Psychometric tests are a standardised method to measure cognitive abilities, personality and behavioural style. They are used by employers to assess how well a candidate’s attributes match those required for the role.
Psychometric tests in the recruitment process
Psychometric tests can increase the reliability of the selection process for employers, thereby increasing the chances that their new employee will succeed. Psychometric tests provide measurable, validated information to employers about a candidate to help them make a selection decision. They are typically used to assess a candidate’s suitability, alongside interviews. Many employers use psychometric tests as a way of screening large amounts of candidates at the start of a recruitment process. This is an efficient way of shortlisting candidates who are likely to perform well in the latter stages of the process.
Types of tests
Aptitude tests (verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests)
The main focus of aptitude tests is the measurement of various cognitive abilities. You will typically encounter verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests but you may also be tested on spatial awareness, deductive reasoning and more. The type of test used in the recruitment process will very much depend on the type of job to which you are applying.
Verbal Reasoning tests your ability to understand, reason with and logically draw conclusions from written information such as reports. For example, a verbal test could include a series of passages, each of which is followed by several statements. Your task is to evaluate each statement in the light of the passage, which precedes it.
Numerical Reasoning looks at your ability to understand and identify critical information from facts and figures usually presented in the form of tables, charts and graphs. You can sometimes use a calculator to help with these tests.
Abstract or Diagrammatic Reasoning examines your ability to reason with abstract, non-verbal information presented within logical sequences and to apply them in the form of symbols, shapes and diagrams. The questions may require you to recognise patterns and similarities between these symbols, shapes and diagrams. These are usually timed computer-based tests and the questions are typically a multiple choice format. You are assessed on the number of correct answers you get within the time limit, and each test question has only one correct answer. Very few people manage to finish these tests and the object is simply to give as many correct answers as you can within the allocated time.
Aptitude and ability tests are often used as part of the selection process to screen out candidates who are unsuitable. Some organisations use test scores as one of the criteria to select candidates.
Personality tests are used as part of the selection process to indicate a person’s characteristic pattern of behaviour. From this profile a recruiter will get a sense of the candidate’s style of interacting with others, in teams or as a team leader, how they deal with problems or obstacles they will encounter and how they manage work stresses or pressures. These tests are usually not timed and there are no right or wrong answers. Your responses give the employer an idea of your personality type and are often discussed at interview. The best way to approach these tests is to answer them as honestly as you can. Guessing what the employer is looking for is often difficult and could be counter-productive.
Behavioural tests (situational judgement tests)
Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) present candidates with work related scenarios that they would frequently face in a particular role. Candidates are asked to select the most effective response (or rank the responses in order of suitability) from a range of possible responses to the scenario. These tests allow an employer to assess how well the applicant’s judgement matches that which is required in the role and to assess how well the candidate will fit with the culture of the organisation. From the candidate’s perspective, SJTs can give a realistic insight into what will be required of them in a role, and into the attitudes and culture of the organisation. This can be a valuable source of information when you are trying to decide if you want to work for an organisation and whether this is the role for you.
The standard advice you will hear from recruiters when doing a SJT is to try to make an honest judgement rather than trying to pick what you think is the “best” or most socially acceptable answer. However, remember that when you are doing an SJT you will be doing it for a particular company so it is important that you have researched as much as you can about the company, paying particular attention to the stated values and culture of the company. Keeping these in mind when doing the test may influence which response you select.
Preparing for aptitude tests
The most effective way to prepare for aptitude tests is to focus on test technique and knowledge so that you are familiar with the test. Before the test begins pay attention to the test instructions and make sure to follow them during the assessment. Note how long you will have to complete it and how many questions there are to answer. Work out the maximum time you can spend on any question and stick to it. You can often come back to questions at the end. If you get stuck on a question, even if you think you nearly have it, don’t spend too much time on it, move on to answering other questions to increase the number of correct responses you submit.
Try and familiarise yourself with the different style of questions that you are likely to be asked, for example will you be asked to answer a number of different questions based on a particular graph/table/paragraph? If you have encountered and practised these type of questions recently you are likely to have developed a “feel” for how to solve them. It will also help you identify any gaps in your knowledge, for example a quick review of long-forgotten mathematical basics can impact positively on your performance in numerical tests.
Tests are designed so that very few people will complete all the questions and they often get harder as you progress through the test, so it is very important that you practice to get used to the time pressures you will experience. When you are preparing for a selection test with a particular organisation they may provide you with some practice materials. Pay particular attention to these as they should mirror the type of questions in the actual test. Through Profiling for Success you can access a suite of aptitude tests which will be similar to many of the tests used by recruiters. You will also receive feedback on how to improve your performance.
Through Profiling for Success (restricted to Trinity students, login with your Trinity password) you can access a suite of aptitude tests which will be similar to many of the tests used by recruiters. You will also receive feedback on how to improve your performance.
The tests available are:
- Verbal reasoning
- Numerical reasoning
- Abstract reasoning
Graduate recruiters who use psychometric tests will typically have information and sample tests on their websites.
Situation judgement tests
- How to Pass Numerical Reasoning Tests Heidi Smith (2017)
- How to Pass Graduate Psychometric Tests Mike Bryon (2011)
- The Aptitude Test Workbook: Discover Your Potential and Improve Your Career Options with Practice Psychometric Tests (Testing Series) Jim Barrett (2011)
- Ultimate Psychometric Tests: Over 1000 Verbal, Numerical, Diagrammatic and IQ Practice Tests Mike Bryon (2012)
- You're Hired! Assessment Centres: Essential Advice for Peak Performance Ceri Roderick (2011)