What are psychometric tests?

So what exactly are psychometric tests? The word psychometric comes from two Greek words, psyche and metric, which when literally translated means ‘measurement of the mind’ (Psy•cho•met•rics (sī′kə-mĕt′rĭks) n.).

In technical terms, psychometrics is an aspect of psychology that looks at the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests so that specific psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, motivation and personality can be measured.

Put simply, this means they’re a way of measuring someone’s skills, abilities or personality, according to a defined set of criteria that a company has identified as important when evaluating potential new hires.

The two most common types of psychometric assessment are:

  • Ability tests
  • Personality questionnaires

Ability tests

These are designed to objectively measure someone’s cognitive ability. This means assessing the extent to which someone will be able to work in different ways as required by the job. They include:

Numerical reasoning tests which assess someone’s ability to interpret numerical data and challenge someone’s ability to make correct inferences and decisions based on their understanding and evaluation of data.

Verbal reasoning tests measure an individual’s ability to understand written information and to evaluate the logic of the arguments presented. These types of tests focus on using and evaluating the information provided rather than the ability to use language, grammar and correct spelling.

Inductive reasoning (or logical reasoning) tests measure an individual’s ability to draw logical inferences and understand the relationships between various concepts regardless of any guidance or acquired knowledge.

Personality questionnaires

Personality questionnaires are also known as work style preference questionnaires and they’re designed to gain insight into someone’s typical behavioural style and how they prefer to approach different situations.

  • Personality questionnaires, such as a work style preference questionnaire, are NOT tests as they’re not designed to objectively measure your knowledge, skills or abilities. They’re used to understand how someone prefers to do things in the workplace, so are typically used as an additional assessment tool.
  • General questionnaires, such as those in magazines, that suggest they offer insight into someone’s personality type, should not be confused with those used in recruitment selection processes, as they are not designed to be used for recruitment.
  • Personality or work style preference questionnaires are usually used in conjunction with other recruitment assessments to make sure a thorough and rounded picture is built up about the person applying for the role.
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Why are psychometrics used?

Recruitment selection processes usually have a number of interviews planned into the process. Many employers, like us, use additional tools to support us in selecting the best people for the role and those who are more likely to meet the demands of the role.

We and other employers spend considerable time identifying the key skills and behaviours needed in the role and then matching them to the most appropriate tools that will support us to assess these. Therefore the nature of the role will determine which type of assessment an employer uses.

PwC’s student recruitment selection tools are carefully selected for use by Occupational Psychologists, because they support us to measure the specific skills and behaviours which we have identified as critical to success within the company.

Psychometric tests, such as numerical, verbal and inductive reasoning, are examples of tools used alongside interviews in PwC’s student recruitment process.

They allow PwC and other employers to measure abilities that are not always assessed in other parts of a selection process. They’re carefully designed and rigorously tested to make sure they are:

An objective measure of someone’s abilities

  • The standardised nature of these tests is one of the key reasons why they’re used in competitive recruitment selection processes.
  • This means that each person receives the same test instructions, completes questions of the same difficulty, and uses standardised test materials. This makes the tests objective.

Fair for all people applying to the role

  • Through using such psychometric tests, organisations like ours are able to give all people an equal opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, as each person has the same experience completing them.
  • As a result, psychometric tests offer a fair way of comparing different people’s strengths, regardless of educational background or previous work experience.

Why does PwC use a work style preference questionnaire?

We’ve identified a range of behaviours we need our people to have to be successful in their job. We call these behaviours the PwC Professional, and this is our global leadership framework. We use it to assess people throughout our recruitment processes as well as within our internal performance review processes. In particular the work style preference questionnaire helps us in the following ways:

  • It supports us in identifying people with a preferred working style that is aligned with the PwC Professional behaviours, and when answered honestly, will show the level of fit to the requirements of the role.
  • It gives us an in-depth and rounded understanding of each person’s suitability for the role by using the questionnaire alongside other assessment methods in the recruitment selection process.
  • It allows us to measure those specific aspects of behaviour which are harder to measure elsewhere.
  • It helps us understand more than just what you offer as a result of what you have achieved through academic or work experience so far. It also helps us see what you’re capable of achieving during your career and your job performance potential in the future.

We’re not looking for clones of the same person for a specific role. Our assessments are used to better understand how well suited an individual is to the working style we need at PwC, and how they may cope with the job requirements.

Quite simply, like other companies, we employ a series of assessments as a means to identify those individuals with the abilities and working styles who will be more likely to successfully perform the requirements of the role. This gives us reassurance that the individual has the potential to succeed in the role, grow into more complex roles as they progress with their career at PwC and support the organisation to grow.

What does external research reveal?

  • We spend about a third of our time at work so it’s important for us to enjoy the work we do.
  • Academic research has shown that people whose behavioural preferences are aligned to the requirements of their jobs are more:
    • Motivated – which means they’re likely to work harder to achieve more
    • Engaged - which means they're more likely to enjoy their work and take pride in the company they're working for
    • Satisfied – which means they'll be happier at work
    • Likely to effectively use their talents – which means they'll likely be more successful

Let’s be honest, that’s great for the company and it’s even better for your long term career and development!

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How do these assessments benefit you?

  • You can be fairly and objectively assessed in competitive situations.
  • You can find out more about your own strengths and potential development areas.
  • You can use the tests and questionnaires to help you select a career path in which you'll feel most motivated, engaged and satisfied – as well as being sufficiently challenged in the role, but not to the extent that you’ll struggle to do what is required in the role.

Remember, selection is a two-way process; it’s important that both you and the company make an informed choice about your future.

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