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Graduate Series: Psychometric Testing

What is psychometric testing?

Psychometric testing is used in most instances for graduate job applications. While the form of psychometric tests differs amongst employers and testing providers, they generally comprise of a variety of written or online tasks, and aim to measure the applicant’s behavioural responses separate to their prior experience and academic background. Testing results provide an objective approach to determining an applicant’s compatibility with key job requirements.

Why are employers using it?

Psychometric testing assesses intellectual and personal capabilities and traits against key job and firm-culture requirements. For those interested in pursuing jobs in international affairs, many organisations and employers now use this testing to aid in the recruitment of early-career applicants. This includes the Australian Public Service, state government agencies, consulting firms and banks, such as KPMG, PWC, ANZ, and Commonwealth Bank, and an increasing range of NGOs.

While the form and purpose of psychometric testing can differ, they provide employers with a data-based approach to assess candidate suitability and skills prior to meeting an applicant. These tests can assess an applicant’s work style, problem-solving skills, soft skills, and cultural fit. Furthermore, they provide applicants with an opportunity to display and prove their transferable skills. This can be particularly helpful for applicants earlier in their careers looking to enter into fields adjacent to international affairs, where work can be varied and objectively direct experience hard to attain.

Psychometric testing is almost exclusively placed alongside other more traditional methods of hiring such as interviews and written applications, however companies can impose ‘cut-off scores’ to cull applicants.

How do they work?

The logistics and content of these tests vary depending on the qualities employers test for. The majority of psychometric testing is done online, though some hirers may use a hard-copy via an ‘assessment centre’ which may mirror more traditional forms of testing. Gamified tests, which mirror online games and simulations, are also increasingly used.

The tests can be generally divided into two categories: (1) personality tests, and (2) aptitude, or abilities tests.

(1) Personality Tests

Personality tests are utilised to analyse an applicant's character, motivations, and organisational fit. They often take the form of questionnaires, multiple choice, or true or false questions. While you are essentially ‘self-reporting’ your own understanding of your character, honesty in answering is often stressed. There is no ‘right or wrong’ answer, and some tests can pick up where answers seem too inconsistent.

(2) Aptitude and Abilities Tests

Abilities and aptitude tests have a variety of different forms, such as situational questions and work-related task simulators. They may test logic, numerical, critical-thinking and comprehension skills, and general reasoning. They are usually timed and in a ‘game-style’ mode, so may also test reaction and reasoning time.

Verbal aptitude tests often contain puzzle solving, comprehension questions, or true or false assessments. Numerical aptitude is often tested through calculations, interpreting data, or probability recommendations. Abstract reasoning tests may use symbols, shapes or pictures.

While some of these tests are more general, some employers create their own testing rather than using a provider and may simulate typical tasks or common scenarios the job may entail.

How to prepare

While testing can vary across providers and may be specific to an organisation, practice and preparation is still a good idea. There are many free practice tests online which have a variety of practice comprehension and reasoning tasks, verbal, logical and numerical reasoning, and situational judgement tasks.

Other general ways to prepare are to practice critical thinking skills by playing ‘brainteasers’ and numerical or word puzzles. When choosing a practice test, it may be useful to consider what key qualities and practical skills these organisations are looking for.

In the test, you should ensure you read each question and the instructions carefully. ven if each question seems similar, attempt as many questions as possible, rather than spending a large amount of time perfecting one question, to maximise your results.

Read the instructions and the questions themselves closely - some tests will allow you to go back to your answers if time is remaining, while other tests do not; some are timed, and some allow practice questions. Rarely do these tests examine your personal knowledge, but rather, your skills based on the information provided to you. Treat it like a ‘real’ test despite its unconventional format - keep an eye on the time, and answer honestly.


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