How to Pass Your E-Tray Exercise (Includes Practice Test Exercise)

In this guide, you will be able to access information on what to expect during your E-tray exercise and we will also provide you some tips and tricks that will help you pass and succeed this test. 

E-tray is the electronic version of the in-tray exercise (paper-based). Its principles for success is similar and identical with the in-tray exercise. 

What is in this guide?

  • Essential E-tray resources
  • E-tray exercise example and links to more
  • Simple steps to E-tray exercise success

Essential resources for E-tray exercise success

  • Practice a real E-tray exercise here.
  • Listen to our podcast on E-tray here.

Get a copy of the Ultimate Assessment Day & Interview here.

What is the E-tray exercise?

E-tray exercise is administered by employers to candidates for them to be able to assess the candidates’ ability/ies to handle the workload of a typical day. It is an exercise which is in a format of a business simulation.

What does the e-tray exercise measure?

This exercise assesses one’s analytical, written, communication, delegation skills and business acumen. Furthermore, it also tests and evaluates on how well you:

  • Efficiently use your time and resources
  • Prioritize your workload
  • Anticipate and resolve problems
  • Identify, investigate and address key issues
  • Delegate and liaise with others

The e-tray also provides your prospect employer an idea of your overall work style and approach. 

How does the e-tray exercise work?

At the start of your e-tray exercise, you will receive a background information on a situation and scenario. This information includes:

  • Information on your role and responsibilities 
  • Key issues and objectives of the organization
  • Organizational chart and a list of staff whom you will be responsible for.
  • Summary of 3rd party relationships example: customers, distributors and suppliers
  • Business calendar

This sounds really terrifying! 

Most candidates are nervous about this type of exercise, but, do not worry as we will help you and guide you to succeed and pass this exercise. 

Tip: e-tray exercise is a test that would assess and check your skills on prioritizing, delegating and communicating. You will have to project yourself into a role and how would you respond to a situation in the real work environment. 

Can you give me an e-tray exercise example?

Of course! Here is one example:

You have just returned to work following a two-week holiday. Your colleague who was covering for you during your absence has left a pile of work on your desk marked for your attention. It includes reports, memos, emails, presentations, telephone messages, handwritten notes from colleagues, webpages and letters. 

You need to review each item and then provide the following:

  • A list of actions which includes your analysis of each of the items
  • The priority that you would assign to each
  • Include who should be involved (colleague, department, 3rd party, other stakeholder, etc.)

You have 60 minutes to complete the exercise.”

Tip: read the brief and the documents provided to you. Try to have a total understanding of the entire exercise and do not rush through it. 

3 Simple Steps to E-tray Exercise Success

Step 1- Get in to the right mindset

You will need to keep in mind and understand what the key things your employer would want from the role. Ensure that your decisions are relevant to what the employer wants and its goals and aim. 

Tip: Ask the HR department for a job description for the role that you are applying for. Do not worry as this is fair and it will help you prepare. Aside from that, you will also show the HR personnel that you are a very initiative individual and you have the drive to get the job. Job descriptions include the core competencies that are required for the job role that you are applying for which would give you an idea on how to handle and tackle the exercise. 

Step 2- Scan and prioritize

Identify and prioritize your workload. Identify which are the most important and urgent tasks. Here is a good example on how to do this. 

n-Tray Exercise 1

Put a number on each box

n-tray exercise 2

Imagine your workload and review each item. Remember we are only listing and prioritizing each one. We are not in the process or solving anything at the moment.

For each item:

  • Identify the issue or problem. Try to understand and see if there are any implications. What are the motivation and drivers of the sender?
  • Check on the details. Are there items that have deadlines?
  • How important and urgent the issue is?

Use the four boxes and assign each item. Group your documents in four piles or you could electronically do them by marking them 1 to 4.

In box 1 you put all the tasks that are both important and urgent.

n-tray exercise 3

Box 2- important but not urgent. This could be dealt after items in box 1 are all solved and done.  

ast stream in-tray exercise

Box 3 are those that are not that important to your role but needs an urgent response. These items are urgent for someone else or for other department but needs your judgement. 

-tray exercise

Box 4 are those that are not important and are not urgent. This should be your last priority. You could even consider not addressing this. 

n-tray exercise 6

Now that you have set your priorities, you could now address each item in an orderly manner:

ivil service fast stream

Step 3- Deal with each item

 In all the items that you have written in box 1, you will need to list actions including analysis of each item, what priority you will assign for each item and identify who should be involved such as colleague, 3rd party or other department. 

While you are doing this, you will have to consider the following:

  • How will you deal with this in the real world?
  • What could you do to solve this issue and when? – now or in the future?
  • Should you delegate it or take ownership for it?
  • Who could help you to solve the issue/s colleagues or 3rd parties?
  • Do you need to flag this or follow up?
  • Write down all your observations. This will help you review your documents especially if you have more than 30. 

Tip: Remember this exercise measures your skills and ability on writing, prioritization, analytical, communication, delegation and business acumen. When doing this exercise remember and consider all of these. 

Repeat everything for boxes 2,3 and 4. 

Update your CV before your interview:

One of the biggest mistakes when going to your interview is not improving your CV. Here’s why:

  1. Update your CV before the interview event and take with you a fresh, newly and improved version. One that is tailored to the job or role you would want. 
  2. In interviews, one of the basis of your interview will come from the information on your CV. No matter the interview is competency based or no. You will have to answer the questions based on your CV. 
  3. Your CV is one of the basis in the hiring decision process. It is your CV that they look at when they decide whether to hire you or not. 

The CV is the one that reminds the hiring manager of what your skills and experiences are and what happened during your hiring process. Aside from that, your CV is also your first and last impression. With this, we remind you to make your CV as strong as you could. 

Final 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
  • Would you like to get some guidance on how to deal with nerves and anxiety at your interview?
  • Check our tools and resources page.