Situational Judgement Test

Just after I put up a blog about assessment centres I got a question about how to prepare for a situational judgement test, SJT.

SJT is a set of exercises created to measure your behaviour and attitude to work-related situations. It gives the employer an insight into your decision-making process or style within the work environment. You will also get a better understanding of the role and kind of work situations you might encounter in the job for which you are applying.

You will be presented with some different scenarios that you are likely to experience in the job. You are then given a number of different suggestions for each scenario, usually about 3 or 4. You will be expected to make a choice and judge which is the most appropriate or effective action to take if you were faced with such a situation. Some answers are either ‘multiple-choice’, ‘ranking’, ‘most effective’ or ‘rating’ and you might also be expected to provide a rationale for your answers. There is generally no time limit, but you might find that some employers have a cut-off point

The situations are generally based on real-life aspect of the job. So for example, you might be asked as a member of a consulting team, you notice that the numerical analysis of another team member, John, is missing some important data and will affect the team’s final recommendations. John, however, is very confident about this section of his report and is not interested in your opinion. What are you most likely to do and what are you least likely to do in this situation?Featured image

To prepare for these tests you will have to practise and practise again. Since there is no particular training or knowledge required, start with the employer’s website, where you might be given an opportunity to practise the test and provided with additional information about what is expected, how many questions and how much time. This will at least present you with an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the format. When you practice please pay particular attention to the presenting situations, what you are being asked to respond to, the possible answers and whether you are being asked for information about your most/least likely response or your judgement.

To practise these tests visit and register. Once you have registered, you should receive a confirmation link that will give you access to your own members area of Assessment Day. Once you’ve completed the tests, you will also be able to review your results.

Other tests are available at Survey Monkey; EU Training; SHL and YouTube

Diana Omololu


Secrets of successful learning


If you subscribe to the New Scientist, then you’ll have seen the article last Friday with ten top tips for successful learning – very timely, as exams approach.

Here’s a link which sadly only works if you are a subscriber to New Scientist, so if that’s you, click away and read no further!

The current issue is still on sale this week so it could be £3.90 very well spent…

However if you don’t have access to the article, then here some tips to help learning and recall.

1. Know when to learn and when to rest – are you a morning, afternoon or evening person? Sleep helps to consolidate memory so bear that in mind. Studies have shown that there is increased activity in the hippocampus region, involved in thinking, during a rest break after studying.

2. Quiz yourself – interestingly, and rather counter-intuitively, it seems that trying to retrieve the information you need from your brain is as useful as actually finding it in terms of later recall. Recall is also improved if you think you might have to teach the subject to somebody else later, so even pretending to do that can have quite an impact.

3. Learn with a buddy – ideally, once you have studied something by yourself, get together with a group of three to six people and share your collective wisdom.

4. Play video games if you are learning a musical instrument – apparently this trains your brain to form accurate brain templates for hand-eye co-ordination.

5. Forgive yourself for procrastinating as long as it’s not a regular occurrence – and then get on and do something – self forgiveness helps you to deal with negative feelings about yourself so you can move on. However, beware: if you are a serial procrastinator, self-forgiveness can just consolidate the cycle of procrastination. If this is you, then start small – take a positive step to exercise willpower in any area of your life and then celebrate your success before moving on to the next step.

Let us know what you think – and good luck with your studying over the Easter break!

Philippa Hewett.

What is an assessment centre?

We have recently seen a number of students wanting information about how to perform well at assessment centres. The main questions they ask is what is it and how do I perform well?  Basically, it is an employer location; some call it a recruitment location/centre where they will test you to see if you have the skills and abilities to do a particular job.  You would have received an invitation from the employer, because at this stage of the recruitment the employer thinks you have great potential and they would like to me you and get to know you better.

The key to performing well is preparation, just as you would prepare for any examination or essay. Assessment centers are designed specifically to assess your suitability for a job, and you’ll go through a series of tasks and activities that are structured to see whether you can do the job. So typically in addition to more interviews you may have:

Firstly, read the information from the employer carefully, this will tell you what to expect on the day; what  sort of activities the employer is going to use to assess you, so that, if you have to prepare a presentation or brush up on your numerical (maths) skills, you have some time to do so before the day. If you are not sure, please do contact the employer for further information.

Go over your application again, review the job details and company information.  You can also look at the employer website, news website and newspapers for recent articles involving the employer, its competitors and the business sector.

