DISCLAIMER: Note that this is targeted at university students aiming to get generalist internship or graduate positions (as opposed to standard entry level positions or positions which require specialist degrees) in the corporate world. This advice is not affiliated with any careers association and does not guarantee internship or graduate employment. It should only be taken as a guide which really just scratches the surface.
This thread is part of the 'A Survival Guide To The Graduate Recruitment Process' series. Other released sections can be found below:
A Survival Guide To The Graduate Recruitment Process: Part 1 – Online Applications
WHAT IS PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING?
Psychometric testing is an assessment of an applicant’s relevant cognitive abilities and behavioural styles. The aim of psychometric testing is to identify an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses in these measures to help assess their suitability to the role in the organisation.
There are two main types of psychometric testing:
• Aptitude tests which typically assess an applicant’s ability to analyse information and draw conclusions from them which typically involve verbal, numerical and/or inductive reasoning.
• Personality tests typically assess an applicant’s character and behavioural preferences in different situations. Unlike aptitude tests, there is no right or wrong answer in the questions.
Psychometric tests are primarily conducted online with a tight deadline to complete them from the day of issue to the applicant. The brands and types of testing used vary between organisations. Common brands that large organisations outsource their psychometric testing towards include SHL, OneTest, Saville and Kenexa. Some organisations require applicants who progress into later stages of the recruitment process to sit a second round of testing to verify the results and to ensure there is no collusion or dishonesty.
Not all organisations employ psychometric testing in their recruitment process. However, it is quite common in larger organisations because they provide a quick means of assessing a candidate and their results can be used as “tie-breakers” between candidates of very similar quality.
How much psychometric testing is valued in the recruitment process varies between organisations. Whilst it is important to do well in these tests, keep in mind that it is most commonly used as a complementary tool in the recruitment process in conjunction with the online application, rather than a stand-alone instrument for filtering applicants.
HOW TO APPROACH APTITUDE PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING?
Given how much variance there is between the types of tests that organisations use, this list is by no means exhaustive and does not cover all types of tests.
1. Only use logical reasoning pathways to arrive at the answer in a verbal reasoning test
Do not use outside information to reach your answer. Distinguish between conclusions that can be drawn from the provided text with certainty (always true) and conclusions that can be drawn with some uncertainty (i.e. can be true but not always). This is particularly important if the test asks you to assess a statement as ‘True’ (conclusion is a certainty), ‘False’ (contradicts a conclusion of certainty) or ‘Cannot Say’ (can be inferred with some level of uncertainty) based on the text.
For example, if a text says ‘Many bees can sting humans’ then the statement ‘All bees can sting humans’ is logically false based on the text as it contradicts the text. A statement like ‘Bees can leave a toxin behind when they sting’ has no logical connection to the text despite this being a true statement based on knowledge outside the universe of the text. Since it MAY be true but the text does not say anything conclusive about it then the correct answer would be ‘Cannot Say’. Attention to detail on specific meanings of words is very important here.
2. Have a piece of paper and calculator in front of you to write down any working when doing a numerical reasoning test
It is quite common for numerical reasoning questions to require multiple calculations where you will need to store numbers. For example, you can be asked to calculate total profit from five different companies and then find which one has the highest profit. This cannot be done easily in one whole calculation on a calculator. When you are doing comparisons of numbers in particular, writing down the final numbers on paper makes it much easier to perform the comparison.
3. Disregard unit scales when multiplying or dividing figures into the calculator if appropriate in numerical reasoning tests
When adding or subtracting figures, it is obviously important that the units are consistent when doing so. However, when multiplying or dividing figures, disregarding the differences in unit scales can be very useful in saving some precious seconds.
For example, if you need to divide 3,246,000,000 by 46,000 and multiply this by 340,000,000 then simply doing 3,246 divided by 46 then multiply by 340 is sufficient to enter into your calculator (rather than the full figures) as the answer will only be inaccurate by unit scales but the significant information about the final figure is still effectively there (23,992 vs. 23,992,173,913,043). In multiple choice questions, the options usually are quoted in the same units, such as:
(A) 50,767 billion
(B) 23,992 billion
(C) 439 billion
(D) 0.2 billion
Very rarely would there be questions which have the same significant figures quoted in different unit scales, so by ignoring those scales precious seconds can be saved by not having to enter unnecessary zeros or powers into the calculator.
4. Use a process of elimination at first in multiple choice questions of inductive reasoning
This is particularly handy for inductive reasoning (in particular the more complex questions) because it allows you to filter and zoom into a subset of potential correct answers very quickly.
As a simple example for illustration, find the choice which represents the next logical object in the sequence.
If we track the black square for example, we know that the correct answer must contain the black square in the bottom right corner. This instantly eliminates all the choices to end up with C and E. After that elimination, the only thing left to do is to track where the grey square must be (which leads to E as the correct answer).
5. Extract relevant information and consider alternative logical pathways
Red herrings are particularly apparent in numerical and inductive reasoning tests. You may not use all the information provided to you so only use the ones that are relevant to answering the question.
For example, in numerical reasoning you may be given a profit and loss table over each year and another table of currency exchange rates. If a question asks you something like calculate which year had the largest increase in profit, then there is no point using any of the currency exchange rates information.
In inductive reasoning, there may be multiple ways to reach the answer and focusing on the pattern of one feature whilst ignoring the others may in some cases lead to the right answer. Also, it is possible that the logical pathway used to solve the problem may be different between questions.
As a simple example for illustration, find the choice which represents the next logical object in the sequence.
