updated on 14 July 2022
Reading time: six minutes
A key stepping stone to securing a training contract can be taking part in an assessment centre. While these might sometimes feel like quite intense experiences, they’re also a great way to show off your potential to a firm and get you one step closer to achieving the end goal: a training contract.
Below are some key tips for success in the most common types of assessment centre task. Implementing these tips could help you stand out from other candidates.
Often firms may have several candidates in at once to take part in a group task as part of the assessment centre. While this can be daunting, if you prepare and understand what firms are assessing at this stage you’ll perform well.
During a group task firms will be looking for a number of skills, such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving. You must make some contribution to the team to show the firm that you’re a team player. Please don’t be tempted to take over the group or speak over others under the pressure to contribute.
A good way to negotiate these types of task is to allocate yourself a role and let the team know what it is. For example, this could be a note taker, timekeeper or simply trying to encourage others within the team to contribute too. By doing this you’ll demonstrate to the firm that you can work well as a team, taking on a distinct role and delegating to others when necessary, while also maintaining clear and effective communication with the others on your team.
Although you won’t know in advance the exact test that a firm will set you, there are plenty of mock tests online that you can access to practise the key skills and get used to the type of questions asked. Conduct some research into the firm as you might find that they’ve published tests they’ve used in previous years – you can then use these tests to get a better idea of the style of questions you might be asked.
You should also make the most of your careers service at university as many of them offer psychometric testing. You might even be able to try it under exam conditions.
The best tip for these types of task is simply practise, practise, practise.
Firms might set a timed written exercise for an assessment day. This type of task can be difficult to prepare for as it’s unlikely you’ll know the content beforehand. It’s still worth doing some research to see whether you can find any practice exercises – just like the psychometric tests you might find some online to get you started.
One thing to keep in mind is that people are attending assessment centres at different stages of their education, so if a firm hasn’t given you any information regarding the exercise before that’s an indicator that it should be something anybody in any stage of their education could answer. Resources might be provided alongside written tasks, so make sure you read any statutes or documents as well as the task itself.
Written tasks are also a great way for firms to test candidates’ time management – a key skill you’ll need during your training and legal career. If a task is divided into several parts, make sure you allocate your time accordingly to attempt all parts. If you don’t have access to a clock then ask for one, as this will show the firm that you’re considering your time management from the start.
Make sure you also show any workings out or planning. Much like with other exams, assessors will likely look at your workings if you were unable to finish the question and can give you credit based on that. You could even bullet point towards the end if time is extremely short and note to the assessor that they were the points you would’ve included.
Being asked to prepare a presentation is often one of the most feared aspects of an assessment centre. Firms are aware of this and having nerves is normal, but the more you prepare the better your presentation will hopefully be.
Firstly, whatever topic you’re given, make sure you do your research well as it really does show. If you’re lucky enough to have chosen your own topic, there’s nothing wrong with being strategic and selecting one that you’re already familiar with, such as a dissertation topic – you already have the knowledge so there’s nothing wrong with using it.
Make your presentation interesting – for example, could you use pictures or handouts to make your presentation the one the assessors remember?
As well as the content of your presentation, don’t neglect practising your presentation skills themselves. Practise with family and friends or record yourself and play it back to see whether there are any areas to improve, such as stumbling over words, talking too fast or looking at your notes too much. By the time you get to the assessment centre, the content of your presentation should be second nature and almost committed to memory with only some prompts.
Just before your presentation, remind yourself to slow down when speaking as this will allow the assessors to fully take in what you’re saying. But overall try to show off just how well you’ve researched the topic and how confident you feel in speaking about it. If you’re confident in the content, confidence in your presentation will follow.
For more advice, read 'Training contract assessment centres: everything you need to know'.
One last tip
No matter what the outcome of your assessment day, it’s important to realise that it’s an achievement in itself to get this far. I hope you can use these tips to give yourself the best chance of success. Good luck!