Psychometric tests – such as numerical reasoning tests, verbal reasoning tests and logical reasoning tests – are commonly used by employers in the early stages of the recruitment process. These challenging assessments help to indicate which candidates in the cohort possess the mental agility to perform well under pressure.
Achieving the best results possible is important as, in a competitive job market, often only the top 10% of candidates progress to the next stage of the application process.
The question types and overall test structure will vary according to which psychometric test you are required to sit, but there are preparation factors that apply across all psychometric test types.
To ensure you are adequately prepared and perform to the highest standard come the day of your test, consider our list of the ten most common mistakes below and how to avoid them.
1) Inadequate question practice
Aptitude test questions can be tricky without preparation. The questions often contain superfluous information or answer options that are intentionally misleading.
Adequate practice with mock psychometric test questions will help improve both your confidence and ability.
2) Lack of research on test type and publisher
Not all psychometric tests are created equal, as their demands vary according to the publisher. For example, while most psychometric tests have challenging time limits, Cappfinity tests have no time restriction.
Seek to find out as much as you can about the aptitude test you will be sitting, so you can tailor your practice accordingly and use the most accurate material. If test type or publisher information is not initially given, enquire with your prospective employer.
3) Not sticking to timings when taking the test
To secure a top test score, you must answer accurately and rapidly. Take heed of the timings you will be faced with and practice to the same time limit, so you become used to the pace required to complete the test.
It may be tempting to spend longer on questions you find tricky, but it is unwise to exceed the time allotted. For example, if you are sitting an SHL numerical reasoning test and have 20 minutes to answer 20 questions, keep to 1 minute per question. Once the minute is up, select an answer and move straight on to the next question.
You can always return to review questions at the end if you have time. If you intend to come back to a question, note down its number for ease of reference later.
4) Getting others to help you during the test
Initial stage psychometric assessments are most often taken online at home. This means the tests are not policed, so technically there is scope for candidates to enlist assistance from friends or family.
This is foolish on two fronts. Psychometric tests are often taken under timed conditions, so there is little time to consult with others or become distracted from your thought process. Working in this way you will likely not answer enough questions to pass the assessment.
Employers also commonly require psychometric tests to be retaken at a later stage in the recruitment process to verify your scores. Trust in your own ability and prepare properly.
5) Getting insufficient sleep the night before the test
Psychometric tests require clear, logical thinking and rapid problem solving. With lack of sleep, your brain will not be able to function to the best of its ability.
As achieving the highest score possible gives you the best chance of moving to the next stage in the recruitment process, ensure you get at least eight hours of sleep. It is also wise – if you are taking the test at home and can choose when you complete it – to sit your test at the time of day you feel most refreshed and alert.
6) Not reading the questions properly before answering
Whilst you will likely need to stick to a fast pace to complete the test in the allotted time, you must not rush. Racing through the test, without paying attention to the detail, will not result in accurate answers.
Psychometric test questions often contain distractors, which are pieces of information that are irrelevant and included to mislead. Approaching each question calmly, having read and processed the information given to identify the salient parts, is the best way to reach the correct answer.
7) Failing to focus your revision time on your weakest areas
When preparing to sit your psychometric test, it is important to practice with question material similar to the real assessment and then to take the time to review your results. Looking over your practice tests will help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and track your progress across different topic areas.
Although it is tempting to revise topics in which you are more confident and can achieve a good confidence-boosting score, to perform well overall you will need to spend time focusing upon building your ability in your weakest areas.
8) Failing to read the test instructions carefully
Do not assume you know the exact format of the test because you have taken multiple practice tests, as assessment styles can vary according to publisher (and even between iterations of test material produced by the same provider).
Check the time allocated for the test and the number of questions included are as expected (and make any adjustments to pace necessary if they are not). Read through the instructions for each section of the test, paying close attention to how your answers should be logged.
The instructions may also contain handy tips or even an example question. Ensure you take the help provided to you by reading all available information.
9) Not having the correct materials for the test
Whether you are sitting the test at home or at a test centre, it will likely be up to you to ensure you have the materials you need to sit the test. For example if you are sitting a numerical reasoning test, make sure you have a scientific calculator that can perform all the functions you may require.
You do not have to hold all the information in your head when answering questions, as you can use rough paper and a pencil to jot down any workings. It is easy to overlook this aid when completing digitised tests.
As the tests are administered online, if you are taking the test at home you will need a computer with a recently updated browser and a stable internet connection. This will allow the assessment questions to load smoothly and avoid any technical issues.
10) Not reviewing multiple-choice answer options
Multiple-choice answers are a common feature of most psychometric tests. The best method of approaching them depends on the type of test and your personal preference but, as a general rule, it is better to start with the question and work to the answer rather than working backwards from several answers.
While it’s not wise to dwell upon each potential answer before beginning your own independent thought process, glancing at the potential answers before starting to solve the problem is sensible. If you have an awareness of the answer list, it will help you to quickly judge if your workings are leading you in the right direction.