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Talent Assessment | 10 min Read

What is a psychometric test: Types, applications, advantages and more!

This guide serves as a detailed handbook to understand psychometric tests. Test-takers, as well as recruiters, will find rich insights on the benefits, types and applications of psychometric tests, irrespective of their specialty and functional industry.

Chapter 1: Fundamentals of psychometric assessment

 

What are psychometric assessments?

 

A psychometric test or psychometric assessment is an evaluation of an individual’s cognitive skills and personality traits. It helps assess whether the individual is capable of thriving in a specific professional role. Psychometric testing can help understand aspects of mental ability and behavioral style that organizations are unable to gauge during conversations and interviews.

A psychometric test is a standard and scientific method that plays an equally significant role in educational or clinical settings. It also offers an unbiased evaluation of a broad range of parameters, such as logical reasoning, industry-specific aptitude, role-specific qualities, type of personality and more.

 

Uses of psychometric tests

 

Also read: The importance of psychometric tests in organizational strategy, different types of psychometric tests and when to use them

 

The evolution of psychometric assessment test

 

History of psychometric tests

 

Even though the origin of psychometric testing dates back to ancient times, statistician and psychologist Francis Galton developed the modern-day psychometric test. Also known as the ‘Father of Psychometrics,’ Galton was the first to coin the term “psychometric.” He designed a framework to assess people’s intelligence based on their motor and sensory skills. James McKeen Cattell, who named psychometric assessments as ‘mental tests,’ extended Galton’s work.

Modern-day psychometric assessments found their roots in 19th-century France when physicians used them to identify patients with mental illness.

French psychologists Alfred Binet, Victor Henri and Theodore Simon, devised a psychometric test to assess young children with mental deficiencies. Their 15-year-long development journey surfaced multiple aspects of human personality, such as cognitive and verbal skills. This ‘mental retardation’ test came to be known as the Binet-Simon test. In the latest edition of 2003 by Stanford researcher Lewis M. Terman, the test is now known as the Stanford-Binet test. The psychometric evaluation test that has evolved over the ages remains integral to modern-day recruitment and selection methods.

Click here to learn about the science behind online psychometric tests.

 

Why are psychometric tests used in recruitment?

 

The prominent reason organizations prefer using psychometric tests in recruitment is that there is a strong correlation between psychometric test scores and job performance. For example, high scores could be an excellent indication of high performance on the job. Besides, a psychometric test online is easy to administer and scale to match the hiring requirements.

Psychometric tests are an objective way of assessing the potential ability of candidates for various job roles. With these tests comes the convenience of evaluating various skills, ranging from levels of knowledge, aptitude, cognitive skills to behavioral qualities and people skills.

The predictive qualities of a psychometric assessment serve as an essential foundation for streamlining the hiring process.

Psychometric testing also has the following advantages:

Objectivity:

The traditional approach to hiring is instinctive and heavily dependent on interviews and elaborate CV descriptions. Psychometric tests eliminate this element of subjectivity in the decision-making approach and provide fair, bias-free talent assessment.

Accuracy:

Psychometric evaluation enables hiring managers to measure an individual’s abilities to process information, solve problems, make decisions while assessing their behavioral attributes. Such an evaluation reveals essential data that recruiters utilize to make rational decisions about candidates. 

Speed:

Humanly sifting through all job applications can be a time-taking process. Psychometric assessment enables companies to focus on suitable candidates by narrowing the search.

Moreover, using psychometric tests in hiring ensures that you recruit professionals who are more likely to fit into your company’s environment and less likely to leave. The various aspects of psychometric tests help gauge culture fitment and consistency among individuals.

*The British Psychological Society, in its ‘Code of Practice for Psychological Testing,’ advises that psychometric testing should always be used alongside other assessment methods.

Psychometric tests depend on two main factors that make them effective in the recruitment process:

Validity:

The validity of psychometric tests depends on the degree to which they measure what they claim to measure. Since these tests use valid methodologies to measure personality traits and aptitude, they promise a greater validity than conventional interviews.

