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A students or grad's ultimate guide to psychometric tests

Frances Chan

Careers Commentator
Don't wing your psychometric tests. No, really, don't.

Get ready to uncover everything you need to know about psychometric tests to sail through them with ease. Jump in to learn:

  1. Everything you need to know about psychometric tests
  2. Our 5 best tips for passing them

About psychometric tests

What are psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests are like quizzes that help reveal what you're like, how you think, and how you might act in different situations. These tests get their name from two Greek words: "psycho," meaning mind, and "metric," meaning to measure.

The psychometric tests you'll encounter will most often take the form of a timed, online test where you might:

  • Answer questions about your personality.
  • Choose the right word to complete a sentence.
  • Spot the pattern in a group of shapes.

Think of it as a brain-teaser. For instance, if you see a couple of rows of shapes that follow a pattern, could you figure out what the next shape should be? That’s the sort of challenge these tests might throw at you.

Spot the pattern

Why are psychometric tests used in job applications?

In theory, psychometric tests allow employers to:

  1. Look beyond skills and experience: While a candidate's skills and experience are important, they don't show everything about a person. Psychometric tests help employers understand hidden qualities that aren't obvious from a CV, such as how well someone understands and manages their emotions or their approach to problem-solving.
  2. Ensure the candidate fits the job: Employers want to find someone who not only has the right skills but also thinks and feels in ways that match the job and company culture. Psychometric tests help them see if a candidate's personality and thinking style are the right fit for the role.
  3. Create equal opportunities: Psychometric tests are used to give all candidates a fair chance. The idea is that no matter where you come from or who you are, the test will measure everyone by the same standard, making the hiring process more objective and unbiased.

Prosple's take on psychometric tests

In practice, the main reason large employers use psychometric tests is to streamline their screening process. Flooded with applications, they turned to psychometric tests as a way to quickly decide which candidates to interview.

Ironically, this isn't what the tests are actually meant to do. In the hiring process, psychometrics are meant to give a more complete picture of a candidate outside of CVs and interviews – not serve as the initial filter that narrows down the applicant pool.

Not all candidates interview particularly well ... A psychometric test removes the reliance on interviews. – registered Psychometrist

Here at Prosple, we also have some reservations about the accuracy of psychometric tests. To put these tests to the test, we had our entire team complete two of them. The results were, let's say, eyebrow-raising.

  • Take one of our team members—a university prize-winning writer with stellar communication skills. Surprisingly, she scored low on the verbal reasoning section of the intelligence test!
  • Consider an accounting graduate who topped the class in complex financial analysis, yet, surprisingly, found practical financial decision-making in real-world scenarios challenging.
  • When it came to the personality test, what people said about themselves didn't always align with their workplace behaviour. (This chimes with a thought-provoking point made in MIT's journal of management: "People often differ more from themselves than they do from one another.")

So why would some of the biggest organisations in the world rely so heavily on psychometric testing? We believe their choice boils down to a mix of efficiency and pragmatism.

  • Sure, there are more accurate ways to gauge job performance, like task-based assessments. But those options come with a time and resource cost that's often not feasible at scale. By comparison, psychometric tests are quick and easy: They're created and run by external testing companies so employers don't need to lift a finger.
  • Plus, large companies like the Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and EY) aren't exactly short on applicants. So, for them, it's less about snagging every potential superstar and more about finding a reliable method that sorts the wheat from the chaff without taking an eternity.

So prepare well for your psychometric tests, but don't take the results too seriously. They are not a reflection of who you are or how well you'd do at a job.

But more on this later! Let's first dive into how you can ace these tests.

How to ace your psychometric tests

#1 Get to know the tests

That's right – psychometric tests aren't just one test. They're actually a mix of different tests that check things like your personality, maths skills, and logical thinking skills. Get to know each kind so you're ready for anything on test day!

Numerical reasoning test

Assesses: How good you are with numbers -- including how well you perform calculations, interpret graphs and tables, and make logical deductions based on numerical information.

Sample question: "Here's a graph displaying sales figures for different products over a period of time. Calculate the percentage increase in sales for a specific product between two given months."

Verbal reasoning test

Assesses: How good you are at working with written information -- meaning how well you understand written passages, draw logical conclusions, and make accurate inferences.

Sample question: "Which of the following statements is most supported by the information in the passage?"

Logical reasoning test

Assesses: Your logical thinking abilities are -- for example, how well you identify patterns, make logical deductions, and draw accurate conclusions.

Sample question: "Here is a series of shapes. Which shape comes next in this sequence?"

Personality test

Assesses: Your personality - including your communication style, work preferences, and how you might fit into a team or organizational culture.

Sample question: "Rate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements: (1) 'I enjoy being the center of attention'  (2) 'I prefer working alone rather than in a team.'"

