How to pass psychometric tests for graduate jobs & internships

In this post we will go through some tips on how to pass psychometric tests (reasoning and numerical) when applying for graduate jobs/schemes or internships.

We have already touched on these sorts of (painful) applications in many other posts. Nowadays most companies use the same application process for both, internships and graduate jobs.

What do they involve? Although every company has its own hiring policies, it would most likely be something like this:

  1. Your details (education history, work experience, CV etc.);
  2. Psychometric tests (numerical and reasoning);
  3. Video recorded questions/answers (not all companies have this step);
  4. Phone/Zoom/Teams interview with HR or hiring managers;
  5. Invitation to an assessment centre day(s) (it can be virtual or in person, and last one or multiple days)
  6. Offer for the graduate job or internship.

It is important that you best prepare for those, particularly if you are targeting specific companies. In fact, most will not let you to re-apply for any roles for some time after being rejected.

How to pass psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are widely used in recruitment processes all over the world, although mainly by large companies and multinationals.

Essentially, as those firms receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for their roles, hiring managers and human resources teams use those tests as a first screening to cut the number of applicants.

The rationale of psychometric tests is not only to assess a candidate’s cognitive abilities, but also to assess their personality traits.

We can identify two main types of psychometric tests:

  1. Reasoning tests
  2. Numerical tests

We will now go through both in detail and share some tips to pass this stage of your application!

How to pass reasoning tests for graduate jobs & internships

Reasoning tests are very tricky. The word itself is misleading at times, it makes you think too much! Don’t worry, this will make sense later.

There are several tests that companies might decide to adopt for their processes. These usually are very dependent on the role you are applying to, or the wider industry.

If you are applying for a graduate or internship role which involves dealing with clients/customers (e.g. banking, consulting), or a heavily team-based role, you will most likely have to go through situational judgment tests.

Situational Judgement tests

As the word suggests, these will present you with various situations you might encounter at your workplace. It might be a matter or ranking scenarios from most to least likely, or picking only one.

For example, how you would deal with an upset customer/client, or with an approaching deadline, or taking some extra work at very short notice from your manager, or with a colleague going through a difficult period and maybe underperforming at work. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, companies are always looking for applicants who can deal well with stressful situations. However, they are also looking for people who deal with those situations very differently..!

Companies want diversity in their workplace

A diverse workforce is what they are really looking for, and it can only be achieved by hiring graduates with different personality traits!

For example, they want “team-oriented employees”, those who like to collaborate, share tasks and enjoy work as part of a group.

This type of people usually perform well in brainstorming activities and group projects. Moreover, they are more likely to ask for support/be supportive with each other and establish relationships with other employees.

On the other hand, they also want people whose approach is different and more “individually-focused”, those who favour independent tasks and work more effectively alone.

This type of people are often willing to take on more responsibilities, and take initiative/lead at work.

How to pass situation judgement tests: coherence

What does a diverse workforce mean for applications? It means that there is no right or wrong answer in situational judgement tests apart from one key factor: coherence!

The biggest mistake students/graduates make when doing such tests, is to change their mindset into “how you think they want you to answer”, which is often what makes them fail.

The key here is to answer exactly how you would act in such situations. Remember that these tests are automated, they are designed to follow a logic and draw your behavioural profile.

They will most likely ask you a very similar question every now and then but worded differently, so you would not even realise it.

Remember that there is no one on the other side of the screen, it’s all computerized!

If you are not answering coherently (e.g., ranking similar scenarios in a very different way from previous answers), your behavioural profile would look “suspicious” (an outlier in the data) and get automatically rejected.

What is the best way to be coherent in all your answer? Just be yourself, don’t think about how the company might want you to answer, but simply how you would do it.

That is essentially the only way to draw a coherent profile and pass, depending on it, the situational adjustment test.

Other reasoning tests

Reasoning tests might also come under the form of more grammar-based exercises. For example, completing sentences by selecting the more appropriate word.

These are usually of two types: multiple choice style, where you will select only one word to complete the sentence; or matching style, where you will be given all sentences and words at once and you will need to match them appropriately.

Unsurprisingly, expanding your vocabulary is the best way to prepare for those reasoning tests. As scenarios/sentences used in those are mainly business-related (e.g., replying to emails, client-manager conversations etc.), ideally you would do some reading on those types of formal conversation/writing.