If you trace the path of the dot, it will be difficult to conclusively determine the answer. However, if you trace the path of the black square we can deduce the answers down to A or D. If you trace the path of the grey square, we can deduce the answer to be D. The pattern of the black dot was not necessary to deduce the final answer.
The number of questions you will be required to do and the timeframe you will be required to complete them will differ between organisations who administer the test. It is important that you attempt every question well before the time expires. Use a separate stopwatch to time yourself to the second if the countdown timer isn’t displayed to that precision on the test itself.
Calculate the average time it will take for you to do each question. Not all questions take the same amount of time to complete and there will be some questions which can be answered instantly whilst others (usually in the later part of the test) take more time and effort to find the answer. A possible guideline to aim for is to get the first 50% of the questions completed in less than 40% of the allocated time. This should allow some extra time for the second half of the questions which may take longer than the average time per question.
Do note that each question is worth the same, regardless of the difficulty so do not spend too much time on each question, especially in the first half of the test because there may be questions later on where you can make quicker wins. As a general guideline, if you are spending more than 2 minutes on one question and have not made progress on the answer, then it would be optimal to take a guess at the answer and move on.
7. Mental state and environment
The environment in which you do the test can be a potential influence on your performance in it. It is not advisable to take these timed tests in a place where your focus can be distracted by external factors such as other students or noisiness. Aim to conduct the test in a quiet environment where you can focus solely on the questions without interruption.
Given the high pressure nature of these tests your mental state needs to be at an optimal level. It is not advisable to take the test when you have had a long day and you are mentally tired because it is conducive to situations where you could potentially miss vital information (as some questions require strong attention to detail) or waste time diving into a path to the answer and then realise that it was the wrong path to take. Make sure that your brain is in an active state. Having a coffee or sugary treats (where appropriate) may possibly help your state of mind from being exhausted to being more focused for the short period of time in the test.
8. Practice, practice, practice
Whilst it’s all well and good to know the techniques to do well in these tests, it is putting these into practice that counts. Expose yourself to as many practice questions as possible so that you gain familiarity with the questions. It may also help to do a practice test just before doing the real test to refresh your focus and state of mind. Free practice questions can be found in places such as:
HOW TO APPROACH PERSONALITY PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING?
In this type of test, you will typically be given a situation and be asked to select or rank your preference of reactions to the situation. The set of behaviours you select is used to profile your personality.
1. Emphasise aspects of your own personality which best suit the role
Different positions suit different types of people. A client facing role suits more people-orientated personalities whereas an operational role suits more task-focused personalities. Think carefully about which parts of your own personality best suit the role. For example, if you are an analytical thinker and also love helping others but you are applying for a role that primarily demands say solving complex problems in a back office environment, then lean towards selections which emphasise your analytical side more so than the interpersonal side. Of course, your choices still have to remain true to your real personality.
A typical challenge in these questions is that there will be cases where you can be indifferent between the choices given. When faced with a dilemma on which choices to select, go with your gut instinct in accordance to your personality or aspects of which suit the role you are applying for. Do not spend too much time on one question, otherwise you will have a tendency to overthink the question and answer out of alignment with your true personality.
2. Be true to positive aspects of your personality in a professional setting
It is important that you are honest but not brutally honest when answering the questions. The situations given to you are in professional settings so how you choose to react to them must be reflective of that and not in other situations such as a social setting. The positive side of your personality must be demonstrated in your responses. However, it is not advisable to respond in accordance to negative aspects of your personality (e.g. choosing the ‘lazy’ or ‘non-responsive’ reaction) for obvious reasons.
Be true to yourself in a positive way as much as possible when answering these questions because some versions of the personality tests are designed to catch out those who ‘pose’ to be someone that they think the organisation is looking for. In some tests there are a vast number of questions and there will be instances where a question already answered reappears in an identical or similar form unexpectedly. If you answer with a different choice this time around then an inconsistency will be flagged and it can give the impression that you may not be answering the questions honestly.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
There are a number of techniques which can assist in maximising your score in the aptitude psychometric testing. With practice and experience through numerous applications, you can develop some familiarity with the types of tests to expect (in some cases you may encounter identical questions when doing them for different organisations!). It can also develop your ability to analyse information in a pressurised environment. Do keep in mind that the types of aptitude testing vary between companies and often have varying degrees of difficulty so do prepare yourself for the unexpected.
The results of the aptitude tests are usually not assessed in terms of the actual mark you get but rather where your mark ranks you relative to a given cohort. It is not uncommon for organisations to administer insanely difficult aptitude tests where a mark above 50% could put you in a high percentile rank. It is also not uncommon for them to place different weightings for each test (e.g. more focus on numerical and inducutive reasoning than verbal reasoning for quantitative roles).
The results of personality tests are usually collated to build a profile of your personality based on a model. For example, it would profile whether you are either:
- A dominant person or someone who lets others take the lead
- Someone who is creative or a person who is good with analysing facts
- A person who prefers to have good relationships or someone who prefers to get results
- Someone who sticks with tried and tested ideas or a person who prefers to challenge the status quo
It is important to remain true to your own behavioural preferences when you conduct yourself in a professional environment. You can select your responses to the type of personality the role suits best, but it must also align with your own personality which will come across in an interview. If the personality that best suits the role doesn’t align much with your own personality then chances are the role will not suit you well.
One important thing to keep in mind is that generally speaking the results of psychometric tests are jointly assessed with your online application. Most recruiters are well aware of the limitations of using the results alone to screen out candidates. It is not uncommon to have instances where you perform badly in the tests but the online application is still strong enough to support your case.
Last edited by Trebla; 29 Jun 2014 at 11:19 PM.
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)