What is a graduate assessment centre?

Debra Rutherford
29 April 2022
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What is a graduate assessment centre?

If you have decided to apply for graduate training schemes the likelihood is that you will encounter assessment centres. Although each company will tailor the experience to their organisation and the attributes that they are seeking in their graduate trainees assessment centres follow a similar format.

The intensive experience is a crucial part of the graduate training recruitment process. It can take place in one day or often over 2 -3 days. 

Why do organisations use an assessment centre?

When an organisation takes on employees as part of their graduate scheme they are looking to the future of the company. Candidates are carefully selected to fit the company ethos. A graduate trainee is usually offered permanent employment upon completion of their training. It is in the companies interest to invest time and resources on finding the best candidates. 

Likewise an assessment centre will help you to decide if it is the company for you. Far more in depth than an interview you will get a gauge for the organisation and if it shares your values and is indeed a place you want to spend your working week.

Graduate training programmmes are highly sought after and incredibly competitive due to the accelerated nature of the chosen candidates progression. An assessment centre is designed to delve deeper than an interview in fodning out about the candidates, their ability and how they may handle certain situations.

What Can I expect from an assessment centre?

Generally speaking an assessment centre follows a similar agenda including many of the following:


Group Exercises

Psychometric tests

In-tray exercises

Ability tests

Technical Tests

Written Tests



You are likely to recieve a presentation about the company. This is your opportunity to find our more about them and ultimately see if they are the right fit for you. Listen carefully as you are bound to gain insights into the company that will help you with the rest of the assessment.

Group Exercises

“There is no I in team” as they say. It is all very well being able to work at a high standard, however, your prospective employers will be assessing how you work as part of a team. Ensure that you join in and put yourself forward as this will show your willingness and leadership skills.

Psychometric Tests

The chances are that you will have completed a psychometric test before being invited to the assessment centre. Be prepared to take the same one again, a tactic to check that the answers are similar. Or there may be additional ones. We recommend doing practice tests to prepare.

In Tray Exercises

Theses are business simulations tailored to the role for which you are applying. For example you could be asked to participate as a certain member of staff and describe what you would do in the situation. These simulations are rarely straightforward. Be aware of curve balls, designed to see how you react when things don’t go to plan.

You could be asked to write emails, responses to clients, deal with staff issues, proritise workloads. Take your time to understand what they are asking for.

Ability Tests

Again theses vary greatly depending upon the type of role. For example if you are applying for a technical role you may be given problems to solve. 

A role in marketing may ask for a piece of content to be written in the companies tone of voice.

Often following the ability tests the assessors will ask how you found the task. Always use this opportunity to engage with them and explain your processes.


Like any interview the interviewees are seeking to find out more about you. This is the part that is more personal. It gives you the opportunity to speak about yourself, where you have been and where you aspire to be. It is your chance to dazzle them with your personality.

Of course there will also be a technical element to the interview so be sure to know your stuff and be able to link your experience to the role.

Find out about graduate schemes with top UK employers at Our Graduates.


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