Articles on psychometric testing, personality tests, aptitude tests & employee selection

Practice leads to improved performance

Psychometric testing is one of the most popular selection tools used by employers to identify suitable applicants for jobs in the public and private sectors.

For many years, psychometric tests have been considered an objective method to measure an individual’s intelligence and the extent to which they fit the job’s requirements. Again and again, it was claimed that preparing for the psychometric test was not possible, as it doesn’t measure acquired knowledge but only intellectual and natural intelligence.

These claims have been proved wrong. Many researchers found that success in the psychometric test is not only dependent on an applicants’ natural intelligence but also on their studies and their past experience in completing psychometric tests.

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The correlation between a person’s age and performance in psychometric tests

The general decline in psychometric performance as a person advances in age has been well documented. For example, a study by Samuel Granick titled ‘The Effect of Education on the Decline of Psychometric Test Performance with Age’ back in 1967 showed that this was more significant in psychometric tests relating to cognition, attention, perception and visual-motor coordination. However, through good old-fashioned practice older candidates can certainly improve their performance levels.

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How to deliver better results in psychometric tests

Psychometric testing is used extensively to help employers select the most appropriate candidate for a specific job role. Finding people with the right skills and attributes is paramount to all successful businesses in both the private and public sectors. Therefore, your performance in these tests will play an important part in whether you are eventually chosen for the position or not. But, being born with natural intelligence is not enough on its own to guarantee a positive outcome. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.     
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Practicing Online Psychometric Tests vs. Practicing Books

Given that psychometric tests are increasingly being conducted online, rather than using the traditional paper-and-pencil format, research has looked at measuring the differences in a person's results between these two modes. Psychometric test developers attempt to ensure that these different delivery modes produce the same results. However there are inevitable differences that can lead to differences in the results of your psychometric test. Clariana and Wallace (2002) reported that your chance of getting equivalent scores on a paper-based psychometric test and a computerised practice psychometric test is only about 50%. Because of these differences between test delivery modes, practicing in the same mode that the psychometric test will be administered in formally (i.e. online), is important. Practicing psychometric tests from books or other paper based tests would be to your disadvantage if the actual test you will be taking will be administered online.  
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Choosing the 'right' person with psychometric tests  

More and more, organisations are using psychometric tests in the recruitment process to help them get the ‘right’ person for the role and organisation. The use of psychometric testing gives large and small organisations a competitive edge. Organisations want to know more about job seekers these days, wanting to discover their core competencies through the recruitment process. An awareness of these desirable core competencies is a good starting place, enabling you to better prepare for and practice psychometric tests such as aptitude tests and personality tests.

Practicing for computerised adaptive testing (CAT)   

The most common psychometric approach to CAT ability and achievement forms of psychometric testing uses science which is referred to as Item Response Theory (IRT). This adaptive approach is designed to estimate the test-takers ability (or variable of interest to the employee selection panel), by adaptively choosing new items for the individual test-taker, based on the estimate of his/her knowledge, skill, ability, or other characteristic being evaluated by the test, obtained from previous responses. That is, in online psychometric tests based on CAT, a computer selects the items from an item bank that are most relevant for and informative about the ability of the particular test-taker, thus optimising test relevance and precision and reducing test-taking time.


Practice reduces Barnum effect in personality tests

The Barnum / Forer effect in psychometric personality tests refers to the tendency of psychometric test-takers to accept global statements which can be applied to anyone, and which are favourable. Forer (1949, as cited in Furnham & Schofield, 1987) argued that a universally valid statement is one that applies to nearly all the population, and therefore although true of the individual, does not reveal anything specific about them. These types of statements are likely to be endorsed by the psychometric test-taker if they make them feel good about themselves. Interestingly, the Barnum effect is also found to be the reason people accept horoscopes, which include statements that are vague and favourable in nature.  

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Aptitude tests and Intelligence 
Aptitude tests are a fundamental component of a psychometric test. They attempt to measure trait intelligence (IQ) and cognitive ability, which is indicated by your efficiency in information processing. There are two different types of trait intelligence, fluid and crystallised intelligence (Kaufman & Kaufman, 1993). Crystallised intelligence involves verbal or language-based accumulated knowledge developed mainly through your education and other life experiences. In contrast, fluid intelligence refers to your adaptability and flexibility in the face of novel experiences that do not permit automatic reasoning.

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Learning from your Mistakes: The Learning Curve and Practice
The learning curve is a graphical record or representation of a person’s change in rate of learning, for a specific activity, such as an online psychometric test. The pattern generally shows rapid improvement from initial practice followed by less improvement with additional practice. The learning curve demonstrates that psychometric test performance improves and gets faster with practicing psychometric tests online. It also shows that this improvement in task performance is fairly common across all tasks.
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