Employers and careers services, among others, are increasingly aware of the value of psychometric tests. ‘Psychometric’ means the tests have been carefully developed to measure abilities, aptitudes, skills, interests or aspects of personality. The ones you will most commonly encounter are ‘ability’/‘aptitude’ tests or ‘personality’ measures.
In a careers or job interview, it is impossible to give the full picture of your skills and personality. A person’s c.v. and qualifications may say very little about them if their strengths lie in areas which are not covered by conventional qualifications. Certain skills are, in fact, better measured using carefully constructed psychometric tests (e.g. problem-solving, spatial ability).
Psychometric tests provide an objective way of assessing your strengths and weaknesses. They are developed by trained psychologists using rigorous methods to ensure that the tests are unbiased and do not contain material which could favor certain candidates. The tests are ‘standardized’, meaning they have been tested on people of a similar age and background and performance is interpreted relative to that standard. .
Psychometric tests are useful to employers because, having identified which skills or ‘competencies’ are necessary to perform well in a given job, psychologists can provide tests which are tailor-made to assess those skills.
Finding a ‘best-match’ between person and job is a two-way process, however; a psychometric test may suggest that you are unsuitable for a certain job, but if the job does not use your skills and interests, you are unlikely to find it satisfying. It follows that in the case of personality tests, it is in your interest to be honest! It is worth remembering to ask for feedback from any psychometric test.
WHAT DOES A PSYCHOMETRIC TEST LOOK LIKE?
Personality questionnaires and ability tests are either paper-and-pencil based or may be taken on computer.
Paper-and-pencil tests often come as a booklet with a separate answer sheet. The answer sheet usually has printed boxes and you indicate your answer to each question or statement by marking the relevant box. You are instructed what to do by a person administering the test.
Computerised tests come in different formats. You are given instructions either by an administrator or on the computer screen itself. In some cases, tests are completely computer-administered and you familiarise yourself with the instructions at your own pace and choose when to start the timed test. You usually indicate your answers by clicking on an answer option using the mouse.
The answer is in the question!.
Most ability tests ask multiple-choice questions, where you have to choose one correct answer from several answer options. The answer options include ‘distractors’ - incorrect responses such as errors which are easily made or responses which resemble the correct answer in some way. There are many ideas about how to spot the correct answer from the distractors (such as spotting patterns in answers or selecting from ‘middle’ answers) but it is best to ignore this kind of strategy. Psychometric tests are increasingly sophisticated and are designed to ensure that you cannot perform well by the ‘multiple-guess’ approach. Guidance on how to approach a test can be found in the section titled ‘The test itself’.
There are no right or wrong answers to personality questionnaires. These are untimed and you are usually asked not to spend too much time thinking about each question but to give a quick and honest response. Do not try to second-guess the responses you think should be given – some personality questionnaires can detect deliberate distortion of answers and you could be asked to expand upon your responses in an interview.