Online ability tests for school leaver programmes and apprenticeships
If you apply for a higher apprenticeship or school leaver programme with a big employer, it’s highly likely that you will be asked to take some online tests after submitting your online application. These kinds of assessments are known as psychometric tests and there are various different types, including ability tests, aptitude tests and personality tests.
Ability and aptitude tests measure your reasoning skills. An employer may use these to judge your current level of ability in an important skill or your potential to develop new skills. The most commonly used types of online ability test are verbal and numerical reasoning tests, and you might also be set a logical reasoning test. Non-verbal reasoning tests, sometimes described as inductive reasoning tests, measure your ability to spot patterns. Other types of assessment include situational judgement tests and personality tests, which assess how you might behave in different situations you could come across at work.
Psychometric tests come in a variety of forms but they are usually online in the first instance and are often timed. It is also standard to be asked to repeat the test on paper under supervised conditions when you attend an assessment centre, so it really isn’t worth trying to cheat by asking for help when you take the tests online. The tests are often multiple choice or, alternatively, you could be asked to select true or false answers.
Different types of online test for school leavers
- Numerical reasoning test. These are widely used and can assess basic arithmetic as well as your ability to understand data, graphs, charts or statistics. For example, Rolls-Royce asks its higher apprentices to take either a numerical or a verbal reasoning test as part of the application process. The numerical reasoning test is used to assess a candidate’s ability to understand complex numerical data; the test is six minutes long.
- Verbal reasoning test. Even if you are applying for a role in finance or engineering, you should expect to be tested on your ability with language as well as with number. Verbal reasoning tests check your ability to interpret written information and evaluate statements and arguments. The Rolls-Royce verbal reasoning test assesses how well potential candidates understand complex written information, and lasts six minutes.
- Inductive reasoning test. This checks how well you can understand diagrammatic information or spot patterns. This is sometimes described as an non-verbal reasoning test or as a problem-solving test. You are particularly likely to come across this kind of assessment if you are applying for a technical role in engineering or IT, for example in software development, where you might be called upon to design solutions to problems.
- Logical reasoning test. This assesses how well you follow through to a conclusion given basic information, or using your current knowledge or experience. These include deductive reasoning tests, in which you are given information or rules to apply in order to arrive at an answer. BDO sets a logical ability test for its school leaver programme candidates and Balfour Beatty also uses this kind of assessment.
- Situational judgement test. This assesses your decision-making, and is designed to gauge your suitability rather than your abilities. Examples of schemes that set situational judgement tests include the Nestlé Academy Fast Start programme, Civil Service fast track apprenticeships and Rolls-Royce higher apprenticeship programmes. Nestlé’s situational strengths test consists of a series of video clips; you are invited to say how you would respond in each situation.
- Personality questionnaire. This typically involves assessing how you prefer to communicate and interact with others by asking you to rate the extent to which a number of statements apply to you. The aim is to enable the employer to assess what you would be like in the work environment and what your preferences are. There are no right or wrong answers and the best approach is to be completely honest. Personality questionnaires may be designed to pick up inconsistencies, so don’t try to give the answer you think the employer wants to hear. If you’re a good match for the organisation, so much the better – if not, it’s just as well for both you and the employer to realise this at this stage. Balfour Beatty is among the employers that ask apprenticeship candidates to complete a personality questionnaire. This is also a requirement for the Civil Service fast track apprenticeship scheme, and for the majority of its programmes PwC asks you to complete a work style preference questionnaire.
Tips for online tests
As with everything else to do with applications for jobs and courses, do your research first. Find out about the kind of online tests you will be taking, when you will be asked to take them and how long you will be given to complete them. For example, some recruiters expect you to take the online tests within seven days of being sent the link to them. There should be information about this on the employer’s website, which should also provide contact details for the recruiter so you can ask if anything’s unclear.
As part of your research, find out whether the tests you are asked to take have a time limit. This information is usually readily available on the employer’s website and if you can’t find it there, you could ask the recruitment team. Even if the test doesn’t have an official time limit, it is possible that the test system will still record how long you take to complete it, as is the case for the Nestlé Academy Fast Start programme online numerical reasoning test.
Make sure you have a quiet place to take the tests so that you won’t be interrupted, and that you have a reliable internet connection.
Aim to work quickly but accurately. You may also be able to find out about the approach to marking – for example, in some cases, marks will be deducted for wrong answers, making it all the more important to answer correctly. If you get stuck on a particular question, don’t spend too long on it. Be prepared to move on. Make sure you read each question carefully and understand what’s required.
Most importantly of all – PRACTISE! The vast majority of employers that set this kind of assessment will provide access to practice tests.
Practise online tests for school leaver programmes
These employers provide the following resources on their websites to help school leavers prepare for their online tests.
- PwC suggests you try some sample questions and pick up tips on the best way to prepare at the Psychological Testing Centre, CEB SHL Talent Measurement or Saville Consulting practice tests.
- Rolls-Royce makes practice questions available at their online practice page.
- Nestlé provides resources to help you practise its situational strengths test.