Hints and tips

Take a look at some of the questions we're most frequently asked about psychometric tests and be prepared for the assessments you're about to complete.

What is psychometrics?

This could get long and complicated. Put simply, psychometrics is the field of study concerning the theory behind psychological measurement. Psychometrics involves research into the measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality traits.

The theory of psychometrics is the foundation of assessment instruments, such as the Thomas set of assessment tools.

What are psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests provide an indepth insight of what goes on under the exterior. They compare one individual’s performance with others, or show what the relatively strong and weak areas are within an individual. True psychometric tests look at three basic areas:

  • Abilities: a person’s capacity to work with numbers, words, diagrams and systems
  • Attainment: what a person actually knows about an area
  • Personality: how a person is likely to act. This covers a huge range of aspects from someone’s motivations and values, to how they characteristically react to authority and their honesty or integrity

Mix and match these and you get dedicated tests of areas like emotional intelligence, trainability, leadership, customer service orientation and how people think – areas that are directly related to particular careers. Assess lots of people in your company and you can get an organisational profile: how well your teams work; what particular skills you lack; who’s going to fit in.

What are psychometric tests used for?

Tests are used across business, education and sport to tackle a whole array of people decisions. Commonly, psychometric tests are used to recruit new staff, identify people with the potential to be developed, counsel people who are under-performing, put teams together, provide career advice, coach people, identify stress factors in an organisation, decide on the best organisational or team structure and create incentive programmes that really motivate. Any decisions about people individually or people in groups can benefit from the use of a psychometric test.

Do psychometric tests only test IQ?

We often think that testing looks at what you know; that a test is something you pass or fail. Yet you know that your knowledge is only part of what you bring to life - at school, work or home. Given how quickly the world changes, it might seem better to find out what and how easily someone can learn in the future rather than what they know now.

What are often known as 'softer' factors are increasingly seen as important in success, for instance: how well you understand and get on with people, your ability to lead, how far you follow rules or come up with your own unique solutions and your ability to cope with stress. Testing is as much about these as about being a 'know-it-all'.

What is a behavioural profile?

Personality and behaviour assessments can reveal an individual’s capabilities and how they are likely act.

This information can be used to identify what sort of job they will be good at, how likely they are to perform under pressure, how well they fit within a team and even what type of career would best suit them.

These types of assessment look at how people behave and answer questions such as:

  • What motivates them?
  • What are their strengths and limitations?
  • What is their preferred communication style?
  • How do they interact with their peers and teammates?
  • What is their value to the organisation?
  • Are they modifying their behaviour to adapt to their current situation?
  • How do they behave under pressure?
  • Are they showing any frustrations in their current situation?
  • What management or coaching style will get the best out of them?

Behavioural profiling won't show you 'good' or 'bad' qualities in a person, it simply provides an understanding of how someone prefers to behave in their working environment and the characteristics they will display. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers.

Personality and behavioural assessments can be used to recruit, identify potential, develop, put teams together, for career development, to improve communication and get the best out of people through better management.

What is an aptitude test?

An aptitude assessment measures a person’s fluid intelligence – how quickly they can learn and retain new skills and procedures. Aptitude tests are an accurate and reliable predictor of a person’s development potential.

Aptitude testing offers an objective way of assessing a person’s abilities. Aptitude tests can provide the answers to question such as:

  • Can this person think on their feet?
  • Can they cope with the mental demands of a role?
  • How able are they to thrive in a high change or dynamic environment?
  • Could this person be a high flyer?
  • Is this person a problem solver?

These assessments are designed to measure your potential rather than your knowledge. They commonly include verbal, numerical and reasoning tests. For example, numerical tests are designed to measure how quickly and easily your mind can manipulate numbers - not how accurately you can do algebra or quadratic equations.

Why are psychometric tests used in business?

Psychometric assessments can be used to recruit new staff, identify potential, develop, put teams together and get the best out of people through better management.

Research shows that interviews, references and application forms are very bad at predicting whether people will succeed. Interviews are particularly dangerous because they are influenced by people's prejudices, likes and dislikes. Using tests can never prevent mistakes like this, but they can make them less likely.

Why are psychometric tests used in education?

Psychometric assessments can be used with students, teachers and educational organisations to get the best out of people.

Assessments can provide practical careers advice to students, helping to bridge the gap between education and work. Psychometrics help students to determine their strength and weaknesses, helping them to progress into positive destinations after school or college.

Educational establishments also use psychometric tests to recruit, develop and manage their staff, including teacher and support staff. Assessments help to place the right people in the right roles, providing more clarity to their people decisions.

Why are psychometric tests used in sport?

Psychometric assessments are used in sporting environments to create advanced coaching and training programmes, manage athlete development, build coach and athlete relationships, improve team communication and raise organisational performance.

Psychometrics can help sporting organisations to get the best out of their people; be it their coaches, athletes or support staff. Assessment tools can provide objective feedback on people potential within a team, club or organisation.

Where might I come across tests and why?