Reliability:

A psychometric test can only be reliable if it produces similar results under invariable conditions. A reliable test score is precise and consistent during all the tests. It can also be recreated on multiple occasions. Therefore, it is essential to choose a psychometric test that follows a trait-based approach, e.g., The Big 5 Factor model. The next chapter delves deeper into this subject.

 


Chapter 2: Types of psychometric assessments

Psychometric assessments are usually of the following two types:

1. Personality tests

2. Cognitive ability tests

 

1. Personality tests

 

Personality tests are a form of psychometric assessment that helps identify specific personality traits required to perform in a job role or industry. These tests offer significant insights into a candidate’s key qualities, motivations, behavioral styles, etc.

The science behind testing personality

Personality tests usually follow two major schools of thought: the trait-based approach and the type approach. While the type theory categorizes personalities into introverted/extroverted, the trait theory measures the degree to which key personality traits exist in an individual.

The type theory defines individuals as either introverts or extroverts, in varying intensities. Examples of models that follow the type theory are:

  • Enneagram of personality: An Enneagram recognizes nine “enneatypes” or interconnected personality types. A geometric shape known as an “enneagram” represents these interconnections based on various aspects of intelligence. It is helpful in predicting behavior patterns, emotional intelligence and the ability to build professional and personal relationships.Learn more about the Enneagram test and other methods in the blog Best personality tests for better workforce planning.
  • DISC profile: This method analyses personalities based on dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. Instead of testing for aptitude, intelligence or values, the DISC profile focuses on an individual’s reactions, influence and speed under challenging situations. The most significant drawback of the DISC profile is its failure to assess specific personality traits that may be essential to succeed in a job role.
  • MBTI (The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator): MBTI groups personalities into 16 major types that are varying combinations of introversion/extraversion. The 16 types contain abbreviations of four letters each, denoting key dynamics.For example:
    • ESTJ: Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment
    • INFP: Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception

Personality tests based on the type theory often lack objectivity and comprehensive insight into an individual’s psyche. When used in a professional context, the type-based tests also lack reliability, as it is possible for an individual to get different results every time.

Trait-focused personality assessments are all based on the Big 5 Factor model, also known as the OCEAN model. Developed in the 1970s, this model enlists five major personality traits that exist among humans in varying degrees.

 

five major personality traits

 

A good psychometric assessment can help measure the level of these traits through a series of questions and problem-solving exercises.

i) Openness

Individuals possessing this trait have a natural penchant toward adventure and art. They are curious, creative and open to change. Meanwhile, people averse to openness stick to their old routine, habits and keep new experiences at bay.

ii) Conscientiousness

People high on conscientiousness are organized and have a sense of responsibility. They have the drive to achieve their goals and are highly reliable. This trait has shown marked achievement on the job. People on the opposite side, however, are spontaneous and careless.

iii) Extraversion

Individuals who possess extraversion indicate various characteristics, including sociability and talkativeness. They draw their energy from day-to-day social interactions or gatherings. Such individuals are mostly cheerful and assertive in their approach. Meanwhile, introverts are a professor of ‘me time.’ While the trait often gets mixed up with being shy, that’s not the case. Individuals with a high introversion trait prefer smaller group activities when required and tend to enjoy their own company. 

iv) Agreeableness

Agreeableness is indicative of a person’s kindness. Such individuals are trusting and helpful. On the other hand, disagreeable people are cold, suspicious of others and less cooperative.

v) Neuroticism

Individuals possessing this trait worry a lot and often find themselves feeling depressed and anxious. On the contrary, people low on neuroticism are emotionally stable and exhibit calmness and composure when facing problems.

Trait-focused personality assessments give a more granular picture of an individual’s personality than type-focused tools. They offer people a more accurate reflection of candidates’ natural preferences and behavioral styles. As a result, they tend to be more effective in making workplace decisions like recruitment, L&D, succession planning, etc.

