What Are Written Exercises?

Written exercises are administered at assessment centres in order to evaluate various skills:

  • Processing copious amounts of information in a short time frame
  • Analysing the importance of each piece of information
  • Assessing where the problems are
  • Deciding on solutions for the problems 
  • Expressing yourself in a clear manner

Drafting Letters and Reports

This exercise assesses your ability to find facts hidden inside a text and present them in a clear and concise manner. It also evaluates your English skills. You are presented with numerous facts and ideas that are to be given to a person from outside the company, such as a journalist or a customer.

For example, you may receive a letter of complaint regarding a certain item that was purchased from your firm. You will be given all the information regarding the actual product, the cost and quality of the item, as well as what a customer should expect from it. You must analyse the information and draft a response to the customer. You are normally given no more than an hour to complete this exercise.

Bearing in mind that this is not an internal matter, care must be taken to ensure customer satisfaction as well as that the ethos of the company is maintained. Hence, when drafting this letter or report, it is a good idea to try and incorporate the different key competencies of the company.

Here are a few tips for this type of written exercise:

  • If you have to say no to the reader, make sure you do so while acknowledging that they are upset and that you are upset for them as well. For example, write something like: 'I am very sorry that I can’t do more for me and I understand your frustration, but…'
  • Make sure your answer is completely clear and thought out.
  • You may be asked to make notes and a plan before you actually write the letter or report. This is important as it allows you to clarify your thoughts and plan of action, refer to it during the actual writing, and use it as a guide for each paragraph that you write.
  • If you are given a word limit, don't go over it. This really puts the assessors off.

In-Tray Written Exercises

A typical in-tray exercise generally consists of two separate tasks. You are presented with a number of different documents and your role in relation to them. For example, your role may be that of a sales manager in a fictitious company who sells a range of business machines. You have to respond to many different requests: a customer survey, a new business opportunity, the launch of a new product, and various requests from your staff.

You are given approximately 80 minutes to read through the information provided and respond to the email requests that appear in your inbox. The second part of the exercise is the written report. You are asked to make a recommendation for one of the larger items dealt with in the first part of the exercise. For example, you may be asked to provide a detailed analysis and recommendation with regards to a new customer who wants to revamp his entire system. You are given a number of different options to choose from and have to decide on the best one.

You normally have about 40 minutes to complete this part of the exercise, and it is important you use your time well. It is imperative to demonstrate a clear way of thinking as well as your decision-making abilities. 

Here are some tips on approaching this exercise:

  • Make sure you read through the information carefully as you don't want to miss something important.
  • Ensure you have a plan for your answer. It may take a few minutes to create, but it is completely worthwhile as once you have a plan you can work straight off it, thus enabling a clear, structured answer.
  • Bear in mind who you are writing the piece for. Your manner of writing will differ if you are addressing new employees rather than upper management.
  • Once you have decided on an answer, go through the pros and cons of it in relation to the other answers.
  • There is often no spelling and grammar check on the program, so make sure you double check your work to ensure there are no sloppy mistakes.
  • Finally, make sure you write a comprehensive conclusion at the end of the piece. This is your signature, and it is often what gives the hirir the best impression of you.

Case Study Exercises

The information you need to work through is more organised in the case study exercise than the in-tray exercise. In fact, the case study is often already written for you. It will contain lots of information, both numerical and textual. This is different than the report drafting exercise as the information you are given is presented in a much more systematic style. Your task is to make a reasonable decision based on the facts.

For example, you may be asked to devise a resourcing plan, ensuring that the needs of two new contracts are met. You are given a few different options to ensure that it gets done, from training existing staff to sub-contracting some of the work out. There is material for each of the options and you need to decide which of the options is best suited to the company. You are given between 60 and 90 minutes to complete both the analysis of the text and the writing of the case study report. You need to come up with recommendations for the way forward as well as reasonable arguments as to why you have chosen this path of action. Some assessment companies more correctly call this exercise the analysis exercise which is discussed below.

Generally, this exercise does not need to written up in the same detail as the other two exercises, and you will be advised on its length. Ensure you don’t go over the limit as this is a surefire way to displease the people marking it.


Analysis Exercises

Another form of written exercise that you may be asked to take is the analysis exercise. The name “analysis exercise” is used by some companies instead of the more general case study. Although the term case study exercise is more popular, in fact, the skills needed to do well in the analysis exercise are of an analytical nature. You are presented with a plethora of information that in general relate to the position you have applied for. For example, if you are applying to a law firm you must analyse information regarding a specific case that your future company is likely to deal with. Although the actual information is fictitious, your ability to analyse it is not. You have to demonstrate that you have the skills to wade through the information and prepare a report detailing your findings and recommendations.


How to Prepare for any Written Exercise

Taking a written exercise without any preparation is a difficult prospect. However, with correct preparation you should be able to go into any test with a feeling that you are just affirming your skill level for the job and you are a great candidate. Use our case study preparation pack to give yourself a good introduction to the skills you need to do well in the written exercise. We look forward to assisting you in preparing for your job application.