Assessment centres


Candidates are usually invited to an assessment centre after a successful initial interview and before final selection.  Assessment centres run over one or more days and consist of a series of tasks intended to give employers an insight into how you respond in a variety of situations.

Oral presentations

Presentations are a common feature of assessment centres and are used by employers to assess how well you can structure and communicate information. You may be asked to present a prepared presentation or, more often, you will be asked to produce a presentation on the day.

Presentations are generally quite short (5 - 15mins) and you may be asked to deliver it to an audience made up of your fellow candidates and the recruiters themselves.

You may be invited to use PowerPoint or similar presentation software and you must be prepared for questions.

When giving a presentation:

  • Have a clear structure - begin by introducing yourself and giving an outline of your presentation, followed by 2 or 3 main headings and a clear conclusion
  • Consider your audience – is your content at an appropriate level
  • Use appropriate amounts of data to support your arguments and no more - limit the number of facts and figures you use
  • Restrict yourself to no more than six key messages
  • Aim for a conversational style, engage the audience with eye contact and body language
  • Speak clearly at a reasonable pace (consider taping yourself as practice).
  • Be clear and concise and do not cram too much onto your slides
  • Use technology appropriately; don’t allow it to detract from your message (you are showcasing your communication skills rather than your IT skills)
  • Do not go over the allocated time

Written exercises

Employers use written exercises to test your ability to logically process and analyse information, think clearly and take decisive action (examining how you justify this).

When completing a written exercise:

  • Make sure you properly understand have captured the essence of the task before you write anything
  • Use your allocated time efficiently: work swiftly, but don’t panic
  • Provide a brief indication of the main points and the reasons for your thinking and decisions

Types of written exercise

  • E-tray and in-tray exercises

Information can be found on our e-tray & in-tray exercise pages.

  • Case studies

Information can be found on our case study pages.

  • Drafting exercise

You will often be given a number of facts about a sensitive issue and asked to express them tactically, concisely and accurately. This could be in the form of a sensitive or difficult customer complaint or query. Employers are looking at your ability to choose the right facts and how you present them, demonstrate this by

    • Showing your knowledge of relevant business issues
    • Effectively arguing your case, using relevant facts
    • Emphasising the benefits of your chosen course of action, being firm but sensitive
    • Considering your readers, both the recipient of the letter and the employer testing you 

Group exercises

Designed to test your ability to work with other people effectively, within a group exericise you may be asked to complete a practical task or a discussion or role play.

The employer hopes to gain an insight in to how individual candidates operate in teams and are on the look out for evidence of the following:

  • Clarity of thought and expression
  • Ability to analyse information, ideas and identify key points
  • Lateral thinking and creativity
  • Communication skills (especially interpersonal skills)
  • Focus, drive and motivation
  • Leadership skills
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to focus on a task
  • Listening to other ideas
  • Good response to stress and pressre
  • Commercial awareness
  • Ability to inflience and persuade others

The important point for any group task or discussion is active participation. Active enough to be noticed and provide evidence of your skills but not so much as to dominate the group and be considered arrogant or boorish.

Practical tasks

Practical tasks often ask the group to make something using the provided materials (i.e. a bridge to hold a certain weight). Candidates will be assessed on how they interact and work with the rest of the group, not on the outcome of the task.

The exercise will usually be a business case scenario or a topical discussion issue and usually no prior specific business knowledge will be required. There will typically be about 5 to 8 other candidates in the group with you.

The assessors will be looking for your general ability to think around the problem, however, you may find you can bring in some prior academic, work or general knowledge you have that would be relevant.

You will typically get one of the following group exercise formats:

Leaderless discussion group

The discussion topic will be given to you and once the task has begun you will be left as a group to organise yourself as you want. The assessors will be looking at the sort of roles that you adopt and whether there are any leaders emerging and levels of participation.

Usually you will be given a short time (15 – 20 minutes) to look at a ‘case’ and jot down your initial observations – you may be asked to do this individually or in a group. You will then have approximately 30 minutes to discuss the issue in a team setting and come to a team decision regarding the way to move forward.

There may be a few assessors observing your discussion and marking you on the specific criteria that they are looking for in the exercise. You will be given a time limit and may have to reach a decision within the allotted time.

Remember that there is usually no single ‘right’ decision. Your communication, persuasion and influencing skills will be assessed in these tasks.

Designated group roles

You will be given a particular role to play – which may be a manager within the organisation. You may be asked to negotiate with the others and present a case for your area of responsibility or department. There may be more of a win/lose situation here – but it will still be the quality and structure of your argument that is important

Practical team exercises

These are tasks where you are asked to work as a team to complete a task such as building a raft, constructing a model or a bridge from Lego. These exercises are more action-orientated and may be used to assess leadership, creativity, energy and focus.


Carefully read instructions given to you, formulate a plan and decide on the group's priorities

  • Ensure the group keeps on task and to time
  • Be assertive to get your views across but not overbearing, be diplomatic
  • Assessors are interested in the quality of your ideas, not the quantity
  • Actively listen by making eye contact, nodding or reiterating other group member's ideas
  • Use your body language to provide evidence of being engaged and interested
  • Respond constructively to your fellow candidates’ ideas
  • Be inclusive – all members of the group should have their chance to input, show you recognise this by actively listening to the louder members and then directly asking the quieter members for their input
  • Make sure that you know the competencies that the employers are looking for; how do these relate to the group exercise?
  • Read the brief carefully make sure that you understand the tasks and have a rough outline of how you want to move forward.
  • Keep up to date with current affairs – this will help you if you are given a more general issue to discuss
  • Try not to get diverted into a side issue; keep reminding yourself of the main focus of the discussion

Useful links

  • Prospects - Interview tests and exercises: group activities
  • Target Jobs - Group exercises: what to expect


Useful Information

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