1. Make sure you know what tests you will be taking
There are many different types of psychometric ability/aptitude tests, the most common are numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning, but there are many others that you might encounter like mechanical reasoning tests, critical reasoning or accuracy/checking tests. Not only are there several different categories of test, there are also many different test publishers whose tests will all be slightly different. It is therefore important to make sure that you know exactly what test or tests you will be asked to complete so that you can prepare properly.
The best way to find out is to contact the recruiting organisation and ask them. You might also be able to find out from other candidates and websites like www.wikijob.co.uk can be useful for sharing experiences from others.
2. Do practice tests – lots of them!
If here is one thing you can do to improve your performance on psychometric tests, it is to complete practice tests. They will give you an idea of the type of questions you are likely to encounter, the problems you will need to overcome and a sense of the timings involved. Aptitude tests are designed to be difficult and put you under pressure, but you can relieve some of this pressure by being familiar with the process and understanding how to solve the problems.
Aptitude tests tend to include one or two practice questions at the start of the test, these are useful but not sufficient. To prepare properly you need to complete as many practice questions as possible. Most test publishers provide practice tests on their websites so it is worth taking a look.
3. Develop strategies for answering the questions
Psychometric tests are designed to be challenging, and one of the things that can make them easier, is to have strategies in mind to help you solve the questions. Whilst the questions vary from test to test, there are common themes that are often found, for example, there are a limited range of rules that can be used for Abstract Reasoning tests, including (but not limited to):
- Movement (think up, down, left, right, clockwise, anti-clockwise)
- Relationships between items
- Contact between the different element
Often tests use more than one rule to make them more challenging – take a look at this latest psychometric guide to understand more.
4. Get someone to explain answers to you if you don’t understand them
Sometimes, it is possible to look at a question on a psychometric test, have the answer in front of you, and still not really understand how it was calculated or why it is the answer. It can be really useful in these situations to sit with someone who does understand the question and get them to explain to you why the answer is thus.
Some universities offer psychometric preparation classes which are an ideal opportunity for asking these questions, or maybe work with friends or people on your course to go through some questions together. Another way of securing this insight is to purchase a book such as Psychometric Tests: Expert advice on how to pass psychometric test from the How2Become range.
This is particularly relevant for numerical or mechanical reasoning tests. Make sure that you are familiar with the basic techniques you will need to use so that you don’t have to try to remember them. This reduces the cognitive load as instead of having to work out how to solve the question and then solve it, you just need to be able to solve it.
For numerical reasoning tests, for example, make sure you are familiar with the following techniques:
- Data manipulations and calculations
- Basic arithmetic
- Percentages, fractions and ratios
6. Give yourself plenty of time to be successful
Psychometric tests are timed so you will know in advance how much time you have to complete the tests – make sure that you have enough time available as you’re unlikely to be able to successfully complete the test in less time. Rushing through the questions is unlikely to improve your performance and if you’re thinking about rushing to be somewhere else then your mind is not focused on doing your best. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to complete the tests.
7. Create an environment conducive to success
There is nothing worse for your chances of being successful on the test than being interrupted – you’ll lose your chain of thought and waste the extremely valuable time available. You need to make sure that this won’t happen: choose a good place to complete the tests (your bedroom is a good place, a coffee shop is a bad place), and let the people around you know not to disturb you – where possible have a conversation with them or maybe put a note on your door. Remember to turn off notifications and set your phone to silent. Also, make sure that you have the things you need around you e.g. scrap paper and a pencil, a clock, a calculator.
8. Be at your best
Choose to complete the tests at a time when you’re likely to be able to give it your best shot – you know when you are at your most alert; for some people that will be first thing in the morning, for others later in the evening – choose a time that works for you. Make sure that you are feeling alert, focused and capable before you start. Have something light to eat beforehand, and maybe a cup of coffee. Make sure that you won’t need the toilet during the tests. Don’t attempt the tests if you’re unwell or if you’ve been drinking or you’re hungover because you won’t do as well as you could if you were on top form.
9. Don’t worry
Many people feel quite anxious about completing psychometric tests, but worrying about them is unlikely to improve your performance. If anything, it will paralyze your thinking and slow you down. The best way to deal with your nerves about the tests is to practice until you know you can pass them. The second, is to remind yourself that ability tests are used to assess who is likely to perform well in the job, if you can’t pass the test, then probably you are not a great fit with the role anyway, and you’d therefore be unlikely to enjoy it. If you’re not successful on the tests it might suggest that there are other opportunities out there that are a better fit with your skills and aptitudes.
10. Don’t cheat
With so much riding on successfully completing tests, it can be tempting to cheat and get someone who is good at psychometric tests to complete them on your behalf. Don’t do this. It’s a bad idea on a number of levels – obviously it’s cheating and therefore bad anyway, but you’re also very likely to be caught out. Most organisations will re-test candidates face to face to validate the results, so you do need to be able to pass the test yourself. Also (as above), if you can’t complete the tests successfully, then you’re likely to struggle if you do get the job – far better to be honest and find a job that matches your actual ability level.
Ed Mellett is an entrepreneur, careers professional and founder of practicereasoningtests.com. Upon graduating from Manchester University he recognised a gap in the market for an interactive careers website tailored specifically towards students and graduates, and in 2007 co-founded and launched wikijob.co.uk. Now in its 11th year, wikijob attracts more than 400,000 unique users per month and is a must-visit resource for students considering their careers post-university. In he founded wikifestivals.com, a wiki resource and global community for festival fanatics. His other interests include AI, neuroscience and psychology.