How To Prepare For Your Assessment Centre? – A Helpful Guide

You’ve been invited to attend an assessment centre day or perhaps days.

Congratulations! You have reached the final stage of the recruitment process and are on the verge of securing that coveted job.

But you are nervous. Well, so are most of the other invitees because suddenly, applicants are being asked to leave their comfort zones. You will meet up with fellow applicants and competitors for the job and participate in a series of exercises that can make-or-break career prospects.

There is help at hand, though. Read on to learn how to prepare for an assessment centre.

What Exercises Will I have To Do at the Assessment Centre?

Depending on the job you have applied for and the length of time you spend at the assessment centre, you can expect to do some or all of the following:

  • Group exercises
  • Case study exercise
  • Roleplay
  • In-tray exercises
  • Make a presentation

How Should I Prepare?

Do your research on the company you are being assessed for. Most companies have an idea of the type of person who is a good fit for their team. You can usually find this on their website.

Keep in mind that at the centre, assessors will be viewing your performance and general demeanour while doing the exercises. This will give them an idea of how well you will fit into the workforce and how well you are likely to perform your duties.

A reputable job test preparation company can fill you in on all that you need to know about the assessment centre and help you prepare for the exercises.

We recommend using Job Test Prep leaders in preparing applicants for their assessment centre days.

They provide specific test prep packs for assessment centre days, as well as tailored resources for many companies. Discover reliable information on the exercises and practice materials where you can hone your abilities. Practice materials are based on the real assessment day exercises and ensure that no unpleasant surprises await you on the day.

Use your test prep pack as the backbone of your preparation.

Assessment Centre Exercises

Continue reading for an outline of what the exercises involve.

Group Exercises

Business people gather for the meeting

The group exercise will see you placed in a group of six to ten of your fellow applicants and being given details of a work-related issue that needs to be resolved. The purpose of the exercise is to judge your teamwork skills, leadership and communication skills and your ability to get to the root of a problem.

The problem you will be asked to resolve will relate to the type of job you have applied for. Make a point of doing your research on the company and any issues they might have to deal with in your chosen role before the assessment day.

Having been given details of the issue, you and your team will discuss the situation and agree on solutions to present at the end of the exercise. Assessors will be on standby to notice if people are making valuable contributions to the discussion and also to see if applicants work well in a team.

Issues to be conscious of in the group exercise:

  • Make sure you express your ideas clearly and logically.
  • Remember that listening is a vital part of good communication.
  • Avoid any temptation to override others’ suggestions. A good leader wins respect by being aware of others’ viewpoints.

What is a case study exercise?

The case study exercise assesses a whole range of skills that may be required in your ideal job. In this exercise, expect assessors to focus on your:

  • Ability to deal with large quantities of information
  • Ability to analyse complex issues
  • Ability to make decisions

You and your group will be presented with information, and you will be required to work on it and come up with conclusions. Information may be company reports or even a report on a new product. You and/or your team will be required to deliver your findings and recommendations at the end of the time spent working on the information.

This might take the form of a presentation if the exercise has been a group one or a one-on-one discussion if the exercise was an individual one.

Role-play exercises

Do not be misled! The roleplay has little to do with your acting abilities but a lot to do with your likely behaviour in the workplace. Slightly similar to a Situational Judgement Test, you will display how you would react to workplace situations but will do it by physically playing the part.

For this exercise, you can expect to be partnered with an assessor or somebody in a managerial position.

Some examples of situations you can be expected to take place in include dealing with an irate customer or an inefficient colleague.
You may be the person calming the customer or the person dealing with a colleague not pulling their weight.

Assessors regarding the role play will be able to form opinions on how you deal with difficult situations and if the behaviour you exhibit is up to company standards.

As with the other exercises, a careful review of company policy will be necessary to carry out the role play to the recruiters’ satisfaction.

In-Tray Exercise

The in-tray exercise allows the assessors to evaluate your efficiency and time management skills as well as your ability to prioritise tasks.

The exercise simulates a workplace scenario and allows recruiters to decide if you have the skills required to carry out your work in an efficient and timely manner.

You will be presented with an in-tray of emails to answer, tasks to be dealt with, documents to review and required to make decisions on actions to be taken.

  • You may have to decide if a document in your tray requires your attention or if it is something you could delegate to a colleague, and if so, which colleague.
  • Can you postpone dealing with a document or should you deal with it immediately?
  • Is there a specific order in which tasks need to be done?

For an example of what this test looks like, try the following free sample in-tray exercise from Job Test Prep.

Making a presentation

A lot of assessment centres will require you to make a presentation on a topic. You may be given the topic prior to the day itself or may be presented with it at the start of the day.

The presentation is a test of your communication abilities. It will also give the recruiters an indication of how well you can organise and present information. If the topic for discussion, or brief, is presented prior to the assessment day, ensure you do your research, particularly in relation to the role you want to play within the company.

If you are presented with the brief on the actual day, you will be given a limited amount of time to scan documents for information.

Sometimes you may also be required to answer questions on your presentation.

In the presentation, assessors will be evaluating your skills at selecting the relevant information and organising it as well as looking at your verbal delivery. For somebody who is new to public speaking, the presentation can be one of the more daunting of the assessment day exercises.

To prepare for this, select topics you may have to talk about, learn to identify the most relevant information and most importantly, train yourself to organise it into a cohesive form for delivery.

Then make the presentation to friends and family and encourage them to comment on your performance. With practice, you will become more confident about your ability to make a presentation.

What Will Recruiters be Looking For on Assessment Day?

The recruiters’ primary objective with all the exercises is to find the people best suited for the position being offered. This does not mean that you have to excel at all the exercises, as your overall performance is what is being assessed.

To succeed at assessment day:

  • Arrive well-rested and with fifteen or more minutes to spare.
  • Prepare to be alert throughout the day. A late-night or consumption of alcohol prior to an assessment day is a no-no.
  • Be aware that you are being observed throughout the day, but then so is everybody else. Don’t let the ongoing scrutiny dampen your confidence or enthusiasm but at the same time, maintain a polite and friendly demeanour.
  • Some exercises will not go as you want them to. Don’t dwell on it. Instead, focus on the next exercise you have to do.
  • There will be social moments during the day. Use lunch and coffee breaks as moments to talk to your fellow competitors. But avoid the temptation of comparing yourself to others. Your own performance is your primary concern for the day.
  • You will be conscious of being under scrutiny but do not hide your personality. Remember, even recruiters have human feelings and, like all humans, do enjoy seeing some individuality.
  • Finally, keep reminding yourself you have reached this point thanks to some skill or talent you showed through the recruitment process… Otherwise, you would not be at the centre!

If you have been invited to spend a day at an assessment centre, you will find all the resources you need to prepare for it here.

Written by Elizabeth O Mahony

With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.