What Is Psychometric Testing? An Introduction

This is an introduction to our beginner's guide to psychometric tests. Let’s begin our exploration by answering a few important questions.

What are psychometric tests?

Any activity and assessment that is conducted in order to evaluate candidate performance and includes, but is not limited to, skills and knowledge, abilities, personality traits, attitudes and job/academic potential.

This is a broad area and one that needs explaining. There are many psychometric test styles and formats, and we will elaborate on the three most common and most important areas within psychometric testing:

  1. Aptitude Tests: Have the goal of assessing various cognitive abilities from numeracy and literacy skills to spatial awareness and more. Find out more about aptitude tests.
  2. Behavioural Tests: Are intended to highlight specific personality traits that could indicate suitability for specific roles. These can come in the form of personality questionnaires, leadership tests, motivation tests and situational judgement tests.
  3. Assessment Day Exercises: Based on human interaction assessments. Various exercises utilize job specific skills and simulations and are usually carried out by assessors/psychologists. Find out more about assessment centres.

Beyond the challenge of correctly understanding and answering the test questions, the other hurdle is overcoming the time constraints when they are present. Both aptitude tests and assessment day exercises have time frames which allows candidates to be assessed on how well they cope with time pressure. Behavioural tests are usually not timed.

Psychometric tests and the application process

Most job applicants go through a similar application process as described in general lines below (you can view the full infographic here):

KPMG Selection Process Infographic

Most job applicants go through an application process that includes some or all of the following elements:

  1. Online application: Includes entering personal details and skills, uploading a CV, answering competency based questions and taking certain psychometric tests.
  2. More psychometric tests: Aptitude and skills tests, usually delivered online.
  3. One or more interviews: Could be a phone interview, a Skype interview or could also take place at the company's offices.
  4. An assessment day: Includes group activities, e-tray/in-tray exercise, case study/presentation, role-playing scenarios, partner interviews, verification tests, and more.

Why do companies use psychometric tests?

There are two major reasons companies use psychometric testing: the first is to improve and reduce HR and recruitment costs and the second is to improve quality of candidates for the long run and avoid employee turnover.

Unfortunately, the recent information and technological revolutions have turned the recruitment field into an almost exact science. Companies use sophisticated and rigorous psychometric testing procedures to optimize their recruiting and hiring processes. According to assessment consultants, using these tests can help companies find the skills they are looking for in people who are the right fit for the job and save substantial amounts of money, thus increasing profitability in the long run.

What does this mean for me?

Firstly, the testing process can actually tell you a lot about the company/program to which you are applying. If an employer stresses numerical skills or presentation skills in the testing process, that tells you that these skills are fundamental for the job. At this point you need to ask yourself whether or not you have or wish to use these skills.

Secondly, companies are looking for specific competencies and skills in their applicants, and having a good understanding of the tests will give you insight into those sought after attributes. In addition, it also allows people who are normally nervous during interviews a chance to impress without the on the spot pressure.

In short, use the tests to your advantage to show companies your strengths.

Now that we understand the very basics of psychometric tests, the next step is knowing how and why to prepare.

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