Tips on Preparing for Psychometric Testing from a Consulting Psychologist

Posted by Belinda Luby

By Salih Mujcic, Consulting Psychologist at Onetest

Psych testing is usually the part that most grads are very stressed about. Unfortunately this has led to the emergence of some operators hoping to prey on these fears - those that purport to be able to coach, train or assist graduates in responding to psychometric assessments and thereby make them more desirable to a potential employer.

An enticing prospect!

But the truth is any organisation claiming to be able to improve your performance or turn you into a 'supergrad' is telling you a fib. These companies are simply exploiting your desire to be more competitive with baseless claims, taking your hard earned money, and offering services that can be more damaging than helpful. These organisations are often operated by individuals who have a limited knowledge of psychometric assessments and are not endorsed by any type of regulatory body.

Please don't get me wrong - not all companies offering career support are of the undesirable type. In fact, there are many wonderful career coaches out there who provide stellar support to help graduates differentiate themselves on things like presentation skills, interview ability and resume writing.

On the other hand, psychometric assessment coaching is impossibly difficult, fraught with danger and if anything more harmful for the graduate themselves.

Fortunately, the majority of graduates recognise that responding to psychometric tests in a way that is not reflective of their own ability or orientations is actually detrimental to them personally. If successful, they are likely to be offered a job that does not suit their preferences, that may be stressful or de-energising or that sits outside of their skill set. 

Not such an enticing prospect.

The lowdown on psych testing

The thing is, psychometric testing is a scientifically designed process that measures an individual's relevant strengths and weaknesses.

Assessments are used to provide reliable and valid information on specific graduate skills that have demonstrated links to job performance. To select the best suited graduates organisations essentially employ two types of psych assessments: ability and attribute assessments.

 Ability Assessments

Ability tests provide key insights into a candidate's potential on the job performance. These tests can measure abilities such as:

  • Cognitive Ability
    • Abstract or conceptual reasoning
    • Verbal reasoning
    • Numerical reasoning
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Emotional Intelligence

Basically these assessments gauge your ability to communicate, make decisions and problem solve, calculate cause and effect, observe and recognise emerging patterns. Unfortunately, these abilities simply cannot be 'learned' or 'taught' as they are innate to the individual. 

Feel free to practice and get acquainted with the different types of ability assessments by reviewing examples provided by credible test providers (you can review example cognitive ability test questions on the Onetest website). However, keep in mind that practicing will not lift your performance from novice to expert but it may help to lower the level of anxiety you will experience when faced with these questions in the recruitment process.

Attribute Assessments

Attribute assessments measure individuals' relatively stable behavioural tendencies, preferences and orientations within an occupational context. These assessments focus on aspects of the candidate such as:

  • Workplace personality and preferences
    • Communication style
    • Preferred work environment
    • Preferred work tasks
  • Organisational or cultural fit
  • Integrity and reliability
  • Safety orientation

Attribute or personality tests are assessments which require the least preparation on your part. With personality assessments there are no right or wrong answers just personal preferences, interests and motivations. The best way to complete personality assessments is by answering without too much thought, just to go with the first instinctual thought.

If you are interested in experiencing an attribute assessment, you can complete a Onetest Personal Insight Profile, which is very similar to those many graduate employers use in the selection process.

The big myth about coaching and training for assessments

Grads typically overlook the point that that their responses on psychometric assessments are often compared to a unique organisational profile or industry comparison group. Guessing, training on and responding in a particular way is simply ineffective and damaging.

Here is an example. Let's say you were applying for an Accountant position with a major financing company but didn't think you were really the typical 'Accountant type'. Your natural inclination might be to present more of a typical 'Accountant flavour'. In a test you might choose responses which are traditionally more strongly associated with accounting types such as introversion, mathematical orientation, being highly task focused and compliant. However, the problem is that this particular company might actually be looking for candidates who have strong interpersonal skills and are more creative or innovative thinkers - in fact, nothing like the stereotypical traits you might expect in an Accountant.  

What if they're actually after an out-of-the-box Accountant? What if they're after you? 

This is why psychometric assessment coaching and training is fraught with danger and can have a negative consequence for graduates. Grads must realise that they are their own biggest asset. You - with all your imperfections, quirks and development areas is exactly what organisations are looking for! 

Let's face it - everyone has weaknesses and areas for development. The individuals who tend to excel in life are those who accept these imperfections, show awareness and work towards improving themselves. 

Give yourself the best opportunity to perform

To give yourself the best chance of doing well, review some example questions. These will make you more comfortable with the types of questions you are about to face. 

When it comes time to complete the test, it's important to make sure you've done the following:

  • Read all instructions carefully no matter how monotonous they are. They're there to assist you!
  • Make sure you are well rested, comfortable and relaxed. Fatigue, anxiety and general discomfort have a negative influence on testing ability.
  • Ensure that you are in a quiet environment, free from distraction.
  • Refrain from completing assessments while affected by alcohol or drugs (this one is pretty self explanatory).
  • If you wear contacts or glasses, make sure you have them on. There is nothing more uncool than receiving a less than favourable result in the pursuit of aesthetic appeal. J
  • Resist receiving help from others, they may provide you with the wrong answers or waste your precious time by having to engage in debates about what the right answer should be. Also, even if they did do well and you proceed to the next stage of the process, you will probably be asked to complete a supervised verification test!
  • Respond honestly and to the best of your ability. Assessment results are generally locked down for a 12-month period and you may be retested in future stages of the selection process to ensure that you were honest.

Remember, psychometric tests are only one part of the whole selection exercise and other pieces of data (e.g., experience, interests etc.) also weigh into the decision making process.  Don't fall into the trap of letting someone tell you that you're not enough. You are your best asset and this is what organisations are looking for.

About the Author

Salih Mujcic, Consulting Psychologist at Onetest

Salih is a registered Psychologist and is currently completing a PhD investigating the impact that organisational climate and culture have on recruitment and selection processes. Salih has a deep interest in organisational culture, diverse workforces, social justice, psychometric assessment and internet recruitment and selection. He has consulting experience spanning both public and private sectors, and has worked across a number of industries including engineering, construction, health, personnel selection, talent management, education and community.


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