SHL Tests: 13 Tips, Cheats and Hacks (Prepare Better + Get Top Results!)
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SHL tests are one of the most established and popular forms of psychometric testing used in recruitment today.
Adopted by employers worldwide, SHL tests provide a method of assessing candidate suitability in a way that is efficient, objective and insightful.
They work by looking at your natural abilities and behavioral styles, allowing employers to build candidate profiles based not just on qualifications and experience, but also future potential and culture fit.
Often taken online at an applicant's convenience, they are quick and easy to administer. This makes them popular in graduate recruitment, where a high volume of applications are received, and the candidate pool needs to be narrowed down to the most promising talent.
That’s why you’ll usually take SHL tests in the early stages of the application process – employers are looking to spot potential at speed, and progress those who show it through to interview.
Generally speaking, SHL tests fall into two categories:
Aptitude tests – These measure cognitive ability. They look at how well you’re able to perform a given task when faced with new information, assessing things like problem solving and abstract thinking.
Behavioural tests – These look at your personal and working preferences, values and character traits, and are used to determine how well suited you are to a specific working environment and role requirements.
Within these categories sit various test types.
- Verbal reasoning – These test your ability to draw conclusions from written information.
- Numerical reasoning – A measure of how well you’re able to interpret and manipulate numerical data.
- Inductive reasoning – Here, you’re tested on your ability to predict outcomes by identifying rules and relationships in sequential patterns.
- Deductive reasoning – These test logical thinking and require you to evaluate arguments, and work with inferences and assumptions.
- Personality tests – These look at key traits successful employees demonstrate in the workplace, and how closely your own behaviours match.
- Situational judgement tests – These are a measure of professional judgement, and ask you to choose the most effective response to a range of hypothetical scenarios.
SHL tests are usually multiple choice and taken under timed conditions, with both the accuracy of your answers and the speed at which you work through the questions contributing to your score.
They play an important role in recruitment, and will determine whether you progress to the next stage of the process, making preparation for SHL tests an absolute must if you want to succeed in your job search.
The SHL test series consists of many different assessment types, and employers typically use a combination of these to build a well-rounded candidate profile.
To prepare yourself fully, you need to know exactly which test types you’re required to sit. This information should be made available to you, but, if in doubt, contact the employer’s HR department for clarification.
It’s also useful to know if you’re required to take these tests more than once. Some employers administer them in the early screening stages, and again as part of an assessment centre.
Knowing the specifics of what lies ahead will help you tailor your preparation accordingly, as well as settle any nerves caused by uncertainty.
Psychometric tests are somewhat different from the type of tests you’ll be used to sitting as a student, particularly those that focus on cognitive ability.
These assessments are designed in a very particular way. You’ll face multiple question types, often with quite complex and/or abstract content. You’ll need to separate pertinent from irrelevant information, and do so under the pressure of a time constraint.
It may sound daunting, but the good news is the more you practice the easier it becomes. You’ll learn what each question type involves, how best to approach it and how to make the most effective use of the given time frame.
Make SHL practice tests a regular part of your preparation and keep a record of your scores. Your confidence will grow as you see yourself improving.
From your practice tests, it should become clear where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Look at these objectively, and create a study plan to suit.
It’s human nature to focus on things we’re good at and ignore what we find a struggle, but your study plan should have plenty of focus on your weak spots.
It’s unlikely you’ll turn these into your greatest strengths, but even the smallest improvement can make a big difference to your SHL test scores.
You should also look at how to improve on what you are already good at. Your results will be assessed against a normative group, and the higher you achieve above this benchmark, standard the better.
Strictly speaking, it’s impossible to ‘revise’ for SHL tests, since they look at your natural abilities rather than your knowledge of a particular subject. What you can do, however, is brush up on some basic knowledge.
For numerical tests, revise converting fractions, percentages and ratios, practice basic arithmetic, and spend some time interpreting tables, charts and graphs.
For mechanical tests, go over key physical principles like force, movement and gravity.
With finely tuned basic knowledge, you’ll be able to approach each question with greater accuracy and speed, and your final score will be more impressive as a result.
In taking practice tests, you’ll probably have realised that you spend more time reading the questions than answering them, particularly in a verbal reasoning test where there’s a lot of written information to digest.
Whilst it’s important to read each question carefully (a point we’ll focus on in due course) you don’t want it to eat into your time allowance and prevent you from answering as many questions as possible.
