Back to blog

LCN Blogs

Psychometric testing and how to ace it

Psychometric testing and how to ace it

John MacKenzie


Reading time: five minutes

In an earlier blog, I gave some advice on completing successful vacation scheme applications. If you've just started applying, or have already finished all of your submissions, well done! You've completed, in my opinion, the hardest part. The next step is converting those applications into placement offers. In this post, I'll describe how you can succeed in the next stage of psychometric testing, and some advice for post-application worries. Of course, this advice can also apply if you're pursuing a training contract.


Before getting to the topic at hand, I want to touch briefly on post-application worries. Waiting to hear back can be nerve-wracking, and it’s much the same at every stage of the application process. As hard as it may seem, try not to focus on it – after all, what’s done is done. It can be a good idea to take some time to 'switch off' from applying, and focus on something else to relax yourself, and be better prepared for the next stages. As I touched on in my earlier blog, applications are a numbers game, and rejection is unfortunately a common part of that. Hopefully you don’t face any disappointments – but if you're unsuccessful with an application at this stage, don’t be disheartened. Give yourself credit for what you've already accomplished, and stay positive – I had quite a few rejections before I started to hear good news. Whatever the outcome, applying is a small victory in and of itself. Furthermore, staying calm and positive through the process will help you through the rest of the process, such as tests. 

Testing, testing – is this thing on?

I should acknowledge that this advice might be quite early for some of you. In my experience, some firms won’t invite applicants to test until after the application deadline, which at the time of writing might not be for months yet. However, some firms (especially those that recruit on a rolling basis) may send out psychometric tests almost immediately after an application is submitted. At any rate, as I'll explain, early preparation will prove useful. 

While not every vacation scheme or training contract application will involve testing, it's more likely than not that you'll have to sit some form of psychometric test in the course of an application cycle. Especially for large firms, tests are used to narrow applications down to more manageable numbers. Tests are typically the first post-application stage, and often need to be completed before your application can be reviewed by graduate recruitment. Having completed quite a few applications in the previous cycle, I sat through my fair share of tests. These can appear a little cold and impersonal, and with a myriad of tests around, it may seem overwhelming.

Prepare for the next stage of recruitment with this Feature  'Training contract assessment centres: everything you need to know'.

Whether standardised or proprietary, most tests follow fairly similar approaches, assessing some combination of your cognition, personality, and judgment, as well as your time management and organisational skills. A lot of firms still use the Watson Glaser test, but I've noticed many firms switching to more 'gamified' or situation-based forms of testing. Applicants are usually graded against the whole of their cohort in an application cycle, so there's generally no pre-established 'pass' grade. With tests being so common, familiarising yourself with them early on will be very helpful. Firms will typically state what testing system they use – I'd strongly recommend researching these tests prior to sitting them. 

Some general tips for tests:

  • Practice. Attempt a few different practice tests to get to grips with how you're expected to answer, and take advantage of any mock questions available online – it’s not uncommon for these practice questions to be reused in real tests! Find out what tests the firms you're applying to use in order to get ahead. For example, there's a lot of guidance available online for the Watson Glaser, including free practice tests and study resources. 

  • Time management. While some tests are untimed, many will have a time limit, and often leaving very little time to think about each question. This is another reason to practice, as you can develop a sense of how much time you might have to answer each question in a consistent and methodical way. 

  • Pay attention. Psychometric tests are as much a test of your ability to quickly and accurately absorb and understand information. Don’t skim the instructions or the questions – watch out for common pitfalls like double negatives, inconsistencies, and red herrings. The instructions will typically make it clear how to answer questions, so check these often to avoid making silly errors.

  • Maintain composure. Even if there's a time limit on the test, I personally found I was never quite as pressed for time as I expected. With this in mind, do your best to remain calm, be thoughtful about your responses, and don’t just speed through the test. Ensure you have everything you need with you before you start the test, and try to minimise distractions and interruptions. 

  • If you have any special requirements, make sure you communicate these to the firm, as there are often adjustments that can be made to make the process more equitable. 

Psychometric testing is a significant part of the application process for many firms. Set yourself up well by familiarising yourself with these systems early, and consult all available resources. Stay calm, stay attentive, and stay positive! 

I'll be posting another blog soon covering interviews and assessment centres – look out for that in the coming weeks!