By Gordon Mills,2014-07-06 13:15
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    Preparing for psychometric tests

    Employers and careers services, amongst others, are increasingly aware of the value of psychometric tests. ‘Psychometric’ means the tests have been carefully developed to measure abilities, aptitudes, skills, interests or aspects of personality. The ones you will most commonly encounter are ‘ability’/‘aptitude’ tests or ‘personality’ measures.


    Psychometric tests are an additional opportunity to demonstrate your skills

    In a careers or job interview, it is impossible to give the full picture of your skills and personality. A person’s c.v. and qualifications may say very little about them if their strengths lie in areas which are not covered by conventional qualifications. Certain skills are, in fact, better measured using carefully constructed psychometric tests (e.g. problem-solving, spatial ability).

    Psychometric tests provide a fairer assessment of your skills

    Psychometric tests provide an objective way of assessing your strengths and weaknesses. They are developed by trained psychologists using rigorous methods to ensure that the tests are unbiased and do not contain material which could favour certain candidates. The tests are ‘standardised’, meaning they have been tested on people of a similar age

    and background and performance is interpreted relative to that standard.

    Psychometric tests are also objective in terms of scoring. Most tests use multiple-choice questions with set right and wrong answers, so there is no room for bias in marking.

    Psychometric tests can help you understand more about your abilities

    Psychometric tests are useful to employers because, having identified which skills or ‘competancies’ are necessary to perform well in a given job, psychologists can provide tests which are tailor-made to assess those skills.

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

Finding a ‘best-match’ between person and job is a two-way process,

    however; a psychometric test may suggest that you are unsuitable for a certain job, but if the job does not use your skills and interests, you are unlikely to find it satisfying. It follows that in the case of personality tests, it is in your interest to be honest! It is worth remembering to ask for feedback from any psychometric test.

The answer is in the question!

    Most ability tests ask multiple-choice questions, where you have to choose one correct answer from several answer options. The answer options include ‘distractors’ - incorrect responses such as errors which

    are easily made or responses which resemble the correct answer in some way. There are many ideas about how to spot the correct answer from the distractors (such as spotting patterns in answers or selecting from ‘middle’ answers) but it is best to ignore this kind of strategy. Psychometric tests are increasingly sophisticated and are designed to ensure that you cannot perform well by the ‘multiple-guess’ approach.

    Guidance on how to approach a test can be found in the section titled ‘The test itself’.

There are no right or wrong answers to personality questionnaires.

    These are untimed and you are usually asked not to spend too much time thinking about each question but to give a quick and honest response. Do not try to second-guess the responses you think should be

    given some personality questionnaires can detect deliberate distortion of answers and you could be asked to expand upon your responses in an interview.


    Personality questionnaires and ability tests are either paper-and-pencil based or may be taken on computer.

    Paper-and-pencil tests often come as a booklet with a separate answer sheet. The answer sheet usually has printed boxes and you indicate your answer to each question or statement by marking the relevant box. You are instructed what to do by a person administering the test.

    Computerised tests come in different formats. You are given instructions either by an administrator or on the computer screen itself. In some cases, tests are completely computer-administered and you familiarise yourself with the instructions at your own pace and choose when to start the timed test. You usually indicate your answers by clicking on an answer option using the mouse.

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited


    Ability tests typically measure three areas of skill:

    Verbal skills reading and understanding or deducing information. Numerical skills solving mathematical problems.

    Abstract or Non-verbal skills solving visual puzzles or problems by reasoning e.g. identifying the next shape in a sequence of shapes.

    Examples of each of these types of test are given below, to give you an idea of the types of questions you may encounter. Read the instructions for each type of test and then have a go at answering the questions that follow. The answers to the questions are given on the last page.

Verbal Skills

    1. Read the passage of information and then indicate whether the

    statements that follow are ‘True’ or ‘False’ on the basis of the

    information in the passage. If you think there is not enough

    information to make a definite decision indicate ‘Can’t tell’.

     The destruction of the world's forests has proceeded at an

     alarming rate over the past two decades, mainly as a result

     of economic pressures in the developing world. Forests of

     growing trees absorb carbon dioxide, but this is released into

     the atmosphere when they are cut down and allowed to rot,

     or are burnt. The tropical rain forests, home to half the

     world's plant and animal species, are of special concern.

     Statement: Growing trees contain carbon dioxide.

     True False Can’t tell

     Statement: Countries in the developing world get much of

     their wood from tropical rain forests.

     True False Can’t tell

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

    2. You will see a pair of words that are related in some way. You have to

    work out how this pair is related and then select a word, from the list

    of options on the right, which could replace the question mark in the

    second pair. The relationship between the second pair of words has to

    be the same as the relationship between the first pair of words.

    find is to hidden a) stolen

    repair is to ? b) irregular

    c) mend

     d) lost

     e) broken

    sleeve is to arm a) kick

    boot is to ? b) sock

    c) foot

     d) toe

     e) shoe

    3. You will see four words which are all related in some way. You have

    to work out how these words are related and then select the word,

    from the list of options on the right, which has a similar meaning.

     create a) complain

     make b) construct

     produce c) result

     build d) argue

     e) copy

     stretch a) strain

     extend b) compress

     enlarge c) distort

     grow d) add

     e) expand

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

Numerical Skills

4. You will see four numbers in a series followed by a question mark.

    You have to work out the relationship between the series of numbers

    and then identify the number, from the list on the right, that belongs

    in place of the question mark.

