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A guide to psychometric testing

What is psychometric testing?

It’s easy to be put off when you go for an engineering role and see that the application process includes psychometric tests. However, many of the UK’s biggest companies use them as part of the selection process, so it’s important to know what they are and why employers use them.

Psychometric tests are designed to measure the abilities and characteristics of people applying for a job. While some tests focus specifically on the skills you need for the role, others provide a more general impression of your personality or the way you handle workplace situations.

For employers, it provides an objective and fair way of comparing candidates, but they differ vastly in the importance they place on the test. Some will consider test results alongside your original application or your performance at interview, while for others performing well in the test is key to getting the job.

 

What types of psychometric tests are there?

Psychometric tests fall into two main categories:

Aptitude tests

These are the most common type of test you will be asked to sit by a prospective employer. They focus on the skills that are most useful to the job you are applying for, such as literacy, numeracy, logical reasoning, critical thinking or situational judgment, and usually take place under timed conditions.

Personality tests

These assess your personal characteristics to gain a better idea of the type of person you are and how you would handle the workplace. There is no ‘right’ answer and the test is not usually timed. Many people choose to take these tests themselves to gain a better understanding of their own personalities, helping them make better life choices.

 

Tips for success

Get off to a flying start

The day before your test, the best thing you can do is follow the advice you might have been given you when you were at school; go to bed early and have something to eat in the morning. You need to be as alert and energised as possible to perform at your best.

Follow the instructions

Read the questions carefully, and do exactly what you are asked. It’s easy to lose points needlessly by providing what you think examiners want.

Go over your responses

Leave time to check your answers at the end to weed out any typos or correct any mistakes made due to time pressure.

Discuss your needs in advance

If certain conditions such as dyslexia or hearing problems are likely to affect your performance in the test, then discuss this with the organisers to see if special provisions can be made.

Practice in advance

While it is difficult to significantly improve your skills in the immediate run up to your test, practice will help you feel more confident while teaching you a lot about how you perform under exam conditions.

Understand how the test is marked

Invest more time on sections of the test worth more points. Also, be clear on whether or not you are penalised for wrong answers; for the trickiest questions, it might be worth just having a wild guess then moving on (assuming there is no negative marking of course!).

Answer the easy questions first

If you are able to answer questions in any order then go for the simple ones first. This allows you to get as many points in the bag before you tackle the more difficult tasks, while also giving you a confidence boost at the start of your test: “I can do this!”

 

What happens if I don’t pass?

If you really struggled with the test, then see if you can get a breakdown of your results to reveal the areas you need to work on. With time and practice, you can improve your abilities.

If your poor performance was due to stress, tiredness or because you panicked or ran out of time, then you may be able to contact your employer and ask if a resit is possible.

The most important thing is not to panic. There are always other opportunities, and if the employer decides that you’re not right for the job, then maybe the job was not right for you. Where else could you apply to to find your next role in engineering or technology

Online resources

16 personalities

A popular personality test that promises to reveal ‘who you are and why you do things the way you do’.
www.16personalities.com

Assessment Day

Provides a variety of aptitude tests, with free practice resources available online.
www.assessmentday.co.uk

BBC Skillswise

An online resource for those hoping to improve their literacy or numeracy skills.
www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise

Belbin

This test explores how you work in a team.
www.belbin.com

Job Test Prep

Access a vast selection of online tests.
www.jobtestprep.co.uk

Mensa

Mensa’s website provides tests and puzzles to help stretch your mind.
www.mensa.org.uk

Myers & Briggs Foundation

The renowned Myers-Briggs personality test divides people into ‘types’ based on how they behave and perceive the world around them.
www.myersbriggs.org

Practice Aptitude Tests

Provides a variety of psychometric tests, some free with more available to those who sign up.
www.practiceaptitudetests.com

Psychological Testing Centre

The British Psychological Society provides information and advice for both test-takers and those wishing to use or develop psychometric tests to support the recruitment process.
www.ptc.bps.org.uk

Psychometric Success

Free resources, including advice, aptitude tests and personality tests.
www.psychometric-success.com

Psychometric Tests

An online resource which provides an assortment of free ability and personality tests.
www.psychometrictest.org.uk

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