Step 9: Preparing for assessments

Assessments are common in the legal recruitment process. In this Step we look at what you could be asked to do, and how you should prepare.

Step 9 Resource book

Read our comprehensive advice and guidance for this Step of your career.

Step 9 Weblinks

Below is a list of key websites which may be useful for those preparing for assessment centres.

SHL: http://www.shldirect.com
Website for SHL one of the leading providers of psychometric tests. The site contains advice and practice tests.

Hogan Lovells: http://graduates.hoganlovells.com/apply_now/critical_thinking_test/
The Hogan Lovells (law firm) website provides a sample of the Watson-Glaser critical thinking test.

Prospects: www.prospects.ac.uk/interview_tips_psychometric_tests.htm 
The Prospects website provides advice and links to a number of useful sites.

Assessment Day: www.assessmentday.co.uk
The website Assessment Day provides a range of practice tests. 

Step 9 Workshop

Watch our online workshop which provides a comprehensive overview of this Step.

You can also read the transcript here.

Step 9 Activities

Access practical activities relating to this Step and apply the information contained in the Resource book and elsewhere.

Download our assessment activity here 

Step 9 FAQs

Preparing for assessment centres

At my interview I have to do a psychometric test and I’ve never done one  before – what can I do to prepare?

How do I cope with delivering a 5 minute presentation: I get terribly nervous when I have to speak in front of people and I’m dreading it.

I’m dreading the lunch ‘social’ bit of the assessment day: what do people talk about?

My interview is in front of a panel of interviewers: how should I deal with that?


Q. At my interview I have to do a psychometric test and I’ve never done one  before – what can I do to prepare?

A. Go online: many of the standard psychometric tests used by employers are available to practise free online. The Prospects website has information on testing and links to a number of practise sites.

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Q. How do I cope with delivering a 5 minute presentation: I get terribly nervous when I have to speak in front of people and I’m dreading it.

A. Not everyone is gifted with natural confidence and ability in public speaking, but it is something you can improve on. If you come to, or are at, The University of Law, the careers team will be able to give you some advice on presenting and dealing with nerves. During your course you will also get used to presenting back to your fellow students. In the meantime, here are a few tips:

  • if you can choose your topic, make it a relatively ‘easy’ one so you’re not worrying about difficult terminology or content (for instance, a 5 minute presentation on ‘how to make the perfect bacon sandwich’ can be interesting and engaging if done well, without the worry of stumbling over legal jargon)
  • write out your script, then read it aloud, and re-write it so that it follows normal speech patterns
  • put the main points on ‘flash cards’ as prompts in case you lose your thread
  • practise, practise, practise it as often as you can so that you know the content really well and can concentrate more on your delivery 
  • stand up when you’re practising – it’s a different experience speaking on your feet, and often it gives you more confidence (the way that if you have a confrontational phone call to make, it can help to stand up when you do it!)

On the day, don’t admit to anyone (fellow candidates, or employees of the firm) that you’re dreading the presentation: you don’t want to flag up that you’re anything less than 100% confident in your presenting ability.

Remember that content is only one of the factors the assessors will be less interested in - they’re going to be looking at such things as your confidence, communication skills and ability to build rapport with – and engage - an audience.

Finally, remember to smile occasionally, look around the room to make eye contact, and slow down – if you’re nervous you’re likely to speed up in your haste to get it over with!

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Q. I’m dreading the ‘social’ bit of the assessment day: what do people talk about?

A. Firstly don’t forget that although it’s a more relaxed environment, you should assume that someone is assessing you from the minute you enter the law firm to the moment you leave (and don’t immediately light up a cigarette or talk loudly about your experience on your mobile phone just outside!).

During the social elements of the visit, don’t quaff large amounts of alcohol to calm your nerves: aim for friendly, confident but not arrogant, and most of all show that you are interested in the firm and its people.

Most people like talking about themselves, and it can be a good ice breaker to ask an employee of the firm about him/herself. For example you might ask a trainee which seats he/she has undertaken, what work they have been involved in, what level of client contact they have. For an associate, perhaps ask whether they trained at the firm, what their area of specialism is, what they most enjoy about working at the firm. At partner level, you could ask for example how they would describe the ‘culture’ of the firm.

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Q. My interview is in front of a panel of interviewers: how should I deal with that? 

A. In panel situations, usually the interviewers have divided up a pre-set series of questions between them before the interview.

An old chestnut is ‘bad cop/good cop’ interviewing scenario, but that can often be down to either the way the questions have fallen to individual interviewers (one set of questions you might just happen to be less comfortable with than another set, so you may perceive that interviewer as a ‘bad cop’). Or it can be down to personal style: and it’s not necessarily the interviewer who smiles and asks the seemingly easy to answer questions who is the ‘good cop’ – he/she may just take a view that a candidate is more likely to reveal their true colours if you set him or her at ease. Correspondingly, an interviewer who challenges you may not be a ‘bad cop’ – but may believe that the best way to get to know the ‘real you’, and how you would behave in a difficult situation, is to give you a chance to show your mettle.

So don’t be fazed by a panel, or try to second guess them. Make sure you greet all the members politely. When answering a question, make sure that you respond primarily to the interviewer asking the question, but try to also look at (and smile occasionally) at the other panel members, to include them in your response. In other words, answer the person who is speaking to you, but maintain eye contact with the rest of the panel, and make them feel included in your answer.

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Step 9 In brief

Our 'In brief' summaries highlight the key learning points of this Step. 

Practice areas

Information on different areas of the law: what it covers, what it's like in practice, current issues, and further information.

Case studies

University staff pass on their experience of what it's like to work as a lawyer in practice.