Written Exercise At Assessment Centres
When applying for a job that requires written communications, such as press releases, reports or emails, you may be asked to take a written exercise. Written exercises can be done online, or in person at an interview or assessment centre.
They’re usually timed and include spelling and grammar tasks, as well as covering competencies related to the job.
What is a written exercise?
Written exercises are a useful tool for an employer to understand a candidate’s verbal comprehension and communication skills.
Employers or recruiters will most likely ask you to take a written exercise when applying for a job where communication is critical to the role. Marketing, health services and law are all examples of relevant industries.
The exercise can take the form of reports, press releases, letters, emails or even proofreading texts written by someone else.
Because written exercises are often one of the last steps in a recruitment process, you will most likely take the test at an assessment centre. You should get familiar with what an assessment centre is and how they operate beforehand.
What are the different types of written exercises?
There are six types of written exercises that are most commonly used:
- Press releases. A press release announces to clients or the market new information about a company or its products. Its purpose is to inform the receiver, which means it has to be persuasive and clear. Sometimes, it needs to attract the receiver’s attention in a specific way. Understanding the brief is key to knowing what information to include in a press release.
- Emails. They might not seem like much, but an email from a company has to adhere to specific requirements. You could be writing an email from yourself as a representative of the company, or on behalf of someone else. In any case, pay attention to the tone of the email, the language used and the clarity of what you’re saying.
- Precis. When writing a precis, it’s key to be concise and include all the important information. You will be given a longer text that you need to summarise and re-work, according to the needs of the employer.
- Letters. Think of a letter as a more formal, longer version of an email. It usually contains more information and it requires you to write in more official language.
- Proofreading. Sometimes, you could be asked to proofread text — an email, a press release, or a letter. Proofreading requires you to identify and correct mistakes and change wording if needed.
- Report. A report should give key information to a stakeholder. Imagine participating in a meeting and having to report to a whole team, or collecting information on a case and summarising it to a solicitor. It needs to include everything that you deem necessary for someone to understand.
What skills does a written exercise assess?
A written exercise can assess multiple skills at one time. These vary in importance depending on the particular job you’re applying for, but for the most part they are:
- Grammar. The first thing a recruiter or employer will notice reviewing your written exercise is your grammar. It’s the pillar of clear communication and if a candidate fails to prove they can master grammar skills, they will score low.
- Spelling. Similarly to grammar, spelling is critical in a written exercise.
- Comprehension. Before the written exercise, you will be given a brief. It’s up to you to understand what is asked and deliver the information clearly.
- Communication. You must be clear in what you’re communicating through your written exercise. You should get to the point without using too many words or missing the key information.
- Handwriting. Although a written exercise will not score your handwriting per se, a recruiter or employer must be able to understand what you’ve written. If your handwriting is too messy, they may misunderstand what’s written.
Three sample written exercise questions
As mentioned before, written exercises will vary depending on the job you’re applying for. You won’t find yourself writing the same things for a solicitor that you would for a PR manager.
Here are three different examples of what you could find during a written exercise assessment:
- Our company is preparing to launch a new product, but before announcing it to the public, we need to tell our stockists. Write a press release to describe the product and why they should be excited to stock it.
- You receive a letter of complaint regarding an interaction a client had in your firm. Address the customer politely, acknowledging any wrongdoings and try to resolve the situation.
- You are given information about a specific lawsuit and need to write a detailed report to your manager. Make sure you analyse the information and include everything that’s relevant in your report.
How to prepare for a written exercise
Preparing for a written exercise can be tricky, as you will never know exactly what the assignment will concern. However, you can get an idea of what to expect by looking at the requirement of the specific job role and researching examples online.
Look closely at the job specs. What position are you applying for? What kind of communication will be required of you? The recruiter will most likely assign you a written exercise similar to what you will actually be doing for the company. If you’re applying for a job in a PR agency, for example, you will have to write press releases and emails, while a solicitor could ask you to write reports.
Find examples online. Once you know what the job position entails, familiarise yourself with the written tasks you might be doing. Search for examples of press releases or reports; even better if they’re written by the same company advertising the job.
Practice exercises. Finally, you can prepare for a written exercise by practicing. You can find case study exercises that will help you learn what to expect during the test.
Tips for written exercises
Below are some useful tips you should take note of when preparing for a written exercise.
- Know the language. Depending on the job, there will be a different language used to communicate. Make sure you’re familiar with how people refer to situations, tasks and objects in a particular sector.
- Research the company. It’s always good to research as much as possible about the company during the recruitment process. You may find public information online that will teach how the company communicates.
- Practice. This is the golden rule for any type of test. Practice written exercises online and do so in an environment similar to the one you’ll find in an assessment centre. Being comfortable working under pressure will be useful when taking the actual test.
- Be sure you understand the brief. Part of the written exercise is to understand what’s been asked of you, so focus carefully on the brief. The job you’re applying for will probably require you to draft written documents after a meeting, so you should be able to retain key information and summarise them appropriately in a written exercise.
- Triple-check before handing over the test. With writing, there is always room for improvement and it’s very likely you will make a spelling mistake or two the first time around. As tedious as it sounds, make sure to check what you’ve written before handing the test over.
Where can you practice written exercises?
On this website, you can find E-Tray exercises and In-Tray exercises you can practice before the exam. Both include simulations of work scenarios where you are required to make a decision, which will help you to assess the information and how to proceed during a written exercise.
Which employers use them?
Law firms, PR agencies, consultancies and property firms are all examples of industries that use written exercises. You should expect such a test when applying for jobs that require you to use any form of written communication.
How are written exercises scored?
There is no one way to score written exercises. However, there are usually two main criteria: the use of English language and grammar, and the content. The recruiter or the employer will set benchmarks to score the test, depending on their expectations.
What if English is not your first language?
As long as you can write like a native speaker, you should be fine even if English is not your first language. If you’re worried about your English level, there are many ways you can improve: taking language courses, studying reading materials, exercising your writing skills with the help of a native speaker, etc.