How to prepare
Tests are a popular way for companies to find out more about you during the application process
Many organisations use psychometric and aptitude tests as part of their recruitment process. The tests are used to assess your personal attributes, characteristics, intelligence and general abilities if you're applying for educational or vocational courses. The term 'psychometric' often refers to tests that measure a person's understanding of particular formulae, theories and concepts. The term 'aptitude' refers to tests that measure a person's characteristics, intellect, and potential for understanding new theories and concepts.
Many companies will conduct tests during the earlier stages of recruitment (usually presented in the form of online or electronic tests and sent via email). Some companies will use shortened or further tests at assessment centres to help them validate tests you've previously taken.
Under the Equality Act, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to recruitment selection processes if applicants have declared disabilities. For example, it's often standard practice to allow applicants with dyslexia 25% extra time to undertake psychometric or aptitude tests. If you believe you have one or more conditions which may impact on the selection process of a job, it's important that you inform the employer in advance, to enable them to make any necessary.
Preparing for psychometric and aptitude tests
While most psychometric and aptitude tests are made up of multiple-choice questions and don't always require previous knowledge to complete, they do require certain methods of logical thinking and are often time-limited. Therefore, it's important to prepare for tests beforehand – with practise being the most effective way to build speed and accuracy.
TeamFocus practice tests
To make sure you have the opportunity to practice, the Careers and Employability Service have purchased a licence for psychometric tests from TeamFocus.
Our license lets you practice the following tests:
- Abstract reasoning
- Situational judgement
Register online with your University of Portsmouth email address to start practising these tests for free.
Our graduates can also access the Team Focus practice tests up to 5 years after completing your course. You can register using your University of Portsmouth email address, if you no longer have access to your email account please email email@example.com with your full name and preferred email address and we will request access for you.
If you require extra time during examinations you can have 25% extra time. You will need to login to Team Focus and select the test you would like to take. A blue screen will be displayed, at this stage you enter #. Follow the instructions to enter the special code 123456789. The extra time will be added automatically and you can continue the test. If you need any further support accessing the tests please email the Careers and Employability Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for more insight into different types of tests, with links to practice resources and examples.
TARGETJobs Graduate Benchmark
TARGETjobs have developed tools to understand how well you can do in standard employer aptitude tests through three simple steps:
- Complete a range of practice tests
- Take a numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and inductive reasoning assessment to gain an idea of how you may perform
- Review your results through personalised reports and comparisons with your peers
To access the tools and to find out more information visit TARGETJobs.
Standard psychometric and aptitude tests
The following information can help you to understand and practice different types of psychometric and aptitude tests that are often presented by graduate employers.
Standard psychometric and aptitude tests
Abstract, diagrammatic and inductive tests are a form of logical reasoning tests. You'll often be presented with different shapes and images (displayed in groups) and asked to either work out particular patterns to identify a sequence or choose an image to complete a chronological sequence.
Research suggests that people who do well in these tests tend to perform better in the job, and many companies use these tests to predict a candidate’s job performance.
To further explore tests of this nature, please view the following web links:
- Assessment Day – diagrammatic reasoning
- Assessment Day – inductive reasoning
- Graduates First – diagrammatic reasoning
- Graduates First – inductive reasoning
- GradTests – practice inductive reasoning test
- GraduateWings – inductive reasoning
- GraduateWings – logical reasoning
- JobTestPrep – practice logical reasoning questions
- JobTestPrep – preparation for abstract reasoning tests
- Practice Reasoning – inductive reasoning practice test
- Test Partnership – inductive reasoning test
- WikiJob – abstract reasoning
- WikiJob – diagrammatic reasoning
- WikiJob – practice diagrammatic and inductive reasoning tests
Concentration tests assess your ability to focus for long periods of time and are often used when selecting candidates for roles where mistakes could have serious or expensive consequences (such as train drivers, particular occupations in the armed forces, or jobs of a technical, financial or legal nature).
While concentration tests have varying levels of complexity, tests will typically assess your reaction times and precision when dealing with repetitive or routine tasks, such as analysing changes in a series of shapes or in combinations of numbers and letters.
For further information on (and examples of) concentration tests, please view the following websites:
Critical thinking is the ability to analyse and evaluate an issue effectively to reach an informed judgement or decision. This quality is key to many professions that require significant, analytical and independent thought such as managerial/senior positions and occupations in the legal sector.
The Watson Glaser and Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) are considered common tools to evaluate the cognitive and critical thinking abilities of professionals. These tests are considered highly valid predictors of a candidate’s future performance in work or when undertaking a programme of learning.
The following links provide further information on critical thinking tests:
Gamification (or game-based assessment) is a relatively new type of test that uses online games or game-based tools to assess a candidate’s suitability for a job. Often used to assess the different competencies and personality traits of candidates, companies are increasingly adopting computer-generated games as part of their recruitment process to shortlist prospective and suitable employees.
