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University of Bath

Succeed in the selection process: psychometric assessments

Find out about psychometric or occupational tests that are used in job selection processes and how to prepare for them.

Types of psychometric and occupational tests

You've probably heard the term 'psychometric' or 'occupational' tests. These are umbrella terms, which cover three main kinds of assessment:

  • ability or cognitive (including aptitude)
  • personality
  • interests.

Ability or cognitive tests

The most common types of aptitude test are verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and logical reasoning. Aptitude tests are designed so the majority of candidates do not finish. You will therefore feel very pressurised, and working as quickly as you can (but without sacrificing accuracy) is important.

These can be split into three types:

  • IQ or intelligence tests assess a unitary measure of your general intelligence; employers tend not to use IQ tests because intelligence is difficult to define and IQ tests too broad, making it hard to justify for use in selection into a specific job.
  • Attainment tests are designed to assess the results of your formal education and training e.g. exams or driving test.
  • Aptitude tests measure your ability in terms of a specific skill, or potential to acquire that skill.

Attainment and aptitude tests are frequently used, particularly by larger employers, as part of the selection process. Some employers use them early in the recruitment process as a way of reducing applications to a manageable number. Others combine them with evidence gained from other assessment processes to determine your ability to do a particular job.

Personality questionnaires

Sometimes called business behaviour, situational judgement or cultural fit questions, these are designed to find out how you behave, how you approach tasks and what your attitudes are. These factors affect how you would do the job, and how well you would fit into the existing staff and organisational culture.

There are no universally correct answers; the best approach is to respond to the questions according to your first reaction. Don't try to skew your answers, because you may not be accurate in trying to guess the desired personality profile. The most common problem is consciously trying to make your answers consistent rather than truthful. The average, reasonably flexible personality won’t be entirely consistent, the most extreme and rigid personalities will be. If your personality doesn't fit, it's probably better to know earlier rather than later anyway.

Interest inventories

These aim to measure the direction in which you would like to go occupationally. Measures of occupational interest are based on a wide sample of questions about your preferences, covering areas such as hobbies, study and life experiences.

Prepare for assessment tests

How to prepare and improve

The best way to prepare is to practice. We have invested in high quality licensed psychometric test packages to give Bath students free access to practice tests and reports.

Graduates First

Graduates First offers a variety of different psychometric tests for you to practice.

Find out more about Graduates First.

Team Focus

Team Focus also has psychometric tests and it also offers personality and values questionnaires to help you with your personal development.

Find out more and access Team Focus

Should the employer give me some examples

Strictly speaking, employers should give you an example question or two before you complete their tests, just so that the format/type of test isn’t a huge surprise. In reality this doesn’t always happen automatically so don’t hesitate to ask. The examples are commonly much easier to do than the real thing, but at least you have an idea what to expect.

Optimising your performance

The best way to optimise your performance is to focus on the above resources in detail to see where you can improve. Simply completing as many tests as you can is not so effective. However, if you need further examples of questions you're particularly struggling with, or a test not represented within these packages, refer to our additional resources on aptitude tests and personality assessments in our resource catalogue.

You might need to refresh your Maths. This is a common issue so our information resources cover this too. You could also use the services provided by MASH – a University resource centre to help all students with their Maths and Statistics.

Further guidance on tests

If you have any questions or would like guidance from a Careers Adviser on aptitude tests, you could book an appointment. The Careers Adviser could go through a sample question with you, to help you understand what the test is designed to do, but please note that we are not able to go through whole test papers or provide coaching for aptitude tests.

The British Psychological Society has a Psychological Testing Centre which includes a public area with information on good practice in Psychological Testing.

Other pages on succeeding in the selection process