Some recruiters may use psychometric testing to explore candidate’s skills and attributes beyond those gained in the lecture theatre by providing the opportunity to undertake a range of work place style activities.  

Psychometric Tests

Top Tips
  • Follow the instructions exactly – Make sure that you know exactly what you are required to do and complete all the examples before you start the test
  • Work quickly and accurately – Both speed and accuracy are important. Do not spend too long on any one question and keep an eye on the clock. Do not worry if you do not finish all the questions in the time provided
  • Practise – The best way to prepare for psychometric tests is to sit a practice test. Have a look at the Useful Resources box on this page for details of how to access free online tests
  • Brush up your maths skills – If you are worried about your numeracy, there are some excellent resources to help you refresh your basic mathematical skills
  • Answer honestly – In personality questionnaires, do not try to influence the results too much as they will probably be seen to conflict with your past achievements and interview performance
  • Access our Mini Career Course on Psychometric Tests
The basics

Psychometric tests are structured online exercises, often in the form of multiple choice questions. They are designed to assess your reasoning abilities, or how you respond to different situations. The tests have been researched, designed and trialled by occupational psychologists to ensure that they are fair to all people sitting them. Your results are usually compared with how others have done in the tests.

Psychometric testing is used extensively by IT companies, financial institutions, management consultancies, local authorities, the Civil Service, and many other large organisations to determine who will good at what, and what behaviours you are likely to exhibit in the workplace so that they can achieve the best person/job fit.

Cognitive/Ability tests

Also known as aptitude tests, these aim to assess your logical or thinking performance; they are not tests of general knowledge. Tests are strictly timed and questions have definite right and wrong answers which you often have to select from a range of alternatives. Your score (the number of questions you get right) will be compared with a norm group (made up of similar people for fairness) who completed the test previously. This enables selectors to assess your scores in relation to others and to make judgements about your ability to cope with the tasks involved in the job/course.

The most commonly used types are:

  • verbal reasoning
  • numerical reasoning
  • diagrammatic/spatial/abstract reasoning
Personality questionnaires

Your success in a job depends not only on your abilities, but also on your personal qualities. Interviews and group exercises can be used to assess social skills but, in addition, personality questionnaires can further explore the way you tend to react to, or deal with, different situations. These sorts of questionnaires gather information about how and why you do things in your own particular way. They look at how you react or behave in different situations, and your preferences and attitudes.

Most questionnaires focus on a variety of personality factors such as:

  • how you relate to other people
  • your work style
  • your ability to deal with your own and others’ emotions
  • your motivation and determination
  • and your general outlook

Unlike cognitive tests there are no right or wrong answers and questionnaires are not usually timed. 

Personality questionnaires are typically self-report questionnaires which means that a profile is drawn up from your responses to a number of questions or statements. This profile can be used to structure subsequent interviews with questions on specific attributes relevant to the competencies for the role. Questionnaires on interests and values are also produced, but are not normally used in selection. 

How to prepare

You cannot buy psychometric tests, take copies of them or get ‘past papers’ since employers feel that it would undermine the tests’ effectiveness if candidates could practise limitlessly. Also, unlike in exams, the same test questions are used for several years because they are so expensive to develop. There are, however, a number of things you can do to prepare.

  • There are many websites that offer free practice exercises for psychometric and personality tests. You can access a section of these resources here. The ones with gold stars are particularly recommended.
  • Practise basic mental arithmetic with and without a calculator. You will usually be asked to make calculations using addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, percentages and ratios. Many questions also require you to extract information from charts and graphs.
  • Try word games, mathematical teasers and puzzles with diagrams to get you into a logical and analytical frame of mind.
  • Practise extracting the main points from passages of information and summarizing their meaning.
  • Make sure you are well rested before taking a test.