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The University of Southampton
Careers, Employability and Student Enterprise

Assessment Centres

Assessment Centres are used by many graduate employers, however, they are more common with the larger recruiters. They involve a range of activities, which are likely to last one or two days, held either on company premises or in a nearby hotel. Assessment Centres are often considered to be the fairest and most accurate method of selecting staff as you are being measured against a clearly defined set of competencies e.g. leadership, creativity, flexibility.

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An assessment day
An assessment group activity



You can find more information on the different types of Assessment Centres and the types of activities you might be tasked with in our Interviews and Assessment Centres Guide.

Assessment centres are likely to include some or all of the following:

Social events

These are events where you can meet other candidates, the selectors and recent graduate recruits in an informal setting.

Information sessions

These inform you about the organisation and the roles available.

Psychometric Tests

Psychometric Tests may be arranged to take place before you reach the assessment centre stage or on the day of the assessment centre. They comprise of:

  • Aptitude tests taken under exam conditions and designed to measure thinking and reasoning skills such as numerical, verbal and diagrammatic reasoning.
  • Personality inventories.  These are not usually timed and with no right or wrong answers, they are used to assess what you are like as a person and how you might react in different situations.

You can practice some of these kinds of test online at Yondur.

Case studies

These test your ability to analyse information quickly and accurately, to think logically and express yourself in writing. You are likely to be given a set of papers relating to a particular situation and asked to make recommendations in a brief report. There will be a time limit and not all the information given to you will be relevant. No prior knowledge is required.

In-tray/E-tray exercises

These exercises involve being given information via email or hard copy, including memos, letters and company information. You are asked to carry out tasks such as prioritise actions, draft replies and delegate tasks. The exercise is time limited and tests ability to sift complex information, make decisions and plan.

Situational Judgement Tests

Situational Judgement Tests are designed to check a candidate's ability to evaluate abilities and understanding of their limitations in work related situations, scenarios and conflicts. You can find free examples of such tests via the Assessment Day site.


Presentations can sometimes be on topics given and prepared beforehand but more usually have to be prepared on the day. Many of you will have given presentations as part of your degree course and know that planning and practice are the key to success. Keep it simple with no more than 6 main messages. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you've told them. Concentrate on clear communication rather than overloading your audience with masses of detail.

Group activities

These can involve completing a practical task in a team or taking part in a discussion. The selectors are looking at your ability to work well with others. Actively listening to others can be as important as getting your own ideas across. The aim is to help the group achieve the set task constructively. Don't be tempted to compete if an individual in the group takes over and dominates; it is better to wait for your chance to suggest other members have some input. Remember to make sure the group keeps to time.


Interviews at assessment centres can be one-to-one or panel interviews. Questions may refer back to your first interview, to the assessment centre activities or to aptitude test results. The interviewer may be from the department to which you are applying and the questioning will be more in-depth and probing at this stage.

For further information on Assessment Centres we have a range of e-books available as well as learning paths and additional resources on our UoS Career Hub, under the 'Assessment Centres and Aptitude Tests' tile.

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