Psychometric Testing

A brief backdrop
Psychometric testing has been in existence for more than 100 years now since Simon Binet first developed a test to measure intelligence in 1905. Although initially they found their application limited to the field of educational psychology, they soon spread to diverse and unlikely areas like army, recruitment, healthcare etc. In particular, they have evolved to become a common feature of the selection process - particularly within large, competitive organizations which use these types of tests to assess each candidate on their acquired skills and cognitive abilities.
What precisely are Psychometric Tests?
Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals' mental capabilities and behavioral styles. They are concerned with the objective  measurement  of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes,  personality traits like intelligence and other cognitive abilities. This is different from measuring physical attributes like height, weight etc which are easy to measure with pre developed scales and standards. On the other hand measuring intangible cognitive attributes like personality or intelligence requires deeper insights into different facets of the human psyche and that is where psychometrics comes in. A sub-branch of the larger field of psychology, a number of researchers and thinkers initially discarded it as fluke and refused to call it a science but the fact that it has continuously delivered and has found widespread usage, especially in the corporate world has led to its eventual validation and reaffirmation of its status as a science.
Types of Psychometric Tests
Broadly Psychometric Assessments can be demarcated into the following sub-groups
  1. Aptitude and Ability Tests:
They aim to measure an individual’s competence and intellectual capabilities as well as logical and analytical reasoning abilities. A recruiter might try to predict your future job performance using these tests. These are further of two types:
  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Numerical Reasoning
  1. Personality and Occupational Questionnaires
These tests might try to measure your personality attributes which would be a reliable predictor of how you would behave in certain circumstances, the way you would go about finishing assigned tasks and your preferences and attitudes. All of these things would be of immense interest to a recruiter.
Some examples of Psychometric tests that measure personality include:
  1. MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)
  2. MBTI (Myer-Briggs Type Indicator)
  3. 16 PF (Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire )
  4. EPQ-R (Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised)
All of these are extensively used in organizations (some more than others) for recruitments, trainings, team building etc
What makes a good Psychometric Test?
 A good psychometric test provides fair and accurate results each time it's given. To ensure this, the test must meet these three key criteria:
  1. Standardization – Before it is released for public use a test is standardized against a small group of people. This group of people, also called a ‘sample’ must closely resemble the larger group of people that the test is supposed to be meant for. For eg your sample cannot be all women when the test is actually intended for both men and women.
  2. Reliability – The test should produce consistent results, and not be significantly influenced by outside factors. For example, if you're feeling stressed when you take the test, the test results shouldn't be too different from times when you were excited or relaxed.
  3. Validity –  This is perhaps the most essential quality of a psychometric test. To be called valid, a test has to be able to measure what it is intended to measure.  Suppose, a test is intended to measure a person's interests, then it must clearly demonstrate that it does actually measure interests, and not something else that's just related to interests.
Take this sample test to gain an insight into your personality: (courtesy ipip.ori.org)
In the list given below, for each statement numbered1-50 mark how much you agree with on the scale of 1-5, where 1 is disagree, 2 is slightly disagree, 3 is neutral, 4 is slightly agree and 5 is agree, in the space next to it
1. I Am the life of the party.
2. I Feel little concern for others.
3. I Am always prepared.
4. I Get stressed out easily.
5. I Have a rich vocabulary.
6. I Don't talk a lot.
7. I Am interested in people.
8. I Leave my belongings around.
9. I Am relaxed most of the time. .
10. I Have difficulty understanding abstract ideas.
11. I Feel comfortable around people.
12. I Insult people. .
13. I Pay attention to details.
14. Worry about things.
15. I Have a vivid imagination.
16. I Keep in the background.
17. I Sympathize with others' feelings.
18. I Make a mess of things. .
19. I Seldom feel blue. .
20. I Am not interested in abstract ideas.
21. I Start conversations.
22. I Am not ever interested in other people's problems.
23. I Get chores done right away. .
24. I Am easily disturbed.
25. I Have excellent ideas
26. I Have little to say.
27. I Have a soft heart.
28. I Often forget to put things back in their proper place.
29. I Get upset easily
30. I Do not have a good imagination
31. I Talk to a lot of different people at parties.
32. I Am not really interested in others
33. I Like order
34. I Change my mood a lot
35. I Am quick to understand things.
36. I Don't like to draw attention to myself.
37. I Take time out for others
38. I Shirk my duties.
39. I Have frequent mood swings.
40. I Use difficult words.
41. I Don't mind being the center of attention.
42. I Feel others' emotions.
43. I Follow a schedule
44. I Get irritated easily
45. I Spend time reflecting on things.
46. I Am quiet around strangers.
47. I Make people feel at ease.
48. I Am exacting in my work
49. I Often feel blue.
50. I Am full of ideas.
Scoring
The test measures you on 5 parameters, namely Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and openness to experience. Calculate your scores in these parameters by using the formula below:
E = 20 + (1) ___ - (6) ___ + (11) ___ - (16) ___ + (21) ___ - (26) ___ + (31) ___ - (36) ___ + (41) ___ - (46) ___ = _____
A = 14 - (2) ___ + (7) ___ - (12) ___ + (17) ___ - (22) ___ + (27) ___ - (32) ___ + (37) ___ + (42) ___ + (47) ___ = _____
C = 14 + (3) ___ - (8) ___ + (13) ___ - (18) ___ + (23) ___ - (28) ___ + (33) ___ - (38) ___ + (43) ___ + (48) ___ = _____
N = 38 - (4) ___ + (9) ___ - (14) ___ + (19) ___ - (24) ___ - (29) ___ - (34) ___ - (39) ___ - (44) ___ - (49) ___ = _____
O = 8 + (5) ___ - (10) ___ + (15) ___ - (20) ___ + (25) ___ - (30) ___ + (35) ___ + (40) ___ + (45) ___ + (50) ___ = _____
Example: Extraversion= 20 + the score you have given yourself in question 1 - the score you have given yourself in question 6 + the score you have given yourself in question 11 - the score you have given yourself in question 16 + and so on
  • Extroversion (E) is the personality trait that means seeking fulfillment from experiences outside the self or the community. While high scorers tend to be very social, people who score low prefer to work on their projects alone. If your score is above 3.05 for this factor you are scoring above the average in extraversion.
