What are common types of tests?
In general, psychological tests can be broken
into three broad categories:
- Personality Profiles - These are designed to assess behaviours
and attitudes. Commonly used personality profiles include
the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) and the
California Psychological Inventory (CPI). These have multi
- Ability tests - these may be tests of general ability
or of more specific cognitive abilities (e.g. verbal critical
reasoning, numerical reasoning, general problem solving
- Work Sample Tests - These provide a sample of the work
the candidate would be required to complete. eg: for a policy
analyst role, the candidate would provide a written comment
on a piece of policy. For a CEO role, we develop case studies
where the candidate needs to develop a strategic business
plan to present to the board as part of the panel interview.
The most commonly used tests in selection settings are personality
and ability exercises, as these are deemed the most useful
when trying to predict someone's future level of performance
in a particular role or to gauge their likely level of "fit"
with an organisation.
Typical Characteristics of Personality Profiles:
They generally take some time to complete (approx. 30
- 60 minutes)
They are usually un-timed
They are usually paper and pencil tests but are sometimes
offered in computer based format
There are no right or wrong answers
They are usually forced choice format, True/False or 5-7
point scale responses
They usually contain a “consistency” or a “good
impression” scale – therefore, answer honestly
Questions are often quite vague, (i.e. could be answered
differently depending on the situation) and subsequently
a person's first or gut response is the best indication
of how they would generally respond in the situation.
Typical characteristics of Cognitive Ability tests:
- Ability tests are usually timed and supervised (approximately
12 - 40 minutes)
- Consist of short questions where there is only one right answer
but a lot of wrong ones
- Are typically multiple choice, or short answer
format where you are asked to provide a number or a single word
- Are generally designed to discriminate between highly talented
candidates and often few candidates finish them
- The questions usually become progressively more difficult
- Both speed and accuracy are important
- They are usually paper and pencil tests although
some are available in electronic format.
Can psychological tests be faked?
For some roles, the profile of the "perfect
candidate" may appear to be obvious. You may think you know how
to respond as the strong team player, effective leader or high
achiever. Test developers are aware that self-report inventories
(e.g. personality questionnaires) are particularly prone to
candidates making false or misleading responses. You should note that
many psychological tests contain "faking scales" or
"consistency scales" to detect such misrepresentations.
Answering honestly about yourself, rather than how you would
like to be or how you think the prospective employer wants
you to respond, will help you get the truest picture of your
personality characteristics and maximise your chances of a
good fit between you and the position on offer.
How Can I Prepare for Psychological
Remember that psychological tests are not generally
like examinations. There are no right or wrong answers to many
“tests” (e.g. personality scales), although speed of
completion is a factor in most ability tests so work as fast and as
accurately as you can.
- Get a good nights sleep before the day of testing.
- Practise doing crosswords or mathematical problems.
- Read a paper to practice taking in written information.
- If you are likely to be asked to analyse numerical data,
review how to do basic calculations such as percentages
- Remain calm; make sure all practical arrangements are
clear so that you do not arrive feeling flustered or unprepared.
- If you feel nervous, try breathing deeply to help calm
- Make sure you bring with you anything you might need during
the day, such as reading glasses or an inhaler. You may
want to bring a watch in order to keep track of time during
any timed exercises.
- If there are any circumstances that may affect your performance
on the tests, tell the administrator beforehand.
- If you have any special requirements, contact the administrator
in advance to discuss the best ways to meet your needs.
Key Points to Remember
During and After the Assessment Process
- Listen carefully to the instructions you are given, and
ask if you are unsure about what you have to do. The focus
of the assessment is to see how you perform on the tests
themselves, rather than how well you understand the instructions.
- Don’t make assumptions about the way you should
respond. If you try to guess what the assessors are looking
for, you may be wrong. It is usually best to be yourself,
and respond honestly. Remember that it’s not in your
interests to get a job to which you are not well suited.
- if you find yourself running out of time on a numerical
or verbal reasoning test, don't quickly try to guess the
rest of the answers in the hope that you may get a few more
answers correct. Some tests have marks taken off for wrong
answers and your accuracy is also taken into account when
interpreting the results.
- If there is more than one exercise, you will have plenty
of opportunities to show what you can do. If you feel you
have done poorly on one exercise, don’t give up; your
performance on all of them will be taken into account.
- Being assessed is often challenging and you should expect
to feel fairly stretched by the end of your assessment,
particularly if there have been multiple exercises.
- Think about what you did well and what could have gone
better, and make notes for the next time.
- You are entitled to receive feedback on the exercises
you have completed, regardless of whether or not you are
successful. This may give you an insight into your strengths
and limitations, and may prove useful for future selection