Psychometric tests: what they are and why graduates need to know about them

21 Jul 2023, 13:34

Psychometric tests are a staple of the graduate recruitment process. This guide contains the keys to passing them along with links to free practice tests and resources.

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If you apply for a role at a big graduate employer, chances are you’ll be asked to sit a series of psychometric tests as part of the application process. The secret to passing them lies in good preparation. But how do you prepare for psychometric tests? By knowing what to expect and lots of practice.

Our guide is packed with information about the different types of psychometric tests, links to free and paid-for practice tests and more. Use the following jump links to get straight to the free practice resources or another section of advice. Otherwise, read on for a complete understanding of psychometric tests.

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What are psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests are impersonal, standardised and objective assessments that employers use during the recruitment process. The tests are designed to assess your cognitive abilities and your likely behaviour in the workplace to determine your future potential rather than by assessing what you have done in the past. You could encounter psychometric tests at different stages of the selection process including:

  • after you submit your online application form. You are typically sent links to tests to take online.
  • alongside a first interview.
  • at a later stage, possibly with a second interview or as part of an assessment centre. You may be re-tested at this point to confirm the results of earlier tests.

What are the different types of psychometric tests?

There are several main types of psychometric tests used by employers, some more commonly than others. These include:

Aptitude tests

Aptitude tests, sometimes called ‘ability tests’, measure cognitive capabilities. Many employers use them to assess your potential to reason – that is, to form conclusions based on logical thought processes, and your numeracy and literacy. Tests are set under timed conditions and you’ll usually have between one and three minutes to answer each question depending on the type of test.

There are several types of aptitude test, each focusing on a certain cognitive ability. The main types of tests include:

Abstract reasoning tests

Abstract reasoning is the ability to make sense of concepts by identifying the underlying logic to draw conclusions. Employers administer abstract reasoning tests to gauge your ability to understand new and seemingly unrelated information.

Abstract reasoning tests are non-verbal and non-numerical and typically involve determining a relationship among a series of shapes or patterns. You will typically have to sit abstract reasoning tests for roles that involve technical problem solving and require mathematical abilities.

Deductive reasoning tests

Deductive reasoning is a type of logical reasoning used to form specific conclusions from general statements via a process of deduction. Employers use deductive reasoning tests as one method of determining your ability to form arguments based on the information at hand.

Deductive reasoning tests can contain numerical, verbal and non-verbal questions. A typical question entails a passage of text making broad statements and multiple-choice answers. Each answer is a specific statement deduced from the passage and you must choose the answer you believe to be the correctly deduced conclusion.

Inductive reasoning tests

Inductive reasoning is another form of logical reasoning. It is the opposite of deductive reasoning and is the process of making general conclusions based on specific observations. Employers use inductive reasoning tests as another way of assessing your ability to recognise patterns and consistencies in a set of information.

Tests typically involve analysing a series of patterns and shapes to identify a relationship in the same fashion as an abstract reasoning test.

Numerical reasoning tests

Numerical reasoning is the ability to understand numerical data. Many employers include numerical reasoning tests as one of their assessment methods. These tests help recruiters to determine your ability to make decisions based on how accurately you have interpreted numerical data.

Numerical reasoning tests typically involve analysing numerical or statistical data presented visually (such as graphs, tables or charts) and selecting the correct answer from a multiple choice set of answers. To determine the correct answer, you may need to do basic mathematical calculations such as subtraction, division, addition or multiplication. You may also need to calculate probability, percentages and ratios.

Numerical reasoning is especially important for technical roles that involve the use of mathematics. However, numerical reasoning tests are used by employers across all sectors and for many types of roles. Head to targetjobs’ dedicated guide on how to pass numerical reasoning tests for in-depth advice.

Verbal reasoning tests

Verbal reasoning is the ability to understand concepts expressed via language. Employers assess verbal reasoning as it underpins the ability to communicate and make decisions based on accurately interpreting written information.

A verbal reasoning test usually involves interpreting passages of text followed by a question. You must select the question as being either true, false or inconclusive based on the information contained in the passage. Verbal reasoning tests are used to assess candidates across many fields, especially for roles in the public sector. Check out targetjobs’ article on how to pass verbal reasoning tests for more advice.

Personality assessments

A minority of graduate employers in the UK administer personality assessments to job applicants. These aim to identify your personality traits to give employers insight into whether your motivations, interests and preferred style of working make for a good match with their organisational culture and with the requirements of the role.

The thinking behind this is that candidates who display the personality traits deemed to be most suited to the role are seen as having better potential to succeed in the job than those who don’t.

There are several types of personality assessments. Some ask questions that elicit responses about general personality and behavioural traits, such as a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, while others ask similar questions that are related to your preferences in the workplace, such as the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) and the Dominance, Influence Steadiness and Conscientiousness (DISC) assessment – these are sometimes referred to as ‘work style’ assessments.

Personality assessments are typically set as untimed questionnaires. You typically respond to questions by choosing from multiple choice answers and to statements by indicating on a scale the extent to which you agree or disagree.

Job simulation assessments

Job simulation assessments are exercises that provide candidates with a range of workplace-related scenarios and ask how they would respond. They are designed to assess your instinctive behaviour, your judgement and some of your softer skills (such as time management, prioritisation and interpersonal skills) in action. There is a degree of crossover with personality assessments, but the focus of job simulations is on how you would naturally act and respond to specific situations.

Among the most commonly used job simulation assessments are:

Situational judgment tests (SJT)

An SJT typically involves answering a quiz of multiple-choice questions about the course of action you would take when involved in situations likely to occur in the role you’re applying for.

