A Level Playing Pitch
There are numerous different forms of psychometric assessments. They provide supplementary information which helps the employer to form an overall profile of you and to foresee how you will function within their workplace. As all psychometric assessment tools are standardised, they allow all applicants to sit the same assessment and be scored according to the same criteria, no matter where or when the test is completed. There are two core types of psychometric assessments – Ability or Aptitude Tests and Work Style Questionnaires.
Aptitude not Attitude
Aptitude or Ability Tests provide information on a person’s ability to perform certain tasks and their potential to learn and understand new information and tasks. The tests cover skills such as verbal reasoning (critical evaluation of written information), comprehension/grammar, abstract mechanical or spatial reasoning (pattern recognition), numerical reasoning, IQ (how quickly the candidate can learn and master new tasks) or information checking (checking errors / attention to detail tasks). Ability Tests are generally conducted in a tight timeframe to simulate decision making under pressure.
Attitude not Aptitude
Work style questionnaires are concerned with how you generally behave in the workplace, for example the way you relate to others or the way you approach and solve problems. They typically explore personality characteristics relevant to the business environment. Questions asked will often be set in work situation context. Work style questionnaires look at factors such as stress coping patterns, interests, how much you like carrying out different types of work duties, ways of thinking, feeling and acting in different work situations, interpersonal style, conflict style, leadership style, motivations and work values.
Results for Aptitude or Ability tests can produce a score which allows employers to position you against other applicants or a standard they have set within their own organisations. Personality assessments however, are not about passing or failing but about providing a profile of you to the employer, whose task it is to match an applicant to the job or workplace. Aptitude or Ability tests in particular can be prepared for and if you know the name of the test you are about to sit, you should be able to find a practice version easily enough on the internet. The key is to practice under the conditions in which the test will be taken.
With Work Style Inventories the key is to familiarise yourself with the style of question being asked. In most cases, the format is multiple choice response. There is less benefit to rehearsing these, however, it is important to note that most assessments of this kind have a validation element whereby it evaluates how truthful you are being with your responses. Occasionally a candidate will try and give the answers they believe the organisation wants to see. However, the assessment tool will simply be voided if the validity factor is not high. Some general tips to remember before undertaking an Ability or Aptitude Test is to ask what type of assessments/tests will be administered. You can improve your general mental dexterity ahead of an assessment by attempting word games, mathematical teasers, puzzles with diagrams etc. Brush up on your maths, practice basic mental arithmetic with and without a calculator.
It is perfectly normal to feel some stress and nervousness when you are advised that you need to take psychometric tests as part of a selection process. Most of the nervousness is simply a fear of the unknown and a feeling that you will ‘let yourself down’ or that the test will not be a fair reflection of your strengths and abilities. The best measure to counteract this, is to learn as much as you can about the assessment before you take it and practice wherever possible. Remember to listen to or read carefully, the instructions given ahead of the assessment.