In a training session on psychometric testing we ran this morning, a few comments came up which were worth sharing with you, to add to the on-line info we’ve got on our website on this sort of testing.
- 92% of members of the Association of Graduate Recruiters thought that psychometric tests were useful or very useful in the recruitment process. These are mainly the large corporate recruiters, who are processing (horrible term, but that’s what it feels like) large numbers of graduate applications. Smaller recruiters, those recruiting into niche or specialist jobs, or academics are less likely to use psychometric tests – which is a good hint if you’re test-phobic.
- Different recruiters set their acceptable standards at different levels, sometimes using the same test with different acceptable ranges for different jobs. This is why we hear of people who didn’t get through a verbal/numerical reasoning test for a head office graduate role but did get through the same test for eg. a graduate retail role – for the same employer.
- There are lots of tests around, but some of the most commonly used by graduate recruiters are ability tests from SHL. Their GAP tests are set at levels 1-3, with 3 being aimed at graduate roles. We use SHL tests at this level for our practice tests (and no, they’re not the same questions, but are set to the same standard). However, we’ve heard of some recruiters, such as law firms, who are using the SHL Advanced Management Tests for their graduate recruits. We’ll have to keep an eye on this and if more recruiters start raising the bar, see if we can offer practice tests at the higher level. (We have no plans to follow the lead of an anonymous university who are reported to have changed to using practice tests at level 2 because using results from the higher level was too depressing for their students … I do hope that’s apocryphal)
- When you sit an ability test (verbal/numerical/diagrammatic or logical reasoning) your results are compared to a norm group. For the practice tests, we have comparisons between postgrads and “all students” groups – and there’s very little difference in the mean scores. In fact, although the verbal mean for postgrads is very slightly higher than the figures for “all students”, the postgrad mean for the numerical test is marginally lower than for “all students” – discuss!
- Personality questionnaires are much less likely to be used in selection, though are used by the Forces and some major recruiters at assessment centre stage. These are the ones you can’t practice for, and frankly, it’s better not to try to guess what they’re looking for – what’s the point in getting a job for which you’re fundamentally not suited? You’re unlikely to be happy or much good at it, or find it very stressful having to behave out of your natural style to be successful. Also, as my colleague Graham pointed out, if months of work from a team of occupational psychologists have gone into designing a personality questionnaire with internal checks to ensure the validity of the results, what are the chances that you’re really going to be able to outwit it?
- We discussed what you might do to improve your test results. The obvious one is to do a practice test, under standard test conditions, as it’s recognised that familiarity with the test format can improve your performance. However, if you want to see where you’re going wrong, you’ll be better using some of the many test books, rather than sitting the same timed practice test several times. We can’t give you back your answers for the practice tests (either the face to face test sessions we run, or the on-line tests you can do through our website – sorry, it’s a condition of the test licences), so if you want to spot that it’s your percentages you need to brush up on, go for the book option (but don’t cheat).
It’s easier to give suggestions about improving your numerical test results than verbal. It’s back to practicing your arithmetic – fractions, percentages, ratios, using graphs & pie charts, estimating answers (eg. so you can quickly spot that two of the options are obviously wrong, or realise that your fingers must have slipped on the calculator). Even just basic adding up your shopping bills in your head or practicing your times tables can get you back up to speed.
For improving your verbal scores, it’s harder to advise you. Try reading different sorts of texts to the ones you’re used to – could be financial press for scientists or popular science press for humanities postgrads. You’ll need speed as well as comprehension, so just the act of timed reading might help, but for added value, get together with some friends and set each other test questions on articles from the newspapers.
However, the suggestion I liked most was that doing braintraining on a Nintendo DS would be good practice – or watching Countdown. So that’s why it was such a hit with the student population …