Situational judgement is a particularly important trait for fields that involve interacting with external stakeholders, such as consulting, retail and the public sector. However, tests are administered by employers for many kinds of roles across many sectors as you’ll need good situational judgment to interact with internal stakeholders too.

Virtual job simulators

Some large employers, typically consulting firms and banks, have adopted virtual job simulators into their assessment processes. A virtual job simulator is, at its core, a situational judgment test administered via video format instead of via a multiple-choice quiz.

You typically access a platform that allows you to watch a video of a workplace scenario. Once the video stops, you are asked question(s) about how you would handle the situation. Depending on the platform, you may need to record your responses to the questions via video, type your answers in a prompt or select from options that appear on screen.

E-tray exercises

Some employers set e-tray exercises to see how you would handle a busy workload in an office role. You will be given a brief containing information about the role and ongoing tasks. New information will then be added in ‘real time’ in the form of emails, instant messages and requests from your manager and colleagues. You then need to decide how to respond to the new requests while being considerate of the initial task and information contained in the brief.

E-tray exercises are much more likely to be held digitally as part of your initial application. However, if you are invited to an assessment centre, then you may come across in-tray exercises, which are the equivalents of e-tray exercises held in person.

We have an in-tray/e-tray exercise article on targetjobs with detailed advice and a complete e-tray example for more help.

Game-based assessments

Game-based assessments are a cross between computer games and psychometric tests. They are designed to assess both behaviour and cognitive abilities as assessments are interactive and capture many data points as the user progresses through the game. This is thought to provide employers with better insight into your cognitive abilities and behavioural tendencies, particularly when presented with new information and changing scenarios.

Game-based assessments come in different formats and vary depending on the employer: you may have to answer questions in response to a video clip or complete challenges.

For example, a game-based numerical reasoning assessment may involve a series of mathematical questions requiring you to interact with the game to complete basic calculations under timed conditions. A game-based abstract reasoning assessment, for instance, could involve briefly being shown a diagram and then having to slide tiles into the correct position to recreate the diagram.

Head to targetjobs’ game-based assessments article for more help to succeed when taking this type of psychometric test.

How do you prepare for psychometric tests?

Don’t take a ‘wing-it’ approach to psychometric tests. Preparing for tests beforehand will increase your chances of performing well. Take the following steps:

Ensure your basic maths is up to scratch

This tip is especially relevant if you’re applying to any kind of technical role. Ensure that you are comfortable doing the following basic calculations using a calculator:

  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • ratios
  • probability
  • percentages.


A key component of passing psychometric tests is to gain experience of what to expect. Sitting practice tests will allow you to do this and improve your technique. If you take anything away from this guide, it’s that you must practise psychometric tests beforehand to give yourself the best chances of success. You can find links to practice tests lower down .

Get a good night’s sleep

A full night’s sleep before taking tests will help you to feel alert and think more clearly.

Test your tech

Make sure to test your tech on the day that you sit your actual tests. Make sure that your browser is compatible with the test platform and that your headphones, camera and speakers all work (if required) and that your internet signal is strong.

Also ensure that you have any equipment needed to assist you, such as a pen, paper and calculator.

How do you pass psychometric tests?

With your preparation complete, follow these next tips to help yourself perform the best you can when taking the real tests:

Take tests in a quiet place

Avoid sitting psychometric tests in places with distractions. Move to a quiet room and request not to be disturbed if necessary.

Be clear on what the test is

This may sound obvious, but just make sure you are sitting the test that you think you are. After all, you may have multiple tests to complete.

Stay calm

Keeping your cool is fundamental to passing any psychometric assessment, so do your best to stay calm and collected. Agitated and clouded thoughts will affect your judgment.

Follow all instructions

Be clear on the instructions before starting a test and follow them throughout. You don’t want to lose precious time once the countdown starts.

Be mindful of time

You want to answer as many of the questions as possible, so keep an eye on the timer and avoid dwelling on a single question too long.

Use the information at hand, not assumptions

Psychometric tests present you with all of the information needed to pass them. Therefore, inform your thinking and responses using this. Making assumptions or trying to fill what you think is an ‘information gap’ in the exercise is a common pitfall that contributes to failing assessments.

Trust your gut with personality tests

When answering a personality test, you may be tempted to select the answers that you think the employer is looking for. You should avoid doing this and choose the responses that best fit your personality.

Even if after researching the role you feel confident that you know what the sought-after personality traits are, there's no guarantee that you'll select the best responses for that specific employer.

Free practice psychometric tests

Here is a range of free practice psychometric test resources from external providers.

AssessmentDay is a psychometric test platform that provides practice test across the spectrum of psychometric testing:

The Institute of Psychometric Coaching provides a range of practice psychometric tests here .

Business psychologist Dr Mark Parkinson has collated an extensive list of free and paid-for psychometric test practice resources here .

PRACTICE APTITUDE TESTS is a psychometric test practice platform where you can find personality and aptitude tests .

PwC (the Big 4 consultancy firm) has a psychometric test practice platform called Try it .

Find the careers advice you need on targetjobs

There’s expert advice on targetjobs for acing every stage of the graduate recruitment process. Simply create your free targetjobs graduate profile to have content recommended to you based on the career interest you tell us about and the stage of the recruitment process which you are at.

There are also plenty of student and graduate career opportunities available on our platform – so check out all of our listed UK career opportunities here .

If you’d like to further clue yourself in to assessments for graduate roles, head to the ‘ Interviews and assessment centres ’ section of targetjobs. You can also find advice on what to expect during the recruitment process for graduate jobs and schemes.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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