     5 6 8 11 ? a) 13

     b) 14

     c) 15

     d) 16

     e) 17

     3 6 12 21 ? a) 32

     b) 33

     c) 34

     d) 35

     e) 36

5. Look at the numerical information and then use this information to

    answer the questions below. Select the correct answer for each

    question from the five options given.

     The table shows the price of shares in three companies.

     Company Share price

     A 45p

    B 130p

     C 88p

    Question: What is the value of 90 shares in Company A?

     3950p 4050p 4200p 4350p 4500p

    Question: Shares in Company B lose 20% of their value. If the

     value of shares in Company C remains the same,

     what is the difference in the value of a share in

     Company B and a share in Company C?

     16p 26p 28p 42p 68p

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

Abstract or Non-verbal Skills

    6. You will see a series of shapes followed by a blank shape with a

    question mark in it. You have to work out how the series of shapes is

    related and then identify the shape that goes in place of the question



     Which is the next shape in the sequence?

     a b c d e


     Which is the next shape in the sequence?

     a b c d e

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

    7. You will see two sets of shapes; Set A and Set B. All the shapes in

    Set A are similar in some way and all the shapes in Set B are similar

    in some way. Sets A and B are not related to each other. You have to

    identify whether further shapes belong to Set A, Set B or neither set.

     Set A Set B

     Which set, if either, do the following shapes belong to?

     Set A Set B Neither

    Set A Set B Neither

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited


General preparation

    ; Test-taking is a skill which can be developed. You can improve

    your performance with practice, so start preparing as early as you


    ; Ask for sample tests from your careers service and practise taking

    them. In the case of prospective employers, find out what kind of

    tests you will be required to do and ask if example questions are


    ; Spend time looking at the formats of different tests and answer

    sheets. This will help you to become more comfortable with them

    so that you feel on familiar ground when you see the test paper.

    ; Practise timing yourself. Pacing yourself is a vital skill in timed

    tests and it is a skill that you can improve with practise. Practising

    with other people is a good way to create test conditions.

    ; Review basic maths, particularly calculations you know you find

    difficult. Think of possible mathematical operations that could be

    required and practise them. Make sure you can interpret graphs,

    tables, pie charts, etc.

    ; Improve your vocabulary and comprehension by reading. Look up

    the meanings of words you are unsure of. Practise reasoning

    through what is clearly true or untrue from passages of information.

    Review your understanding of grammar and practise spotting

    associations between words or types of words.

    ; Take care of your physical health and get several good night’s sleep

    in a row before the test.

    ; If you have experienced serious problems with nerves or

    sleeplessness around exams, it is worth getting advice about how

    to deal with this in advance.

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

On the day before the test

    ; Check the time and place of the test, and make sure of your travel


    ; Review anything you feel you need to, but don’t overdo it; set

    yourself a certain amount of time to do this and then allow yourself

    an evening doing something completely different.

    ; Try to build a positive mental attitude; think positively about your

    abilities and try to stop negative thoughts. Distract yourself by

    doing something that you know you will enjoy e.g. read a good

    book, watch a film, do something that makes you feel good about


; Eat a good meal and get a good night’s sleep.

On the morning of the test

    ; Breakfast is important but avoid ‘heavy’ foods which can make you

    feel tired during the test. Some people consider unsugared foods,

    such as cereal and bananas, good ‘brain food’.

    ; Collect everything you need to take into the test. Some people like

    to take a drink or something sweet into a test. Don’t forget your

    glasses or hearing aid, if you wear them.

    ; Try to remain calm and to maintain a positive mental attitude.

    ; Leave yourself plenty of time to get ready and get to the test

    centre so that you do not panic.

The test itself

    ; Listen to and read the test instructions carefully. If you are unclear

    about something, ask.

    ; You will be given time to read the instructions before the timed

    part of the test begins. Example and/or practise questions are

    usually given to help you understand what you have to do. Do

    work through these to make sure you are clear about what the test

    requires you to do.

    ; Try not to pay attention to other people taking the test around you.

    Remain focused on the test.

    ; Ability tests are usually strictly timed, so it is important to work as

    quickly and as accurately as you can. If you are stuck on a

    question, do not waste time on it - go on to the next one and come

    back to it at the end if you have time.

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

    ; The best approach with multiple-choice questions is to try and work

    out the answer yourself, and then see if your answer is one of the

    given options. If your answer is not one of the given options,

    check your reasoning or calculations. If you are absolutely stuck,

    make an educated guess rather than picking an answer randomly;

    eliminate answers you know to be wrong and then go with your

    best guess from the remaining options. In the case of True/False

    questions, absolute words such as ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘only’, ‘must’,

    ‘completely’ sometimes provide clues to the correct answer.

    ; Only change your answer if you are sure you have made a mistake.

    If you are unsure, it is probably best to stick with your first answer.

    PLEASE NOTE: These points are for general guidance only. You should always follow the specific instructions you are given for the test or questionnaire you are taking.

    ?2002 Team Focus Limited

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