Application process

Assessment centres


Assessment centres take you through a series of tasks that help employers decide whether you will be a good fit for their organisation and role. Each task will test specific criteria and the overall experience is designed to give you a good idea of whether you’d actually enjoy doing the job.

As assessment centres move online – something we know is a feature likely to last beyond the immediate effects of COVID-19 – we’re seeing a lot of adaptation and innovation, with an increased focus on gaming elements and the idea that candidates are given a number of tasks to complete that they will schedule and manage themselves within a given timeframe.

Whatever the individual components, employers are looking for enthusiasm, engagement and evidence that through the tasks you undertake, you show the kinds of skills they’re looking for.

What to expect

As well as a series of tasks and exercises which are likely to be a mix of individual and group activities, the day might also involve a company presentation, some form of office tour and the opportunity to meet potential future colleagues and other candidates during breaks or over lunch. Remember that your performance, attitude and participation will be being assessed during all aspects of the experience, including the more informal moments.   

Group exercises

Group exercises assess your ability to communicate and collaborate effectively with others to achieve a given goal or outcome. They will typically simulate a working scenario that’s relevant to the role you’ve applied for and could involve working on a project proposal for a client, planning an event or service, or negotiating a deal with stakeholders. You might be asked to roleplay, to represent the viewpoint of a particular client, manager, or colleague, perhaps to deal with a challenging or awkward situation. In some instances, the exercise might focus simply on general teamworking skills, presenting the group with an interesting or fun challenge to solve together. 

In all instances, employers will be aiming to assess specific predetermined criteria 
that relate to their job description and person specification and will be looking carefully at how well you perform in these areas and whether you meet their defined benchmarks. Whatever the individual exercise, a key element of the assessment will also consider time management and organisation skills as well as your team’s capacity to stay focused on the task in hand.

Read more on effective group work behaviours.

Written exercises

Written exercises are most commonly undertaken individually, and, in addition to your written communication skills and ability to construct a logical argument, enable the employer to assess your attention to detail, organisation and time management skills, well as technical knowledge of a given area.

  • E-tray or in-tray exercise
    This type of exercise tests your ability to analyse, prioritise, and act on information. Typically, you will be presented with a simulated workload – for example an email inbox or a series of reports to read – and be asked to respond to and action these within a given time limit. Whilst the exact format will vary from one organisation to another, you can find a useful example of a generic e-tray exercise on the Assessment Day website.

  • Drafting or briefing website
    This might involve responding directly to a written request from a line manager, dealing with a customer complaint, or producing a synopsis of a new policy whitepaper and the potential effects on an employer’s industry. Employers will be looking for an ability to write succinctly and clearly. You will be expected to highlight critical facts and information, outline the reasons for your suggested course of action and present your argument concisely in a manner and tone appropriate to the audience. 

  • Submitting a written sample
    For roles with a significant focus on writing ability, you will often be asked to provide a sample of your written work. While this will often be requested and assessed in advance, a component of the assessment centre might include an interview where your submission will be probed, and you will be asked to defend the approach or position you took.

Case studies

Here you will be asked to work through a typical business or organisational problem, often as part of a discussion with an interviewer, who will be assessing your analytical, reasoning and communication skills as well as your general engagement with and interest in the problem itself. The interviewer’s role is likely to be a combination of providing information and encouragement and challenging the assumptions and recommendations you make.

This type of exercise is particularly common in client-facing roles and is a key element in recruitment for strategy and management consulting. CaseCoach 
provides a number of videos and practice cases you can access as an LSE student.

Case studies also feature frequently in the legal sector.


Employers will often be keen to assess how well you can structure and communicate information as well, potentially, as your knowledge of a particular topic. You may be asked to prepare something in advance, or find that you are required to deliver a presentation on the day itself, either as a stand-alone exercise or, for example, as the final component of another task, whether that was something you worked on individually or as part of a group exercise.

