Psychometric test tips for assessment day success

Here we tackle the fearsome psychometric test. As with walking on a high wire, the basic parameters of this part of an assessment day are simple. Just you, pencil and paper (or probably these days, a computer screen) and the challenge in front of you.

But it's a long, long way down if you fail - and with a psychometric test there's no safety net. No blagging, big smiles or avoidance tactics will work here - it's do or die time.

Don't be scared

Just as the task is simple, so is dealing with it if you know the right way to tackle it, so don't be scared. In some ways this aspect of an assessment day is the easiest. It's relatively simple to predict what you'll have to do - many employers may even send you sample tests. Preparation, while potentially hard work, is therefore clear-cut.

And out of all the elements that make up an assessment day, the psychometric test is one where you can really use the skills you've been honing every day as a hard-working and quick-witted student. As you're at a top university, you probably even like exams! So no more complaining - limber up and let's get stuck in!

Practice, practice, practice

First step: prepare. If possible, find out exactly what kind of psychometric test you're going to have to do. It could be an in-tray exercise, a verbal or numerical reasoning test - or even a personality test.

We're not going to discuss this final type much here - they're designed so that there's little you can do to prepare or to alter your score and we know you're all capable and lovely individuals, so just be honest and you should have little to fear from these.

With verbal and numerical tests, on the other hand, you can dramatically improve your score by practising. So even if you think you're a maths whizz or wordmeister it's worth putting in some hours with the practice example your potential employer is likely to have sent you and finding more examples of similar tests on the internet - for instance, online psychometric test resource provides free examples of numerical reasoning tests, verbal reasoning tests, and other kinds of test you might face on an assessment day.

What about in-tray tests? These usually involve you having to sort through a pile of documents or a full inbox of emails and there's not a lot you can do to prepare for these as your assessors are not likely to tell you much about what they have in store. But it's worth you reading carefully through anything your assessor sends you about the test or about the role in general as you may get some clues this way.

On the day

Now the big day is approaching. You've done your preparation. What are the last minutes things you should be doing to ensure that you'll stride through this hair-raising part of the assessment?

First of all, equipment - make sure you have calculator (if necessary) and the writing materials you'll need, plus all the information and instructions that you've been sent.

A watch or stopwatch is also probably essential - you may not be allowed to have your mobile phone with you during this part of the day. Then take a deep breath, get balanced - and you're ready to go.

When you're finally let loose on the test, pause and read the instructions carefully. What's in front of you may be a little different to what you've seen before. But if it's a verbal or numerical test you're tackling, your preparation should mean that you're relatively comfortable with what you're seeing.

Don't rush, read each question carefully, and try to think clearly. If you can't answer a question, move on to the next quickly. The test is likely to have a large number of questions so that even the very brightest have plenty to keep them entertained so, as you may not have time to cover them all anyway, it's best to work on the ones you think you can answer.

Having said that, if the test is multiple choice, don't forget to enter an answer for every question - even if it's a pure guess, you might get lucky and pick up a few extra marks this way!

With in-tray exercises, a bit more tactical thinking in your approach is required. Your strategy for getting through these will depend on the exact nature of the test, but as a general rule, doing the following will probably be a good start.

Read through all the material you've been given and, if possible, sort the elements into chronological order. Then mark the ones that seem most important and put aside those that look like they can be discarded or ignored for the moment.

But remember that your potential employer may play some tricks on you! Old favourites are to disguise or hide important information and to have seemingly urgent to-do list items superseded by later communications.

Once you're ready, start dealing with the most important elements, in an order that seems sensible to you. As your time is limited, don't worry too much about whether you're doing exactly the right thing - the test is designed to be challenging and there's probably no right or wrong way to approach the issues you've been asked to deal with, or enough time to fully do so - the key thing is to take some sensible steps forward.

Finally, try not to panic if you're given new information or new tasks halfway through the test - reassess what you're doing and slot any new tasks into the order you've already set up.

And finally...

Once you're finished, get up from that desk, stretch, smile - and take a bow! Well done!