Aside from application forms, cover letters and interviews, an additional part of the training contract application process involves psychometric tests.
Many law firms now use these tests as a shortlisting tool, whether at the opening stages of recruitment or further on at an assessment centre. Wherever they’re set, it’s important that you know what each test entails, so we’ve detailed below the five main types of psychometric tests used by law firms and also included a table which lists the tests various firms use.
Critical Thinking Tests
The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is the most common critical reasoning test and is designed to test an individual’s critical thinking ability. It is used by recruiters – especially those in the legal industry – as a way of assessing whether an applicant has sufficient capabilities in recognising assumptions, evaluating arguments and drawing conclusions, all of which we’re sure you’ll agree are important when practising law. The 30-minute, 40-question test is divided into five sections which assess your skills in inference, interpretation, deduction, recognition of assumptions and evaluation of arguments. What does all this mean in practice? Let’s break it down…
The inference section of the test is all about assessing your ability to draw conclusions from observed or presented facts. You will be presented with information which you should consider as true and below will be a statement that is inferred from the text. Your job will be to decide whether the inferred statement is true, probably true, neither true nor false (meaning there is insufficient data), false, or probably false. Easy peasy, right?
This section measures your ability to carefully evaluate information. You’ll be given a short passage to read and then a suggested interpretation. You’ll have to judge whether the interpretation (or conclusion) follows or does not follow beyond reasonable doubt.
The section on deduction tests your ability to judge whether conclusions are justified. You’ll be presented with a short passage following which will be conclusive statements that have been deduced from the text. Your task is to decide whether the conclusion follows or does not follow based on the information from the original passage.
Recognition of assumptions
In the assumptions section of the test you’ll be asked to determine whether an assumption has been made in a given statement. You will be presented with an opening statement followed by a list of assumptions based on the opening statement. You’ll then need to state whether the assumptive statements are indeed assumptive or not, has an assumption been made or not? An example question from Pearson’s Watson – Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal test is below.
Evaluation of arguments
Your main task in this section is to evaluate the strength of an argument. After reading a statement and corresponding arguments, you’ll have to decide whether the argument(s) is strong or weak. Strong arguments are both relevant and important to the topic being discussed.
Situational Judgement Tests
Situational judgement tests are used to assess an applicant’s values and how well they align with those of the firm. The test comprises of a set of hypothetical workplace scenarios and asks the applicant how they’d respond to the given situation, either from a selection of answers or using a likert scale. The test gives recruiters an indication of an applicant’s behavioural and cognitive abilities and hints at their communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Because firms tailor their tests to their organisation, no two assessments will be the same. There’s no set way to pass a situational judgement test but our advice would be to answer truthfully whilst also keeping in mind the firm’s values and character – how would they expect their trainees to behave in a workplace setting?
Verbal Reasoning Tests
Remember the reading comprehension tests you used to do at school? Well, verbal reasoning tests are very similar. They’re used by employers to suss out an individual’s communication capabilities – how well can they comprehend complex passages and deduce information? Effective communication is important in any workplace, perhaps even more so in law, which is why many firms ask job applicants to complete the verbal reasoning test. The test typically has between 20 and 30 questions which have to be answered within 30 minutes, and will measure an individual’s ability to identify logic through analysis, interpretation and evaluation. How will it work? You’ll be presented with a passage to read and then have to decide whether a subsequent statement is:
a) True, meaning that the statement can be definitively assumed from the information given to you.
b) False, the statement does not logically follow the text that has been given.
c) Cannot say, there is no enough information given to you for you to be able to conclude that it is true or false.
With verbal reasoning tests it’s important to answer the questions based on the information presented to you, after all, the tests are assessing your ability to comprehend, analyse and deduce information, NOT how much you know about the topic being discussed.
Numerical Reasoning Tests
If you’re already fretting at the thought of having to sit a numerical test, you needn’t do so – trust us! The test isn’t full of quadratic equations and probability questions, but rather, presents numerical data for you to interpret and evaluate. You’ll be given graphs, tables and financial reports to analyse, percentage and ratio problems to solve, and perhaps even a question on currency conversion. Recruiters are looking to see how well you can interpret numerical data and draw conclusions from it, as well as if you’re able to identify critical issues from the information. Bonus – you’ll be able to use a calculator when completing the test so you don’t have to worry if your long division skills aren’t up to scratch!
Inductive Reasoning Tests
Inductive reasoning tests are designed to measure an individual’s ability to identify and interpret patterns. They’re similar to abstract reasoning tests in that they both present candidates with a word, number or image sequence to be analysed. Test-takers are asked to consider what is the rule of the sequence and how should the sequence evolve? Your overall test score will reveal how well you can apply logical reasoning and find solutions when presented with new and unfamiliar data. Recruiters use the test as an indicator of an individual’s problem-solving ability, analytic skills and mental flexibility.
Firms and which tests they use as part of their training contract application process*
*Only firms that have specified which test(s) they use are listed in this table. There are additional firms that use psychometric tests as part of their application process but as their website does not specify which, they have not been included in the table.
|FIRM NAME||TEST(S) USED|
|Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld||Critical thinking|
|Baker McKenzie||Situational judgement and verbal reasoning|
|Bates Wells Braithwaite||Verbal reasoning|
|Bevan Brittan||Verbal reasoning|
|Bircham Dyson Bell||Situational judgement|
|Bird & Bird||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|Charles Russell Speechlys||Situational judgement|
|Clifford Chance||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang||Critical thinking|
|Dentons||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|Fieldfisher||Inductive reasoning and verbal reasoning|
|Fladgate||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|Hill Dickinson||Critical reasoning|
|Hogan Lovells||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|HFW||Critical thinking and reasoning (at assessment centre)|
|Ince & Co||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser)|
|K&L Gates||Critical reasoning (at assessment centre)|
|Mayer Brown||Verbal reasoning and situational judgement|
|Michelmores||Verbal reasoning (at assessment centre)|
|Mills & Reeve||Critical thinking|
|Mishcon de Reya||Situational strengths and critical reasoning|
|Osbourne Clarke||Verbal reasoning|
|Penningtons Manches||Critical thinking (at interview stage)|
|Reed Smith||Situational strengths|
|Royds Withy King||Critical reasoning (at assessment centre)|
|Simmons & Simmons||Judgement, logical and verbal reasoning|
|Stephenson Harwood||Critical reasoning|
|Taylor Wessing||Online game based assessment called cosmic cadet. This is a game-based psychometric test, which looks at your behaviour and approach to each task to highlight certain personality traits, such as your ability to innovate. After completion of the assessment you receive a personalised feedback report that details your strengths.|
|TLT||Critical thinking (Watson Glaser) and verbal reasoning|