Psychometric Tests – a necessary evil?

Increasingly firms are using online psychometric assessment tests as yet another selection hoop for candidates to jump through.  Here’s a quick overview of what they are, why firms like them and how to prepare for taking them.

What are they?

A set of evaluation tools (usually online) to measure and gauge cognitive ability (aptitude) and personality.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests are generally multiple choice, always timed and the time allotted is usually never enough for you to calmly work through and finish the test.  They are designed that way to test your accuracy under pressure.  There are several types of aptitude tests.  The most commonly used ones are numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, mechanical reasoning, spatial reasoning or situational judgement tests.  Individual test results are compared against a control group and a minimum benchmark score is set for selection.   Average test time is 20-25 minutes and you will usually be wishing you had another 30 minutes to finish it off properly and check over your work – no such luxury with these tests.  It’s quick-fire stuff here and spending 10 minutes on the first of 20 questions is not a great strategy for success.

Personality Tests? ….. Assessments!

You can’t FAIL a personality test, can you?   Personality tests measure how people differ in their style or manner of doing things, and in the way they interact with their environment, colleagues and others around them. Completing a personality test isn’t as stressful as completing the aptitude tests.  You’re answering questions about yourself – you should know the answers to those questions – right?   There are several tried and tested providers of personality tests – MBTI- Myers Briggs, 16PF, OPQ32r and firms will generally use one of these or one based on these.


Why do firms use them?

Firstly it’s a relatively inexpensive way to screen a large volume of candidates.  It’s also viewed as highly objective and fairer than other selection methods as it reduces bias and subjectivity.  Candidates may not like the process but it does have a high level of predictive validity and has been proven to increase the likelihood of being able to predict future job performance.  So they are not going away any time soon.

Tips for taking a test

  1. Be prepared for what’s ahead.  Ask the employer which tests you will taking and ask for some sample tests to get you used to the format.  If they won’t provide any use the 100′s of sample tests available free online.
  2. Ask about negative marking. Some tests will deduct marks for an incorrect answer. You don’t want to guess the last 10 answers (the “if in doubt – C” approach to MCQs!)  and find you have torpedoed your chances due to negative marking.
  3. Practice won’t make perfect but it may make it good enough. Let’s face it – you are not going to turn into a mathematical genius and Ace the numerical reasoning tests just by practising lots of them. BUT you can nudge your starting score up several points by practising.  So you may get from a C to a B with practise – which may be just what you need to get called for an interview.And that’s when the REAL fun starts.

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