What to expect at an assessment centre: A step-by-step guide to prepare you for success

In this short article, you will gain an introductory understanding of assessment centres. You will learn what they are and why they are used. 

Get your copy of our Ultimate Assessment Day & Interview Guide here. 

Starting point resources 

  1. Listen to our podcast and learn what to expect at your assessment centre. 
  2. Practice actual aptitude tests that most employers use. https://www.jobtestprep.co.uk/aptitude-test


Let us start… 

Interviews could be a bit intimidating and quite stressful for most. However, most challenging part in your career is having to go through a full assessment. A full assessment is rigorous and tedious process of assessing your professional and mental abilities. This type of assessment is not for the faint-hearted and very exhausting especially for first timer test takers. 

Do not worry as we shall equip you with the right tools, guides and advice for you to succeed. 

Assessment events have many different names. Sometimes they are called assessment centres. Sometimes, assessment days or assessment events. Though they are called differently, they have the same principle- it is an event that assesses a group of candidates’ abilities and capabilities for a job role. 

 What is an assessment centre?

Though it might seem like this pertains to a location, it is not. It is, however, a process. It usually is given at a company office, conference facility or even at a hotel.

It is basically a big, in-depth interview process for several people. 

This is often used for all kinds of roles at different stages of their career and this includes:

  • Fresh graduate starter roles
  • Corporate middle-management and executive roles
  • Management selection 
  • On-going staff development and training

It is often given after the initial stages of recruitment and selection process. This is due to the huge amount of time needed to conduct it. 

On average, an employee in UK would attend about 3 assessment centres during their whole career. 

What happens at an assessment centre?

Candidates are observed by assessors when they take the specially designed tests. This includes psychometric tests and exercises as well. Furthermore, these tests and exercises are given so that the company would have an idea or have specific information on the candidates’ mental ability and capacity. 

Each exercise relates to the job description and work environment of a specific job role. Through these exercises, the candidates’ skills are demonstrated and are often being matched with the requirements of the job role. 

68% UK employers and 72 % US employers use assessment centres as part of their recruitment and promotion process.

Employers and companies often depend on assessment centres as they put the candidates in pressure while performing. This process is effective in choosing through a huge number of candidates. Furthermore, it is able to identify individuals who have talent, perform excellently and will get well with other team members. 

How long do assessment centres last? 

It depends but usually it could take half-day to two full days. The more senior the role you are applying for, the longer the assessment will be. 

Who are the assessors?

They are usually the HR consultant and line managers of the company. They are often the successful people in the company. They know what qualities are required and would want to see for a specific job role. 

What will happen on the day?

Usually candidates are given coffee or tea upon arrival after which you will be guided into a welcome briefing with other candidates. You will have an initial address and will be provided with information about the tests and exercises and location of the rooms plus housekeeping rules such as washrooms and fire alarms. 

What exercises will I have to do?

You will have to do the following:

  • Presentations
  • Interviews
  • In-tray exercise or e-tray
  • Role-plays
  • Group exercise

There could also be some psychometric testing such as:

  • Personality questionnaires
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Numerical reasoning 
  • Logical reasoning 

For some companies and job roles, they could also administer other reasoning tests such as spatial reasoning, mechanical reasoning and inductive reasoning. 

What happens during each exercise?

You will find a more detailed information on each on the individual section found on this site. However, to summarize, each test, a group of observers will grade you depending on their criteria. At the end of the exercise, the observers will compare each candidate and will decide depending on the overall performance. 

You will be given a set of instructions including the description of each exercise that you will have to do. You will also be provided with the criteria on which you will be assessed and graded on. Unfortunately, you would rarely get feedback on the results of your performance. However, there are also some companies which would make this available after the event. 

Questions for you…

  • Will you be taking a numerical reasoning test or verbal reasoning test? If yes, we suggest that you check out our aptitude tests section.
  • You could find practice tests and get free advice on other types of reasoning tests like numerical, logical, verbal, abstract, inductive, Watson- Glaser, spatial, diagrammatic, mechanical comprehension and UKCAT
  • Are you worried about your assessment day or performing a presentation or preparing for an interview or group/in-tray exercise?
  • Would you like to get some guidance on how to deal with nerves and anxiety at your interview?
  • Check our tools and resources page. 
  • Listen to our podcast on verbal reasoning here.