Preparation for In-Tray Exercises

In-tray exercises are common in assessment centres across a whole range of jobs from administrators to senior managers. Practise In-tray exercises online to learn the fundamental concepts that will get you through this assessment centre exercise.
In-Tray Practice

Practice in-tray and e-tray concepts online. Learn about tasks prioritization and decision making.

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In-tray exercises are aimed at assessing three main skills in particular: time management, prioritisation and organisation. Read on to find out more about in-tray exercises and prepare for your assessment centre with our in-tray exercise practice pack.

What is an In-Tray Exercise?

An in-tray test is used by assessors to evaluate additional skills which are not usually measured through ordinary aptitude tests. Its main objective is to assess managerial abilities, prioritisation, organisation, problem solving, and time management skills.

In-tray exercises simulate real-life workplace situations. You are asked to take the role of one of the employees in a fictitious company, usually in the role you are applying to. You are provided with documents portraying the company's profile and given different tasks simulating a typical work day. You might be told, for instance, that you have just returned to the office after a week's absence and must go through e-mails and memos, return phone calls and complete multiple tasks.

Your position in this exercise is based on the role you are applying for, and the materials, tasks and actions required are usually based on the job. Background documents include company information, organisational charts and role specifics. The material for the tests includes memos, emails, faxes, minutes, papers and so on, and you have to complete a task based on these pieces of information.

Tasks include ranking documents in order of urgency or priority. In some tests you are also asked to describe the actions you would take, or explain why you have chosen this priority or action.

What skills are measured?

The in-tray exercise is a very different test to many of the other tests that you will take during your recruitment process or at an assessment centre. You are tested on a range of skills including:

  • Time management
  • Organisation of work load
  • Prioritisation and making sound decisions
  • Management ability - ie delegation, taking responsibility, decision making and so on
  • Office relationships
  • Understanding of organisational culture and structure

In-Tray exercises by profession

In-Tray exercises may be an important part of the recruitment process for many professions who require you to be strong on the skills listed above. On the following pages we look at In-Tray exercises for administrators and deputy heads in more detail.

In-Tray versus E-Tray exercises

In some recruitment processes the in-tray exercise has been replaced by an e-tray exercise. Although the names are similar, the style of exercise and tasks usually differ. In an in-tray exercise you are provided with hard copies of the documents you need to work with. Additionally, you may face an assessor who will want to discuss your behaviour and reactions on the test.

E-tray exercises, on the other hand, provide an online computerised simulation. As a result, the testing environment is different, as are the style of questions and tasks you are required to perform. Click here to read more about the e-tray exercise.

What else should I expect?

Some of these exercises involve a case study analysis and a written exercise. This means you will have to analyse data that was gathered for you, extract important data and deduce accordingly. This may also require you to write a formal letter with your insights and recommendations regarding the issue.

Practise these tests with JobTestPrep

JobTestPrep’s in-tray preparation pack is interactive, allowing you to actively experience in-tray exercises, with additional theoretical reading material to offer you a comprehensive understanding of the exercise and a complete test preparation. Our tests can be practised under a time limit, and you can repeat each test as many times you need. At the end of each practice you receive a score report to help you analyse your performance and improve. The pack also contains detailed explanations for each question, a full guide to the pack, and a suggested prioritisation of tasks and work calendar.

Learn more about our online In-Tray practice pack.

We are developing a new in-tray exercise for administrative posts. Register your interest now, and receive a 15% discount for the product when it is released.

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