Large firms such as KPMG, PwC and JP Morgan have all started to use gamification as part of their recruitment processes and this is set to expand over the next few years as online tools and programmes become more accessible to employers. The benefits of these assessments - both for candidates and for recruiters - is less of a focus on verbal and numerical reasoning tests, taking a more natural and intuitive approach to assessing your abilities and behaviours. The games will typically measure social, cognitive and behavioural traits, which may include resilience, intelligence, memory, imagination, attention duration, planning speed, flexibility and decision making. The criteria of the assessments will be matched to the organisation’s values and the specific role or programme requirements.
If you have not had the opportunity to experience a game-based assessment yet, it is highly likely that you will do in the future. To find out more information on gamification or game-based assessment, the following websites provide useful insights:
Higher Education Academy - an overview of gamification and game-based learning
TARGETjobs - the Graduate Job Hunter’s Guide to Gamification
Arctic Shores - a major provider of assessments to employers/recruiters, combing AI and game technology
Test Partnership - offers examples of professional gamified assessments, which predict job performance using cutting-edge technology. Includes the MindmetriQ series of assessments used by employers to select the best candidates.
Non-verbal reasoning is often used as an umbrella term for tests that use diagrammatic or pictorial-type questions. The questions assess a person’s ability to recognise shapes and patterns in regards to formations - such as inductive, abstract, diagrammatic, logical or spatial tests.
As non-verbal reasoning tests do not rely on specific language abilities, they're particularly effective for international assessment. The term 'non-verbal reasoning' is used to indicate that verbal competency is not necessary for (or assessed by) the test.
Please view the following websites to further explore information on non-verbal reasoning tests:
These are mathematical tests that assess your numerical abilities. Questions often involve tables, charts and graphs, and ask you to calculate ratios and percentages based on the information presented to you.
Depending on the test environment, you may be allowed to use a calculator during the test. However, it is highly recommended that you're always prepared with a pen or pencil and some paper to work your calculations out on.
The following links provide access to practice numerical reasoning tests along with further information on these type of tests:
- Assessment Day – numerical reasoning test
- JobTestPrep – free numerical reasoning test
- Graduates First – numerical estimation
- Graduates First – numerical reasoning
- GraduateWings – free numerical reasoning practice tests
- Practice Aptitude Tests – numerical reasoning tests
- Psychometric Test – numerical reasoning
- Practice Reasoning – numerical practice test
- Test Partnership – numerical reasoning test
- WikiJob – numerical reasoning practice tests
If you've not used maths for a while or need to improve your general mathematical and numerical ability, it may be useful to explore online learning resources:
Personality tests (or questionnaires) are designed to assess particular characteristics of a job applicant to ascertain whether they have the relevant personality traits to perform in the job. To help prepare for these tests, it's advisable to research the organisation you're applying for to gain an understanding of their core values and also what qualities they consider important in an employee.
For more information on personality tests, please access the following links:
With situational judgement tests (SJTs), you'll often be presented with a series of work-based scenarios, usually involving a conflict or dilemma, and be required to solve the problem by selecting the best possible solution or action to take based upon a series of options. They're a popular psychological tool used by employers to evaluate applicants' cognitive and behavioural abilities when presented with situations that may occur in the workplace.
To prepare for SJTs, you should research the company you're applying for to gain an understanding of their core principles and values – this may help you to answer questions in ways that match the company's ethos or code of ethics. Also, when answering SJTs, try to imagine yourself in the workplace – this will help you answer questions in a more logical and reasonable 'work' version of yourself.
To sample free situational judgement questions and for further information on SJTs, please access the links below:
- Assessment Day – situational judgement test
- JobTestPrep – situational judgement test preparation
- Graduates First – situational judgement tests
- Practice Aptitude Tests – situational judgement tests
- Psychometric Test – situational judgement test
- Test Partnership – situational judgement test
- WikiJob – situational judgement test
Verbal reasoning (or verbal ability/verbal comprehension) tests are designed to assess a person's ability to comprehend and reason with written information in the English language. While tests come in different formats (please see below for different types of verbal reasoning tests), a common test used by recruiters involves reading a passage of text and then answering 'true', 'false' or 'cannot say' to statements which correspond to the passage.
Studies have indicated that verbal reasoning tests may be challenging for individuals whose first language is not English. However, like all psychometric/aptitude tests, the best way to prepare and perform your best is through practice.
The following websites can help you prepare and know what to expect with different types of verbal reasoning tests:
- Aptitude-test.com – verbal logic test
- Assessment Day – verbal reasoning test
- Daily Writing Tips – grammar test
- Graduates First – verbal reasoning
- GraduateWings – free reasoning practice tests
- Practice Aptitude Tests – verbal reasoning tests
- Practice Reasoning – verbal reasoning practice test
- Psychometrictests.com – sample word meaning questions
- Psychometric Tests – verbal reasoning
- Test Partnership – verbal reasoning test
- The Telegraph – grammar test
- WikiJob – verbal reasoning test
Spelling tests can be used as part of the recruitment process for roles that require strong written communication skills, such as in supervisory, admin or clerical-related jobs.
