What is the format of the Probation Officer Test?
Depending on the level of the role that you have applied for, and your educational background, there might be several different types of pre-employment assessment.
Situational judgement is an assessment that uses fictional yet realistic work scenarios to see how you behave at work, and the way you make decisions.
In this assessment, you will be presented with a work-related problem that needs to be solved, with several possible outcomes to choose from. Typically, you will need to either choose the best course of action to take, or the most effective and the least effective outcomes.
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but the ones that you choose will be compared against an ‘ideal candidate’ profile. Your choices will demonstrate how you behave in the workplace, and the way you make decisions.
Verbal and non-verbal reasoning
Reasoning assessments are designed to test a candidate’s potential and aptitude.
These specific types of psychometric tests include verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
A verbal reasoning assessment is based on information that is provided as a passage of text. Usually related to the industry or specific job role, you will need to read and understand the information in order to answer the question that follows. This will normally be a statement, and you will need to decide if it is ‘true’, ‘false’ or you ‘cannot say’ according to the passage.
Numerical reasoning assessments are not usually needed in the probation service pre-employment battery, as maths skills tend to be unnecessary in the role.
Logical reasoning is an important assessment as probation officers must make difficult decisions based on presented information. This can sometimes be in the form of word problems - looking at things like assumptions and argument analysis.
Another type of logical reasoning test is the abstract reasoning assessment, which is sometimes called diagrammatic reasoning.
These tests are based on a series of shapes or images that form a sequence based on a specific rule. There will be a missing item in the sequence, either part way through or at the end, and you will need to choose the right one from the multiple-choice options.
To answer this type of question correctly, you need to take limited information and make a carefully considered decision while under time pressure. You will need to find the pattern or rule that governs the sequence to make the right decision.
A personality test is based on organisational psychology, looking at your personality traits and behaviour at work. Usually, these tests are untimed and are presented as a series of statements.
You will need to rate each statement from ‘most like me’ to ‘least like me’.
There are no right (or wrong) answers, but the probation service will be looking for specific traits that are needed for success in the role, specifically things like leadership, teamwork and persuasion, as well as what motivates you.
Five tips on preparing for probation officer tests
1. Understand what the role involves
When you apply for a role at the probation service, there will be a detailed job description. Alongside the required skills will be a list of responsibilities - and this is an important consideration for applicants.
Being a probation officer is not a simple job which is why specific qualifications are needed. If you understand what the role requires, then you can focus on those skills and competencies throughout the tests and the rest of the process.
2. Practice lots of tests
Practice makes perfect in every case. No matter what pre-employment assessments you face in the application process, you can improve your chances when you have familiarity with the tests themselves.
None of the assessments are particularly difficult in terms of content, but the exam conditions and pressure through time limits make them challenging. You can give yourself the best chance by practicing these tests whenever you can.
3. Set up a routine and stick to it
Practicing assessments shouldn’t be a one-and-done process - you need to make a conscious effort to improve your scores. One of the easiest ways is to set aside time to not only take the practice tests - under exam conditions - but also to take your results and revise anything that you are not as strong on.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail
Practice tests are there for you to fail. In fact, failing at practice tests is a necessary thing for you to become better.
Failing gives you direction on ways in which you can improve - and it is obviously better to fail at the practice test than the real thing.
5. Make sure your skills match the role requirements
In the job description, you will see the required skills - you need to make sure that you already have these in your toolkit so that you can make the most of the opportunity.
You will find it easier to be successful in the assessments if you can match the role requirements in terms of skills.