Psychometric tests are being used more and more frequently by employers to find eligible candidates. However, as they’re a relatively new part of the hiring process, you might not be familiar with what they are.
Below, we’ve pulled together some information on the common types of psychometric tests, as well as some tips on how to best prepare for them, so you’ll feel confident if you come face-to-face with them when applying for a job.
What are psychometric tests?
Psychometric tests take many forms – but, generally, they’re any assessment that’s used to identify someone’s knowledge, cognitive ability, or personality.
While they used to be conducted in person under exam conditions, they’re now typically taken online and include questions in a multiple-choice format.
While you may encounter them at any point in your application, it’s common for psychometric tests to occur near the beginning of the hiring process. This is because they’re a quick and effective method of whittling down large application pools, and research has shown that they’re a reliable indicator of future job performance.
However, psychometric tests aren’t simply beneficial for employers. When looking at CVs and conducting interviews, hiring managers can, unfortunately, be influenced by their individual biases. Psychometric tests, on the other hand, provide an objective process, so whoever succeeds does so on merit alone.
As you’ll see in the next section, there are a few different types of psychometric tests, but they can be broadly classified into two groups…
Aptitude tests – which test your skills and abilities. These predict how well you’d perform in the role.
Personality tests – which aim to identify your values, attitudes, disposition, and motivations for wanting to join the company. These assess how well you’d fit in with the company’s culture.
Below, we’ll take a closer look into these two categories and discuss some of the most common types of psychometric tests…
Common types of psychometric tests
Numerical reasoning tests
One of the most common psychometric tests is a numerical reasoning test. These are aptitude tests designed to evaluate how well a candidate analyses, interprets, and applies numerical data.
The questions in this type of psychometric test often require you to answer questions based on data presented in graphs and tables. This could involve anything from plucking the correct figure from the graphic to making more complex, multi-step calculations.
In this type of test, it’s common for questions to include two data sets (i.e. a table and a graph), which you must use in tandem to work out the answer.
Some allow calculators, while others don’t. The ones that don’t will typically be fast-paced, and involve the use of mental arithmetic.
Numerical reasoning tests are particularly common for roles in which data analysis is required, such as jobs in finance, sales, and management.
Verbal reasoning tests
Verbal reasoning tests are another commonly-used aptitude test. They evaluate how well you can analyse written information.
In one of these assessments, you can typically expect to be given a primary passage of text, followed by a series of statements about it. Usually, you must respond to each statement with one of the following: true, false, or cannot say, based exclusively on the information provided in the passage.
You can expect to encounter these tests when applying for a job with plenty of verbal or written communication – in industries such as law, publishing, and marketing.
Error checking tests
Error checking tests (or simply ‘checking tests’) assess your attention to detail through your ability to spot errors in sets of numerical and written data. In a typical question, you’ll have to compare sets of false data with the correct ones, to determine where mistakes have been made.
These types of tests are conducted under quite harsh time constraints compared to some of the other tests – you can expect around 20 seconds for each question. And they’re used most commonly when hiring for administrative and operational roles.
Abstract, diagrammatic, and inductive reasoning tests
Abstract, diagrammatic, and inductive reasoning tests are all slightly different but similar types of aptitude assessment. We’ve grouped them together here because they all test how logically a candidate can think to spot patterns and solve problems.
In all three of these tests, you’ll usually be asked to identify a pattern in a series of abstract images (usually shapes or lines).
In some cases, identifying the pattern from a list of multiple-choice answers will be enough. But, some questions may ask you to fill in a missing entry by picking from a choice of shapes. In other cases, you may be presented with a shape and two patterns and asked, ‘Which pattern does this shape belong to?’
These types of tests are popular amongst companies hiring in industries like science, engineering, and IT.
Personality profiling test
Personality profiling tests are designed to do exactly what they say on the tin – give an employer a profile of a candidate’s traits and characteristics.
