Psychometric Testing

by Claire Walsh and David Hoad

Advice for test takers

You should be told what sort of tests and other assessment procedures will be used (though not necessarily the exact name of the test), why it is being used, and what arrangements are in place for feedback afterwards. You should also be told all the usual logistical things, like where to be, at what time, how long the test session is likely to last, and what to bring with you. This is usually nothing, as all the materials (such as pencils, rubbers, calculators, hand-held terminals and so on) that may be needed should be provided by the test administrator.

If you are asked to complete a test on-line, this may sometimes be at a specific site (giving the tester control over security, timing and so on) or you may be invited to take it wherever you have access to the internet.

As a test taker – perhaps when applying for a job – you may not to have much choice about how and where to take any psychometric tests. If you have any concerns about fairness, security or other issues for on-line testing, speak in the first instance to the person or organisation concerned. If you still have doubts or reservations, the test publisher or the British Psychological Society may be able to help you, but ultimately it is up to you whether or not you are prepared to go ahead with the chosen method of testing.

If you are given an ability test, there will usually be some practice questions for completion under supervision. The test administrator may well be able to advise you if you don’t understand how to tackle the questions, but they will obviously not assist with the actual test. For all tests, there are likely to be some sample questions and instructions on how to complete the answer sheet, along with any time limits that apply.

Ability-type questions can be practised to improve scores to a limited extent, as reasoning skills are often involved, so you can both develop those skills and also ‘get the hang’ of the type of question more thoroughly than in the case of the pre-test examples. If you know the name of the test and the publisher, their web-site may have practice papers; if not, try the BPS site (see Advice for test users) for guidance and practice questions, or Google or Amazon for books that aim to coach you to a higher performance in intelligence and/or reasoning ability tests generally.

For personality questionnaires and similar ‘no right/wrong answer’ tests, however, it is both difficult and usually pointless to try to second-guess the ‘favourable’ answers (and some tests have ways of detecting such fake responses).

Don’t be frightened to seek further information from the organisation asking you to take the test. It’s in everybody’s interests that you do your best, as long as that is by fair and honest means, so don’t let ‘fear of the unknown’ get in the way and put you off.