Everything You Need to Know About Written Assessments
Last Updated on October 11, 2022
If you are invited to an assessment day at a company’s assessment centre, take a moment to congratulate yourself.
You have successfully completed the first step of the application. The company now wants to test you thoroughly to ensure that you are the employee they are looking for.
But don’t spend too long celebrating getting this far. You have work to do and have those written assessments to prepare for.
What Are Written Exercises?
When we hear about written exercises, we often make the mistake of thinking they are merely about our ability to string a series of words together, put in some capital letters and use punctuation.
But they are checking on a little more than that. True, written exercises are the means by which the prospective employer tests your ability to use English. But a range of exercises will also test your ability to:
- Work your way through large amounts of information
- Select the most important pieces from that information
- Identify problems and propose solutions to them.
- Express yourself clearly and logically when producing written statements.
And there is even more to think about in business writing. You will be writing very differently from how you might write to a friend and from a very different perspective. You need to remember that:
- You are writing on behalf of the company, and it is the company’s ideas that you are conveying.
- The tone in which you write is just as important as what you say. For example, if you are writing to a difficult customer, try not to adopt a truculent tone. The recipient of the letter is still a company client.
- Different types of business writing require different styles. A report for the board members, for example, will be written in a very different style to a casual email to a long-standing customer.
Your written exercises should show that you understand all of those differences.
What Format Do Written Assessments Follow?
You can expect to be given one or a number of exercises to do, which can include:
- Case Study Exercises
- In-Tray Written Exercises
- Drafting Letters and reports
- Analysis Exercises
Are Written Assessments Hard?
Their difficulty level reflects the level of competition there is for employment opportunities. The exercises are difficult in themselves. You have to perform them as if you were doing them in the actual workplace.
Bear in mind that the other candidates at the assessment centre are all angling for the job you have your heart set on.
The prospective employer is looking for the best fit for the job. This means that you not only have to do well on the exercises, but you have to do better than a great many other applicants.
How Do I Prepare For Written Exercises?
Thorough preparation is your way to outshine the competition and impress on the employer that you are the most suitable employee for the job.
To do this, you will need to familiarise yourself with the format of the exercises and do some dry runs practising sample exercises. A job test company will provide you with the resources you need to help you prepare.
Your test prep pack includes:
- Accurate information about the written exercises
- Sample test papers modelled on the real tests
- A method of checking your scores as you work through the tests
- Detailed explanations of questions and answers
To get an idea of the type of tests they provide you with, try this free sample in-tray exercise.
Continue reading for further examples of the written exercises:
Types Of Written Assessments
Case Study Exercises
Case studies assess your ability to deal with information, assimilate that information and come up with decisions based on the information provided.
If you do well in the case study, it signifies that you have an analytical mind, are organised and can be decisive. You perhaps also have good judgmental skills when it comes to business affairs.
The case study will test your time management skills as well as your problem-solving abilities.
Your key to performing well on the case study is to learn to assimilate the material you are presented with and dig down to find the points that strike you as the most important.
Having worked through the case study, you can expect to be asked questions about the situation along the following lines.
- You may be asked about the numerical factors presented in the case study. For example, you may be asked if a company is in a profitable situation, or you may be asked what the annual expenses the company accrues in seeking to develop further are.
- More in-depth questions may ask what strategy you would advise the company to adopt in the future, or you may be asked if a company will continue to grow if they continue as they are doing at present.
Remember, when making a presentation on your findings, you will need to be able to justify your reasons for reaching a decision.
However, it is important not to appear too dogmatic. Business problems usually have more than one solution. You need to convey both a sense of authority and a sense that you are able to think outside the box.
To really impress the assessors, you need to practice on the range of case study exercises that come with your test prep pack but don’t forget to work on your presentation skills as well.
Rope in the services of family or friends to listen to you making a presentation and be open to their comments on your performance.
The purpose of the in-tray exercise is to give a prospective employer a picture of how efficiently you are likely to carry out your duties if employed at the company.
When doing the exercises, try to see yourself as already working at the company and carry out the task accordingly. Looking at your answers, the company will be able to form an opinion on how organised you are, how capable you are of prioritising tasks, and how good your time management skills are.