Whether your presentation is pre-planned or only a quick summary at the end of a group exercise, get the structure right. Ensure you know how much time you have for delivery, consider the question carefully and decide what your key messages will be, then stick to the following guidelines:

  • tell your audience what you're going to cover in the upcoming presentation

  • tell them – in more detail, of course

  • tell them what you’ve told them – summarise/recap. 

Consider your audience carefully and make sure you are pitching your content appropriately. Try to engage those listening – effective techniques include using data or graphs to convey key information, sharing anecdotes or asking questions as part of your rhetorical technique.

Use our presentation matrix for more advice on structuring, planning and delivering your presentations. You can also read our blog on how to improve your presentations skills and have a look at some of the recommended TED talks about public speaking which should also provide some insights.


When scheduled as part of an assessment centre, interviews will often include an element of reflection on the exercises you have been participating in, and the interviewer will expect you to be ready to talk about your experiences, how you have performed, what you have learned, how you might approach things differently next time. They’re looking for realism, honesty and a willingness to learn.

Psychometric tests

It’s likely you will have already sat various tests – verbal and numerical reasoning, situational judgement, logic – as part of the early selection process. Even when this is the case, employers may still include more testing to validate earlier results or assess other skills or strengths.

How to succeed at assessment centres


  • Read any information sent to you by the employer about the assessment centre carefully. Is there anything particular you need to prepare in advance?

  • Research the organisation. Understand their professional values. These often link closely to the competencies you’ll be assessed against in the assessment centre tasks. Read up on clients they’ve worked with, projects they’ve been working on, challenges in the industry – all of these might come up as scenarios in group exercises. Having external reference points at your fingertips from prior reading might prove useful. 

  • Browse the job description. What are the key competencies and skills required? Keep these in your mind during the assessment centre and use them to help frame your approach in each exercise. For example, if the organisation is looking for a ‘collaborative team member who can work flexibly with a wide range of stakeholders’, how might this affect your approach to group exercises, or how you choose to respond to client emails in an in-tray scenario?


  • Ensure that you articulate your ideas clearly and participate actively in group exercises. Assessors will be observing your performance closely and making notes on each candidate; it’s impossible for them to say much about you if you’re not actively contributing to the group. This said, actively listening can be observed – nodding, encouraging teammates, summarising, and even notetaking are all linked and considered important.
  • Equally, if there is a challenging or dominating personality in a group exercise, persisin your attempts to get involved in the conversation. The purpose of the task is to reach a group consensus and work towards the specified goal, so such behaviour will not help and is unlikely to be wanted by observers. Be assertive: consider interjecting calmly by saying ‘Thank you, these are some really great thoughts – what does the rest of the team think?’. In this way you can open up the opportunity speak to the rest of your colleagues, and then follow up with ‘I was thinking that perhaps…’ to bring in your own point.

  • In all exercises, keep track of time and plan the work sensibly at the outset. It may make sense to factor in time to review and check your output before the clock runs out. If you’re required to present or talk through your work, plan time to practise ahead of the delivery itself. If you’re working on a written exercise, make an outline and notes if possible, so that you have something to show if you can’t fully complete the task on time. It’s also a good idea to have a checkpoint or two along the way, to assess if you need to adjust your approach in light of the remaining time.


  • Keep a note of the exercises and tasks you completed, how you feel you performed and details of anything you found came naturally to you or felt more challenging.

  • Each component of the assessment centre is considered by the employer as part of your overall performance – so if you feel one task didn’t go particularly well, don’t linger on this as it’s the whole picture they are interested in.

  • Employers should communicate to you clearly when you can expect to hear from them, whether that’s to make a job or internship offer, or if there is perhaps a further interview stage to come.

  • It’s always a good idea to ask for feedback on your performance and is something we’d always recommend you do if you are unsuccessful.

  • Send a mail to express your thanks, your enjoyment of the experience, what you learned, your continued interest in the organisation or role.


Related pages



Psychometric tests

Psychometric testing