The strongest personality tests are those that:Measure stable traits that won’t change over time.Are normative in nature, comparing one applicant’s scores against others.Provide a “candidness” scale to indicate how likely it is that the results accurately portray the test-taker.Have high reliability, producing the same results if the same person takes it again.Have been shown to be valid predictors of job performance.

Dori Meinert
What do personality tests reveal?, SHRM

Difference between personality and behavior

Personality refers to a combination of traits that make a person unique. On the other hand, behavior is how the person generally acts and reacts in various situations. Thus, while personality defines the way people are, behavior is about what they do.

In his book Performance: The Secrets of Successful Behavior, author Robin Stuart-Kotze identifies personality as a concept that solidifies at about five years of age. It is widely believed that changing one’s values, attitudes, aspirations, and beliefs – the core elements of personality – is difficult. On the other hand, much of behavior is a result of an individual’s values or beliefs. Therefore, it is easier to behave in a way that meets professional expectations.

Importance of assessing personality as part of psychometric testing

Personality tests gather information about an individual to make inferences about personal characteristics. These include feelings, behaviors or thoughts. They help measure aspects of personality that determine – or are predictive of – successful performance at work, thinking style, workplace relationships, task management, feelings, and motivation.

 

2. Cognitive ability tests

 

Cognitive ability tests, also known as aptitude tests, evaluate the mental abilities of individuals. They help measure an individual’s critical thinking, logical reasoning, verbal ability and problem-solving skills. They also assess how individuals use past experiences in novel situations.

Did you know?

At the turn of the 19th century, Charles Edward Spearman, an English psychologist and the pioneer of factor analysis, coined the ‘G’ or General Intelligence Factor. It was the underlying commonality to all aptitude. It was also a part of his two-factor theory of intelligence. Modern researchers continue to expand on the concept.

The science behind testing cognitive ability

Tests measuring cognitive ability or intelligence predict a number of important real-world outcomes such as academic performance, vocational training performance, and job performance.

B.E.Postlethwaite, Fluid ability, crystallized ability, and performance across multiple domains: a meta-analysis
University of Iowa

Cognitive ability tests measure two essential components of human intelligence: fluid and crystallized. While fluid intelligence includes reasoning, crystallized intelligence revolves around facts and information acquired via experiences.

Considering these aspects of intelligence, recruiters may find it challenging to assess and select candidates objectively. That’s where cognitive ability tests come into the picture.

 

Cognitive ability tests measure two essential components of human intelligence: fluid and crystallized

 

Also, read Assessing cognitive competencies at work– a guide that further elaborates the science behind cognitive assessments and human intelligence.

When to use cognitive ability tests?

To reach a conclusion using an aptitude or cognitive test alone can be erroneous.

However, the test is beneficial in the following situations:

  • When companies need a filtration method to assess a large candidate pool.
  • When recruiters need to add an extra layer of assessment to identify the top talent from a group of equally efficient professionals.
  • Cognitive tests like verbal comprehension, numerical ability, critical thinking or problem-solving cater to more niche job roles, thus providing measurable and credible outcomes.
  • For high complexity jobs like that of a secret agent, aptitude tests are better indicators of performance. Cognitive tests play an important role in such job profiles where candidates have to undergo rigorous and multiple rounds of assessments.

The aptitude/cognitive ability spectrum is vast and evolving continually. Hence, it is possible to have a dedicated test to gauge almost every professional skill and competency across various levels. You can customize an aptitude exam, create combinations relevant to a specific role, explore new evaluation criteria and more.

 


Chapter 3: Tips and what to expect when taking a psychometric test online

This chapter is a helpful resource for candidates. It also includes free psychometric test links that help gain familiarity with various question types and problem categories.

