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What is a psychometric test?

Psychometric tests include numerical, mechanical, logical, verbal, diagrammatic, abstract and spatial reasoning tests, situational judgement assessments and E-tray exercises.

Intended to streamline the recruitment process and efficiently reveal top applicants, these tests provide insights into cognitive ability and indicate the potential of a candidate to excel in a position or career.

They are now a common hurdle, particularly in graduate scheme applications. The tests are often used in tandem with each other, the chosen test selection dictated by the career sector to which the applicant is applying.

Usually sat online, psychometric tests may be administered via email link or in person at an assessment centre. The test length relative to the time assigned to answer the questions will require mental agility to deliver rapid accurate responses.

Psychometric test scores do not stand alone but are often considered in combination with candidate CVs, cover letters and other assessment rounds such as more tailored, sector-specific tasks, role play scenarios and group interviews.

The value of performing well in psychometric testing should not, however, be overlooked. A high psychometric test score will dramatically increase your chances of securing a final stage interview.

Why do employers use psychometric tests?

Employers commonly receive an extremely high number of applications for any one role. Quick and easy to administer at scale, psychometric tests are an excellent way to reduce the size of the applicant pool.

The tests enable employers to confidently siphon the top 5–10% of candidates, who have displayed that they possess key transferable skills. This streamlining speeds up the recruitment process, providing a logical candidate shortlist of manageable length and reducing HR costs.

The tests are considered to be reliable indicators of candidate potential and suitability, as a strong correlation between a high score and subsequent high-quality performance in role has been identified.

Verbal and numerical reasoning tests tend to be most popular with employers, as they test key transferable comprehension and arithmetic skills. The testing of accuracy under pressure gives an indication as to how the candidate will cope in a demanding everyday role.

Although prospective employees may be inclined to loathe the impersonal nature of standardised testing, it does bring objectivity back into the recruitment process.

Whilst psychometric testing may be an initially daunting prospect, remember that - unlike some recruitment stages - it can be comprehensively prepared for to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Practising the psychometric tests you are likely to encounter will ensure that, come assessment day, you achieve the high scores that reflect both your ability and potential.

The main types of psychometric tests

Here at Practice Aptitude Tests, we have broken down the structure and content of the different types of psychometric tests commonly encountered in the recruitment process. Explore the detail of each by reviewing the list below, so you know exactly what to expect from each test type.

Numerical Reasoning

Numerical reasoning tests demonstrate your ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately. The questions are not testing high-level ability, but your capacity to use simple mathematical concepts to analyse data and draw conclusions. They assess your knowledge of ratios, percentages, number sequences, data interpretation, financial analysis and currency conversion.

Mechanical Reasoning

Mechanical reasoning tests challenge your understanding and application of mechanical concepts. You will be required to deduce the elements at work in a particular scenario and answer a directly related question. Usually specific to the sector, they require an element of background knowledge and experience. Common topics include forces, energy, electrics and gears.

Logical Reasoning

Made up of non-verbal content, logical reasoning tests assess your ability to interpret shapes, numbers and patterns. Candidates must identify the next figure in the sequence from a selection of possibilities. These tests commonly encompass elements from both diagrammatic and numerical reasoning assessments.

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning tests assess your comprehension and interpretation of written passages. A short excerpt of text is provided for review and candidates are then asked questions relating to its content. Typically, you will be presented with a series of statements which make certain inferences and tasked to deduce whether each statement is ‘True’, ‘False’, or if you ‘Cannot Say’.

Diagrammatic Reasoning

Testing pure logical reasoning, diagrammatic tests involve the analysis of sequences of shapes and patterns. You will be required to identify the rule that governs the sequence in order to choose the next correct element from a provided selection, or to correctly apply the rule to a new scenario.

Abstract Reasoning

Abstract reasoning tests measure your ability to deduce the relationships between shapes and within patterns. They do not require any numerical or verbal analysis, but test your logic and lateral thinking, alongside your accuracy and speed.

Spatial Reasoning

A spatial reasoning or awareness test is used to assess your ability to identify patterns, visualise movements and mentally manipulate 2D or 3D objects. Common questions include identifying which image is a rotation of a given shape and which net corresponds to a certain 3D image.

Situational Judgement Assessments

Situational judgement tests are used to assess how you would approach different practical situations that may arise in the workplace. Your response to a series of hypothetical scenarios helps employers to judge whether your behaviour and attitude aligns with company expectation and ethos.