Practice interview sessions can be arranged with SOAS Careers Service.  We also have various opportunities for students to practice psychometric tests as well.

Plan your travel well and allow an additional 30mins for delays. Remember to take the direction and contact details with you as well.  Think about what you are going to wear in advance, first impressions are instant and it takes seconds for a complete stranger to formulate a positive or negative opinion of you, so consider carefully your outfit for the day.

For more information about assessment centres please do contact the Careers Service on tel: 020 7898 4115, email:

Diana Omololu

Prepare to be an interview STAR(R)!

11 March alum session

Preparation, preparation, preparation….

The need to prepare thoroughly for interviews was one of the hints and tips which came out of our latest mock interview workshop held on March 6th. Olamide Bada (SOAS LLB 2011) now a Corporate Associate at Baker and McKenzie LLP was part of our interview panel and gave valuable feedback to students on how to develop their interview technique.


This week’s mock interview candidates were applying for jobs in law, journalism and the charity sector. It was clear; however, that researching the organisation and being able to talk fully about why you wanted to work for them was a key element of any interview.  What has your target employer achieved recently?  Who are their competitors?  Who are their clients?  What challenges may the organisation be facing?  All of these questions can be starting points for research which, when used in an interview, can show that you have gone that extra mile as a candidate.


Don’t forget to think about how to structure your answers effectively.  The recruiter needs to be able to understand the context, what you did and what the outcome was.  Try using STARR to present examples of what you have achieved when asked to describe a time when you have worked in a team, solved a difficult problem, initiated a change or used a variety of other skills.

Situation: Describe the context in which your example takes place.

Task: What did you do?

Action: How did you do it? What action did you take?  This is often the part of the answer that candidates miss out.  Don’t just say that you ‘negotiated’ or ‘persuaded’.  What did this involve?

Result: What did you achieve? Try to be as specific as possible.

Reflect: What did you learn from this experience?

And there’s more

Imagine the scenario, you have just given a good answer, well structured and full of evidence but the interviewer wants more! Be prepared for follow up questions to explore, in more depth, the examples which you have given; what would you differently next time?  What would you do if….

Practice makes perfect  (or at least very good!)

When was the last time outside of an interview that anyone wanted to know what you greatest achievement was or when you worked effectively in a team? We rarely need to answer these questions in our day to day lives so getting some interview practice before the real thing can be very helpful indeed. Olamide suggested that recording yourself answering some common interview questions will help you improve your technique. Are your answers structured, do you use umm or aahh too much or do you speak too quickly? You could ask a friend to play the part of the interviewer and the Careers Service has a great handout on ‘Challenging interview questions’ which you could use.

If you want more practice

  • Forthcoming Alumni Mock Interview sessions will be advertised on our events page and our newsletters.
  • Use Interview Simulator to practise your interview technique against the clock. You can record your answers and then compare your responses against video advice from employers. Please contact us for more information.
  • If you have an interview coming up then you can book a practice interview with a Careers Consultant. Contact us for details.

As one of our mock interview candidates said at the end of the session

‘The whole mock interview process really gave me an insight into what to expect from a real interview….I’m much more confident now’

Who is influencing your career ideas?

What I wish I’d known: Jan Wilkens (MSc Middle East Politics 2012)

Who is influencing your career ideas?  For Jan Wilkens, currently working and studying for a PhD at the University of Hamburg, the support and encouragement of academic staff plus insights from work experience has had a great impact.

As an undergraduate, Jan really enjoyed his classes on International Relations and was able to get a part time job as a Student Assistant in a research team working for the Professor in this subject.  He supported the team through assisting with research but also taught first year students as a seminar assistant.  This experience, combined with the encouragement from his Professor, began to make him think about an academic career. Whilst studying for an MSc in Middle East Politics at SOAS his dissertation supervisor encouraged him to apply for a PhD as the next step towards working in academia.  Jan chose to go back to Germany to do this for a number of reasons including availability of funding. He was able to secure a job which also enables him to study for a PhD, back at the University of Hamburg with the research group headed by his former Professor.

Jan feels that his current role provides him with very valuable work experience for the future. In addition to teaching, researching and writing applications for grants, he is a project manager for a large scale research project which involves coordinating the research of 8 academics. This significant insight into the ‘business’ of research, how systems work, the politics and funding have helped to confirm his interest in  an academic career as well as providing some solid evidence to include in Post-Doctoral applications. And just in case you wondered if he could fit anything else, he is working on a book project and, oh yes, his PhD as well!

