Frequently asked questions

PwC endeavour to identify and select the best candidate for each role in our firm. To this end, we use various means to assess candidates during the recruitment process.

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Often assessment tools are used in addition to reviewing candidates' CVs/Application forms and interviewing them

Tools, such as ability tests, offer us objective information about candidates' abilities. Each candidate who applies for a role will offer a unique set of skills, experience and characteristics. If we identify key abilities required for a role we can introduce different tools into the process to measure these abilities. All candidates for the role can then be compared in terms of the level of skill they demonstrate in the assessment.

Types of assessment tests

The tools used in our assessment processes vary widely. In each case, only relevant and reliable tools are used.

The nature of the role for which we are recruiting will dictate the nature of the assessment we use. In some cases candidates may be asked to do one or more, or a combination, of the following:

Ability tests

Ability tests are usually presented in a multiple-choice question and answer format for completion either online or in person at one of our offices. All questions have a single correct response and alternative incorrect responses. Your achievement is measured on the basis of the number of correct answers you can provide in the time allowed. The best strategy for tests of this nature is to work as quickly and accurately as you can, but not so quickly that you make careless mistakes. If you are not sure of an answer, mark your best choice but avoid wild guessing.

For example:

Candidates applying for roles which require numerical reasoning skills, i.e. the ability to extract and understand numerical information provided in a range of formats (e.g. graphs or tables), may be asked to undertake a numerical reasoning exercise.
Candidates applying for roles which require an ability to understand written information in reports or briefs may be required to undertake a verbal reasoning exercise. These exercises typically consider a candidate's ability to extract relevant information from written text.

Case studies or in-tray exercises

In some cases assessment tools are designed specifically for candidates applying to a particular role/type of role, to measure very specific abilities. These tools can take a variety of forms, including case studies or in-tray exercises.

For example:

Candidates applying to a role where industry knowledge is essential, and consultation may be required, may be given a case study exercise. The content of the case study is directly relevant to the role for which candidates are applying. In these cases, candidates are required to use their existing knowledge and experience to identify key information from the brief. This information may then need to be reported on orally or in writing in the form of actions recommended for the client concerned.
Candidates applying for roles which require planning, organising and coordination may be asked to undertake an in-tray exercise. In an in-tray exercise the candidate is presented with a number of pieces of information which they are asked to sort, prioritise and take action on.

Personality questionnaires

Personality questionnaires measure a candidate's preferences for certain types of behaviour. Candidates are asked to describe themselves - their preferences in communicating and interacting with others and their typical working style - by rating the extent to which a number of statements apply to themselves. The output is a report which describes the candidate's likely working style, interpersonal approach and preferences overall. Personality questionnaires add to the richness of the information gathered in other parts of the assessment process which recruiters can use when considering a candidate's suitability for a particular role overall. There are no right or wrong answers in a personality questionnaire. The best response to offer is an honest one.

If you are asked to complete any assessment exercises as part of your application to PwC, you will be advised in advance of the particular tools that will be used.

Next Steps

Visit the British Psychological Society testing centre online

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Taking numerical tests and more

Some of our assessments are done online, others take place in person.

Online Assessment

Ability tests as well as personality questionnaires can be administered online. If you are asked to undertake an online assessment, you will need access to the internet. Make the necessary preparations to ensure that you are not interrupted (e.g. turn off your phone and let people know that you should not be disturbed). Allow yourself more time than required for the actual test/assessment so that you can go through the instructions, and any example questions, at a relaxed pace. You can get first hand experience of taking online ability tests by doing an online practice test. You can visit www.shldirect.com and try one now.

Notes about SHL's practice tests

SHL is a company that specialises in producing psychometric tests. On the SHL Direct site you will find some examples of verbal and numerical reasoning test questions, similar to those you would find on real tests.

If you choose to complete the timed practice tests, you will be asked to register your details on this site. This is to help SHL develop a better understanding of who completes their practice tests and they will use this information to ensure the feedback you receive is relevant to you specifically. You won't have to wait for a login to be sent to you and you will be able to proceed directly to the test itself.

The actual test will be timed, so bear this in mind during your practice runs. The best approach is to work both quickly and accurately, so keep calm and think about your answers.

When you have finished practising on the SHL site, you can return to our site and carry on looking around.

If you complete an online ability test, we will review your test score in context of your application details and decide whether or not you are likely to be successful if we progress you to the next recruitment stage. You will then be advised accordingly. If you complete an online personality questionnaire your test results will be provided to you, in the form of a written report, once an overall recruitment decision has been made.

Assessment in person

If you are invited to attend an assessment session, this will most often take place in one of our offices. You may be assessed on your own or with a group of candidates. If you are part of a group, please be considerate of any other candidates you meet, including respecting their privacy and confidentiality. If you are asked to take one or more psychometric tests at one of our offices, the testing session will be managed by a certified Test Administrator.

More about what happens at a test session

Ability tests are standardised to ensure that all candidates' assessment experiences are consistent.

Following a brief introduction by the Test Administrator, the formal test will begin. The instructions for doing the test will be read to you. This may seem a little stiff and formal but we do it for good reason: we want to ensure that each candidate that takes a test is given all the relevant information, accurately and completely. During each test's introduction, you will be given some example questions. These are provided to help you understand what you have to do before you start the test itself. You will also be offered an opportunity to ask questions before you start the test. If you have any questions in advance you might find answers to them on the frequently asked questions section.

Once your test session has been completed your scores will be considered, along with the other information gathered during the recruitment process, and a recruitment decision will be made. At that point you will receive a written report (usually by email) which provides you with a meaningful interpretation of your test scores.

