mistakes but don't be so careful over each answer that you don't finish. Practise, and you’ll find the speed that works best for you.

Some tests are designed to see how well you cope with pressure: often the time limit is so tight that most people are not expected to complete the test. Just answer as many questions as you can.

Read each question carefully before answering. You should be told whether marks are taken off for incorrect answers. Usually they are not, so it's worth making an educated guess at the answer. You can always miss out a question and go back to it if you have time later. Some tests have no time limit, but the questions get harder as you go along. The aim is to see how far you get and stop when the questions get too difficult. It is worth taking your time to think carefully about the questions. However, it may be harder to miss questions out and return to them later – the earlier questions may help 'build you up' to solve the later questions.

How to prepare for psychometric tests

It's a good idea to do some practice tests ahead of the real thing. These will let you familiarise yourself with the format, help you improve on speed and show you any areas you need to work on.

You don’t need to practise for personality tests, though you might like to try some for your own interest.

How to find free psychometric tests

  • Your careers service: they will have books and access to online tests.
  • Your invitation to the testing process: this may include some practice questions.
  • You can also do practice tests online and your Careers Service can point you in the right direction. Most of these tools have a section with practice tests covering Numerical Reasoning , Verbal Reasoning, Inductive Logical Thinking and Deductive Logical Thinking.

Tips for dealing with psychometric tests

  • Find out in advance what tests you’ll be doing, and do some practice questions.
  • Listen carefully to instructions, and ask questions if you’re unsure about anything.
  • If you think you’ve done badly at a test, don’t worry – it's not the only thing you’re being assessed on and there are other ways to let your strengths shine through.
  • Get feedback on your strengths and the areas you could work on.