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Situational Judgement Tests

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Situational Judgement Tests

Situational judgement tests allow employers to assess how you approach scenarios encountered in the workplace. The tests are built around hypothetical work situations, to which you are expected to react accordingly. Your answers will indicate your alignment with the values and behaviours of that particular company.

What is a situational judgement test?

A situational judgement test, also known as an SJT, is a type of psychometric test that often forms part of the assessment process for job applications.

An SJT involves considering a series of hypothetical workplace scenarios that you might encounter in the role for which you are interviewing. You are then invited to select a response that you feel best answers each question. From these, the company extrapolates and assesses your judgement and character traits.

Situational judgement tests vary depending on the provider and the employer commissioning the test but usually take a similar form, in that you are presented with a description of a workplace-based scenario and a number of responses.

After reading the scenario you are then asked to select or rank the responses. There are no right or wrong answers per se, and indeed none of the responses may include your instinctive response to the scenario. Using your knowledge of the employer and the role for which you are being assessed, you select the response which answers the question while also conveying the competencies that the employer seeks.

For the most part, and in more junior or graduate positions, the skills being assessed will largely be obvious: communication skills, team working, building relationships, commercial awareness. For more senior management roles, these could include motivation, strategy, delivering results and long-term planning.

In addition to gaining an understanding of how you might respond to the challenges of the job and the effectiveness of your judgement, SJTs also allow you an insight into the role and decisions/situations that you may encounter should you be successful in gaining a role in the organisation.

Why do employers use situational judgement tests?

Situational judgement tests are typically used by recruiters for roles where they have a high volume of applicants, which often includes graduate roles. Employers also use SJTs when the majority of candidates may have similar academic results and they are looking for other ways to filter.

If you are asked to take part in an assessment day for any of the big law firms, financial firms, ‘Big Four’ business services firms (PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY), banks or Civil Service Fast Stream, you will most likely be asked to carry out a situational judgement test. SJTs are also used by medical and dental schools.

SJT are usually bespoke, employer-specific tests designed to assess judgement and behaviours deemed important. Of course, as the candidate you would hope to use your intelligence to be able to answer the questions in a way that demonstrates those behaviours. But the employer will want to find out how you would really behave in a situation, not how you think you should, so the questions will be designed to strike a balance.

Situational judgement tests are also useful in assessing softer skills and non-academic competencies. They are often but not exclusively used alongside other tests, such as e-tray exercises, the Watson Glaser test, group exercises and presentations.

A SJT is usually taken via computer, which allows the results to be automatically generated to create a combined score, which is then passed to the employer. Individual responses may also be provided to allow the employer to assess specific competencies. It is likely your score will also be presented in a ranking of all the other candidates, to provide context.

How situational judgement tests work

A SJT will usually form part of the assessment day alongside interviews, numeracy tests and group exercises and presentations.

SJTs are usually administered via computer and may be text only, or use videos (with either actors or animation/graphics) to create a scenario, with text for answers. Occasionally an SJT might be a paper exercise but that is rare – and they are usually written answers rather than verbal.

Situational judgement tests are multiple-choice tests in which you are asked to respond to between 25 and 50 descriptions or scenarios. Usually there is no specific time limit, but you’d expect to work quickly and instinctively, and therefore would expect the test to take around one minute per question. Each correct answer is worth one mark.

Each short scenario or description will be followed by a question and some choices. All the information is contained within the question and you do not need to know any further information to be able to answer the question.

You will commonly be asked to do one of two things: choose either the least effective or best / most likely / most effective response listed, or to rank the options.

Often but not always, one or two of the options will include responses which are clearly unethical or against company values. You should also look out for answers which amount to passive choices, or are the equivalent to ‘doing nothing’, as in SJTs these are rarely the correct choice.

Any response which replies on workplace politics – rather than on your analytic abilities – is also unlikely to be the correct answer.

How best to prepare for a situational judgement test

The best way you can prepare for taking a SJT is by reading our situational judgement test tips, researching the company and then by practicing situational judgement test questions.