They can give employers an indication of a number of things, including how enthusiastic the candidate is about the role, if their values line up with the company’s, what their motivations are for joining the company, and whether or not their personality is well suited to the role.
One of the most popular personality profiling question formats involves giving candidates a statement – for example, ‘I value the opinions of others’. And it’s up to you to choose an answer. The choices might be: strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, and strongly disagree.
Personality profiling tests differ from the previous ones we’ve discussed for two reasons. Firstly, they typically aren’t timed, so you don’t have to worry about the pressure of a ticking clock. And secondly, while the employer will have answers they prefer, there are technically no ‘right or wrong’ answers.
Situational judgement tests
A situational judgement test is another form of personality test that’s widely used by employers during the hiring process. Like a personality test, there are no right or wrong answers, and they usually aren’t timed.
Essentially, these tests try to assess your attitude, judgement, and how you would behave as an employee. They do this by giving you a set of work-related scenarios, accompanied by lists of possible reactions. It’s up to you to then sort these reactions into an order from least effective to most effective – though the format of these types of questions (like all of the types of test in this article, in fact) may vary.
Situational judgement tests are great for giving an employer insight into what you’d be like as an employee day-to-day. They’re particularly common in customer-facing jobs (like customer service and sales) and managerial roles.
Our top tips for passing psychometric tests
1. Take a close look at your invitation
When you’re invited to take a psychometric test for a role, you’ll be sent an invitation, usually in the form of an email. It might sound obvious, but the first thing you can do to best prepare for your test is to take some time to study this thoroughly, as it may give you some clues as to what type of test you’ll be taking and who the designer of the test is.
Finding out about the publisher/designer of the test can give you some valuable insights. For example, the publisher’s website may reveal information about the time limit, how many questions you can expect, and whether or not they mark you down for incorrect answers. You may even be able to find practise questions specific to that publisher.
2. Read the job description thoroughly
The job description for the role you’re applying to can also be a helpful place to find clues as to which type of psychometric tests you’ll be up against.
For example, if it states that ‘excellent writing skills’ are needed for the role, then you could be facing a verbal reasoning test. Or, if the description places an emphasis on detail orientation, then you might want to do plenty of error checking practise questions.
3. Complete as many practise questions as you can
Doing practise tests will help you get used to the pacing of psychometric tests and how questions are worded – and identify your areas of strength and weakness. Put simply, it’ll allow you to limit the number of surprises you encounter on test day.
Practise questions are generally more important for aptitude tests. However, if you’re a little nervous, you might benefit from doing a practise personality test or two, just so you can get used to the questions.
4. Do some study around the subjects
While doing practise questions is probably the most effective way to prepare for a psychometric test, there’s some studying you can do around the individual subjects to help you put your best foot forward.
For example, for a numerical reasoning test, it can be helpful to make sure that you’re familiar with basic calculations like fractions, ratios, percentages, averages, etc. You might even want to brush up on your times tables or refamiliarise yourself with how to use a calculator.
And if you think you may be invited to take a verbal reasoning test, it could be worth doing some reading of news and academic articles, as these are often given as the primary passages. Simply reading and getting used to how they’re written will help you to comprehend the passages at speed on test day.
5. Read the questions carefully
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because the presence of a ticking clock can cause test takers to rush and skim-read questions.
Try to take your time and make sure that you understand exactly what the question is asking you, as it’s very easy to misinterpret them. Some may even be worded ambiguously on purpose to catch you out and test your attention to detail.
Plus, because of the time limit, you probably won’t be able to check your answers twice. So, it’s important to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you in the first place.
6. Adapt your plan depending on the test/question
Unfortunately, there’s not one single approach that you can use for every question or type of psychometric test. However, when you’re doing practise questions, it can be helpful to develop loose tactics for different types of questions.
