Application process

Psychometric tests

Employers use psychometric tests to complement other assessment techniques and help them identify candidates most likely to succeed in their organisation and role. Tests are used early in the recruitment process to evaluate and eliminate large numbers of applicants and later to test or retest particular skills or abilities.

Tests assess specific attributes: aptitude and reasoning capacity, situational and work-based understanding and personality. In the case of more sophisticated game-based assessments, a combination of these will often be assessed. Find out more about the main types of tests, top tips and how to practice.

Reasoning tests

Also encompassing aptitude and ability tests, they are used by employers to assess how well you reason using written, numerical or diagrammatic data. They are used across a range of sectors including finance, law, management and consultancy. Diagrammatic and logical reasoning tests are more common for IT and other technical roles.

Tests are often timed, and are often designed so that it is unusual for a candidate to finish all questions within the timeframe.

Top tips

  • Improve your test taking technique by sitting practice tests under timed conditions. As well as improving confidence and response times, this can also help you spot where you might be going wrong.

  • For numerical reasoning tests, revisit the basics including percentages, ratios and formulas as well as addition, multiplication etc. The ability to interpret information in the form of graphs, charts and tables is often tested. Graduates First has video tutorials on numeracy basics like percentages, ratios and exchange rates. These can really help you interpret basic data quickly.

  • Assessors look for both speed and accuracy.  Working quickly will be a key factor in your performance. Eliminate as many wrong answers as possible, for example using a quick estimation. If you are stuck on a question, leave it and move on.  Don’t worry if you don’t finish the test, they are designed to stretch even the most able candidate.

  • Try and identify the employer’s test provider. Practicing tests with the same supplier should help you perform at your best. Always complete any practice tests offered by the company.  Graduates First lists some of the most common test providers.

  • Always follow instructions and familiarise yourself with the process before starting the test proper.

How to practice

Situational judgement tests (SJTs)

SJTs are designed to simulate work-based situations and explore how you are likely to behave. Increasingly popular with employers, SJTs are designed to look at whether your behaviours fit with what is expected in that organisation or required for the role.

The ‘right’ answers to these scenarios are often not obvious. They are shaped by what the organisation feels are important behaviours, values and approaches. You will generally be asked to rank different options, identify your most and least preferred options, or some combination of the two.

Top tips

  • Research the organisation. What does this employer value? What do you know about their culture and values?

  • Research the role. What skills, values and qualities are required? This should give you important clues to what behaviours and approaches are important.

  • On the day, get ‘in role’ and apply what you know about the company, role, its values and preferred behaviours when answering the questions. 

  • Don’t try and second guess what they are looking for but apply common sense based on your understanding. Draw on your own experiences  and strengths.

  • When answering questions, think about the impact of your behaviour.  It’s also about knowing how not to behave. Think carefully about what you choose for your ‘least preferred’ option for a question.  

How to practice

Games-based assessments (GBAs)

Games-based assessments or GBAs combine standard psychometric testing including reasoning, SJTs and personality tests in a gamified platform. GBAs include rapid-response video-based games, longer work, occupational or personality assessments and interactive job simulations. They claim to provide a reliable measure of personality by collecting thousands of data points about you across different games. While they might look like a game, and are designed to be fun, they are still an assessment so it’s important you approach them in the right way.

Top tips

  • Take the game seriously. While it might feel like fun, games are designed to measure a range of qualities such as staying focused, reading emotions in others and approach to risk taking.

  • Make sure your environment is set up. Can you focus your attention? Will you be free of interruptions? Are batteries fully charged? Once you’ve started you can’t stop the test!

  • Don’t try and second guess what the game is measuring. The best advice is to be yourself

  • Make sure you're clear about what’s required. Is it worth reading the instructions again before clicking start? Always complete a practice game if offered.

How to practice

  • Familiarise yourself with some GBAs so you know what to expect if asked to sit one.

  • Graduates First has three practice games which give feedback on your performance plus insights into what is being assessed.

  • Artic Shores has advice for candidates. The company develop GBAs for a range of companies including Deloitte and RBS.

  • Check out the TargetJobs Guide to Gamification.

