Psychometric Testing: What to Expect

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 November 2022

Published 26 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having clear expectations about what psychometric testing involves can help you prepare better and feel more confident sitting these tests. Your preparation and self-assured mood should help you present your best self and increase your chance of securing a job. In this article, we will explain what psychometric testing is and how you should prepare for and complete it.

What is psychometric testing?

Psychometric testing is an assessment process that evaluates intellectual abilities and personality. Businesses use psychometric testing to determine which candidates best suit their vacant roles. There are two main types of psychometric tests: ability tests and personality tests.

Ability tests

Ability tests, sometimes called aptitude tests, measure intellect, comprehension and problem-solving skills. They tell businesses whether candidates have the cognitive abilities needed for a vacant role. Ability tests are usually timed tests with a multiple-choice format. Verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning exams are some common types of ability tests.

Read more: What is Cognitive Ability and Why is It Important?

Personality tests

Personality tests reveal behaviours, preferences, motivations, values and interests. They tell businesses how candidates behave in the workplace, approach challenges and relate to other people. They also suggest which jobs people are well-suited to perform. For example, someone whose test results show they are very caring may make an excellent nurse. Personality tests can also help businesses decide if candidates would suit their company's culture.

Personality tests are usually untimed tests with a variety of formats, such as multiple choice, true/false and sliding scale. General personality tests and situational judgement tests are some common personality tests.

Read more:

  • Guide: 16 Personality Types

  • The Big 5 Personality Traits (And Jobs That Suit Yours)

Benefits of psychometric testing

Many businesses use a combination of psychometric tests, along with job interviews, job sample tasks and reference checks to create complete pictures of their shortlisted candidates. Psychometric testing has several benefits for businesses, including:

  • Removing unconscious bias: Psychometric testing is standardised, so it provides an objective assessment of each candidate's suitability, which looks beyond first impressions and unrelated personal characteristics, such as race and gender.

  • Identifying candidate suitability: The structure of psychometric testing makes it more challenging for candidates to appear better suited to a role than they are.

  • Identifying characteristics that are overlooked in interviews: Psychometric testing can reveal traits, such as problem-solving and patience, which interviews may not show.

  • Providing criteria for comparing candidates: Psychometric testing scores candidates objectively, making it easy for employers to directly compare short-listed applicants and their suitability.

How to prepare for psychometric testing

Psychometric testing is not a subject you can study like in a traditional school or university exam. However, following these steps should help you prepare and present yourself in the most authentic way:

1. Research the tests you'll take

Ask the hiring company which psychometric tests you'll take, which format they use and how much time they'll take. Some companies will even tell candidates which test publisher they use and direct them to practice questions. Understanding what to expect can help you feel calmer when you see the test.

2. Take some practice tests

Taking some practice tests can help you feel comfortable with psychometric assessment questions. Many practice tests are available for free online. Try to find tests with the same format as your test so you can familiarise yourself with the layout and presentation of answers. Complete these practice tests in real testing conditions, in one sitting against the clock.

Most people find either numerical reasoning or verbal reasoning easier. Taking practice tests may help you identify where you can improve a subject. Spend extra time completing practice tests in the subject that needs strengthening. As you complete more problems, you should improve your efficiency and accuracy.

3. Engage in thought-provoking activities

Engaging in activities that stimulate your brain should help you achieve your potential in ability tests. Some of the best activities for psychometric test preparation include reading, completing crossword and Sudoku puzzles and playing word games.

Related: 12 Cognitive Activities to Enhance Your Thinking Skills

4. Get a good night's sleep before your test

Getting a good night's sleep before your psychometric test can help your brain perform at its best. When you are well-rested, comprehending questions and calculating answers is often easier.

5. Eat a nutritious meal or snack before your test

Just like sleep, nutritious food can also fuel your body and help you succeed. Before your test, eat a filling meal, such as cereal with fruit and yoghurt or a sandwich with sliced meat and salad. If your test is scheduled well after mealtime, snack on a piece of fruit or some nuts before the test. Filling up beforehand can help make sure you're not distracted by hunger during your test.