Questions can be presented in multiple-choice format or in the form of a sentence, with words missing or misspelt. Test-takers are often required to select the correctly spelt word from several options provided or replace the missing or misspelt word with a correct one.
For further information on spelling tests, please view the following links:
Incorporating aspects of the tests above, Capp assessment tests may include critical reasoning, numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning. Capp is a consultancy and psychometric test publisher that specialises in strengths-based assessments that are becoming increasingly popular.
Capp also offer different psychometric tests that are widely used. Organisations that use these tests include Google, Atkins, Amazon and RBS. More information about Capp assessments can be found on the practice reasoning tests website.
Specialised psychometric and aptitude tests
The following information provides an insight into other types of psychometric and aptitude tests that can be presented by employers recruiting graduates in specialist fields (such as architects, doctors, dentists, engineers and surveyors).
Specialised psychometric and aptitude tests
BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) are tests used as part of a selection process by a some medical, dental and veterinary schools to select suitable candidates applying for their courses. The BMAT is a 2-hour pen-and-paper test which comprises of three sections and the UCAT is a two-hour exam which consists of five parts.
For candidates who have a documented medical condition or disability and require additional time to sit the UCAT exam, the UCATSEN (University Clinical Aptitude Test Special Educational Needs) will offer an extra 25% testing time and applicants can request a particular test-centre environment in advance of their test.
For further information on BMAT and UCAT, please view the following links:
Fault diagnosis tests (also referred to as fault finding aptitude tests) are likely to be undertaken by candidates applying for an electrical engineering or technician role. They often involve assessing diagrams made up of switches and circuits to test a person's ability to identify problems that are not readily apparent to the naked eye.
The rationale behind these tests is to assess a person's logical and abstract reasoning skills when they're looking for faults or errors in the diagram presented.
The following web links provide samples and further insights into fault diagnosis tests:
IQ or intelligence quotient tests are a way of measuring a person’s mental agility. While IQ tests are not widely used as a form of psychometric testing, many psychological studies support a link between a high IQ score and performance at work. As a result, some employers (particularly blue-chip companies) will use IQ tests as part of their recruitment process to select the most able and suitable employees.
Although IQ tests indicate the level of intelligence you were born with, you can improve your IQ score with practice.
The following web sites provide further information on and access to practice IQ tests:
Mechanical or technical comprehension tests are predominantly used in careers where an ability to understand and work with mechanical and technical concepts are essential. These careers include aircraft engineers, mechanical engineers, motor mechanics, train drivers and certain armed forces jobs. Tests can include fault diagnosis questions, but will often also include questions relating to:
- Electricity - electrical currents, circuits and voltages
- Physical forces - motion, gravity, pressure, acceleration and friction
- Calculations such as area or mass
- Pulleys and levers
- Dynamics of liquids as well as water and air pressure
- Terminologies, conventions and tools
The following websites provide useful information on mechanical and technical comprehension tests:
Normative, ipsative and nipsative tests are terms used to describe the way questions are presented – usually in personality assessments.
- Normative tests are very common for assessing personality and often require test takers to agree with a behavioural statement on a scale of 1 to 5
- Ipsative tests use a 'forced-choice' format where candidates are presented with 3 or 4 behavioural statements and required to choose a statement which is 'most' and 'least' like them
- Nipsative tests include an element of normative and ipsative assessment, requiring test-takers to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 their preferred behavioural statement, but also rank the statement in terms of which one describes them the most
For more information on normative, ipsative and nipsative tests, please view the following links from Graduates First:
Also termed 'spatial reasoning' or 'spatial awareness', spatial ability tests are often used by the military and recruiters of architects, surveyors, engineers and designers to assess a candidate's ability to think spatially and mentally. Tests usually involve reviewing and rotating shapes in two or three dimensions to perceive patterns between them.
People with the ability to visualise or form mental images of shapes and objects from different formats, angles and perspectives are often able to perform well in these tests. However, if this isn't a skill that comes naturally to you, don't worry as studies have shown that practice can greatly improve spatial awareness abilities and performance in such tests.
The following links provide further information on spatial ability tests:
Further information and advice
If you need further or sector-specific information on psychometric/aptitude tests, use the links below to help develop your knowledge and understanding:
- Civil service fast stream online tests
- Engineering psychometric tests (Careers and Employability Service guide)
- Practice reasoning tests - the complete guide to psychometric tests
- Prospects - psychometric tests
- Royal Air Force selection test
- Royal Navy entry test
- TARGETjobs - free aptitude tests
- Tech Test - limited free practice tests for top technical companies
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