A test taker's guide to psychometric testing

Psychometric tests allow us to assess individuals on areas such as ability, personality and motivation. The tests have been developed using a complex technical procedure to ensure that they really do measure what they claim to measure. Psychometric tests are mainly used for role selection, personal development or career guidance. They help us to find out a little bit more about someone in a way that is reliable and accurate, and allow us to see differences between people.

When taking a psychometric assessment, we recommend that you follow these assessment tips:

  1. If you are given a deadline to complete the assessment, make sure you plan accordingly to avoid last-minute problems.

  2. Ensure that the browser you use is compatible with the online platform and up to date

  3. Ensure that you put aside enough time to complete the assessment, allowing additional time for reading the instructions carefully and for completing any example questions that might be provided as part of the instructions. When being invited to complete as assessment, an approximate timeframe for completion should be provided.

  4. Make sure you are not disturbed or interrupted while completing the assessment.

  5. Read all instructions carefully

  6. Depending on the assessment you are asked to complete, there may be a time limit and it is likely that it is a challenging one. Therefore, try to work quickly but thoroughly, perhaps skipping any questions you are unsure of and returning to those at the end if you have time remaining.

In general, psychometric tests fall into two main categories:

1. Measures of typical performance
These measures aim to assess how an individual is likely to behave or their typical style of behaving. These can include things such as our interests or our personality. There is no right or wrong answer, as these types of assessments measure what you think. Therefore, you should try to respond to the questions as honestly and openly as you can without trying to 'second guess' the implications of your responses.

An example of a typical performance question is:

Question 1: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree, to what extent do you agree with the following statement?
‘I like most people that I meet’

Another example is:

Question 2: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree, to what extent do you agree with the following statement?
‘I would rather keep my options open than plan in advance’

This type of measure is often referred to as a personality assessment or behavioural test

2. Measures of maximum performance
Tests of particular abilities or aptitude are known as maximum performance tests. For these types of assessments there are usually right or wrong answers, and you should try to answer the questions correctly.

An example of a maximum performance question is:

Question 1: All the houses in Winscombe were built this century or shortly before, but Ferrydale, 20 miles to the north east, has many lovely old houses. Milton is 15 miles north of Ferrydale, with building of much the same type. Westwood is a small village south east of Winscombe, with several eighteenth century cottages.

Which is least likely to have an eighteenth century house?

A. Winscombe
B. Ferrydale
C. Milton
D. Westwood

Another example is:

Question 2: Please select the correct answer:

18 / 6 + 2 =

A. 6
B. 5
C. 3
D. 2

Your scores from both typical and maximum performance measures are compared to lots of other people who have taken the test, which is called a norm or comparison group. This allows us to see how typical or similar you are to other people. For example, if you scored 30% on an ability test you might think that this is not very good, however if everyone else scores 20% then in actual fact you score is better than most other people.

When you are asked to take a psychometric test you should be given the following information:

  • Why the test is being used
  • How the results will be used
  • How the tests will be scored and by whom
  • What feedback you will receive on your test scores
  • Who will have access to the results and how long they will be stored for.

When used appropriately and by suitable qualified individuals, psychometric tests can provide valuable insight to increase our self-awareness. It is understandable to feel anxious, worried or even nervous about taking a test. The person who has asked you to complete the test should be able to provide you with reassurance and advice, and use the checklist above to make sure that you get the right information.