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Psychometric Test   | 2 Min Read

The Evolution of Psychometric Testing

Written By Tonmoy Shingal
It’s the second round of your interview. You are handed a pencil and a ten page Q&A. The HR person tells you that after the completion of this ‘Psychometric Test,’ you will proceed for the final interview. You sit there perplexed at the eternal questions that sound almost the same everywhere and wonder, ‘how exactly will this matter in my interview shortlisting?’.

Now, that’s a question millions of interviewees have been wondering. The answer is simple. Psychometric tests are used in job interviews to discover who you are and how good you will be at tasks required in the job. There is no right or wrong answer in a psychometric test.

What is Psychometric Testing? How did it evolve?

Psychometrics, in short, means the measurement of the mind. Thus, psychometric testing broadly refers to the test to measure how our brain works and then provide a determinable measurement of our mental ability.

The Evolution

The use of psychometric as a science traces back to the late 19th century in Cambridge, between 1886 and 1889. The first laboratory dedicated to the science of psychometric test was set up in 1887 by James McKeen Cattell within the Cavendish Physics Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

However, the first personality testing only began in 1917 when Robert Woodworth developed the Personal Data Sheet, a  simple yes-no checklist of symptoms that were used to screen the World War I recruits for psychoneurosis. This sheet paved the way for other inventions like Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Many later inventories. Then in the 1950s and 60s, the “Big Five” personality test was devised after thorough analytical research to measure individual differences in personality which to this day remains a well-recognized personality traits model.

Why Test?

Psychometric testing is conducted to measure two primary criteria, i.e.

  • To assess personal qualities to understand your feelings, beliefs and thought process. There are no right or wrong answers here.
  • To measure your performance, typically to test if you fit the profile the examiners are looking for. These questions have right and wrong answers.

From Personality to Recruitment

Since the time it was used for screening WWI recruits, the trail of Psychometric testing have made much progress as large organisations, and educational institutes are using it on a large scale. According to the research from Network HR and Personnel Today, 78% of HR personnel consider psychometric tests a powerful tool for hiring. And now, over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA, and over 75% of the Times’ Top 100 companies in the UK are using this test for their recruitments.

Recruitments & Education

The test is largely used during recruitment by large organisations in recruiting graduates and for better filtering of candidates in cases of large numbers of applicants. Apart from that, it is also used for existing employees during staffs training or application for the internal performance appraisal process. Educational institutes also use psychometric tests in entrance exams to test their aptitude and ability.

Types of Psychometric Assessment

Psychometric tests are widely divided into two groups, i.e., aptitude and ability, personality and questionnaires.

Aptitude and Ability Test

This test is administered to measure competence and intellectual ability. It also measures the logical and analytical skill of a candidate so as to determine his capacity and performance in job-specific skills. Under this test, there are various areas of assessment, the most common being:

  1. Verbal reasoning
  2. Numerical reasoning
  3. Diagrammatic Reasoning
  4. Strategic reasoning

Personality and Questionnaire Test

Here, the primary goal is to understand the candidate's behaviour in an individual situation, preference and attitude, and actions and reaction. Using this in a recruitment process, the recruiter will attempt to understand if the candidate fits into the work culture and the profile they are looking for. Here, behaviour, attitudes, interests, opinions, values are all put into consideration. This will be mostly paper-based questionnaires.

Time factor

Everyone is capable of performing extraordinary things but what distinguishes them will be the speed they achieve it. Likewise, time is also one of the important factors in psychometric testing.

Some tests will have a strict time limit so as to verify the speed of the candidate, usually in jobs that require speed. Otherwise, some tests have no time limit, normally with difficult questions so as to examine the number of questions a candidate can attempt and get right. That’s not all. Some tests are designed to determine speed and accuracy. Here, with a sufficient yet set time limit, the candidate will be judged on how accurately he answered in the given time slot.

In most cases, tests fall somewhere in between these two extremes. There will be a time limit, but this will be set to allow most people sufficient time to get to the end of the test. To be successful, you need to work through the test as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Different Modes

Computer-based and Paper-based psychometric testing are the two widely used modes although verbal modes were one of the first media for the test. In recruitment or exams, candidates are either asked to write on the paper or do it online. When it’s online, it will be under supervision so as to ensure that there was no cheating.

Sliding CTA_Psychometric Assessments Helping You Hire the Right Candidate


As Personnel Today’s research suggests, as much as 80% of employees in an organisation, have never actually been through a test themselves as part of their recruitment into their role. We can see a huge room for growth in the field of psychometric testing. HR personnel and large organisations should take heed of this and improve the quality of their recruits and ensure better organisational growth.

Topics: Psychometric Test

Originally published August 22 2019,updated September 14 2019

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