Practice makes perfect: How proper preparation for psychometric reasoning tests can help you land your dream job.

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Psychometric reasoning tests are becoming an increasingly common part of the job application process, and the chances are that you will have already had to complete reasoning tests at some point in the past. The reason for their continuing popularity is two-fold. Firstly, they are a really effective way of working out whether someone has the intellectual ability to successfully complete the job. Secondly, they are a cheap and effective way of screening out large numbers of candidates.

How are psychometric tests used?

Best practice psychometric reasoning tests identify a level of ability that is necessary for success in the role, and then set this performance level as a baseline that candidates must achieve in order to progress in the selection process. This baseline will vary from job to job; for example, if a role requires a high level of problem solving and the candidate must be able to understand and respond to novel situations, then the recruiter is likely to require a high level of performance on an Abstract Reasoning Test. This is common in leadership or programmer roles. Alternatively, if a job requires the candidates to be able to understand basic written and numerical information, then the recruiter is likely to set a fairly low level of performance on Numerical and Verbal Reasoning Tests as the required standard. This is often seen in customer service roles for example.

How to perform at your best in psychometric tests

Many people dislike psychometric tests because they see them as difficult, pointless and impersonal. They feel that if they could just get in front of an actual employer they could convince them that they are the right candidate for the role. However, psychometric tests are here to stay and it is important that you are able to successfully complete them. They are designed to be challenging and distinguish between the ability levels of candidates so developing skill in passing these tests is critical for your future career success.

There are a number of activities that are particularly useful when preparing for psychometric tests:

  • Read up on how to pass testsWhen candidates are invited to participate in a psychometric test they are frequently sent a mock test to practice. Candidates are often caught out when they complete this test and expect the actual test to be exactly the same. These mock tests tend to be at the easier end of the scale and present only a very limited selection of questions; they lull candidates into a false sense of security by making them think they have completed all of the required preparation when in fact they have not.Set yourself up for success by finding out as much as you can about psychometric tests: who are the main the publishers, how are the tests used, what types of psychometric tests there are and how they differ.Some of the main publishers of psychometric reasoning tests are:
  • Learn test solving strategiesThere are two main types of psychometric reasoning tests: tests of speed (which measure what you can achieve within the allotted time) and tests of power (which measure the maximum difficulty of question you can achieve). Most commonly, tests are a combination of the two, with a set number of questions presented within a challenging time frame. However, different types of test require different strategies for success as are they are scored differently so it is useful for you to find out in advance what test you will be taking. Here are some examples of the different ways that tests are scored:
    • The score reflects the number of questions the candidate completed correctly – the correct strategy in this instance is to complete as many questions as possible and guess when you do not know the answer.
    • The score reflects the number of questions the candidate completed correctly AND considers this as a percentage of the questions that the candidate attempted – the correct strategy in this instance is to only complete questions where you are certain that the answer is correct.
    • The score reflects the single most difficult question than the candidate was able to answer – the correct strategy in this instance is to take your time in accurately answering and checking each question as you go along.
  • Revise basic conceptsCheck that you are familiar with the basic concepts and techniques that you will need to use to complete the tests – do not assume that you remember how to perform different calculations, instead revise core concepts. This is particularly important for tests of numerical, mechanical or abstract reasoning. Reading upon on Ability Testing and taking a number of practice tests will help you identify the type of concepts you need to understand. These could include (but are not limited to):
    • Numerical reasoning: ratios, fractions, averages, percentages, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.
    • Abstract reasoning: sequences, rotation, relationships between items, commonality.
    • Mechanical reasoning: levers, gears, pulleys, springs, screws, acceleration, gravity, pressure, friction, weights, volumes, kinetic and potential energy.
  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICEThe most important thing that you can do to improve your performance on psychometric reasoning tests is to practice.Complete as many practice tests as you can, tests that include worked examples explaining why a particular answer is correct are especially useful. Timed tests that allow you understand the rate that you need to work at are also important as they simulate the pressures that you are likely to face during the actual test. The more tests that you are able to complete, the more types of questions you will have encountered in advance; this means that you will already know how to solve them which will help take the pressure off, allow you complete them quickly and move on.