If you're anything like me, once you'd completed your last exam at university, the first thing you did was thank your lucky stars you'd never have to sit another test again in your life. Well, bad news - aptitude and psychometric tests are increasingly common when it comes to getting a job nowadays, especially for graduates.
Most of the big graduate employers use the tests as part of their recruitment process in order to hire the best candidates for the job. Recruiters use them as another way of identifying an applicant's ability to problem solve, reason, write coherently and get along with others, alongside the more traditional interview.
Studies have shown that testing in this way is a good barometer of predicting how successful the candidate will be in the role, as well as identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
As with any kind of test, you can improve your chances of performing well by doing your research and practicing hard beforehand. As long as you've prepared well, you'll have the confidence required to tackle these tests head on.
These tests can also give you a good idea of whether you're cut out for the job, so they can work to your advantage too.
So, what are these tests and why are they used?
A university degree or A-levels can show an employer that you're able to work hard and apply yourself to learning a subject. But degree and exam results are not very good indicators of how successful you might be performing a specific role in the work place.
Employers therefore often need other ways to assess candidates' abilities. You may not have to do all the tests explained below - it depends on the role in question - but these tests help recruiters learn more about how your brain ticks.
Don't panic! You don't need to be a mathematical genius - GCSE standard is enough. You'll be presented with data - a graph or table of numbers etc - which you'll use to answer questions. The test is often designed to become harder as you progress through it, so accuracy is key - if an answer is used in subsequent calculations, you need to ensure that you work it out correctly first-time round. These tests are typically used in the finance and business world.
Here, you'll be given a paragraph of text that's often on quite a technical subject matter followed by questions on whether statements about the text are true, false or not possible to say to show how you understand, interpret and use written data. The tests are often used in the civil service and legal world.
These tests make you use your brain to interpret diagrammatic information or spot patterns. They're sometimes called inductive reasoning tests and are often used for engineering, science and IT roles. They tend to be multiple choice questions which you have to complete within a set time. A question could be, say, a series of pictures, each one slightly different, where you have to choose another image from a number of options to complete the series correctly.
These tests find out how well you can arrive at a conclusion logically and analytically using your knowledge and experience when given some basic information. They often test your powers of deduction in which you're given a set of rules to arrive at an answer.
How to approach the tests
All these tests are multiple choice and timed - they don't leave much time for doodling on your answer sheet. It really is critical that you practice beforehand, and there are lots of websites which carry free online tests you can try such as Inside Careers, Graduates First and Jobtestprep.
• Practice! I've said it once and I'll say it again - do your homework. Imagine how relieved you'll feel when you see the test layout and question wording and it's familiar to you.
• Time yourself. Make sure you don't just time yourself, but time yourself per question.
• Move on. Some questions are easier than others and deliberately so. If you're finding a question difficult, move on to the next and come back to those you've left.
• Calculator. You can use a calculator as they're not mental arithmetic tests, and there will be paper on which to write answers or work out, but make sure you take a calculator that you know well. You don't want to be learning how to do percentage calculations just before you sit the test.
• Speak to the employer. Before the test it's a good idea to understand how the employer will use the test results and how the test fits into their overall recruitment process etc. After the test, ask for feedback on how you performed in the test regardless of whether you make it through to the next stage.
These tests aren't designed to trip you up so with practice, you can certainly improve your performance. Accuracy and speed are key as well as knowing when to move on.
When it comes to your job prospects, these could be the first tests of many, so it's best to accept them, embrace them and prepare well if you're going to climb that career ladder...