Jan is realistic about his future and acknowledges that sometimes no matter how well prepared PhDs are for moving into a Post-Doc position, funding may not be available so the practical project management skills which he is acquiring now along with his other work experience can be transferred to other roles outside of research.

Work experience can also help you decide what you don’t want to do.  Jan interned on a project with refugees for part of the UNHCR in Syria during his undergraduate degree. Whilst he gained a very useful insight into how an international organisation works and developed further valuable skills including project management, it also helped him realise that this wasn’t the sector in which he wished to work.

So what are Jan’s tips for current students thinking about a PhD and beyond?

  • You don’t necessarily need to go straight onto a Masters after completing your Bachelor’s degree and could use the intervening time to get some valuable of experience related to your future career or area of study. Jan felt that it might be more difficult for students to go onto work after their Masters course then return to study for a PhD.  From his perspective, the intensity of the Masters level study really creates a momentum that can carry through into the Phd and having a break from this along with, perhaps a good salary, from employment, might make the return to being a student more of a challenge.
  • Think carefully about why you want to do a PhD. You may have a real passion and interest in your subject but how will the qualification fit with your long term plans? Don’t use it simply as a way of postponing decisions about your future.
  • Competition is tough for academic and Post-Doctoral positions so start building your portfolio of experience during your PhD, for example, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Claire Rees

Spring clean your career!

Now the weather is turning towards summer (and exams!), why not take a moment before it all gets too stressful to have a think about the C word. Yes, Career!

Take yourself back to when you were 5 – what were your hopes and dreams? Do you still have them? In fact, do you have a dream for what you want to do after University, or are you just hoping something will come up and it will all be OK?

There is a case for the latter view – Google ‘planned happenstance’ if you want to know more – and I’ll blog about this soon, but today’s offering is about taking some time to think about where you are now in relation to your career thinking, where you want to be, and how you might get there.

So, take a moment and think about how close you are to knowing what you want to do as a first step after University. Whether you do or do not, the SOAS Careers Service is there to help you – so use our resources online or come and see us for a 15 minute Quick Query to help you to define where you are now in your career thinking and to move to your next step towards where you want to be.

How you might get there will be as individual a process as you are, and so coming in to talk to us is often a good idea.

However, here are some useful tips to help you with spring-cleaning your career

1. Review your CV – yes, sounds boring, but really useful to make sure it’s ready to personalise when you find that perfect internship opportunity or graduate job. Here’s some advice on a ‘can’t go wrong’ CV – or come to one of our CV workshops (Mon, Weds. Friday) if you want to find out more about how to personalise your CV to make it stand out.

2. Make a note of your key achievements over the last few months and then add to it on a regular basis. Employers want to know what you’ve achieved and the scope of it, and you can remember those details (for example how much money you raised for charity) if you note it at the time.

3. Think about your contacts or social network – how can these help you to define or find your perfect role? and have you ever Googled your name to see what’s out there on social media about you?

And if all else fails and you sill have no idea, then please do come and see us for a quick consultation soon – it may be the most useful 15 minutes of the spring for you!

Ever thought of working at a University?


Aspiring educational fundraisers – exciting Graduate Trainee Scheme opportunity with @CASE_Europe

Are you seeking a stimulating and varied career where you can make a difference to the world? SOAS is taking part in the CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Europe Graduate Trainee Scheme as a host institution for the first time this year, and applications are now open. Recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates may apply for this year-long, paid internship programme.

Working within a world class university, this training programme will launch your career in educational fundraising.  Philanthropy helps researchers to find cures for major diseases; scientists to develop solutions to poverty, inequality and environmental issues; and provides access to a university education to transform lives.

This Scheme has been developed to provide an entry point into a fulfilling career raising money, engagement and support for UK universities. Today the advancement community has never been more needed. With government funding for universities decreasing, institutions must raise more private funds and garner more support in order to continue making a difference to the lives of students, local communities and the benefactors of world-leading research.

Each graduate is recruited to a host university where he or she spends an in-depth year learning on the job. Trainees will work within each area of the university’s development function, including alumni relations, prospect management, annual and regular giving, stewardship, campaigns, major gifts, events and partnerships. The breadth of this experience in a tight timeframe provides graduates with a fully rounded view of fundraising in higher education and its vital supporting operations.

Visit for more information and to apply.

Application closing date 9 March, 6:00 pm.

Philippa Hewett