As a qualified Psychometric Tester I’m aware of a number of myths surrounding this subject. It seems that because there are the letters
‘P S Y C H O’ in the word ‘Psychometric’ it conjures up something of the arcane; a mystical process delving into the inner reaches of the mind, some kind of alchemy, something akin to horoscopes.
A dictionary definition hopefully clarifies matters:
Psy•cho•met•rics – the branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality traits.
The British Psychological Society reviews tests and sets out ‘Best Practice’ for the administration and interpretation of them. Organisations using such tests will have qualified people who are professionally trained. 92% of the employer members of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) says they find them ‘a useful or very useful aid to the recruitment process’ and do so because they have found them to be reliable. One Manchester student who, on a feedback form, said: “Numeracy tests are useless; they test nothing” is certainly wrong.
Psychometrics falls into two distinct areas – ability tests and personality questionnaires. Whereas the first types are true tests with right and wrong answers, personality questionnaires simply differentiate between types of personality.
Personality Profiling is the subject of most misunderstanding and suspicion concerning Psychometrics. The purpose of these questionnaires is to identify candidates with personalities suitable for the job; different roles have different personality requirements for a person to be happy and successful. Employers often use these questionnaires as a confirmation of their own view established during the application and interview process.
Typically for undergraduates, ability tests will consist of one or more of the following – diagrammatic, verbal, numerical; with diagrammatic being used more for IT and engineering jobs.
When are you likely to encounter Psychometrics? Well, as we’ve seen with AGR, pretty frequently if you are applying to one of the major recruiters. Often, the pass mark is not enormously high; the test is there for you to demonstrate the required level of numeracy and literacy for the specific role. As two recruiters said:
“We’re not looking for Einsteins. We’re just checking that they perform as well as the average undergraduate.”
“Aptitude tests allow people from arts backgrounds to show that they’re numerate and people from science backgrounds to show that they’re literate.”
Many students are surprised to encounter tests when they apply for internships but, as internships are a good way for employers to decide who they would like to offer jobs to on graduation, the application process is often very similar to or the same as the process for a full time position. A successful internship can often lead to a permanent job offer without further application.
Performance on ability tests (verbal, numerical, diagrammatic) may be improved by practice. We have a wealth of information on testing on the Careers Service website including practice online tests. We also have an extensive range of practice books of tests which you can use in our Careers Resource Centre. The advantage of these is that you can check your answers and see where you are going wrong. Often, online practice tests just give you a score without pointing out the correct and incorrect answers.
Graham Keating, Careers Consultant.