  •  Agreeableness (A) reflects how individuals adjust their behavior to suit others. High scorers typically come across as polite and like people. Low scorers are upfront and tend to 'tell it like it is'. If your score is above 3.84 for this factor you are scoring above the average in agreeableness.
  • Conscientiousness (C) is the trait of personality that measures honesty and hard work. High scorers generally tend to follow rules and prefer their homes clean. Low scorers may be messy and might cheat others. If your score is above 3.38 for this factor you are scoring above the average in conscientiousness.
  • Neuroticism (N) is the personality trait that measures emotional responses.  If your score is above 2.98 for this factor you are scoring above the average in neuroticism.
  • Openness to Experience (O) is the trait of personality that measures the degree to wchich people seek new experience and intellectual pursuits. High scorers generally tend to day dream a lot. Low scorers might come across as very down to earth. If your score is above 4.05 for this factor you are scoring above the average in openness to experience.
How to do well in a psychometric test?
Please note that there is no set way of ‘doing well’ in a psychometric test as there is no right answer to these questions. Additionally some of these tests contain in-built checks that test if the test taker is trying to manipulate their answers in order to sound suitable, for eg the lie score in EPQ-R test which tests if the test taker is giving more socially desirable answers. So do not try to take the test with anything else other than the best of your intentions and honesty. There are some things though, that you can do over the course of your preparation to be better prepared for these psychometric tests. Note that this list has been compiled from the perspective of recruitment.
1. Try to find out what the prospective employer is looking for in the job seeker
Psychometric testing results provide the prospective employers with a behavioural profile of the job seeker – their level of intelligence or aptitude (measured by aptitude tests), and their personality characteristics (measured by the personality test). The profile will indicate whether they can solve problems, are a team player or whether they prefer to work individually, and other relevant attributes.
2. Learn about psychometric testing techniques
Psychometric tests are not similar to any other tests you might have taken. Quite frequently job seekers assume that if they are good at maths or if they can speed read in English or have just finished their university, they will blitz through the psychometric test. This is a wrong assumption. Such tests aim to measure your abstract, verbal and numerical reasoning skills. These aptitude tests are generally timed and are designed in a very distinct way. To master these tests you would need to add a new set of test taking strategies and mental skills to your repertoire.
3. Get yourself into good physical and mental shape to be at your best
Just like for any other kind of test, you need to be at your best, physically and mentally to produce relevant results in psychometric tests. Factors like tiredness, stress, anxiety etc are likely to severely impact your scores in the Intelligence or Aptitude tests and not give a clear picture. It'd serve you well to be well rested and try to take breaks in between aptitude tests to ensure you replenish your energy.
4. Get to know the different types of aptitude testing questions
Familiarity with the typical content and format of psychometric tests will help you better understand and attempt these tests. Verbal and numerical aptitude test questions are generally MCQs that are to be completed in a limited amount of time. These questions can even include topics like social sciences, physical or biological sciences, and even business-related areas like marketing, economics, and HRM. On the other hand the abstract type of aptitude test is a non-verbal test that uses shapes and figures as test questions. Generally, no specific domain knowledge of these subject areas is required, for eg Raven's progressive matrices, which is a test of intelligence. Familiarity with the type of test questions will give you a competitive edge over others.
5. Practice the psychometric tests online
These days a lot of tests for factors like intelligence, personality etc are available online for free. A lot of these have been prepared by established psychologists and are valid and competitive. You can prepare for any psychometric test that you are supposed to give by taking these online tests. Practicing test questions will train your brain to identify frameworks for solving problems that will significantly improve your results. The chances are that your prospective employer will ask you to take the psychometric test online so practicing tests online on your own will be an added advantage.
6. Find out which types of psychometric test questions you need to practice
Not all jobs ask the same type of psychometric test questions. The level of difficulty and complexity of  test questions change based on the type of job you are applying for. for eg a test for a management position is likely to have tougher questions than that of an entry level role. Ensure that you are practicing the right type of test questions for the position you are applying for.
7. Plan your attempt
All aptitude tests in psychometrics are timed. Also, they are designed in a way that only 1 to 2 per cent of people who take such tests can actually finish it. The good thing is that you do not have to complete all the test questions to get a desirable score, and easy questions are scored the same as the hard ones. Generally, the best strategy is to set milestones and if you don’t know the answer to a question, move on to complete others.
8. Read and increase your English vocabulary
You can start by reading the editorial section of the newspaper or any industry specific information relevant to the job you are supposed to be applying for, to increase your vocabulary. It will help you to grasp especially the Verbal Aptitude Test questions quicker, answer them faster and as a result improve your score.
9. Take care to not trigger a lie or fake good scale in the personality test
As we’ve already stated, most of the personality tests are designed to indicate if you were consistent in your answers and to what extent did you try to portray yourself in an overly favorable manner. We cannot stress this enough, this is not the right approach. How about just being yourself and knowing precisely what set of your strengths you want to highlight in front of the employer.