Aptitude / ability tests
These are formal, timed tests, taken either online or by filling in a printed answer sheet. They usually take the form of multiple choice questions. You will be given full instructions before you start the test and there will be some example questions to try, with no time limit. Many employers now use online tests as an early selection method. Be aware that you will usually be asked to sit a very similar test in person, should you progress to a later stage of assessment or selection.
If you have special requirements, it is advisable to declare this before the test, as the organisation may be able to make reasonable adjustments, allow you extra time or grade your results more appropriately.
The tests most commonly used in graduate recruitment are:
- verbal tests – such as verbal reasoning, analysis and word sort;
- numerical tests – such as reasoning, analysis and sequential tests;
- diagrammatic and spatial reasoning – testing your sense of logic and ability to deal with shapes;
- specific tests – for example syntax for computer programming, data checking or mechanics.
To get the best out of the test:
- pay careful attention to the instructions;
- ask for clarification if you are unclear about anything;
- work as quickly and as accurately as you can;
- if you get stuck on a question, move on and come back to it later if you have time (although be aware that often you cannot go backwards in an online test).
Practice aptitude tests
Below are a range of practice aptitude/ability test sites for you to try out, either in preparation for the real thing or just to find out more about yourself and your abilities.
Practice aptitude tests may also be available through your careers service.
These are not tests, but may have a time limit. There are no right or wrong answers – the tests are intended to give the employer a profile of your interests and working style. You cannot practise for these tests, but you should answer honestly and avoid trying to second-guess ‘correct’ answers.
Below are a range of practice personality assessment sites for you to try out:
- SHLDirect.com – practice personality assessment from one of the UK’s largest test publishers.
- Keirsey temperament tests – complete the online personality questionnaires: Keirsey Character Sorter and Keirsey Temperament Sorter.
- Team technology – access the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a commonly used assessment by employers to discover a candidate’s personality type.
- People Maps – provide a free personality report.
- Finding Potential – provide a free personality report and suggest suitable careers.
Many employers will ask you to give a presentation at some point during the selection process. You may be given a topic beforehand, and asked to prepare a presentation of a certain length e.g. ten minutes and in a certain format – usually PowerPoint, but sometimes using an overhead projector. If this is not stated, it is a good idea to contact the resourcing team to ask what format you should use for your presentation. For example, should it be on a CD-ROM or memory stick, or should you email it to them in advance?
Alternatively, you may be given a presentation title on the day. For example, during assessment centres, you are often given either a flipchart or some overhead transparencies and asked to prepare a five minute talk on a subject of your choice, or on a topic that is given to you.
You will make your presentation in front of the assessors, and possibly in front of other candidates.
Some tips for an effective presentation include:
- If you have a free choice of topic – choose a subject you know well. At the end of your presentation, you will be asked to answer additional questions, so it helps if you are knowledgeable about, and comfortable with, your subject area.
- Think about your audience – how you can keep their attention? Pitch the content of your presentation at the appropriate level for your audience.
- Structure your presentation well and stick to it – make sure there is a clear introduction, a body and a conclusion. Assessors will be looking for a well-structured talk, with a logical flow and a clear beginning, middle and end.
- Do not cram too much onto your slides – just use bullet points and key words. You want your audience to listen to what you are telling them, not just to read ahead. Liven up your slides with pictures, photos, graphs and screen dumps where appropriate.
- Do not go into too much detail – be clear and concise and keep to time. Many organisations will stop you at the end of your allotted time, even if you are only halfway through.
- At the beginning – remember to introduce yourself and your presentation confidently at the beginning, rather than launching straight into the content. This will also give you a chance to steady any nerves. You could say something like:
‘Good afternoon. My name is David Jones, and I’m going to speak to you for about ten minutes on the subject of my final year dissertation. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have at the end.’
- Do not read from a prepared script – glance briefly at notes or prompt cards instead.
- Practise beforehand – if you can, and familiarise yourself with the AV equipment.
- At the end – be sure to end your presentation confidently, rather than coming to a dead stop when you run out of things to say. Even if you are nervous and glad to have got it out of the way, make a brief and clear conclusion, summarising what you have presented and then say something like:
‘That concludes my presentation. Thank you for listening. Are there any questions?’
Short presentations are sometimes also used during interviews, where you are given a case study or some information when you arrive, and asked to present your thoughts to the interviewers.
Following a group exercise, you may all be asked to present your findings. The procedure will be the same as for individual presentations, but the group needs to make sure that everyone knows what they have to say, and in which order you will present. If possible, and unless instructed otherwise, make sure that everyone has an input, rather than one person presenting on behalf of the group.
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