In-tray exercises can come in one of two different formats. The following example is of a multiple-choice-style question:
You are the human resources manager and have received the following email on your return from a business trip. You are pressed for time as you have a meeting with the CEO in an hour and have a backlog of emails to deal with. From the list of options, select the action you feel you should take.
In the second type of in-tray exercise, you may be asked to write a letter or email in response to a request for your professional opinion on a matter of high priority within the company. It could be along the lines of the following question:
Assuming we do enter the field, do you recommend that we develop a new medical product in the G.O.N labs, or do you prefer to form a strategic alliance with N.V.Y?
Drafting Letters And Reports
This written exercise is not just an assessment of your English written skills. It is also an assessment of your ability to read a document and extract relevant information from it.
You may, for example, be asked to respond to a customer’s email where they are complaining about goods purchased from a company. You will be given an hour or less to write your answer to the complainant.
On the surface, the task appears to be an easy one. Your gut instinct may be to apologise and offer them a refund.
But consider the implications for the company if many more similar emails arrive complaining about different products. Do you need to consider if there was genuinely a problem with the purchase?
Before putting finger to keyboard, you will need to research the transaction between the company and the customer. Maybe compare what the complainant is saying with the actual product specifications.
Then when you have done all your checks, you will need to present your answer clearly and logically.
Remember you are writing to a customer who may feel he or she has a genuine grievance, but you are also thinking of your company’s wellbeing.
In report writing, you adopt a similar approach. As in the email, you are not writing from your own perspective. You may have to write a report to investors on the end-of-year results at the company.
Unlike the email exercise, the investors will want accurate, precise facts presented clearly and logically. They will not have the time or inclination to wade through excess words.
The tone of voice here will also be different. In the email, you adopted an understanding tone. With the investors, unless you are told otherwise, the tone should be detached.
The analysis is quite similar to the case study and assesses your analytical skills. The topic you will be asked to analyse will depend on the position you have applied for
If, for example, you have applied for a position in the legal profession, you may be given a quantity of information about a fictitious upcoming case and asked to draw conclusions about the possibilities or otherwise of winning the case.
When you have finished your analysis, you will have to write a piece on your conclusions and support your points with supporting information from the documents you were given.
Your conclusion will be used to judge your analytical skills as well as your ability to present your facts in writing.
Preparing For Written Assessments
As these exercises are quite demanding, make sure you allow yourself enough time to prepare. Ideally, begin your work as soon as you know you have to do the written exercises.
For effective preparation, try taking the following steps:
- Work to a timetable and aim to leave the day before the real tests free for last-minute reviews.
- Break your preparation time into 50-minute blocks followed by a 10-minute break. Your brain works better if you work like this rather than in long unbroken blocks of time.
- Preparing for assessments can be stressful. Help yourself by getting adequate rest, nutrition and fresh air.
Use Sample Papers
Using your sample papers in every preparation session will ensure:
- You are working on relevant material at all times
- You are becoming familiar with the style of questioning as you work through the papers
- You are training yourself to work within the time restrictions of the exercises
- You can monitor your progress from paper to paper and identify areas that are causing you to lose scores
- You can access information on the mistakes you make through the detailed explanations of questions and answers
- You are honing your answering skills as you work
- You are thoroughly familiar with the assessments when the real assessments come round
Tips Before The Assessments
As the assessments come closer, and especially on the day before they start, it is important to devote some time to getting some rest. At this stage of getting ready, your performance in the real assessments is more important than any last-minute dash to the finish line. Many people find it difficult to take time out at this point.
However, don’t forget that assessments are demanding both physically and mentally. You need to be well-rested and relaxed when doing the written exercises if you are to capitalise on all your hard work.
Give that day to some small reviews if you feel compelled to work. If you tend to get nervous about tests, as a great many people do, try some stress-busting exercises. Deep breathing or stretching exercises can all be useful, or you may have techniques of your own.
Approach the tests with the confidence of knowing you have put in the work and deserve to ace this!
If you have written exercises looming in your job search, you will find all the resources you need to ace them 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.