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What is Psychometric Testing?

See also:Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI)

Many jobs attract a large number of applications and employers need to assess batches of candidates in a fair and effective way so that they can decide which candidates to interview. Psychometric tests enable employers to select candidates in a way that is fair and impartial based on an extensive job analysis and review of the skills and qualities required to perform effectively in the role.

There are several different types of test and employers will often use more than one type depending on the requirements of the job.

Types of psychometric test

Behavioral Questionnaires

These questionnaires ask about you and your achievements, interests and experiences. Your answers are compared to the characteristics that have been identified as necessary for the role you are applying for. You will be required to respond to multiple-choice questions about aspects of your work history, education, interests, past experiences, etc.

For example, you might be asked to consider a series of statements and to state whether you:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

Statements may include things like:

  1. I enjoy taking part in team sports
  2. I prefer to avoid conflict
  3. Work is the most important thing in my life

You don’t need any prior experience to do well on this type of questionnaire, and because it asks you to answer questions about your preferences, background and experience, it is not something that can be studied for or practiced.

You are encouraged to be as honest as you can when answering the questions even though it is tempting to try and guess what the employer is looking for. The problem with not answering honestly is that if you do get through to the interview stage you will then find it very difficult to support the answers you have given.

For example if you strongly agreed with statement 1 above, then the employer would expect to see evidence of this on your resume in the shape of membership of sports teams at school and college.

Similarly, strongly agreeing with Statement 3 could prove difficult unless work really is the most important thing in your life, and you have a track record of single-minded dedication to support you.

Behavioral questionnaires have a significant role to play in deciding whether you have the personal qualities that the employer is looking for. They can also determine if you are going to fit in to the organization. Generally speaking, management styles are less autocratic than they used to be and the move towards more knowledge-based jobs means that employers value personal qualities like self-motivation and willingness to take responsibility.

In addition, most organizations are forced to undergo frequent changes if they want to remain competitive and employees who are adaptable and flexible are highly sought after.

Research has found that behavioral questionnaires are a good indicator of future job performance.

Remember, there is no obvious way of determining which responses will attract the most points. The marks awarded are driven by preferences, with the least marks being awarded to the least preferred responses, and the most marks being awarded to the most preferred responses.


Ability/Aptitude Tests

These types of test consist of multiple-choice questions and are strictly timed.

Aptitude tests - question types

They can be classified as follows:

  • Verbal questions may include spelling, grammar and understanding of text.
  • Numerical or mathematical questions can range in difficulty from measuring your basic arithmetic ability to testing your knowledge and understanding of more complex formulae, graphs and statistics that are relevant to your industry.
  • Abstract reasoning questions challenge your ability to solve problems.
  • Spatial ability questions can identify your ability to solve visual problems and understand geometry.  These skills may be useful for architects, graphic designers and planners.
  • Mechanical reasoning questions are another form of questions which usually only appear in industry specific aptitude tests.  These will assess your general and in depth knowledge of mechanical principles.

The above questions normally follow a multiple-choice format. 


In addition, you may be asked to do more open ended tasks.

  • Fault Diagnosis test items are almost exclusively used in specific tests to gauge your technical understanding of particular systems such as pipes, wiring, computing and controls.  You are presented with a scenario where something has gone wrong with a technical set up and you need to identify where the fault lies.
  • Data Checking tasks may be included in a job aptitude test to test your ability to read and check sets of data.  You may be asked to do this kind of test if you are applying for a clerical, administrative or media job.

There are a number of strategies by which you can improve your skills and show the best performance in an employment aptitude test. The skills required may differ from one test to another, but your performance in any type of employment aptitude test will benefit from practice. Considering the variety of tests available today, we cannot generalize a strategy that can be uniformly applied to all tests, however taking practice tests can substantially boost your score.


Here are a few tips, which can help you to prepare for different types of employment aptitude tests:

How to Prepare for Aptitude Tests


When preparing for an aptitude test think about each of the following areas:

  • Get the basic concepts clear
  • Work your way up through levels of difficulty
  • Learn strategies
  • Take your cue from the answers
  • Be aware of negative marking

Get the basic concepts clear

For example, if you are preparing for a numerical ability test, learn all fundamental rules and formulae by heart and be well aware of the mathematical concepts that might come up.

If you are preparing for a verbal ability test, study basic grammatical concepts, such as parts of speech, verbs, tenses, subject-verb agreement, and clauses. Most of the verbal ability tests demand good vocabulary skills too so brush up on your language, focusing on terms that are likely to come up in your area of work.

Work your way up through levels of difficulty

Start with practice employment aptitude tests at a lower standard and slowly increase the difficulty level. This method will help you identify the weak areas and improve gradually and systematically on them to improve your performance. Different levels of practice employment aptitude tests are available online both in online and print versions.

Learn strategies

Take advice from employment aptitude experts and learn about strategies that can help you tackle test questions faster and more accurately.  These strategies help you to focus your energy where it is needed, and identify the most effective approach to solving each question.

Take your cue from the answers

This tactic can save time on questions that you are unsure of.  Some answers will be clearly wrong, and can be eliminated quickly, making it easier and faster to identify the correct answer.  In numerical problems it might be possible to take one answer option, which you feel is possibly correct and apply it to the equation contained in the question. If your answer is not correct, you can move on to another option.

Be aware of negative marking

Most employment aptitude tests contain negative marking. With the negative marking scheme in place, there is a chance of losing any of your marks earned from previous correctly answered questions. This means that a wrong answer is worse than no answer at all. A general rule for negatively marked tests is to only attempt the question if you feel there is at least a 50-50 chance for getting the correct answer.

These five tips will help you be prepared for the psychometric tests you will face as part of the recruitment process.

About the Author


Paul Newton is the owner of www.free-management-ebooks.com, which provides free professional development resources for managers. It includes over 100 free eBooks, templates and checklists that can be viewed on a PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

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