First, consider the key competencies your prospective employer states in the job description. Then, in each practice question, see whether you can identify which competency is being assessed.

In each scenario, read the passage and select how you would most likely and least likely respond. Read the passage carefully and do not get caught out, either by skim reading or misreading ‘best’ when you are actually being asked ‘least’.

Practice as many situational judgement tests as you can, and note which ones you typically get wrong.

Is there any pattern to the types of scenarios to which you find it hard to pick out the right answer or that take you a long time to answer? Read the analysis of each statement and note down where you erred.

Common SJT publishers

We recommend that you research the following situational judgement test providers and familiarise yourself with their test questions:

Criterion

A UK-based psychometric test provider. Criterion’s Coast Series is popular with employers and includes situational judgement tests.

Pearson

Pearson is one of the largest educational companies worldwide and is based in the UK. It owns the TalentLens assessment platform, which includes IRIS situational judgement. This SJT is aimed at graduate-level jobs and takes around 30 minutes to complete.

SHL

SHL is the original aptitude test provider and the one that you are most likely to encounter. SHL’s personality and behavioural test packages include situational judgement tests.

Prepare yourself for leading employers

Free situational judgement questions & explanations

When practicing situational judgement tests, you should seek to experience a variety of question types that address key competencies – communication, teamwork and decision-making skills, for example.

It’s also a good idea to understand customer service and client-facing scenarios, even if the role is not a direct sales role.

As you practice, note down which types of questions are tripping you up and use our practice situational judgement test questions to get quicker at spotting the best answers.

Solutions to each are below the questions.

Example question: communication

situational judgement practice question communication

Read the passage and select how you would most likely and least likely respond:

A) Be honest with your manager, outlining that your current project and your colleague will continue to need your input until the end of the first project. Explain that you don’t want to desert them and see the project fail.

B) Accept the second project and explain to your manager that you will work extra hours and weekends to ensure that you can dedicate sufficient time to both projects for the immediate term. This will ensure that your less experienced colleague is not abandoned but that you can still take on the new project.

C) Tell your manager that you would love to take on the second project and make assurances that you will successfully deliver both by giving your colleague on the first project more autonomy but will continue to regularly meet with them and be on hand for issues as they arise.

D) Agree to take on the second project but set up daily calls with your less experienced colleague who is working on the first project to ensure that they remain on track and that you know everything that is happening. That way you can continue to oversee the first project as well as managing the second one.

Example question: teamwork

situational judgement practice question teamwork

Read the passage and select how you would most likely and least likely respond:

A) Tactfully suggest the group should focus on the suggestions that are more in keeping with the current product lines. This will give the group more focus and will get them moving on to the next stage more effectively.

B) Suggest that as a group you create a series of criteria against which to review all of the suggestions made so far. This will ensure that all suggestions get a fair hearing.

C) Suggest that the group splits into three so that each pair can quickly work up a project plan for their favoured suggestion. Encourage your less conventional team members a chance to work up a plan that they can share with the rest of the group to demonstrate a way of making their ideas work.

D) Ask each member of the group which of the suggested product lines they think will be more successful and why. Offer to act as secretary and record all opinions. Once everyone has put their point forward, encourage a debate that focuses on coming to agreement based on the pros and cons of the solutions offered.

Example question: decision-making skills

situational judgement practice question decision making

Read the passage and select how you would most likely and least likely respond:

A) Arrange a kick off meeting with your manager to brainstorm ideas based on their prior experience in retail and your observations of the business since joining.

B) Start by conducting desk based research to look at what the competition is doing and learning from that.

C) Set up a series of focus groups to include customers from a diverse range of backgrounds to try and understand what they are looking for from the loyalty card.

D) Meet with the finance and marketing teams and chair a session to generate ideas from them on what would generate the most financial gains in their view.

Example question: customer service

situational judgement practice question customer service

Read the passage and select how you would most likely and least likely respond:

A) Respond to the email as best you can before leaving without having access to the key files and tell the client that you will double check everything first thing on Monday.