E-tray Exercises

An E-tray assessment involves a simulated email inbox in a particular scenario. With background information provided and in keeping with a given job role, you will be required to read and respond to the messages accordingly. These assessments provide an excellent insight into a candidate’s approach, manner and written communication skills.

What to expect when taking a psychometric test

Any type of psychometric test will require you to answer multiple-choice questions within a given time limit. Both test length and time provision will vary depending upon test type and provider.

As psychometric tests are an assessment of mental agility, you will need to be prepared to answer the questions rapidly without compromising accuracy.

If the number of questions seems overly ambitious in the given time, it may be that the test is intended to be ambitious. Focus on correctly answering the questions rapidly, but do not rush in order to finish the test.

It is common for multiple psychometric tests to be administered in the same session. For example, you may be required to sit a verbal reasoning test, followed by a numerical reasoning and a situational judgement assessment. Knowing as much as possible about the test structure beforehand will help you pin down the specifics of what to expect.

Once you find out that psychometric testing forms part of the job application process, enquire with your prospective employer as to the number and type of tests, along with the provider used. While they may not be able to reveal the provider to you, it is worth an ask given the variation between tests of the same type.

Whilst a select few employers may still administer paper versions, expect to sit your psychometric test(s) online. This will either be remotely (in your own home) or as part of an assessment centre (most common for graduate scheme applications). For tests that are sat at home, you will be provided with a time window (usually around 48 hours) in which to take the test.

Adaptive questioning algorithms are used by some test publishers. This means that question difficulty is dependent upon the number to correct answers logged. Do not be too surprised, therefore, if your questions increase in difficulty as you progress through the test.

How to prepare for your psychometric test

A high score on your psychometric test means a greater chance of securing a coveted chance to impress at interview, so adequate preparation is key. For all psychometric tests, the best form of preparation is a copious amount of practice.

Once you have found out all you can about the type of test being set and the way it is being administered, settle into targeted question practice.

In some cases, you may not be informed which type of test you will be required to take until it is set. If this is outlined to be the case, ensure you devote practice time to all test types.

Practice will reveal your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to focus more time on improving your weakest areas.

Working through sample questions and answers will help you to understand the logic of the test and the method of thinking required to rapidly identify the correct answers.

Online practice will help you to become accustomed to the timing of the test. This will enable you to become better at achieving the right pace, ensuring full completion of the test with both speed and accuracy.

An initial number of our online psychometric tests of all types can be accessed for free, so you can start practicing with only a time investment. Our test catalogue can be browsed according to aptitude test type, publisher, employer or industry.

If you’d prefer to practice offline, you can download our Psychometric Tests: Questions & Answers booklet.

If you wish to take your practice to the next level and gain access to over 150 different psychometric tests, publisher and employer packages and full solution explanations, we offer a great value All Tests Package with 12-month access.

If you put in the hours, avoid the all too common mistakes made by candidates and take stock of our top tips, you will feel calm, confident and fully prepared on the test day.

Common psychometric test publishers

Companies and recruitment agencies outsource psychometric testing to specialist providers or publishers.

It is important to try and find out which publisher your test will be from, as the style (and therefore format and content) varies depending upon provider.

Once you know which test you will be sitting, do some research on their website to find out more about the specifics of the test (such as test length, time limit, marking etc). Publishers also usually provide access to some free sample questions.

The most common publisher is SHL, but others include Kenexa, Criterion, Saville Assessment, Cubiks, Cut-e, TalentQ and Revelian (previously Onetest).

Many of these companies are psychology consultancies which had their roots in recruitment services.

Visit our Publisher Tests Catalogue for a comprehensive list of the main 18 psychometric test publishers and to access tests that simulate those produced by each.

For each publisher style, one test is available to take for free. Each publisher package has an average of 20 tests available for practice through our separately purchasable One Test Packages or the All Test Packages option.

Our top aptitude tests

Numerical Reasoning

45 tests | 900 questions

Numerical reasoning tests demonstrate your ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately. These tests contain questions that assess your knowledge of ratios, percentages, number sequences, data interpretation, financial analysis and currency conversion

Verbal Reasoning

45 tests | 675 questions

Verbal reasoning tests assess your understanding and comprehension skills. You will be presented with a short passage of text which you’ll be required to interpret before answering questions on. These are typically in the ‘True, False, Cannot Say’ multiple choice format, although there are a range of alternatives too.

