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Assessment Centres

Assessment centres give the employer the chance to observe you and see what you can do in a variety of situations.

Preparing for an assessment centre

Many large graduate recruiters include assessment centres as part of their recruitment process. They can typically last between a few hours and a few days. Assessment centres can either be in person or take place virtually.

As with interviews, a key to success is preparation and presenting yourself in a positive way.

How we can help you prepare

  • chat with an information adviser for tips and advice on what to expect and how to prepare. Book an appointment via MyCareer for this. 
  • attend one of our online careers events to learn how to prepare for and have a go at an assessment centre
  • read our ‌preparing for an assessment centre handout (PDF: 228KB), which outlines some of the key skills employers are looking for in candidates and ways you can develop these skills

The Institute of Student Employers have reported that 95% of employers used assessment centres as part of their selection process in the last year.


Virtual assessment centres

The employer will send you information in advance of your virtual assessment centre.

This will typically include technical instructions for joining and a timetable for the day. You may also get information about any tasks you need to prepare for in advance, eg a presentation. Make sure to read the information thoroughly.

Virtual assessment centres normally take place on platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts.

You may initially join a call with all other candidates and then be split into smaller ‘breakout’ rooms for other activities, eg group tasks. It can help to trial the software you’ll be using in advance.

On the day

During the assessment day, you will have to meet and deal with a variety of people, both selectors and other candidates. You'll take part in a range of activities, typically including a group task and an interview.

You can find advice on preparing for the various exercises on these pages.

Assessment centres can feel quite daunting, and it's important to keep your energy levels up. Remember to:

  • be confident and try to relax
  • turn off your phone
  • be polite to everyone - they may be asked for their input afterwards
  • ask questions, interact with the other candidates and show interest and enthusiasm throughout
  • read and listen carefully to instructions, take notes and ask questions if you’re unsure
  • know the skills, behaviours and experience the recruiter is looking for and try to evidence these throughout the activities
  • ensure you’ve read the information the employer has sent you thoroughly.
  • plan your outfit. Make sure it is professional yet comfortable.

For advice on how to chat to graduate recruiters during social breaks, visit targetjobs.

For virtual assessment centres

Though the above tips all still apply, here are some things to specifically think of for virtual assessment centres:

  • consider the location you’ll use to complete the assessment. Find a quiet space with a clear and tidy background. If you don’t have a space like this at home, you could consider booking a room on campus.
  • trial the software you’ll be using and ensure your webcam, speakers and microphone are all working.
  • plan your outfit, although you’re not attending in person, you still want to create a professional first impression.
  • if you’d find it helpful, you could have notes nearby. But keep them brief and somewhere you can easily see them so it doesn't distract you from looking at the webcam.
  • make sure your camera is angled so it’s not too close or far away. Try and replicate making eye contact by looking into the web cam directly.
  • be aware of your body language during video calls and show you’re actively listening to assessors and other candidates when they’re taking. You could practice answering interview questions using our video interview software and consider your performance from the employer’s perspective.
  • have a plan in place for what you’ll do if you have any technical difficulties. Have the employer’s telephone number and email address ready to let them know quickly if you encounter any problems.


You may want to share with a potential employer that you have a disability if you think a virtual assessment is going to disadvantage you. Companies should be able to make alternative reasonable adjustments if given enough notice.

You can discuss in confidence whether you should share information about a disability with one of our careers consultants. Free advice is also available from EmployAbility.

Further information

These websites provide further information on preparing for assessment centres:

Employer websites will often include further details of their assessment centres and tips for success. You can also ask employers about their selection procedures at recruitment fairs and employer presentations.

Further advice

Group tasks

Group exercises or discussions are a very common feature of assessment centres. The selectors are looking for key skills such as:

  • teamwork
  • communication
  • negotiating
  • persuading
  • problem-solving
  • planning
  • time management

To take part in a practice group exercise, look out for our 'Have a go at an assessment centre' workshops.

Tips for group tasks

  • Read all instructions carefully and understand what the aim of the exercise is. Don't jump into the discussion without reading the brief fully, but don't waste time on irrelevant details
  • Decide your objectives and priorities
  • Make sure that someone in the group is keeping track of the time
  • Make sure you contribute to the discussion, but don’t dominate. Be assertive but diplomatic and listen to and support others' good ideas
  • Be persuasive and work with the group. The aim is to help the group achieve the task - remember that you are not competing with the other candidates
  • Keep calm and use your sense of humour

Remember to tailor your approach to the competencies and qualities the employer is seeking, as well as the type of role or organisation.

Further advice on group tasks


You may be asked to deliver a short talk in front of the selectors and/or the other candidates. The selectors want to know whether you can put information across effectively.

You could be asked to prepare a short presentation on the day. This could be about a hobby, interest or achievement, or a recent news item. Alternatively, you may be asked to do a longer presentation that you prepare in advance.

If you're asked to prepare a presentation in advance find out as much as you can about the topic, don't be afraid to ask for more information.

Remember, very few of us are naturally talented speakers. Almost everyone will be nervous before a presentation. First time speakers often think nervousness is a sign that they aren't good at delivering a good presentation. This isn't true! All the symptoms that accompany nervousness are normal signs that your body is getting ready for something important.

Getting started

Ask yourself these questions before you start planning your presentation:

  • What are my aims?
  • How much time am I allowed?
  • Who is my audience and how much do they know about the subject?
  • Will they understand the terminology?
  • What resources are available, eg laptop/PC, flip chart, etc?
  • Which medium am I most comfortable with and which suits my subject or audience better?