For example, in a verbal reasoning test, it’s generally considered a good idea to read the whole primary passage thoroughly before tackling a question, as opposed to reading the questions and then trying to find the relevant information in the text. After you’ve read the whole passage once, you’ll be able to skip to the relevant part of it to provide an answer.
By contrast, with a numerical reasoning test, many people recommend reading the title of the data, followed by the question, before trying to find the relevant values. This is because trying to absorb all the numbers at once can be a little overwhelming.
7. Find a good balance between speed and accuracy
One of the reasons why employers like psychometric tests is that they’re a good measure of both speed and accuracy. Considering you’re being tested on both, it’s worth trying to strike a balance between the two.
Finding a good balance means that you aren’t guessing randomly if you find yourself running out of time. Although it’s rare, some tests mark you down for incorrect answers, so while educated estimates might be worth it, complete guesses run the risk of bringing down your score.
8. Work out how much time you have for each question
This is a simple but effective tip. At the start of the assessment, it’s worth taking a second to work out, on average, how much time you have to spend on each question (time divided by the number of questions).
While you shouldn’t stick too closely to these time slots, as some questions will naturally require more time than others, it can be a good indicator of whether or not you’re working too fast or too slowly.
9. When it comes to personality tests, always be yourself
As we’ve already explained, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to personality tests, but employers will still have their preferred responses. This can make it tempting for candidates to try and guess what the employer might be looking for.
However, this tactic can be a mistake for one simple reason. If you answer untruthfully and manage to guess the ‘desirable answers’, you run the risk of being placed in a role that’s the wrong fit for you. Remember that personality tests are just as helpful for you as they are for the employer in assessing suitability.
10. Try to resist the urge to receive help during the test
When taking an online aptitude test, it can also be tempting to get someone to help you. Though, again, by cheating the system in this way, you may be placed in a role that’s too challenging or not the right fit for you.
The job search process can be difficult, so it’s only natural that we might look for loopholes to get ahead. But in the interest of our future wellbeing, as with all things, it’s better to approach psychometric tests with honesty and integrity.
11. Try to get feedback if you can
While they’re not required to, even if you’re unsuccessful in your application, it’s typically good etiquette for employers to offer you feedback on your psychometric test. So if you don’t receive any comments on how many questions you got right or how you performed compared to other candidates, it’s worth asking.
Feedback can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in preparation for any future tests.
12. Let the employer know if you have a disability
If you have a disability that might affect your performance in a psychometric test, such as dyslexia or limited eyesight, it’s important to let your employer know beforehand, as you may be entitled to reasonable adjustments so you don’t stand at a disadvantage.
Possible reasonable adjustments may include being allowed to use screen reading software or being given some extra time.
13. Make sure you have all the right equipment
Whether you’re taking a psychometric test online or in person, it’s worth asking the employer beforehand what equipment you’ll need.
For example, some numerical reasoning tests allow calculators, while others don’t. Or perhaps they’ll recommend having a dictionary on hand. A couple of pens, a spare piece of paper for notes, and a watch (just in case there’s no visible timer) are some of the basics it’s worth having ready for any psychometric test.
14. Test your tech beforehand
If you’re taking an online psychometric test at a specified time, it’s worth testing all your technology beforehand. You don’t want to boot up your laptop minutes before the test to find out it’s mysteriously not working. And by giving yourself plenty of time, you can work out alternative plans in the event that things go wrong.
Another top tip is to make sure you have an alternative source of internet – for example, a mobile hotspot or your neighbour’s Wi-Fi (with their permission, of course) – just in case yours decides to play up.
While we hope that you’ve found these tips useful, the most important thing to bear in mind is that, while they do make a difference, they’re often not the main factor in an employer’s hiring decision.
With this in mind, as long as you prepare properly, stay calm, and do your best, you’ll boost the chances of your application being successful. And remember, if you struggle with your first one or two, you can use these experiences to improve your performance next time!
For more advice on applying for jobs, and to search for roles, why not head over to the careers section of our website?