The trick here is to read fast while maintaining focus – something that it is possible to work on.
Set aside time each day to read through something complex in nature, like an academic passage or news piece, for example. Then reflect on what you’ve taken from it before reading it again.
The more you do this, the better you’ll become at identifying key points first time round and understanding the content in context. This will give you an advantage on your official test day.
Time management is critical to success in SHL tests, so learn to use what you have wisely.
A key tip here is to not linger when you stumble on a difficult question. Generally speaking, the more you attempt to unravel something, the more confused you become, especially when you know time is not on your side.
Set yourself a certain number of minutes to work on it, and if you’re still struggling when you hit your limit, move on. Most SHL tests allow you to go back to any unanswered questions if you have time left over.
Again, practice tests will be a real benefit here. You’ll learn to spot which questions you’ll find most labor intensive, and which you’ll be able to complete with little difficulty.
We can’t stress enough the importance of practice, but there’s something to be wary of here too, and that’s overfamiliarity.
The more tests you take, the more you might assume you know what is being asked of you, and pay less attention to detail as a result. This is the easiest way to lose valuable marks.
Digest each question thoroughly, and make sure you understand its purpose before attempting to answer. If you’ve worked on improving your reading speed as discussed earlier, this shouldn’t have too much of an impact on your timing.
Unless stated otherwise, negative marking does not apply to SHL tests. That is to say, you won’t be marked down for any incorrect answer given.
With that in mind, it’s in your best interest to take your most educated guess on any questions you’re unsure of.
Remember, SHL tests are multiple choice, so there’s a fair chance you will in fact select the right answer.
It may be obvious by now that the biggest obstacle in an SHL assessment is the time restriction.
If left to take a test at their own speed, most candidates would probably perform exceptionally well, but one of the core functions of SHL tests is to see how well you perform under pressure.
Every second you can save counts, and there are some strategies you can implement to help here.
Process of elimination is one. If you can quickly identify multiple choice options that you know don’t fit, you can focus your attention on those that might prove correct.
Taking test after test will ensure you’re comfortable with the format and content, but repetition alone won’t necessarily help you improve – what will is reviewing your performance and looking for ways to work more effectively next time round.
This involves almost everything we’ve discussed so far – how closely and quickly you read each question, how you managed your time, the strategies you used and how accurate your best guesses were.
Look at each question in turn, as well as the test as a whole, and pinpoint any areas you think you can build on.
You should also of course be looking at any incorrect answers to establish where you went wrong. As with most things in life, learning from your mistakes is the best way to move forward with aptitude tests.
Before you take these, it’s wise to do your research into the traits and characteristics an employer sees as important, but don’t let it influence your test responses, and certainly don’t try and ‘cheat’ the test by creating a false impression of who you really are.
The whole point of these assessments is to see how well suited you are to a role and organisation, and vice versa. If it’s not the right fit, it’s not beneficial to either party.
Honesty is always the best policy with behavioural tests, so go with your gut instinct and don’t overthink things.
We’ve covered a lot of tips here that look at how to improve your abilities and test taking strategy, but it's just as important to focus on your physical self too.
To perform at your best you need to be well rested, hydrated and energized. If you’re not, it will impact your concentration significantly, so make sure you eat well, drink plenty of water and maintain a regular sleep pattern in the run up to your test day.
There’s also another side to physical preparation, and that’s making sure you’re properly set up to complete your assessment without disruption.
If taking your test remotely, find a quiet location with a stable internet connection, and let others know not to disturb you.
This tip follows on from the last. Good physical preparation means not wearing yourself down, and just as you wouldn’t run a practice marathon before official race day, nor should you cram in last minute prep for your SHL tests.
You’ve done the hard work already, so give yourself a break and try to relax. If you’re someone who suffers from test nerves, try using calming strategies like meditation and breathing techniques to keep your anxieties to a minimum.
Psychometric tests are par for the course in graduate recruitment, and, as SHL is one of the most popular test providers, it’s highly likely you’ll encounter one of its assessments at some point.
It has an important role to play in recruitment, and should be taken as seriously as any other part of the process. At the same time, it should not be something that causes you undue concern.
It’s possible for every candidate to put in a strong performance, provided they take the right approach to preparation. Hopefully the tips, cheats and hacks we’ve looked at here have given you an idea of how to do just that.