What they are looking to do here to assess your communication skills at multiple levels. For example, the way you would reply to your colleague might be different to how you would reply to your manager or approach clients/customers.

How to pass numerical tests for graduate jobs & internships

Whereas for reasoning and situational judgment tests you might be given a comfortable time to answer (sometimes with no limit at all), for numerical tests is the opposite situation.

You will most likely have a very limited time to complete the tasks. More often than not, the running time will be clearly visible on your screen, but why so?

Your math skills are not the only important factor to pass numerical tests when applying for graduate jobs or internships!

As well as assessing your abilities, psychometric tests also aim at drawing your behavioural profile, just like reasoning tests do!

In the case of numerical ones, they assess how you deal with a limited time in stressful situations. The running time is clearly visible for one reason, which is to put you under pressure.

What do you do in such situation? How do you manage your limited time? Do you get stuck on a difficult
question or, after spending a reasonable time on it, you pass to the next one?

The pattern of numerical tests

The pattern of numerical tests is very similar in most cases. The first set of questions is usually fairly easy to answer.

As you are able to do that in a relative short average time per question, it gives you a sense of advantage to spend on other questions, but you don’t really have it!

Then the test gradually start to get more and more difficult, requiring more complex calculations and such. It is here that most applicants fail numerical psychometric tests!

They get stuck trying to answer a difficult question and spend too much time on it. As a consequence, they don’t manage to finish the test at all, which will then be submitted as incomplete and with a low score.

But how hard is really the last set of questions? Many numerical tests are designed to present the hardest questions in the middle..! What do you think is the reason for that?

Remember what said earlier, psychometric tests, as the word suggests, are designed to design your profile. As well as assessing your skills, it looks at your behaviour!

They don’t expect you to answer correctly all the questions, but instead to complete the exercise and get to the end of it!

Obviously, the higher the score the better, and if you are really good at math you might be able to answer those without wasting precious time.

However, the average applicant spends too much time right in the middle of the test where the hardest part usually is purposedly placed.

The “psychological trick” around numerical tests

Increasing the difficulty of the test gradually is a psychological trick! When things get difficult, you think “this question is already hard, so the next one(s) will be even harder!”

It is there that you fall in the trap of psychometric tests. At that point, you are in the difficult part of the exercise, and there might be few very difficult questions close to each other.

That’s the moment when you have to deal properly with pressure and time management. Don’t spend too much time on questions you genuinely cannot workout the solutions to.

More importantly, don’t fall into the psychological trick of the increasing difficulty, it’s a trap! Remember the patterns of numerical tests?

The tail of them might contain questions that are not as difficult as you think! You are only thinking so as a result of the gradually increasing difficulty.. but it cannot keep getting harder and harder, otherwise this compounding effect will make the test impossible even for a super computer.

It’s all about making you think that the next ones will be more and more difficult. If you let that get to your head, it will make you waste valuable time.

As a result, you will never see the last set of questions and get a chance to answer them! You are potentially giving up on “easy” points that can make you pass that numerical test.

Numerical tests exercises

Expectedly, practice is the best method to get ready for numerical tests. You can find a lot of free material and exercises online to help you prepare.

In terms of specific areas to focus on, we recommend getting familiar with:

  • calculating percentages, e.g., % difference, % increase/decrease;
  • FX rates (foreign exchange), e.g., calculating prices in different currencies, working out conversion rates;
  • data analysis, e.g. interpreting charts, identifying trends, spotting data outliers.

How to pass psychometric tests, conclusions

As each application for a graduate job or internship is very time consuming and mentally draining, it is ideal to prepare well for psychometric tests.

Those reasoning and numerical exercises can be quite frustrating, especially after few rejections. Many graduates and students end up feeling disheartened and anxious about their futures.

It’s a very competitive market for graduate jobs and internships out there, but there is a lot of talent too, and you are part of that category regardless of what these tests are saying!

Do not let them discourage you from making more applications, do not give up on your future! Hopefully you have found this post helpful, thank you for reading and supporting this independent blog!

Best of luck, YOU CAN MAKE IT!

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Please mind that everything you read on this blog is based on the authors’ opinions, experience and research. Therefore, consider it as an opinion only, thank you for reading!