Personality assessments

Personality assessments are used by to assess fit with the company and role. Measures include how you relate to others, openness to new experiences and how you organise yourself. Tests also include measures of resilience, emotional intelligence and mind-set. There are different ways of integrating personality assessments into recruitment decisions, with many employers taking a broad and flexible approach. They are not looking for a ‘type’. Test outcomes are often used to inform subsequent interview questions.

Top tips

  • Sit some practice tests to better understand the process and reflect on your strengths.

  • Don’t try and second guess what you think the employer is looking for - be honest.

  • Many questionnaires use impression management scales to uncover whether you are trying to impress rather than giving an honest assessment. For example, have you never disagreed with anyone?

  • Remember there isn’t a right answer – this is about you and your fit with the organisation/job profile.

  • Get into the right frame of mind and keep your focus throughout. Make sure your environment is all set

  • Stay calm and don’t rush. Read all the options before answering.

How to practice

Testing FAQs

What should I do if

I have a disability

Employers understand the importance of awarding extra time and making reasonable adjustment when appropriate. If you do not feel that you can give your best performance in the conditions available, do tell the employer as soon as possible. Be clear on the adjustments  you need – extra time, additional equipment, a different test format. The British Psychological Society’s Test Takers Guide contains general information for people with disabilities.

I struggle with Mathematics

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have studied mathematics at advanced level to do well in numerical tests. Revisit some of the basics of data interpretation including how to work out percentages and ratios and do currency conversions. There are short videos and practice tests on Graduates First. We also run Employer Numerical Reasoning practice sessions with the Department of Mathematics. BBC  Skillwise – Maths has some videos and basic worked examples to get you started.

I keep failing tests

Falling down in one area of the recruitment process is not uncommon and tests are used to screen out large numbers of candidates. Review your performance on the day. How were you feeling? Was your set-up adequate? Had you prepared? There are many reasons why a candidate might not be successful on a specific test or with a specific employer. If you have any concerns about testing, speak to a career consultant.

English isn’t my first language

While some recruiters may take concerns about level of English into account, others will be less flexible. Remember that good English language ability will be important to organisations recruiting into UK based positions. Reading and summarising articles can help improve your English language comprehension and help you better perform in timed tests.

I get nervous about tests

The best way to manage your test nerves is to prepare and practice. This means finding out as much as you can about the tests being used and trying our recommended practice test sites. Practice will take away some of the unknowns, often the biggest cause of stress during tests, and test familiarity should in turn improve your response times and confidence. 
Graduates First has some useful video tutorials. Think about what you can do to improve your performance on the day. Simple things like a good night’s sleep and making sure you are not distracted can make a difference.

Where else can I look at practice tests?

There’s a wide range of testing resources available online, depending on the type of test you are being asked to sit and what you want to practice. Graduates First is the best resource for getting started. The main test providers like SHL, TalentQ and Kenexa all have example tests on their websites. Graduate websites Targetjobs and Prospects both provide useful overviews and links to practice tests. Remember to always sit any practice tests offered by the employer.

What about GRE and GMAT tests? How can I prepare and practice?

Some universities ask for GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) scores. Tests are used to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and sometimes, subject specific options. Each section is scored separately with percentile rankings to supplement university entry requirements. The official GRE site has some useful preparation tips and Kaplan has a free full length practice test. The official GMAT website, has advice on how to prepare and you can take a free practice test with Crack GMAT.

Do companies use specific types of tests?

While many employers use standard tests from the main test providers, some sectors and employers use specific tests to measure particular, often technical, skills sets. Many law firms use the Watson Glaser test and IT companies such as IBM, a Kenexa reasoning test. Start with the organisation's website to see if you can find out more about the tests they use. Graduates First has information on the types of tests used by over 100 employers. Assessment Day gives information about tests and recruitment processes used at over 60 large companies.

What type of tests do law firms use?  

Watson Glaser is commonly used in the legal field where precision and reasoning is critical. It is a 30 minute critical reasoning test assessing your ability to reason through an argument logically and make an objective decision. Here are some sample questions. You can also practice the test via the LSE's subscription to Graduates First.


Related pages

Cover letters

Cover letters

Application forms

Application forms