What is an assessment centre?

Assessment Centres allow employers to evaluate your suitability for a job by testing your skills in a variety of tasks. They are a good way of predicting potential, as they allow assessors to observe you for a longer period of time and in different situations, which isn’t possible in a traditional interview.

Students have provided us with detailed feedback on their Assessment Centre experiences, so make sure you check My Career Hub for insider information during your preparation. Simply login to mmu.ac.uk/careerhub, access the Resources page, and search for Assessment Centres.

Additional information is available here: bit.ly/assessment-centre

What to expect

Assessment centres are frequently used among large recruiters and are typically the final stage of the selection process. They vary in size from 6 to 25 other candidates and usually involve a combination of individual and group tasks. Some tasks are designed to mirror the job you are applying for, while others focus on desired competencies or behavioural characteristics. Assessment Centres usually last one to two days, sometimes requiring candidates to succeed in the first part to be invited to the second.

Potential Assessment Centre exercises


In-tray/e-tray exercises

In-tray exercises are designed to measure how effectively you manage your workload. You will be given a range of emails, memos, messages, reports and correspondence, together with information on the organisation. You’ll be asked to prioritise tasks based on the information provided, including drafting replies, delegating and recommending action to supervisors. There will be a time limit to complete the task. E-tray versions are very similar but taken on a computer.

The exercises assess your problem analysis and judgement skills, as well as communication and time management. You can practise an in-tray exercise at www.assessmentday.co.uk/in-tray-exercise.htm

Social Event

An informal event, such as a lunch or a coffee break, is likely to occur at some point, and whilst you’re not being assessed formally, you may be under observation. It is common for candidates to have lunch with current trainees and/or hiring managers, and this is your opportunity to find out more about the job and the company. Have questions in mind and talk to staff – bear in mind that assessors have been known to ask their colleagues for their opinion on meeting you.

Group Exercise

Group exercises can take different forms, such as a work-simulation exercise, followed by discussion around the problem-solving process.

Remember that this is not a competition; the assessors are observing how individuals work in the group and under pressure. This may include the ability to present reasoned arguments, effective communication, listening skills, participation, negotiation and/or co-operation. Your contribution to the team process will normally be more important than the outcome of the exercise.



Psychometric tests

Many graduate employers use psychometric tests as part of their selection process, whether at an assessment centre or during a preliminary screening stage. These tests assess the abilities and personality traits of job applicants and are often completed online. Find out more by reading the 'Psychometric Tests' guide on mmu.ac.uk/careers/guides. You can practise psychometric tests online for free through our Graduates First Test Portal at bit.ly/graduatesfirstportal.


Presentations can be challenging, but practice and preparation can help a lot. You could be given anything from 30 minutes to several days to prepare for a presentation. It’s also common for assessment centres to start with introductions, where you will have to talk about yourself.

For tips on how to prepare, read our 'Presentation Skills' guide at mmu.ac.uk/careers/guides, or attend one of our ‘How to present like a professional’ workshops, which can be found here: mmu.ac.uk/careers/events.


Role-plays are a business simulation exercise where you are given a brief and assigned a role for the exercise. They’re usually related to the type of work to which you have applied. For example, it’s a popular assessment for sales and customer service roles, where the assessor may adopt the role of a difficult customer.   

Assessors will be watching how you analyse the situation, how well you think on your feet, and how well you are able to express your ideas. You will be judged on your interpersonal skills, how you listen to and understand the other person, whether you develop a relationship with the other person, and the extent to which you are able to influence them and come to a mutually agreed outcome to the situation.


Prepare for Assessment Centre interviews as you would for any other. Research the organisation, keep in touch with current events, follow their tweets, and take the time to view the assessors’ profiles on LinkedIn. For more advice, read our ‘Interviews’ and ‘Researching Employers’ guides at mmu.ac.uk/careers/guides.

Your preparation

Careers and Employability Support

We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:

For more information visit mmu.ac.uk/careers