Situational judgment test (SJT)

Assesses: How well you handle handle a variety of workplace situations. The point is to see how you'd respond to real-life work scenarios, whether you fit company culture, whether you have solid decision-making abilities, people skills, etc.

Sample question: "You've been working on a project for several weeks, and it's due in two days. You realise that there's a significant error in your calculations, which will affect the final outcome. Which of the following courses of action would you take?"

Depending on the industry or organisation you're applying for, there may be other types of tests. In recent years, a handful of organisations have started using games to assess candidates. In the accounting job industry, candidates might face specific psychometric tests designed to assess their proficiency in data analysis. These tests are tailored to evaluate the ability to interpret financial data, understand complex charts, and make logical deductions.

So make sure to scope out what kind of tests you're up against! If the employer doesn't provide much information on this, you can find out by searching online or looking in online platforms such as Whirlpool, Reddit, and Glassdoor.

#2 Think from the employer's perspective

For the personality and situational judgment tests, one "hack" is to think from the employer's perspective. For instance, a personality test might be "How regularly do you pay your bills on time?" Even if you're always late with your bills, answer "often" or "very often" – you don't want employers to think you're irresponsible!

Or let's say you encounter this situational judgment problem:

Situation: You've been working on a project for several weeks, and it's due in two days. You realise that there's a significant error in your calculations, which will affect the final outcome.


  1. Correct the error yourself, work late if needed, and hope no one notices the mistake.
  2. Immediately inform your team and supervisor about the error and work together to fix it.
  3. Present both the incorrect and corrected versions during the project review, explaining the mistake openly.
  4. Document the error and the correct version, then ask for an extension to redo the project.
  5. Blame the error on a software glitch and proceed with presenting the incorrect data.

Each option can tell the employer something different about you.

  1. If the company values individual accountability, option 1 could be seen as taking initiative, though it carries the risk of not solving the problem in time.
  2. If the company values transparency and teamwork, they might look favourably on option 2.
  3. Option 4 would likely be appreciated in a culture that values thoroughness and quality over deadlines. 

Understanding the company culture and what qualities they value can help you navigate which response would be seen as most favourable. And if you don't know what they're looking for, check the employer's profile on Prosple, the employer's website, or ask the recruiters!

#3 Pace yourself

Time management is crucial for any exam, but it's particularly key for psychometric tests. Here's a simple strategy. Before diving into each section:

  1. Note the time limit.
  2. Divide the total time by the number of questions to figure out your average time per question.

This will help you gauge how much time to spend on each question. Being aware that you have, for example, 10 seconds per question stops you from lingering too long on tough questions and missing out on easier ones. Each question is worth the same amount of points, so if you find yourself going overtime on a question, take your best guess and move on.

But don't fret if you can't finish every question. These tests are designed to stretch your abilities, not gauge whether you can answer every single question. No one completes them all. So keep your cool and just focus on doing your best!

#4 Practise, practise, practise

Do not wing your psychometric tests. You might be tempted to think of psychometric tests as just another test, but they're not.

For STEM students ... the obvious assumption ... is that you'd be really good at numerical reasoning tests but I'm an engineering student I found that you still need to practise. ... A different set of skills is required for these tests. – Engineering grad @ Unilever

You'll want to practise the exams in order to:

  • Familiarise yourself with the format and the time constraints, so you can walk into the actual exam with confidence.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus your efforts on the areas you need to work on. For example, in accounting jobs, this will mean improving your grasp of complex financial regulations or enhancing your proficiency with accounting software.
  • Give yourself the best chance of landing a job or internship of course!

Recommended resources:

  • Employer-provided practice tests: If you're given a practice test, work it until you could ace it in your sleep. No practice test? Search for samples online.
  • Careervidz' tutorials on Youtube: These tutorials show how to solve quickly. Check out their psychometric test playlist to get started.
  • Paid services: Need extra guidance? There are paid services like the Psychometric Institute in Australia that offer specialised courses.

#5 Rest up

Last but not least, make sure you're well-rested before test day. You'll be able to think more clearly and work through more problems when your brain is fresh and energetic!

What to do if you keep failing psychometric tests

If you keep failing psychometric tests even after you follow all our advice above, it's not the end of the world. There are some very smart, successful people who'll never pass these tests because of reasons like ADHD, severe test anxiety, or other factors.

If you fall into this category of people, rest assured. There are plenty of employers out there who don't require psychometric testing! These will tend to be smaller organisations and start-ups, who go through much fewer applications and therefore:

  • Can spare more time on each candidate, which means they don't need a psychometric test to screen you out.
  • Can't afford to miss out on a real gem who just can't sit exams.

What next?

However you feel about psychometric tests, you'll be taking a lot of them, so we hope these tips help you maximise your scores!