How to Succeed at Psychometric Tests

Quite a while ago I wrote a quick draft over at wikihow about how to succeed at psychometric testing. It needs editing. Why not take a swing at it?

Psychometric testing is a commonly used method of assessing prospective employees. With preparation it is possible to improve your test scores. Psychometric tests focus on certain aspects of your knowledge, typically aptitude things like number or spelling aptitude, things that are easily answered in a ‘yes/no, black and white’ kind of way. And this is why they’re frequently administered from a computer. Personality questionnaires also form part of the psychometric testing world.

While some people think psychometric testing is rubbish, more than a few companies invest a lot of money in buying it – so, love it or loathe it, there’s a chance you’ll have to undertake the tests at some stage.

Steps:

  1. If you’ve been away from formal education for a while, (or your education wasn’t that formal in the first place) get some practice at doing tests. The tests you set yourself up with for starters could be as simple as the surveys you find in popular magazines. The personality psychometric tests are not vastly different, so start there.
  2. Psychometric tests are always timed – so there’s a pressure to get answers down and move on to the next question. If you are using the ‘Word Power’ test found in Reader’s Digest (as an example), set a timer (or have someone time you) to allow for about 20 seconds per question. Don’t worry if you don’t get the test done within the time. What you are trying to do is a) get used to the stress of doing short tests under time pressure, and b) expand your vocabulary.
  3. If you find magazines that have surveys that tell you your personality, do those as well; again, set up a timer for 15-20 seconds per question. The kinds of questions asked in the personality psychometric tests are about as complex. Things like ‘I would like to be a fighter pilot’ – yes / no. Usually the personality tests are not timed, but there are a couple of hundred questions – it’s about sufficiency of evidence in this case. The timer part of this step is, again, about helping you get used to reading quickly, and to give you some time pressure.
  4. Finding puzzles where there are simple graphics – pick the odd one out, or ‘if this is to this, then that is to …?’ type questions are the kinds of tests that look at your reasoning and spatial abilities. Find them, time them, do them. Sudoko helps you look at patterns, add a timer to spur you on.
  5. Maths – these usually take the form of problem, with five or six possible answers. If you’ve slipped away from percentages, fractions, decimals, proportions, ratios, and relationships – it’s time to return to those kinds of answers.
  6. Use any online word-of-the-day type services, along with crosswords, hangman, word match, and other sorts of word puzzles – try at www.thefreedictionary.com for starters. Keep doing them with a timer, and try to get faster, and of course, accuracy is the name of the game. Challenge colleagues, friends and family.
  7. Any sort of IQ test, visual puzzles, trivial pursuit – the name of the game is to buff up your mental maths, reading, and comprehension skills. Oh, and get used to doing tests in short time frames.
  8. Ok – test time. If you don’t feel 100%, reschedule if possible. Don’t feel pressured – the object of the exercise is to get in, do the tests, get on with life. Ask for clear information about the time required – the tests might be 10 minutes, but there’s always a bit of delay before and afterwards. Slipping in during a lunch break might not put you in the best frame of mind if you’re suddenly starting to run out of time.
  9. Usually there’s a few sample questions to warm up with. Work through them calmly, check your answers, get a feeling for the layout and style of the questions. The timing doesn’t start until you start the test, so spend a few moments relaxing and getting yourself ready for action.
  10. Get the best answer down and move on. Trust yourself. You get a better chance to find questions you can answer if you move on rather than spend two minutes grinding away on a problem. That would waste the opportunity of another 6 questions @ 20 seconds each.

Tips:

  • Don’t panic if you don’t finish the tests – they’re designed to give results even if you don’t answer every question.
  • Don’t waste time or energy getting angry with what might appear to be dumb or repetitive questions. If you don’t know the answer, or can’t it work out; don’t get mad, don’t get frustrated – go for your best guess, and move on to the next question. The more answers you get through, the better your chances are. Like in so many things in life, a good attitude will help.
  • Maths – if this hasn’t been your strong point, relax and keep it simple. Try to pick up tips, tricks, and shortcuts eg if you add two even numbers the answer has to be an even number. Two odd numbers add up to an even number. An odd and an even number add up to an odd number. So, even if you can’t figure out the answer, it’s possible you can find the answer by deduction and eliminating the wrong answers. It’s ok to count on your fingers, make notes on paper and come up with something like it: the answer has to be bigger than that and that, and it has to end in an even number because the problem added two numbers that ended in odd numbers…
  • Ultimately, relax. Psychometric testing is an indication, it’s not YOU. If you are a creative, artistic person, it is very possible that the maths and writing tests are not going to show all of your best sides. If, as a result, you miss the job, you should probably thank your lucky stars while you are running like the wind – you don’t want to work for a company like that anyway.
  • If you’re chasing a job, you can’t control the interviewer or how they ask the questions, you can’t read the minds of the interview panel or know how they’ll read your resume/cv. One thing you can do is get proactive and do some practice and preparation for the test. Good luck. Oh, and don’t forget, even if you don’t get the job, and you don’t bedazzle the testers, there’s a very good chance many of the successful people throughout history would’ve also flopped at this kind of testing process. You’re probably in good company. Take some heart that odds are the company have short-listed you enough to offer you the test in the first place.

Warnings:

  • If the tests are in English, and it’s not your first language, you really need to practice. The language used can be quite complex and full of confusing double negatives. Practice, baby, practice.
  • If the tests are using USA or UK questions (and you’re not from there) the wording or the cultural content can be a little strange. Remember, in the case of maths, it’s about the numbers – don’t be put off by pounds (or dollars).

0 thoughts on “How to Succeed at Psychometric Tests

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