Psychometric tests and skills tests – what’s the difference and what’s the value

Psychometric tests and skills tests are often used in job selection.  Both can be vital tools to help you find the best people for the job.  But what exactly are they, and what are the differences between these two types of tests?

Psychometric tests are instruments that tell us about individual differences: such as personal characteristics or cognitive ability (intelligence), compared to other people.  Skills tests tell us about whether a person can perform a certain set of tasks, and how well.  While they might sound quite similar, they are actually different.  The main differences between psychometric and skills tests are their design, their applicability and what conclusions can be drawn.


Test design

Good psychometric tests are based on sound theory, data gathered on large groups of people and complex statistical analyses.  Because they are based on this research there is a level of assurance that the test is measuring what it is designed to measure, and further, an individual’s results can be compared to the data gathered on other people – known as normative data.

An example would be a cognitive test that examined fluid intelligence, or the ability to solve novel problems.  Research and theories about fluid intelligence have shown that a good test to measure these skills is Matrices – solving a puzzle by finding the next piece that completes the pattern.  The Matrices test has been developed based on this research, tested on large groups of people and refined.  When it is given to a job candidate performance can be compared to the normative data – was their performance average, above average or below?

Skills tests are based on more concrete and discrete abilities.  For instance, Microsoft Office skills tests assess knowledge of and ability to use the features of the MS Office applications, Word, Excel, Outlook and so on.  Rather than being based on theories they are based on the features of the individual programs.  An individual’s results will show which skills they do and do not have.  Packages assess basic, intermediate and advanced skills.


Cognitive ability tests and personality tests are useful indicators of performance in virtually any job.  Together they can account for up to approximately 60% of the variance in performance by employees (Bertua et al., 2005; Schmidt & Huntert, 2004; Salgado et al.,2003).  Cognitive ability tests have the widest applicability, followed by certain aspects of personality (e.g., Conscientiousness).

Skills tests tell us whether an individual can use a certain program that is likely to be necessary for a job.  They don’t tell us anything else about their broader abilities or suitability for a job.  For instance, an accountant would likely require solid skills in MS Excel and other programs such as MYOB, and a secretary would require skills in MS Word and general typing skills.  An office assistant may require only basic MS Word skills, whereas a personal assistant may require intermediate or advanced skills.

What conclusions can be drawn

Psychometric tests have wide applicability.  The research underlying the psychometric tests can help us to draw conclusions about what this is likely to mean in the workplace.  Performance on a cognitive ability test can reveal whether a person is suitable for a complex job or a job requiring a high level of attention to detail, for instance and performance on a personality measure can reveal whether a person is suitable for a job requiring high levels of sociability or teamwork and how they are likely to react in an emergency.

Skills tests have a relatively narrow applicability.  They can show whether the candidate has a basic, moderate or high level of skill on a certain test that is needed for the job. These skills are necessary but are only one small aspect of the job.

Finding the right tests can be confusing.  RightPeople understands this.  We have the expertise to help you find the best tests for your business.  Contact us and let us help you tailor a package of tests that will best suit your needs.

New Era of English Language Assessment for Australian Schools [Press Release]

Microsoft Word Matters – Most Popular Corporate Software

Time Management Scale – The Utility of ATOMS

Employee Engagement Essential in Professional Services Firms

English Second Language Training and Support

Multitasking Ability and Intelligence

Employee Retention Linked to Shared Values and Interests

Skills needed by multi-taskers

Getting the most out of psychometric assessment

Organisations are reaping the benefits of psychometric assessments

Job/person mismatch is a leading cause of underperformance

Recruiting older workers

The key advantages of well-designed skills tests

Minimising the impact of disruptions in the workplace

Protecting your business against fraud and misconduct

Multi-score performance ratings work!

Multimedia and multi-tasking

Speed, working memory and ageing

Tips when hiring a casual workforce

Report reveals the benefits of skills testing

A theory on managerial success: managers need “soft skills” too

Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to employee ethics

Job performance in the global economy: how the meaning of job performance varies cross-culturally

Research shows: cognitive tests strongly predict job performance

Bribery and corruption – are organisations informed and prepared?

RightPeople in China!

Surveys could be key to cutting staff turnover

Attention: employers of skilled migrants

Organisational growth requires understanding your people

R your employees OK?

Due diligence can avoid legal issues

Keeping employees happy

‘GPS building’ for your organisation

The hidden costs of employee disengagement

Baby boomers are booming at work!

Work safety needs a human touch

Changing face of the workplace

Importance of ‘soft skills’ in the workplace

How engaged are your employees?

Safeguarding our workforce

Surveys profitable for businesses: a case study

Safety matters, just ask Orica!

Striking out

Recruiting the Gen Y employee

Streamline your recruitment process to attract top talent!

Fraud and misconduct prevention

Psychometric personality tests

Psychometric tests and skills tests – what’s the difference and what’s the value

More on skills tests v’s psychometric tests – declarative and procedural knowledge

Theory based cognitive tests

Personality can influence performance on cognitive tests

Sleep and the workplace: the latest trends and research


Selecting Job Applicants in the Age of Social Media

Assessment in Organisations – Current Status, Trends and Emerging Issues

How safe is your contact centre?

Safety first?

How emotionally intelligent are your managers?

Identifying your strongest and weakest leaders

Testing for Workplace Bullies

Psychometric Aptitude Tests vs Referee Checks

The Multi-Tasks Test as a Predictor of Management Performance





Needle in a Haystack: Getting the Right Graduate Can Prove to be a Tricky Task

Using Integrity Testing in Order to Deter Employee Theft and Absenteeism

Implementing Skills Testing Into the Interview Process


The Big 5 Facets

RightPeople’s Time Management Research

Personality Assessment – The Five Factor Model

RightPeople in the News – Sydney Morning Herald Article

You Can’t Beat Psychometric Testing

What We Know about Emotional Intelligence

Human Resources in the Modern Workplace

The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance