Graduate Psychometric Testing

8,000 of the world's largest employers use Psychometric and Aptitude tests to assess graduates, and at least 51% of these applicants will fail these tests and miss out. Practicing could never be more important to ensure you get job first time.

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Saqib Saddiq, MSc CPsychol AFBPsS CSci,
(Previous SHL and Kenexa IBM Assessment Consultant)

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Southampton University

The word 'test' is certainly a daunting one to see when looking at the application process of a company. The reality is normally not so frightening. Psychometric testing can be exceptionally useful for certain employers to help them decide which graduates are suitable. Using insider knowledge, this guide will aim to alleviate some queries you may have. Psychometric tests can form part of graduate assessment centres, particularly in the earlier stages of an interview process. Psychometric testing can be broken down into three broad areas: personality, key skills and aptitude.

Different kinds of graduate psychometric testing

There are a great variety of assessment tests and questionnaires in use today. Some are completed on paper, others on a computer. However they fall into three categories:

1. Personality and interests

These are measures of typical performance. When completing these types of questionnaires the organisation is trying to understand a little more about you and what you think is important in life. It is important to be yourself. Don't try to reinvent your personality for the test. You never know exactly what they are looking for and the questions are carefully designed by psychologists to detect when someone is being less than honest.

2. Ability and aptitude

These tests are usually timed and typically involve verbal, numerical and diagrammatic or spatial reasoning, but there are many different types. They are designed to measure how well you pick up concepts, not how much you learned in your Maths class. For that reason, practice will help you only in terms of making you more confident and familiar with the materials that you may be presented with. However, when you are completing timed tests, you need to have a good strategy.

3. Skills and knowledge

It is possible to prepare or revise for knowledge based tests in the same way you might for an exam. Make sure that you know what subjects the tests will cover and have a look at any notes you may have.

Preparing for psychometric tests

You can build up your confidence, before you start any test, by practising. Test yourself with as many questions as you can lay your hands on.

Tools that you could use for improving your chances in the tests are:

  • Mathematics/logic-based questions
  • Word puzzles
  • Read newspapers to improve memory, language and current affairs knowledge.

Remember, it is one thing to collect the information to practise with, and another to actually use it. Once you have the information, make sure you regularly practise. Remember, you do not know how much preparation other candidates have had, so it is vitally important that you practise as hard as you can. You can then be confident that you have tried your best.

Read all of the instructions

Read them very carefully and follow them closely. Make sure that you understand what you are being asked to do and how long you have to do it. If you do not understand, re-read the instructions or email the helpline before starting the test.

Take a quick look

When you begin, look at the test in its entirety and work out how long it should take you per question. For example, if you have one hour to complete 60 questions, you should allow one minute per question.

Keep to a schedule

Stick to the time limit per question that you've set. If you go past it, then you allow yourself less time for the next question. However if you feel that a few extra seconds will allow you to solve the question, complete the question then move on. Effective judgement is key.

You don't have to finish it

Don't always expect to finish timed tests; they're designed to put you under pressure. However, you should try your best to answer as many as you can. 

Be genuine

Give honest answers in personality and interest type questionnaires. Don't waste time trying to second guess the best answer; organisations are interested in your true personality, not how you think they would like you to respond and act.

Each question could mean the difference between you getting the job and another graduate getting it. It's therefore very important to read the questions properly.