 

Quick tips and practice questions for candidates

 

Remember the following points when taking an online psychometric test:

  • Usually, the most challenging questions are at the end of aptitude tests, and every problem has the same number of points. Test takers will not get bonus marks for puzzling out a difficult question. Therefore, it is smarter first to answer questions that seem easier.
  • When taking an aptitude test, candidates should allocate time wisely until the test is completed. Instead of working till the time is through, they should ensure error-free work and double-check the answers to all questions. Sometimes, the problems may seem so simple that it’s easy to make mistakes.
  • Most personality tests require specific questions to evaluate the truthfulness and integrity of candidates. One of these parameters is social desirability. Under this scale, the questions reflect on undesirable behaviors that somebody might have demonstrated at least once in former times. A candidate who doesn’t show such tendencies will get a high social desirability score, which helps differentiate between genuine and fake candidates.
  • In some aptitude tests, skipping questions (items) is not an option. In such cases, candidates should resort to guessing instead of wasting time on such items. Time-management, guessing and minimizing score loss per item are some areas that must be considered.
  • A calculator would also come in handy when taking psychometric tests online. In numerical reasoning questions, where the focus is primarily on assessing candidates’ time management skills with accuracy, test-takers can use calculators.
  • Personality assessment includes several questions that are used to measure personality traits. Hence, test-takers should be consistent in replying to those questions.
  • As with any other exam, practicing psychometric tests will save candidates from last-minute stress and other factors that hamper performance.

You can practice an array of free psychometric tests here: https://www.psychometricinstitute.co.uk/Psychometric-Guide.html

 

What do employers expect from a psychometric test?

 

Psychometric profiling assessments are psychological tools that employers wish to use to ascertain candidates’ suitability for various roles. These tests vary in subject matter and content to evaluate some of the most sought-after skill sets. Some of the prominent psychometric testing tools used nowadays in recruitment are numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests.

In addition to the advantages enlisted in the earlier sections, there are two main reasons why employers use psychometric assessment tests: 

  • Psychometric assessment is considered useful in improving and minimizing HR and hiring costs.
  • A psychometric exam ensures a streamlined candidate selection process, thereby reducing the attrition rate.

 


How Mercer | Mettl Can Help

Mercer | Mettl’s online platform enables both recruiters and companies to make great people decisions with a comprehensive suite of tools for talent assessment and hiring. Evaluating the accuracy of talent assessment in various domains is no mean feat. Similarly, ascertaining the efficacy of decisions concerning recruitment, training and development of candidates/employees isn’t as easy as it seems.  Such critical decisions can’t be taken in the blink of an eye. A thorough, well-researched and analytics-led approach is pivotal, and that’s where the Mercer | Mettl approach comes in handy.

With its extensive library of tests and simulators comes the foolproof way to evaluate the knowledge, underlying abilities, behavioral attributes, and skills of candidates with utmost accuracy. There is a wide range of psychometric, cognitive, role-centric, and technical assessments available for making well-informed recruiting decisions.

Getting the right people is crucial for every organization, and there’s no scope for errors. Mettl’s psychometric assessments and tools that suit every client’s unique needs reduce the scope for human errors. Organizations can very well leverage these scientific and data-backed tools to address their key issues.

Mercer | Mettl offers a massive inventory of aptitude tests and cognitive assessments based on the highly recommended Big-5 Factor model. These online psychometric assessments help measure abilities like:

You will also find an elaborate set of solutions for assessing personalities as part of online psychometric testing:

 

Originally published December 3 2019, Updated November 23 2021

D'ipanjenah Ali

Written by

D’ipanjenah is a writer and marketing professional associated with Mercer Mettl since 2020. Her working style thrives on a balanced approach towards standard insights and novel trends. She utilizes creative content and digital strategies to help brands start important conversations. When not reading/writing, she enjoys art and parents a calico.

Psychometric Test/Assessment

What are psychometric assessments?

Psychometric tests measure an individual’s personality traits and behavioral tendencies to predict job performance. Psychometric assessments gauge cultural fitment, trainability, motivations, preferences, dark characteristics, etc., to hire and develop the right people.

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