A Complete Guide to Graduate Scheme Applications

By Nikki Pham

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For current students and fresh graduates looking for an early career programme for after the end of their degree, the recruitment process for these roles can be lengthy and intimidating; especially the seemingly ‘mythical’ online assessment stage, also known as Aptitude Tests or Psychometric Tests. However, with the right knowledge and strategy, nothing is unachievable and you will land your dream graduate programme on time. Here is a complete guide to the whole application process of graduate schemes, with a focus on getting through the first big hurdle - psychometric assessments.


Research and registration

Most students and graduates are likely to have had an industry, a list of companies and a few job roles of interest in mind; so before you even start, have a close look at these employer’s career websites, read reviews, and interview tips on LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Most important of all, remember to browse additional Aptitude Test resources, as this would be the very first challenge after you have registered. Every psychometric assessment can differ greatly depending on the role’s requirements and the test publisher used, so it is best to familiarise yourself with this well in advance and you will feel much more confident with this early stage. 


Online assessments

Some of the most common queries regarding online Aptitude Tests include what the questions look like, who uses them and how candidates can pass to get onto the next stage, where they can actually charm hiring managers in person. 


Firstly, Aptitude Tests or Psychometric Tests consist of a few main types:

  • Numerical Reasoning Tests - these assess applicants numeracy proficiency and their basic mathematical knowledge, for relevant industrial applications
  • Verbal Reasoning Tests - they test candidates literacy proficiency, critical and analytical thinking, also in industry-related contexts
  • Diagrammatic Reasoning Tests - using either two or three-dimensional shapes or objects as well as forms and colours, these measure one’s observational skill, logical thinking and ability to notice patterns
  • Situational Judgement Tests - often go hand-in-hand with Personality Tests, these offer insights into one decision making process and behaviours in specific, hypothetical workplace scenarios


All of these are used by most employers across the globe, sometimes exclusively for entry-level positions with a structured training programme like internships, placements, and graduate schemes. Not only are they an efficient screening process for the huge pool of applications received, but they also provide a fair process where young and inexperienced talents can show off their true potential, without the need of a CV or the interference of human biases. Passing Aptitude Tests is not easy but it is totally possible; diligent practice and a thoughtful approach is essential. Every practice session should be under exam conditions as this will get you used to and more confident under pressure, and it is also important not to dwell on hard questions for too long as non-attempts can get your total score deducted. Finally, avoid falling for trick questions by remembering to answer exactly what is asked using only the information provided, instead of your general knowledge of the world.


Interviews and assessment centres

Once you have reached these stages, you can start feeling proud and simply focus on presenting and articulating your best self. Some employers filter candidates through two interview stages, one over the phone or on video platforms (this might be a pre-recorded interview rather than you speaking directly to a person), and the other in person; while some keep it short and sweet with just one face-to-face interview over video conference call or at their office. The very last stage is an assessment centre, which is also the most exciting but also challenging part of it all. These normally last for about two hours or a bit longer, where there are group activities, presentations and one-on-one interviews with those will directly manage and mentor you if successful. No matter the outcome, the most important thing all candidates across all fields should do is to always send a follow up email and ask for feedback; as this shows you are eager to learn and plus, you will gain honest, objective advice to improve further. 

About the author:
Nikki Pham is currently studying an MA in Creative Enterprise in Cardiff. She works as a copywriter, particularly in the space of higher education, early career and business. She is also developing her own creative startup using her skills in social media, communication, illustration and design.

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