Diagrammatic Reasoning

30 tests | 300 questions

Diagrammatic reasoning tests assess your logical reasoning ability. The questions measure your ability to infer a set of rules from a flowchart or sequence of diagrams and then to apply those rules to a new situation.

Situational Judgement

30 tests | 240 questions

Situational Judgement Tests assess how you approach situations encountered in the workplace. They are built around hypothetical scenarios to which you would be expected to react accordingly. Based on your answers it will be verified how aligned you are with values and behaviors of a particular company.

E-tray

E-Tray exercises are electronic versions of in-trays. Both use simulations and scenarios that you are required to interpret and process before making decisions on a number of tasks. You will be presented with a selection of resources and you'll be required to respond as you would if you were working for the company.

Assessment Centre Guide

Assessment Centres are not a physical place. They are a method of assessing multiple applicants for a job, consisting of a number of exercises designed to assess the competencies deemed important for success in that job.

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How are psychometric tests scored?

Different test providers and employers choose to convey results in different ways. Scores listed may include the raw score (number of correct responses given), attempted score, percentage accuracy (correct answers versus questions attempted) and precision score (conveyed using three values: number of questions attempted, work rate and hit rate). Comparison scores – used so your result can be placed relative to the mean score of your test cohort – may also be given. A percentile score is most commonly used to compare and filter candidates.

What are psychometric tests used for?

Psychometric tests are used by employers to assess a candidate's personal traits, as well as their knowledge and skills. This allows employers to build a personal profile and see if it matches with the company’s culture and the role in particular. They also provide an overview of how the person might perform in the workplace. This all helps employers streamline the hiring process by finding the right candidates more quickly.

Will I get feedback on my test results?

Test feedback can be useful in illuminating your strengths and weaknesses, helping you to improve your performance the next time you encounter such tests. While not all organisations provide automatic feedback due to candidate volume, it’s always worth asking if further insight into your score is available. The most useful type of feedback is test-dependent. For example, for situational judgement assessments, enquire about the alignment of your answers with the desired company behaviours/ethos. This is vital if you intend to reapply to the same company in the future. Even if feedback is not available, it is still important to self-evaluate.

What do psychometric tests measure?

Psychometric tests measure both cognitive ability and agility. Different tests challenge specific skills such as comprehension, arithmetic ability or a candidate’s approach and attitude. They commonly focus less upon knowledge and more on problem-solving ability and accuracy under pressure. The tests are designed to reveal if prospective candidates have the traits sought for the job role in question. They allow employers to judge how a candidate will handle routine tasks, interact with co-workers and cope in stressful situations. The measurements provided by psychometric tests are considered to give a strong indication of a candidate’s potential to excel.

Which employers use psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests are an increasingly popular part of the candidate selection process. They provide employers with detailed information and an understanding of a potential worker’s profile. Therefore, you should expect these tests to be a part of the hiring process for most employers, regardless of whether they are blue chip enterprises or small startups.

What can I do if I fail my test?

Unfortunately, if you fail your test, you will not be able to resit. It should not, however, prevent you from applying to the same company in the future. Some companies only take applications once every one or two years. See this as an opportunity to develop your knowledge, experience and skills, and prepare to ace the psychometric test the next time around. The best thing to do after receiving a disappointing result is to learn from the experience and improve. Try to obtain feedback on your performance and practice more of the tests, considering what you were able to glean from your unsuccessful attempt.

Why are psychometric tests so hard?

Many candidates find psychometric tests difficult, especially at the first attempt. The tests are hard so that employers can be confident they will filter candidates and retain the best applicants. Some tests are designed to be tricky to reveal how candidates perform under pressure. Psychometric tests may be hard, but preparation will help you feel calm, confident and be less easily caught off-guard during your assessment.

Where can I practice psychometric tests?

You can practice sitting psychometric tests either using test practice books or online. Familiarising yourself with the test format and practising tackling the content will help to dispel nerves about what to expect on the day and give you a greater chance of achieving a high score. Practice Aptitude Tests has a full catalogue of psychometric tests written by accredited professionals. To help you rapidly improve, we offer fully worked solutions for each test and an interactive dashboard to track your progress. Start your preparation today by trying out our free tests.

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