Psychometric Tests: A Beginner's Guide

'Psychometric test' is a phrase likely to strike fear into the hearts of every graduate job hunter. Luckily, GradTouch is on-hand to explain what they are, the different types you are likely to come across and tips and tricks to succeed. Read on!

So what are psychometric tests anyway?

Psychometric tests are a structured and standardised way prospective employers can find out something about you.

Most psychometric tests are performed online, although you may find some remain as hard-copy questionnaires. Tests may be used as a preliminary screening or as part of an assessment centre. If you apply for the larger graduate schemes, they’ll often use an online test as a preliminary screening method and then test you again if you reach assessment centre.

There are two distinct types of psychometric test that you are likely to face as a job seeking graduate - namely personality tests and aptitude/ability based tests.

Personality tests 

The aim of personality tests is to identify what you are really like. Interviews can be deceiving, as candidates are, of course, on their best behaviour. From an employer's point of view it can be difficult to see beyond this first impression of you, and gain insight into what you'll be like at work - your long term personality.

There are no right or wrong answers to personality questions. Some questions will ask you to rate yourself for various traits, for example (how much do you enjoy working alone - on a scale of very much to not at all) Others will provide you with a situation you may come across at work and let you pick from several options - these are often referred to as Situational Judgement Tests.

It’s uncommon for there to be a time limit on personality tests, as employers want candidates to give honest answers and this is easiest in an unpressurised environment.

Ability tests 

These tests are used to decipher your skills and mental agility, rather than your personality and, unfortunately, have definite right and wrong answers! Employers will choose to give candidates different types of tests depending on what they judge to be important for the roles they are offering.

There are three common types of ability tests:

- Numerical reasoning - these will assess both your basic arithmetic, and your ability to interpret, analyse and manipulate data.

- Verbal reasoning – these tests will assess how well you can digest and interpret written information.

- Non-verbal reasoning- will assess spatial awareness. These tests are designed to probe your ability to identify relationships, spot similarities and differences between shapes and patterns and recognise visual sequences and relationships between objects.

Aptitude tests will almost always be timed, so require a balance of speed and accuracy.

Tips and tricks

1)      Don’t second guess yourself

When answering personality tests it can be tempting to try and ‘beat the system’ and answer questions in a way that that you think the company’s ideal employee might.

However, these tests are designed to assess the consistency of your responses. For instance, a test may ask you to rate your ability to work creatively, and may then ask you to rate your ability to come up with new ideas – both questions are asking exactly the same thing. Try to answer questions anything but honestly and you’ll end up with a lack of consistency, which is either going to make you look like a fibber, or a little unhinged!

Keep it simple and just answer instinctively.

2)      Do practice

Candidates often think that ability psychometric tests just test a candidate's innate aptitude for something, and therefore doubt whether their scores can be improved upon.

Of course some people will be better at mental maths or comprehension exercises than others, but don’t be fooled into thinking practice won’t make perfect! Just like any test, practising psychometric tests will SIGNIFICANTLY improve your score.

At the bottom of this article, we’ve put links to free practice questions, and some other ways in which you can practice for free.

3)      Focus on your weaknesses 

Graduate recruiters will usually set a combination of numerical and verbal/non-verbal/numerical reasoning tests. It’s tempting to carry on practicing the type of test which you are most comfortable with,  to try to ace that.

However, be careful; most companies will be looking for you to pass a minimum threshold score on both tests. Make sure you concentrate on whichever type of test you are weakest in, to bring it up to par. 

4)      Try to find out who publishes the test you will sit 

This won’t always be possible, particularly if you are sitting the test at an assessment centre, however, finding out which brand of psychometric test a company uses can be incredibly helpful. Common publishers are SHL (who dominate about 2/3 of the market), Talent Q and Kenexa.

If you are taking a test online you may be able to find out which company produces your test before you sit it. If you can, go to the provider's website and look at the practice questions they offer, so you can get a feel for what you might be coming up against. 

5)      Keep an eye on the time 

Aptitude/ability tests will almost always be timed. Don’t spend too long on any question, the vast majority of the time, questions are equally weighted. If you have 25 mins for 15 questions, work out how long you have to answer each question and try to stick to this time limit for each.

Use all of the time allocated to you. If you have any time spare seconds at the end, go back to check the answers you were most unsure about.

6)      Keep your cool

While it is easier said than done, keeping calm is one of the easiest ways to succeed in psychometric tests. Once you have done all the prep you can, all you can do is try your best. Que sera sera, and all that!

Ways to practice

Lots of websites offer packages of practice tests at a cost. It’s up to you whether you feel they are worth the investment. A lot of sites also offer free practice tests - here are some of our favourites:

If you are applying for a few grad schemes and suspect you might be facing several psychometric tests over the coming months, it’s probably worth finding other ways, on top of practising the tests above, to flex your intellect.

For numerical reasoning:

 - Revise your GCSE level maths. In particular, revise ratios, percentages, probability and how to read information from graphs, as these things will almost always crop up.

 - Practice mental maths, add, subtract, multiply and divide in your head. Because numerical tests are timed, by making sure your mental maths is super quick, you maximise the amount of time you can spend on actually figuring out the answer to the question.

For verbal reasoning:

- Read often, particularly news stories. Try to skim through paragraphs quickly, picking out key bits of information and key arguments.

- Crosswords. Sit down with your Mum/Dad/Gran and tuck into a crossword to improve your vocabulary.

Related content -

How To Research Employers

We hope you found our psychometric test tips helpful. If you have any tips of your own, or any questions, feel free to give us a call on 0161 236 2392 or drop us an email at


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