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Dealing with psychometric test performance anxiety

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of what aptitude tests are and why they are used:

Aptitude tests (which are a type of psychometric test) are ability tests designed to assess candidates for assessment, selection and development purposes. With an increasingly competitive job market and the war for talent raging, employers are utilising every weapon in their arsenal to recruit top talent cheaply and efficiently. Generally speaking for recruitment employers utilise aptitude tests for two different reasons, for candidate screening or for later stage assessment. In a screening process candidates will be asked to undertake an aptitude test very early on in the recruitment process, often shortly after the initial application. The function of this is to screen out the lowest performing candidates (typically the bottom 40%), allowing the highest perform candidates to progress through later recruitment stages, this method is frequently used in high volume recruitment.  Aptitude testing may be used in later stage recruitment as well at the assessment centre stage of assessment. In this stage numerous assessment tools may be utilised i.e. competency based interviews, role play exercises and aptitude tests. The function of these tests is to gain an understanding of the candidate’s abilities, rather than to qualify/disqualify candidates based solely on their performance on the test.

Now, dealing with performance anxiety and stress:

Performance anxiety and exam stress are notoriously associated with aptitude tests, and pre-test nervousness is common and frequent. An important thing to remember is that the right amount of performance anxiety and nervousness can be a help, not a hindrance. Being moderately nervous can help sharpen you focus and keep you on your toes during your exam, preventing you getting distracted and optimising performance. However high levels of anxiety can be an inhibitor of performance, causing you to second guess your answers, rush through or skip questions. Here are some easy to remember tips for keeping calm and focused during your exam:

  1. Deep and slow breathing: deep breathing can help keep you calm, slow breathing can help prevent hyperventilation, monitor your breathing and act accordingly
  2. Quiet setting: When doing a test by email invitation, complete the test somewhere quiet. Distractions can hamper performance, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
  3. Sleep: get a good night’s sleep before the test. Anxiety can keep you awake before a big test, ensure you go to bed early and do your best to be well rested, and ready for your exam.
  4. Practice: as well as improving performance, practice and preparation has the effect of calming test anxiety by revealing all the mystery.  Psychologists call it “systematic desensitisation” and it involves putting yourself in these anxiety provoking situations and getting used to them.