Banks will test your numeracy, logical and verbal reasoning skills from the initial application stage through to the final hurdle at their assessment centres, especially in EMEA and Asia-Pacific.
Different banks use various tactics when setting psychometric tests. Some will expect everyone to sit a numerical test as part of the online application process. These are not as difficult as those encountered later in the recruitment process, are usually taken online, and last about 20 to 25 minutes. Other firms will only require you to sit an online numerical test if your CV or application form makes it through their initial filters. Finally, some banks will only roll out psychometric tests at their assessment centres, so if you make it this far, you will definitely encounter them there.
Online numerical tests
For anyone with a reasonable amount of maths education, the online numerical tests should be relatively simple. They centre around addition and subtraction, percentages, compound interest, graph reading, analysing tables and problem solving. However, they are also designed to catch people out if they don’t read the question properly.
For example, you may see a simple XY graph where X is year one, year two etc. and Y is a numerical statistic. The question will ask you what was the Y figure in year three and candidates will jump to the graph and quickly tick their answer and move on, while missing that the Y column was actually cumulative.
The trick is to ensure you have enough time to answer everything. You have about 20-25 minutes to cover 30-40 questions, so it is not advisable to spend five minutes on one question.
Even though you’ll probably be doing these on your laptop at home, prepare as you would for any other exam. Have ready a scrap of paper, an open Excel spreadsheet and a calculator. Take the exam when you’re sharp and in a quiet place.
In-house numerical tests
If you make it to interview or to a bank’s assessment centre, you’ll be required to sit an in-house numerical test. These are harder than the online ones, touching on things such as bond maths, differentiation and interest calculations.
Ask the bank’s human resources team whether the in-house test questions are likely to get harder as they progress. Often they do, so you’ll need to make sure you get the easy ones right – you don’t want to lose vital easy marks from sloppy work.
Verbal reasoning tests
Verbal reasoning tests are all about attention to detail. Banks want to see that, within a limited timeframe and in a pressurised environment, you can digest and quickly disseminate information.
You are usually provided with a passage of information and required to evaluate a set of statements by indicating whether each statement is:
A – True
(Does it follow logically from the information or opinions contained in the passage?)
B – False
(Is it logically untrue based on information or opinions contained in the passage?)
C – Cannot Say
(Based on the passage, are you unable to determine if the statement is true or false without further information?)
The good news is that everything you need to know to answer the questions is included in the passage of text. These tests are really about attention to detail, and the key is whether you read the text carefully enough to pick up the logic, and how you interpret it.
Situational judgement tests
As you read through this guide, you’ll encounter senior financiers and recruiters talking about the need for effective communication and analytical skills, resilience, teamwork and an ability to plan and prioritise. Situational judgement tests (SJTs) are your chance to demonstrate this.
Financial services firms test your practical intelligence by presenting a series of work-based problem situations and a selection of potential solutions. You’ll be asked to judge what the most and least effective responses available are.
The questions test life experience and general knowledge, so while practice will help, ultimately success depends on the individual. Read through the questions carefully and make sure you understand all the potential responses.