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Prepare for taking tests

In order to achieve your best possible result you should first establish what type of assessment you'll be asked to complete. Once you have this information, consider our top tips for maximising your potential:

Before the assessment

You will receive information ahead of your assessment session which will tell you where and when your assessment will take place as well as how you can prepare.

  • Carefully read the information we send you about the assessment session.
  • Make sure you know when and where you have to attend.
  • Make use of practice materials to practise your skills and ensure you understand the task. As well as the materials we send you, you can find additional practice materials on the internet.

SHL Direct

Note, what we refer to as the "logical" reasoning test is referred to as Inductive reasoning tests.

You will need to permit pop ups from this site to run the practice tests.

Psych Testing

If you would like to try any further practice tests, then you can find links to various other companies on the British Psychological Society's Website.

  • Find opportunities to practice using the skills that are to be assessed, e.g. if you are undertaking a numerical test, utilise every day opportunities such as shopping trips or reading a financial newspaper to test your numerical understanding and practise calculations.
  • Tell us in advance if you are not clear about the assessment process or have any concerns.
  • Tell us if you have any special needs (e.g. if you have a disability) well before the session so we have time to make the most appropriate arrangements for you.
  • Let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend for any reason.
  • Get a good night's sleep before the session.
  • If you require reading glasses or a hearing aid, please be sure to take these with you to the assessment session.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the session punctually.

During the assessment

A certified Test Administrator will manage your assessment session so you can rest assured that you will be told clearly what to do and how to do it. We endeavour to make all our candidates' assessment experiences professional and fair. Please help us by being considerate of any other candidates you may meet during your assessment, including respecting their privacy and confidentiality.

  • If you carry a mobile phone or pager with you, turn it off before the start of the test session.
  • Pay full attention to test instructions.
  • Make sure you have understood a question or a task before responding.
  • Many tests have strict time limits. If you are being timed, try to work through questions quickly but accurately.
  • If you are asked to complete a personality questionnaire this is to help us understand your typical approach to work. Try not to think too long about each question. Your first response is likely to be the most accurate and best reflect your behavioural style. If you are not sure how to answer, try to think of how you behave when working. Attempting to second guess what is wanted can give an erroneous or inconsistent impression.

Next Steps

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Frequently asked questions

Each different assessment tool will have its own scoring system. You will be given directions during the introduction to the test to indicate the best strategy for answering.

In most cases, for ability tests, your accuracy can be checked. Our advice is to work quickly and accurately. If you are unsure of an answer, it is advisable to mark your best choice but avoid wild or random guessing. Your 'best choice' is when you have narrowed the answer down to one probable answer or two likely answers, and then you select one of them. Wild guessing is when you cannot decide which of the multiple-choice answers is correct and randomly pick one.

Is there a pass mark for the test?

Prior to using any assessment tool, we will consider what level of achievement would indicate that a candidate possesses the level of ability required to successfully carry out the work involved in a particular role.

Your results will be compared with the level of skill required for the role to which you have applied. In each case we will rate your performance in comparison to a population of candidates who have a similar educational background to you and have previously applied to similar roles.

Does it matter what order I answer the questions in?

In some cases the questions in a test will become progressively more complex; but this is not always the case. It is best for you to listen closely to the instructions given to you at the assessment session in case any specific rules are provided at that time. Usually the best strategy is to work through all questions as quickly and accurately as you can.

Am I expected to finish the test?

Some people will complete an ability test in the time allowed, others will not. Do not be overly concerned if you are unable to finish all the questions. You will be scored on the number of correct answers you give in the time allowed so work as quickly and as accurately as you can.

Will you tell me how I did?

Yes, usually by means of a written report (sent by email) which provides you with a meaningful interpretation of your assessment results. This will be provided to you in conjunction with the feedback you receive on the rest of your application, once a recruitment decision has been made.

Can I use a calculator during my numerical test?

Candidates are permitted to use calculators in many of our numerical ability tests. Whether or not you will be permitted to use one will be clearly stated to you in advance and re-stated to you by the Test Administrator at your session.

In every case, be assured that the rules that apply to your testing session will be applied to all other candidates for the same role.

If you are permitted to use a calculator we will provide one for you. If you prefer, you may bring your own along.

I have substantial experience/qualifications for the role I applied for. Why do I need to take tests as well?

Assessment tools used by PwC give us additional information regarding particular areas of ability which cannot be assessed objectively from other parts of the selection procedure, such as details of your level of numerical reasoning ability or the quality of your report writing skills.

Each assessment focuses on a specific, job-relevant skill, so it may be that people who have less or little experience of a particular job would be very capable of doing the job, and by doing the test they have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills. All candidates for a role will be asked to complete the same assessment exercises allowing them all to be compared on a fair and objective basis.

Can I fail the tests? And if so, what effect will this have on my chance of getting a role?

When we choose a test for candidates to take, we consider what level of test performance would indicate that a candidate would be able to meet the needs of the role.

For example:

A role may be highly interactive and interpersonal skills would be imperative for the successful completion of the role's duties. There may also be a requirement for understanding and sharing financial information in the role, but that may be of secondary importance. In this case we would set a higher standard/requirement for indicators of a candidate's interpersonal skills than we would for their numerical reasoning skills.

Your test results will have an impact on the recruitment decision but we do not use them in isolation. Rather, we consider them along with the other information we have gathered during your assessment so that we can form an overall view of your suitability for a role.

PwC's commitment to candidates completing the assessments

We are committed to the fair and ethical use of assessment tools. We have provided information to help you to understand why and how we use assessment tools in our recruitment process. We have also prepared a detailed statement of our commitment to all candidates.

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