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Job Search : Job Testing & Interviews

Job Skills Testing

What are the kinds of written examinations commonly used to assess applicants? They can be   divided into four kinds: personality tests, IQ tests, aptitude tests, and essay questions.

Preparation before Test-taking

The same way that you are advised to dispose yourself before an interview, you should also dispose yourself before taking a written test. After all, your main tool is your mind; if your mind is neither relaxed nor rested, you might not perform on the exam as well as you otherwise would do.

Get a good night's rest the night before. Make certain that you arrive at the examination site with at least 15 minutes to spare.

Eat well. Brain food is recommended, like food that is high in protein. You'd want to eat enough to last you the entire testing duration. It helps then to inquire ahead of schedule how long the test would take. Some companies screen using a battery of exams, meaning they use more than one test and thus the examination can take hours. The last thing you need is hunger pangs in the middle of analyzing a problem!

Bring your own timer, preferably a stopwatch. This can help you monitor your pacing and adjust accordingly. In some cases, a calculator or extra sheets of scratch paper for computations are permitted by the test proctor, so ask ahead if they are necessary and allowed.

Some human resource practitioners advise wearing layered clothing when taking examinations. Room temperature can be distracting to a test-taker and you want to be able to adjust to the temperature. If the room is too cold, at least you have a jacket and if it is too hot, at least you can still peel off some layers.

Feel like practicing?

If you feel that you need some exposure and practice with psychological exams before you take one, there are places to go to get a better grasp of them. If you're still in school, or have access to school resources, a guidance counselor can help you become more familiar with them.

There are also sites online that offer practice tests for job applicants. Just make sure that you pick a website that offers a close approximation of standardized job application screening tests. There are many supposed psychological tests online but most of them are made just for fun and in by no means valid nor similar to what companies would give you.

In general though, there is very little to worry about when it comes to employee testing. Personality tests, IQ tests and aptitude exams require, more than anything, presence of mind. Personality tests have no right or wrong answers, and can be answered best by merely being authentic to yourself. IQ tests and aptitude tests on the other hand need very little review of vast research and subject matter. All that you would need to answer the questions correctly can be found in the question itself.

General Test-taking Tips

The following are some tips and techniques that can help you navigate most examinations.

Read the instructions and questions carefully.  This is imperative! At first glance the lay-out of a question gives a hint already how it is meant to be answered. For example, a question stem followed by four choices marked a, b, c and d usually connotes a multiple choice kind of question, or chooses the best answer among the four choices. But unless you read the instructions thoroughly you can never be sure.

What if you are not supposed to pick the choice that is right, but to cross out what is wrong? What if there can be more than one answer to a question? You need to be able to follow instructions to the letter for it may cost you even your correct responses. If there are examples of how to answer the questions, then review the examples.

Look out for scoring techniques that may affect the way you answer. For example, if instructions say that this is a ‘right minus wrong' test, then it means that when scoring, the number of your wrong responses would be subtracted from the number of your correct responses. In which case it is not advisable to guess when you don't know the answer; perhaps it's better if you just keep it blank. If no such rule exists, then guessing in objective questions may be a better option in case you're stumped.

Also, instructions tell how to answer, not just what to answer. You might have to encircle the letter of your choice, cross it out or shade the appropriate section in an answer sheet. Some companies would nullify all your answers if you don't follow the correct way to mark your paper.

Other answer sheets are not scored by hand but via a computer and if you don't follow the instructions, the scanner may not be able to read your responses. It would be a shame not to have your correct answers credited just because of a technical error.

If you have questions or clarifications about the instructions, don't hesitate to ask your proctor before you even begin.

Note the time limit. Some tests are time pressured so budget your time wisely. Before you take a test, look at how many items there are and how much time you are being given. For example, if you have 30 minutes to answer a test with 30 items then you have approximately 1 minute to answer per item. This can guide you when discerning whether to give a question more thought or to move on.

In general, do not linger unnecessarily on an item. If you must, make a guess and then go back to the item when you still have time.

If you have to guess, make an intelligent one. If you get really stumped, don't just choose an option randomly. Pick a choice that has the higher likelihood of being the correct answer compared to the other choices.

Look for context clues. Context clues are hints in the question that suggest the correct responses. Basically you have to pick the option that (a) makes the most sense, (b) seems to fit best and (c) feels right as far as your understanding can tell. This is most helpful for verbal reasoning questions.

Eliminate obviously wrong responses first and then focus your attention on the remaining options. Note that sophisticated tests use clever distracters so make sure that you're critical. For example, you might feel that an option is obviously correct, but it might just be a word that sounds like the correct response or looks like the correct response.

And if you really can't figure it out, use your intuition. Choose the response that feels most right. Chances are, if something ‘feels' correct, you may have come across the connection before but cannot recall it at that moment.

Consider the following example:

Choose the word closest in meaning to the italicized word.

The four-colored Brazilian spider lost a leg, so it regenerated a new one.

When you think of animals, what would they most likely do if they lost a limb? Option c seems grammatically correct, and some animals have been known to steal from other animals before, but it doesn't make sense to do so for a leg.

Reinforced is a tricky distracter; it has the same form as the item you are analyzing. The prefix‘re' might make you feel that it is the most appropriate choice because regenerate also has it. But the word ‘reinforce' means ‘to support.' It is difficult to picture a spider supporting a new leg, and it makes for awkward sentence structure.

By process of elimination, the correct response is b.

Don't overanalyze. This is especially true for IQ test. Sometimes we can over think a question when the answer is the most obvious one. Remember, these tests are for the average reasonable person to comprehend. If the analysis you came up with is too complicated and conspiracy-oriented, chances are you just may be looking at it too hard.

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