The sorts of times and places you'll be asked to complete tests, include:

  • At school and university as part of career programmes
  • As part of coaching and athlete development programmes as a way of enhancing performance
  • To cut down the number of candidates who apply for a job - the test will be used alongside your CV to decide whether you should be interviewed
  • At your first interview - these might feed into the interview questions, to check you didn't cheat on an online test or be administered after an interview to help decide whether to bring you back
  • At final interview - here they will be used to check the impression you made at an earlier interview or to highlight areas that need more discussion
  • Assessment centres - for certain jobs you'll be asked to attend a day or two days of activities. These might include role play, group discussions, real work samples and tests
  • Milk rounds - certain big companies go round universities and assess soon-to-graduate students to see if they should be recruited to a fast track graduate scheme

Tests are also used with employees to: inform appraisal interviews, evaluate training needs and achievements, identify people for development and leadership, evaluate stress levels and well-being, see how well people are working together and prepare someone for coaching. 

Testing is widely used because it helps make all these processes fairer for all parties involved. In doing so, it gives you the opportunity to learn a lot about yourself.

So what do they measure?

In general, psychometric tests cover three key areas that measure what is going on inside you and how that affects your behaviour. You’re likely to be given one of three types of test:

  • Ability tests: Old IQ tests claimed to give one number that expressed your intelligence. Nowadays, we know that there are lots of different sorts of intelligence. The most common tests assess verbal, abstract, spatial and numerical intelligence but there are many others - emotional intelligence for example.
  • Knowledge or skills tests: Do you know something (‘What is meant by R.O.I.?' for instance) or do you know how to do something (cut and paste text in Microsoft Word for instance)? These tests are most like school and college tests.
  • Personality/behavioural: Good personality tests are based on theory and many years’ research in which they’re tried on millions of people to build up profiles of the sorts of people who are successful in different jobs. They don’t claim to sum you up or predict how you’ll act in any given situation; they measure your tendency to behave in a certain way.
When will I be tested?

Tests are used at different stages and when you will be tested depends on the situation in which you are taking the test. In business, tests are used at different stages in the recruitment process. Tests are also used for development and therefore can be used at any point during a development, career or training programme. The person administering your assessment will provide you with information on when they plan to test you and why. You will then find that access to the test is given via email.

Do they look like quizzes in magazines?

Some psychometric tests do. Many use simple right/wrong questions. Some ask you to choose the one out of three or four responses that best reflects your views. Others, however, will show you shapes, numbers and pictures. For many there are no right or wrong, just responses that reflect your individuality. Whatever you see, the difference between a good psychometric test and a quiz is what lies behind the test: over 100 years of theory, data gathered on other people, complex statistical techniques and the precise way the items are worded and drawn, or ordered. Sometimes a true psychometric test does look like a quiz…but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface.

What should I look out for?

You should take the test in a good environment where you can concentrate on it without disruptions. If you’re taking test at school or in offices, the test administrator should put you at ease and be happy to explain anything you’re not sure of. Check that the test looks good – it’s not a photocopy or a cheap print out. Ask questions about the test: what it’s for and how it’s being used in the process.

If you’re taking the test on the internet, make sure you chose a place and time where you feel comfortable, you won’t be interrupted and you have the time to finish filling it in.

Finally, all good test users are trained to give feedback to you on how you performed once the test has been interpreted. This should always happen because you have a right to understand the results and learn a bit more about yourself.

Will the test decide whether I get a job?

No, not on its own. Good tests are supplied only to people trained in their use and they know that tests should NEVER be used on their own to make a decision. Tests are used as part of a process, each part of which (interviews, references, work simulations) provide different parts of the jigsaw. Tests only measure specific aspects of people and are often used to challenge subjective feelings and people’s prejudices with more objective, scientific information on your human qualities.

Will the test tell me what job I should do in the future?

Not exactly! The test doesn’t give you a list of jobs you should do, instead it highlights your key behavioural strengths and preferences and allows you to gain a better understanding of what areas of work would be most suited to you. It gives you an insight into what sort of working environment your behaviours would fit in, helping you make more informed decisions when choosing your university options, moving into work or your next career move.

Who will see the results of my test?

Our tests are completely confidential, meaning that the only people who will have access to your test results will be those that administrated your assessment. This means that you don’t have to worry about other people seeing your test results, such as peers, teachers or teammates. You will also receive a copy of your results should you wish to see them.

We recommend that all test users receive feedback from a trained test administrator once the assessment is completed. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of your results and to discuss any issues you may have. You may need to request feedback as it is not obligatory for assessors to provide this.

Should I be nervous?

A little bit of adrenaline helps in a lot of activities including testing, but there’s no need to be worried. Strangely, research shows that a lot of people enjoy a well-run testing process because the feedback gives them more information about themselves. Tests are there to help you as well as the person administering the test.

Don’t people dislike tests?

Far from it: people actually like doing tests because tests tell them about their favourite subject; themselves. If handled the right way tests can cause a buzz amongst people as it gives them a common ground to discuss their behaviour and emotions.

Can I take the test on my mobile?

It depends on the test! All of our assessments that follow questionnaire format (PPA, TEIQue and Engage) are fully compatible with mobile devices so you can complete the test on these at ease wherever you are.

It is not recommended that our GIA assessment is performed on a handheld device. This is because it measures speed and accuracy to a high degree and results could be distorted by using different input methods (for example, touch screen). The GIA has been calibrated and normed for mouse and keyboard entry. We therefore recommend desktop as a preferred platform for this.​

Any other questions?

Our team of experts are skilled in all our assessments and will be happy to help. For price enquiries on our assessments, please call us on +353(0)18899 004