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Jobs & Careers

Psychometric tests – How to prepare and pass

Psychometric testing is a key part of the graduate recruitment process. Allow us to take you through what it takes to make it to the next stage.

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If you're currently applying for graduate jobs, you've probably come across the dreaded psychometric testing process. Designed to check out your credentials in various areas, they're a favoured recruitment tool among big companies to help them get the right person for the job.

But when you're on the receiving end, it can be more than a little daunting. And that's partly because there's no way to alter the results or 'cheat' the system.

Nevertheless, based on our experience and research, we've compiled a list of the different types of psychometric tests with tips on how to do your best in each.

We've also got tips on how to pass an assessment centre.

What are psychometric tests?

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Psychometric tests are designed to be an objective, quantifiable way of measuring how suitable someone is for a specific job, and how capable they'd be at doing it. They're often used when recruiting graduates.

Most psychometric tests will take place online and they'll usually be timed. That said, there's still a chance that you could be given a paper test, and some won't necessarily have to be done in one go. You may be able to return to them at a later point.

Although there are different subcategories of psychometric testing, they're all intended to measure things such as:

  • Abilities
  • Academic and/or professional potential
  • Attitude
  • Knowledge
  • Personality traits
  • Skills.
Here are some of the other skills employers look for in a job applicant.

The different types of psychometric tests

The two main types of psychometric tests are aptitude tests and personality tests. Here's what each type of test is for, along with some psychometric testing tips:

Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests are usually completed online or on a printed answer sheet, a bit like your typical exam. They're designed to assess your cognitive and reasoning abilities. Normally, you'll be given a strict time limit to complete the tests.

Some common types of aptitude tests include:

  • Diagrammatic reasoning – Sometimes known as 'abstract reasoning tests', this type of psychometric test involves sequences of shapes or symbols. You'll often be asked to identify a missing symbol or continue the sequence.
  • Numerical reasoning – These tests are usually focused on stats and graphs, which you'll need to use to logically and correctly answer a question.
  • Situational judgement – Not dissimilar to the roleplay session of an assessment day, situational judgements present you with work-based hypothetical scenarios. Your task is to decide how best to resolve the problem or move forward, choosing from a list of four or five options.
  • Verbal reasoning – You'll usually be given a short piece of text that you'll need to read and evaluate to answer some questions (often in a 'true or false' format).

Whichever type of aptitude test you're faced with, you should be given instructions before you start. Always read them thoroughly.

If you're faced with a multiple-choice test, it's worth checking if there are any penalties for wrong answers. If not, as in a regular exam at uni, you're better off guessing an answer if you're unsure or running out of time. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

However, some tests do give negative marks for wrong answers. In this case, if you're unsure of an answer, leave the question blank and come back to it later (and leave it completely if you're still struggling).

Plan your time carefully to avoid running out of time. And, ahead of taking the aptitude test, make sure that you have everything you need, such as a calculator (if it's helpful and you're allowed one).

When preparing for an aptitude test, your best bet is to practise, practise, practise. A quick Google throws up loads of mock tests you can take, so familiarise yourself with the style of test before taking it.

Struggling to make it past the first hurdle? We have some expert tips on how to improve your job application.

Personality tests

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Personality tests are different to aptitude tests in the sense that there are no right or wrong answers and there's rarely a time limit. They're meant to be a more relaxed experience, as the recruiter wants an honest insight into how you work and behave.

Typically, a personality test might ask you questions about how you prefer to work. You might notice that you're asked the same question several times that's worded slightly differently. This is to give consistency and to ensure you aren't just answering how you think you should (which you should never do).

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) are among the most commonly used personality tests.

MBTI tests are pretty popular online so there's a chance you've taken one before.

You can find plenty of info on how each test works online (we'll list some resources later). It's worth doing some further research if you know which type of test you'll be doing.

But again, personality tests are about telling someone what you're really like. Preparation for these assessments should be about getting used to the format rather than perfecting your answers.

If you feel that you're having to make up a personality to fit the job, then it's probably not the one for you!

Remember there are plenty of good alternatives to graduate schemes that can take you where you want to go.

How to pass a psychometric test

Follow these three simple steps to help you pass a psychometric test:

  1. Prepare and practise – There are several places online where you can practise psychometric tests. Check out sites such as Psychometric Success and Job Test Prep for aptitude tests, and Team Technology and 16Personalities for personality tests. They're a great way to get used to how they work and identify areas that you might struggle with, so you know where to focus your efforts.
  2. Stay calm – It's easier said than done, but you'll never perform at your best if you're stressed and worried. Stay calm and get yourself in the right frame of mind. If you're struggling to relax in the days leading up to the test, give these self-care techniques a go.
  3. Be honest – When it comes to personality tests, there are no right or wrong answers. In fact, they're often designed to catch you out if you try to manipulate your answers, so avoid trying to do what you think is 'right'. Answer honestly and you'll give the company a well-rounded view of what you're really like. If you're cut out for the job, it'll shine through.

Don't get TOO far ahead of yourself, but here's what to expect in your first graduate job.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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