Updated: Oct 20
You’re going for a job, or being considered for promotion, or management are introducing an initiative that hasn’t been explained to you. Change is stressful at the best of times…and then you’re asked to do a test as part of the process. Your stress levels rocket! You have nightmares about school and college examinations. How can you be sure you don’t mess up your answers?
Don't worry - here are some simple tips to help you do your best at tests.
Read everything carefully
Read the instructions and the text at the start of any question very carefully. Most people make mistakes because they’ve misunderstood what they’re supposed to do, not because they can’t do it.
Don't stress over the practise questions
Some tests start with practice questions. Don’t worry if you get these wrong; they’re quite often designed to ensure you make silly mistakes before you get into the real test. Use them as a sort of athletic warm up exercise that helps you understand what you have to do and get in the mood to do your best.
Don't spend too long on any one question
Don’t spend too long on any one question. Some tests get harder as they go on, some easier, some ask questions randomly. So, you can always go back to questions that are holding you up.
Check how you answer
Be careful how you confirm your answers and make sure you know how to move onto the next question and whether you can go back to previous questions.
Specific strategies may work well
in multiple choice tests, rule out the obviously untrue answers and concentrate on those that are left.
spend a while at the beginning looking at the amount of time you have and the number of questions you have to answer. Check as you go along.
BUT, if this sort of structured working is not natural to you, don’t force it. You’ll end up feeling unsure of yourself and won’t perform optimally.
If there’s time at the end, go back over your answers.
Let someone know if something goes wrong
If anything disturbs you (noises from in or outside the room for instance) or something goes wrong, let the person supervising you know straight away.
Don't worry about worrying
Like athletes and actors, you’ll do your best if there’s some adrenalin in your system, so don’t worry about worrying. In fact for ability tests, where there are right or wrong answers, be ‘up for it’ – ready to do your best. Remember, these sorts of tools are designed to help you display your best performance.
Your first thought is often your best
Some tests don’t have right and wrong answers; they’re more about describing yourself and the way you characteristically behave or think. Often they’ll give you a number of descriptions to chose between. Don’t get hung up on thoughts like ‘none of these are like me’. Understand what the instructions say – ‘Your first thought is often the best’ for instance – and follow them.
You need a real sense of openness and honesty for a personality questionnaire or survey whether this is feedback on a person’s performance, behaviour or on an event. If you distort the results or lie you may end up in the wrong job, out of your depth or having misrepresented a valued colleague. That’s not fun.
Do the test yourself
You should also be aware that you may be asked to sit another test at a later stage – especially if you are asked to take an ability test as part of the recruitment process. Don’t get someone else to do it for you – you may get found out later on when you complete the next ability test for the employer.
Make sure you're in the right environment
If you’re asked to answer a personality questionnaire or survey at home or at your desk: ensure that you have a quiet area or at least somewhere where you are able to consider your responses for surveys and can finish in one session.
Be in the right state of mind
Tiredness, alcohol the evening before can affect your ability to answer questions accurately. Leave the celebration for after you’ve been given the job!
Above all, keep reasonably calm (but not comatose) – and enjoy the experience and the feedback you’ll receive. The majority of people find they enjoy personality assessment; it helps them find out about themselves.