6. Take a pen and spare paper

Many businesses use online psychometric tests rather than paper tests. However, a pen and spare paper are useful for calculating the answers to questions on your ability tests. Working out answers on paper can confirm any mental arithmetic and help you determine the correct answers to complex problems.

7. Arrive for your test early

If you are being tested at a location outside your home, aim to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early. This helps make sure traffic delays or other obstacles do not make you late. Check the public transport timetable or plan your driving route beforehand so you know how long your journey will take and where you are going. When you arrive early, you can feel calmer and more in control before testing begins. It may also give you an opportunity to use the toilet, minimising the risk that toilet breaks would reduce your test time.

8. Create the right testing environment for at-home tests

Many companies allow candidates to sit their psychometric tests at home. If you do not have to visit a testing location, make sure your home environment is optimised for your best performance. If your connection is unreliable, schedule a visit with a friend's or relative's place with a more reliable service. Set up your computer in a quiet space that's free from distractions.

Read more: How To Prepare for a Job Interview

Tips for completing psychometric testing

The following tips can help you complete psychometric tests to your potential:

  • Read all instructions carefully. Careful reading will help you identify key words and understand what you are being asked.

  • Attempt as many questions as time allows. There aren't usually penalties for incorrect answers, so you should try to answer every question within your allocated time.

  • Keep moving through the questions. Every question in a psychometric test usually receives the same marks, so allocate equal time. If questions on ability tests are especially challenging, either make educated guesses or skip them and return if time permits.

  • Answer personality test questions truthfully. Honest answers create the most accurate picture of your personality.

  • Check answers for ability tests if time permits. Use all your available time and recheck your calculations if possible.

Psychometric test example questions

You can expect questions like the following on your psychometric tests:

Example question for verbal reasoning test

Consider these statements:

  1. Sarah has short hair.

  2. Stephanie has blonde hair.

  3. Stephanie is 15 years old.

  4. Sarah's hair is the same colour as Stephanie's.

  5. Stephanie has long hair.

Which of the following combinations prove Sarah has blonde hair?

A. 1 and 2

B. 1 and 4

C. 1 and 5

D. 2 and 3

E. 2 and 4

The correct answer is E. The only statement that tells us that Stephanie's hair colour is blonde is 2. Statement 4 tells us that Sarah's hair is the same colour as Stephanie's.

Example question for numerical reasoning test

What number is missing from the following sequence?: 18, 22, ?, 30, 34, 38

A. 23

B. 24

C. 25

D. 26

E. 27

The correct answer is D. This is a sequence of numbers increasing by four. The number 26 is four more than 22 and four less than 30.

Example question for general personality test

I enjoy meeting new people:

A. Never

B. Sometimes

C. Neutral

D. Often

E. Always

As with all personality test questions, there is no right or wrong answer. You should respond to this question with the option that best reflects your own experience.

Example question for situational judgement test

You have been very busy working on a challenging but interesting project. You have worked closely with a junior colleague and effectively solved problems together. Your colleague has required a lot of support, but has become more confident and knowledgeable as the project progressed. Your project still requires a substantial amount of work, but your manager has now asked you to lead another project. This requires working with staff from another department you have not collaborated with before. What would you do?

A. Tell your manager your existing project requires a lot more work and you believe your colleague needs your support for its completion. Explain the success of your colleague and that your shared project matters to you, and you'd rather focus on your existing task.

B. Accept the new project but tell your manager your existing project still matters to you. Offer to work overtime, including weekends, to complete your existing project with your colleague.

C. Accept the new project and delegate more responsibility for the first project to your colleague. Agree to meet regularly with your colleague to check on their progress.

D. Accept the new project and tell your colleague you are confident they have learned enough to complete it without you.

There is also no right or wrong answer to this question. You should respond with the scenario that is closest to what you would do in the workplace.

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