Preparing for tests

While there are a number of different types of tests and assessments, they tend to fall into three categories:

– Ability and aptitude tests

– Personality assessments

– Motivation questionnaires

Ability and aptitude tests measure specific skill sets and result in a score that gives an indication of existing ability or potential to learn skills required for that particular type of job. The latter two categories assess individual preferences in behaviour and attitudes or values. They give the employer an insight into how you see yourself that is not always available through interviews alone. In essence, if your preferences for behaving in certain ways, such as working in a team, match the working culture of the potential employer, then you are likely to feel happier and perform more effectively in your job.

Psychometric assessments and motivation questionnaires are often used by employers to gain a better understanding of employees’ potential and can help individuals identify and develop their skills to match the demands of specific jobs. You do not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, but the results do give an objective indication of your ability, aptitude and potential for acquiring specific skills. Graduates and managers at all levels are very likely to come across psychometric testing when applying for jobs. However do remember that psychometric results – especially personality questionnaires – are never taken in isolation. They are just part of the recruitment process.


Preparing for tests

– Find out what assessments to expect

– Practise doing things to time if you have not sat an exam in years – ability and aptitude tests are timed – although you may not finish a test in the time available, this does not necessarily reflect a poor result. This is how the test is designed. Personality and motivation questionnaires are not timed.

– Tell the organisation if you have any disabilities or medical conditions that might affect your performance, such as dyslexia or poor hearing. They should be able to adapt the testing process to cater for them.

– With each test or exercise, think about what skills and abilities the test assessors and recruiters are looking for and try to demonstrate them. If you have not done so already, get hold of the job spec or person profile for this position.

– Check with the recruiter what feedback you can expect – employers are obliged to give you your results, even if you do not get the job.


Taking tests

Assessment organisation, ASE, says motivation is critical for success so try to keep a positive attitude throughout a test. It offers a ten point plan on how to approach psychometric assessments:

1. Try to keep calm and read instructions carefully.

2. Don’t ‘skim read’ any instructions. It is important to be clear about how to answer the questions

3. Always complete the practice questions at the start of any assessment – ask your test administrator to clarify anything you don’t understand before you start the test.

4. Plan your time to answer as many questions as possible.

5. Don’t spend too long on a single question – you can always go back at the end.

6. Check that the question number being completed matches the one on the answer sheet.

7. When assessing difficult multiple-choice questions start by ruling out those that are most unlikely to be correct.

8. If you change an answer make sure that it is clear.

9. If in doubt give your best estimate.

10. If you finish early go back and review your answers.


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