What Is A Competency Assessment?

A competency assessment is a systematic process used to evaluate an individual’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors in relation to specific competencies required for a particular role or task. It is often conducted to measure an individual’s performance against established standards or benchmarks.

Competencies are the measurable attributes or characteristics that define successful performance in a particular specialism or job role. They can include technical skills, soft skills, knowledge areas, or specific behaviors and aptitudes required for effective job performance.

Why Do Employers Use Competency Assessments?

Competency assessments are an integral part of the recruitment process for many roles. In using a competency assessment, recruiters can practically evaluate competencies that can’t be assessed through an interview or CV alone.

There are several reasons why competency assessments are important:

Providing an objective evaluation : Competency assessments provide a structured, standardized method for evaluating candidates. They focus on specific skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors relevant to the job requirements, allowing for a fair and unbiased assessment of candidates’ qualifications.

Assess Job Fit : In evaluating the specific competencies, knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are necessary to perform effectively in a particular role, recruiters can identify candidates who best fit the position and the organization’s needs.

Predicting performance : By evaluating their proficiency in critical competencies, such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, adaptability, and leadership, employers can gauge how well candidates are likely to perform in similar situations on the job.

Reducing bias: Traditional methods like resume screening and interviews can be influenced by unconscious biases, such as gender, ethnicity, or educational background. Competency assessments focus on objective criteria, reducing the impact of bias and promoting fairness in candidate evaluations.

Time and cost efficiency: By using competency assessments, employers can screen a large pool of applicants and identify the most suitable candidates for the role. This approach saves time and money, enabling recruiters to focus their efforts on individuals with the desired competencies rather than those who do not have the competencies for the role.

What To Expect

Employers use different types of competency assessments to evaluate individuals.

The format of a competency assessment can vary depending on the organization, industry, and specific purpose of the evaluation.

In general, all competency assessments are timed online assessments that can be taken at a time that suits the candidate. The time limit for each competency assessment varies depending on the test. Typical time limits range from 5 minutes to 60 minutes.

What to expect when sitting a competency assessment depends on the type of assessment.

In all competency assessments, candidates are provided with a short set of instructions and practice questions that they must answer. These questions enable candidates to familiarize themselves with the questions’ layout and how they select their preferred answer.

Once these practice questions have been completed, candidates move on to the assessed part of the test, completing as many questions as possible in the allotted time.

Outlined below are the different types of competency assessments, the format, and what is expected for each evaluation.


A competency self-assessment test typically includes a series of questions or statements designed to assess an individual’s skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors related to specific competencies.

Candidates are given a list of statements with statements evaluating a specific competency. The statements are followed by response options or scales. Candidates must rank or rate their proficiency or level of agreement with the response.

Response options can include

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

Common rating scales include Likert scales (e.g., 1 to 5 or 1 to 7) or proficiency levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced).

Reasoning tests

A reasoning test is a written or practical test to assess specific competencies.

In a reasoning test, candidates are given a set of questions, followed by multiple-choice answers. They must determine which of the multiple-choice answers is correct, selecting this choice as their preferred answer.

It is worth noting that in some reasoning tests, candidates can revisit previous questions; others require candidates to answer questions before moving on to the next question. This depends on the type of reasoning assessment used by the employer.

Upon completion of the reasoning test, candidates either submit their answers or the answers are automatically sent to recruiters for evaluation.

Simulations or Role-plays

Individuals are placed in realistic scenarios to observe their competency in action.

Candidates are given information to read and prepare before discussing role-playing or discussing their responses with the assessor. They may also need to explain their rationale for their response as part of the assessment.

Candidates can typically expect to receive a response on whether they have been successful in a competency test within 48 hours of completing the test, although this can vary by employer.

10 Tips To Ace Your Competency Assessment

While sitting a competency assessment may seem daunting at first, there are several things you can do to ensure your natural abilities, talents, and experience shine through.

Outlined below are some tips to help you ace your competency assessments.

Competency Assessment guide

1. Understand the Assessment Criteria

Familiarize yourself with the competency areas and skills that will be assessed. Review the instructions and ensure you understand what is expected before starting the test as once the test has begun, you are unable to ask questions.

Considering the assessment criteria during the test helps contextualize questions such as those asked in situational, simulation or self assessment competency assessments.

2. Create a schedule

Don’t leave your preparation to the last minute. Create a study schedule and allocate ample time to study and practice all the skills and competencies you will be assessed on. This means you can refresh your memory on knowledge areas that will be assessed, spending equal time on all areas being assessed.

3. Review Relevant Material

Review relevant materials covering the assessed competencies, such as textbooks, reference guides, or online resources. Refresh your memory on the key concepts and practical applications that you will be assessed on, such as mathematical or mechanical concepts or principles.

4. Seek Clarification

If you are uncertain about any assessment or have any questions, contact your recruiter for clarification. Understanding what is expected in each assessment will help you prepare effectively and build your confidence going into the test.

5. Practice The Assessments

Practice sample tests. Simulate test conditions so you experience the time pressure you will feel in the test itself.

Becoming familiar with the format, style of questions, and test length helps build your confidence. It also enables you to practice time management skills meaning you effectively manage your time in the actual test and answer as many questions as possible.

6. Use Self-Assessment Tools

Use self-assessment tools or rubrics to evaluate your performance in the competency areas. This will enable you to identify areas where you excel and areas where you may need more practice. Don’t neglect areas that you feel are strength areas. Hone your skills and competencies in these areas to ensure you perform to the best you can.

7. Collaborate with Peers

Create or participate in study groups with peers who are also preparing for competency assessments. Sharing knowledge, discussing concepts, and solving problems together can enhance your understanding and retention. It can also help you see things from a different perspective helping to hone your skills and competencies.

8. Manage Your Time

Develop a study schedule and allocate sufficient time for each competency area. Effective time management will help you cover all the necessary material and prevent last-minute cramming. In the test itself, ensure you know how long you have to complete the test and manage your time accordingly.

9. Ensure you are well rested

Give yourself the best opportunity to perform to the best of your ability by ensuring you are well-rested. This means getting a good night’s sleep before your competency assessments. On test day, make sure you have eaten and are well hydrated. Doing so ensures you are in the right frame of mind to tackle the competency assessments.

10. Stay Calm and Confident

Take confidence in your preparation. On the assessment day, stay calm and maintain confidence in your abilities. Take deep breaths, read the questions or instructions carefully, and approach each task with a clear mind. If you feel one part of the test hasn’t gone well, don’t dwell on it. Move on to the next question and remain focused and confident.