What Types of Psychometric Test Are There?
3rd July 2022
Any aspect of human behaviour which is assessed under broadly standard conditions and reflected as some kind of score or category label would count as a psychometric test (or perhaps, to keep things clearer, a psychometric assessment). However, when it comes to the workplace, the two most likely forms of psychometrics that you are likely to encounter assess either ability or personality.
An ability test (often called an aptitude test, an aptitude being an aspect of ability which has not been learned, coached or practised) is designed to look at what you are good at, in other words skills and talents you might possess. In the past, it was popular to try and assess everything at once in the form of what was known as an IQ test or 'general ability' test (IQ stood for 'Intelligence Quotient', the ratio of a theoretical 'mental age' and your actual age). This leads to a rather 'woolly' overall measure, which has less relevance for many jobs, and it has decreased considerably in popularity. Nowadays, it is much more likely that the ability tests you might be asked to do in the workplace will focus on those aptitudes that are particularly important to do that specific job. The employer is likely to have analysed the job in detail to determine the specific skill-set required.
Common aptitude tests include those of Verbal Reasoning, understanding the meaning of written information, usually in the form of sentences and paragraphs. A format we employ regularly at eras involves reading a short paragraph and then deciding whether statements which then follow can be inferred from what you have read – or perhaps state the opposite, or there simply hasn't been enough information revealed to know for sure. What is being measured, therefore, is your ability to think logically when it comes to information in written form.
Also very popular are tests of Numerical Reasoning. These usually involve looking up figures in tables, charts and graphs and making some decisions about them. What is being tested here is largely an aptitude for working with numerical data, though some learning (labelled 'attainment' to contrast with 'aptitude') might be required. You might need to know how to work out percentages, for example. Of course, such tests should only be used in selection if this skill is required in the job, perhaps because of a high level of forecasting, budgeting or accounting being part of the role.
Other ability tests include those of Mechanical Understanding, looking at pictures showing combinations of cogs, pulleys, levers and gears and answering questions about them. Spatial Awareness tests are about understanding how objects relate to one another in space, perhaps in two dimensions, perhaps in three (Is this shape the same as this one, but rotated? Is this pattern on a picture of a cube the same as this one on an 'unfolded' version?). Of course, these would only be used if such skills are reflected in the job (in the latter case, it could be design, architecture, town planning etc.).
Clerical roles will have their own tests, often focusing on such skills as Proof Reading or perhaps Cross-Checking information presented in two different lists, one through symbols and one through words. There are also more specialist tests where thinking in a more abstract way is required. These often use symbols and shapes, asking you to look for relationships between them or using them to code for steps in a process. This kind of skill mirrors what is required in many technology jobs, such as those involving coding and software development.
Personality questionnaires are very different from aptitude tests in that there are no absolute 'rights or wrongs' about personality (so 'test' is perhaps the wrong term). Nevertheless, certain aspects of personality fit certain roles and it might be hard to be comfortable in some jobs if your personality suggests you don't like to behave in a way that would be a good fit. Personality is really about your typical or preferred way of behaving and it's not unusual for such a questionnaire to ask you to contrast things you prefer to do with things you like to do less (or not at all).
Personality questionnaires can look at how you relate to other people, your approach to thinking and problem-solving, how much pressure you experience, how driven you consider yourself to be and many other aspects of your preferred behaviour. Within a personality questionnaire, you might also be asked about your interests (e.g.. How much do you enjoy working with detail?), your motivation (eg. How much do you like having challenges to overcome?) or even values (How important for you is a co-operative working environment?). The Quest Profiler is the eras personality questionnaire and is our most widely used psychometric instrument.
There are other forms of psychometric assessment too. When developing employees, organisations often use 360 degree assessment tools. These ask the participant to give their views on someone's (often a manager's) strengths or scope for further development in certain areas such as planning and organising, leadership, oral communication and so on. The idea of this form of assessment is that people from 'all around' (hence 360 degrees) get to contribute their views, including someone's manager, colleagues, direct reports and sometimes those with other relationships to the individual. It is a powerful way of structuring people's views (though it should be remembered that these are, in the end, opinions).
These, along with some kinds of survey (such as those focusing on staff opinions of workplace culture, wellbeing etc.) are the main forms of psychometric assessment. Personality and ability are, by a long way, the most common aspects of behaviour assessed. At eras, our rage of psychometric instruments gives plenty of choice to match well with an appropriate job.