B) Call the client immediately to find out exactly when they need the information by. If they do need it this evening you can pop back to the office and talk them through the key information and then provide a more in-depth written response on Monday.

C) Reply immediately telling the client that you need to get more information for them before you can give them an answer in full and with that in mind you will get back to them first thing on Monday morning as a priority.

D) Leave the email for now and deal with it first thing on Monday morning. The client will have received your out of office response anyway and may have contacted a colleague already.

Answers

Communication

C) is the most likely. This response shows that you are enthusiastic about extra responsibilities and that you have thought of ways to ensure both projects can successfully be delivered. You are demonstrating that you can empower and support your colleague without having to get involved in all of the day to day delivery issues.

A) is the least likely. Your manager is demonstrating trust in you by offering you the opportunity to lead a project within a different department. As a graduate you need to grasp opportunities like this with enthusiasm and find ways to ensure all projects are delivered successfully. By declining their offer you may be missing out on opportunities further down the line.

Teamwork

D) is the most likely. By asking everyone to make a decision about their favoured option and to also back this up with reasoned arguments it is encouraging debate and open communication. Everyone has to listen to everyone else’s views and this will encourage the team to work more cohesively.

A) is the least likely. This approach may well encourage the group to progress to the next stage but it fails to recognise that diverse views can be harnessed to give a real advantage in a team situation. Sometimes it is too easy to stick with what we know rather than capitalising on diversity within a team, even if it takes you outside of your comfort zone.

Decision making

C) is the most likely. This approach ensures that your initial proposal will take account of what customers would like to see. By taking steps to understand your customers you can tailor your proposals to ensure their needs are met.

A) is the least likely. Your manager has asked you come up with some proposed changes. This approach merely brings the problem back to them. Further, it is a very inward facing approach and takes no account of the competitive landscape and more importantly, what customers would like to see.

Customer service

B) is the most likely. By calling the client you are ensuring that you are respond according to their needs. It may be that they can wait for the information but it is important to establish this. It recognises that even a simple verbal response must be correct and having access to the correct files is vital. As they are your client it is important that you demonstrate you are willing to go the extra mile.

D) is the least likely. This is a client you have been working with very closely for 6 months so it is you they need help from. By ignoring the email completely it is evident that you are not prepared to go the extra mile. You have a good relationship with them so simply ignoring them is not what they will expect from you.

What competencies do situational judgement tests typically test?

Examples of core competencies tested by situational judgement tests include (but are not limited to):

Communication skills

SJTs focus on your people skills: good communication and networking abilities should earn you a few points. But what really constitutes good communication?

In short, this is how you relate to others, and how good you are at adapting the style of a conversation to successfully influence and communicate with people. Behavioural thinking and a good level of empathy are therefore necessary to succeed, as you would be expected to effectively communicate your information in a manner appropriate to the audience, with clarity and purpose.

Team player

You might have been a sports star in your secondary school, but collaboration on a football pitch can be different from the one expected in a work environment. While taking a situational judgement test, remember to show how you can work collaboratively and empathetically within diverse teams.

Being a team member for some employers might also mean that you need to put the needs of the team above your own, and demonstrate openness and honesty with all the members. This is usually achieved by encouraging, listening and supporting others.

Relationship builder

You need to know how to successfully network with your team members. But also how to sustain effective relationships beyond your workplace. This includes relationships with customers, partners, and suppliers, to support the long-term goals of the company.

Customer focus

Customer experience is highly important, and employers know it. To score highly in SJTs, you must demonstrate that you value customers and clients. This means, of course, striving to understand their needs, and being prepared to guarantee them timely and efficient service. And sometimes, going the extra mile to surpass their expectations.

Creative and analytical thinking

Usually, what is meant by this is your ability to think independently with a good balance of realism and pragmatism. As an analytical thinker, you can demonstrate the intellectual capacity to identify and propose solutions, while considering numerous angles. Employers are looking for confident thinkers, who can draw conclusions even when dealing with conflicting or complex data.

Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness, together with market and competitor knowledge, is especially relevant if you are applying for a job in law or finance. Employers are aware that people with such skills are more likely to seize opportunities to grow an organization – and address wider issues that could impact its success.

Achiever attitude

A true achiever personality should possess drive, determination, and resilience. If you have a ‘can-do’ attitude; it means you are responsible for successful delivery of your own tasks, while being ready to work hard and display enthusiasm in all that you do.

Someone who is focused on achieving results knows how to approach work with a sense of urgency, and keeps the end goal in sight at all times.

Planning and organising

Employers want to know that you can deliver high-quality work in an efficient and timely manner. Planning could also mean successfully managing not only your time, but also time of other team members, while ensuring all necessary resources are available as required.

If you are a good planner, it means you are able to create and monitor clear action schedules and you know how to communicate any updates to those plans with all relevant stakeholders.

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How are situational judgement tests scored?

Situational judgment tests measure your ability to perform in different scenarios and situations. Your answers will be grouped depending on the ability they assess. After that, the combined score of each ability is compared to the answers of the normative group (those people who already have a proven fitness for the position).

Is there a pass mark for a situational judgement test?

Usually there is no specific pass mark for an SJT, as it is only one of the factors that the employer will consider. Your score will usually be ranked alongside the other candidates (so if a particular test was harder or easier than other years, everyone is assessed fairly). You should be aiming to answer at least 80% of the questions accurately.

Is there a time limit for a situational judgement test?

There is not usually a time limit for an SJT, but you should expect to be able to answer the questions at a rate of about one question per minute. So a test that includes 20 questions/scenarios should be completed within 20 minutes.

What do situational judgement tests measure?

Situational judgment tests are used to assess the competencies of a potential worker in simulated work conditions. The most common competencies looked at are communication skills, team spirit, customer focus, networking, analytical thinking, attitude, planning and organisational skills.

Where can I practice situational judgement tests?

Practicing is the best way to be prepared for situational judgment tests. You will learn what to expect from questions and how to react to certain situations. This website provides a variety of situational judgment test questions for you to practice along with guides, tips and correct answers to the trial questions.

Which employers use situational judgement tests?

Situational judgment tests are one of the most popular aptitude tests. They are frequently used by law firms, medical schools, banks, financial institutions, business service firms and large corporates who have call centres and sales teams.

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Situational Judgement Tests Tips

1Remember to research

Try to find out as much as possible about the company and role you are applying for. It’s important to consider the qualities that the company’s culture is based on when answering situational judgement questions. Teamwork, communication skills and building relationships are among the most popular qualities that any candidate will need in a workplace environment, but you should be able to ascertain other required competencies from the job description.

2Ethics first

Most employers value strong ethics. When answering SJTs, you should be guided by the company’s values but also by universally recognised concepts of right and wrong conduct (as well as those set out by the law, such as bribery, corruption, data protection etc). It’s a good exercise to make a list of values that apply directly to your profession. For instance, appreciation of client confidentiality and professional secrecy in client/lawyer relations are the key values that everyone who wants to be a lawyer is assumed to understand.

3Unethical options are incorrect

Following this, an unethical option will be the wrong choice. If one of the possible actions is dishonest, involves lying, disguising personal errors, acting in an uncooperative manner or provoking a client or a customer, then this answer will not be correct or a ‘least likely’ option, if you are not presented with other choices.

4Practice makes perfect

The catch in any situational judgment test is the high probability of any of the presented answers (except the ethical examples explained above). We recommend you think in accordance with the promoted values outlined in the company’s profile, but to really ace it you might want to train your situational judgment muscles and take one of the mock situational judgment tests provided here.

5Best response dilemma

Often you’ll be asked for the ‘best’ or ‘most likely’ response. This means choose the most appropriate response given the information you have from the list of options provided. It might not be perfect; it just needs to be better than the rest.

Situational Judgement Video Tutorials

Last Minute Sickness

1 min

Internal Website

1 min

Double Booked

1 min

Delayed Project

1 min

Quarterly Review

1 min

Requesting Data

1 min

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