Structure and content

Your presentation should have a logical structure, including:

An introduction

Briefly introduce the presentation. Include:

  • your name
  • the subject of your presentation
  • outlining the content
  • whether you are willing to take questions
  • when you want people to ask questions - either throughout or at the end

Main content

Make distinct points. Aim for no more than about five points in a 15 minute presentation


Summarise your main points

Make sure that the content is at an appropriate level to your audience, ie not too technical or patronising. Use examples to illustrate what you are saying.

Involve the audience, if appropriate, and don't forget to introduce yourself at the start of your presentation.


Your body language can affect the message of your presentation. Try to relax, smile and be positive. Avoid fidgeting or fiddling with hair, clothing or jewellery.

Follow our tips for delivering your presentation:

  • stand where the audience can see you and your visual aids
  • look around at your audience. Vary the person you make eye contact with
  • dress appropriately, and so that you are comfortable
  • aim for a conversational delivery - use notes as a prompt only; don't read your presentation
  • speak clearly and slow your speech down - there's a tendency to speak more rapidly when nervous. Try taking deep breaths to slow yourself down
  • use pauses to allow yourself time to gather your thoughts and for the audience to catch up

Practise your presentation in front of a friend and ask for feedback. You can also practise in front of a careers consultant. Contact the Careers Service to arrange this. If this feels worse than the presentation itself, you could practise in front of a mirror.

Make sure you keep to the allotted time.

Visual aids

Find out what resources are available to you. If there's a choice, use what you're most comfortable with.

Here are some tips for preparing your visual aids:

  • if you use a laptop or PC, think what you will do if there is a technical problem
  • don't depend on visual aids alone, you should be able to deliver your presentation without them if necessary
  • consider providing a handout, but decide if it is really necessary and at which point to distribute it, before or after
  • keep your slides clear and simple, they should illustrate or summarise what you're saying, not talk for you
  • consider using images, they give the audience a break from reading
  • don't put too much information on your slides, seven lines per slide is a good guide


Try to anticipate and prepare for likely questions:

  • don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you don't understand what is being asked
  • re-phrasing the question for the audience can give you some thinking time
  • keep the answer simple
  • if you don't know the answer, acknowledge the question and offer to get back to them with the information


Resources for preparing for presentations

The following websites have useful information on preparing for your presentation:

Case studies

In a case study task or case interview, you are typically given a question, situation, problem or challenge and asked to come up with a solution.

Case interviews are often used for management consulting or investment banking positions. You would be expected to ask the interviewer probing questions to help you understand the situation, gather relevant information and arrive at a solution or recommendation. You may be asked to calculate or estimate a specific number, such as market size or profitability.

For some questions, there may not be a right or wrong answer. The employer is more interested in how you demonstrate reasoning and approach problems.

You can also be given a case study that you will need to present on paper.

Case studies can be given as a group activity or as an individual exercise. Typically, you are given a set of papers relating to a particular situation and asked to make recommendations in a brief report. You are being tested on your ability to:

  • analyse information
  • think clearly and logically
  • exercise your judgement and to express yourself on paper

Practise case study exercises

You can practise doing a case study on Graduates First in the video interviews section.

To access the practise case studies:

Current students 

  • Go to the Newcastle University - Graduates First portal
  • Register using your Newcastle email adress ( and complete the registration form in full
  • If you have a disability that could affect your performance (eg. dyslexia), you can request additional time when registering 

You should receive an email providing you with a link to confirm your email address, and then you are ready to start, If you don't receive an email after registering, please check your spam folder. 


If you are a registered Newcastle University Graduate, you'll need to contact us, stating your full name and email address, to request acess to Graduates First. Please also let us know if you require additional time. This may take a few working days. If you have an assessment centre coming up shortly, please let us know.

More example case studies:

  • Bain and Company – tips on how to prepare plus online practice cases
  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – interactive case study and practice cases showing examples
  • Marakon – tips and a practice case study
  • McKinsey – practice case studies and case interview tips, plus video of what to expect during the interview


Advice on case studies and case interviews

The following websites provide further advice about case interviews and case studies:

Role play and e-trays

Another type of exercise at an assessment centre may be role play exercises and e-tray exercises.

Role play exercises

Role play exercises are used to assess skills such as communication, influencing, or negotiation. It is very common if the position has lots of interpersonal interaction, such as sales and customer service roles. They are also often used in police recruitment and for some healthcare and medical roles.

In a typical example, you would play the part of an employee being presented with a client problem or complaint. You need to resolve the issue effectively. The assessor would usually play the role of the client.

Role play exercises can also be used to assess suitability for managerial and leadership roles. For example, you could be asked to play the part of a manager having to discuss and resolve a performance issue with a member of your staff.

You should research the role, know the key skills and competencies the employer is seeking and try to emphasise these.

You should also research the organisation, what are its values and principles, eg is it highly client-focused?

Manage your time and pace yourself appropriately. Also try to stay relaxed and demonstrate your ability to work under pressure.

Get into character. Try to forget this is an exercise and act as if it’s the real thing.

Further advice on role play exercises

The following websites provide further advice on role play exercises:

E-tray or in-tray exercises

In this type of exercise, you will be given an in-tray containing emails, telephone messages, reports and letters. You may have an email inbox containing electronic versions of the above. You may also be given information about the organisation to help you make decisions as to the actions you would take.

You will need to prioritise the work, draft replies, delegate tasks and recommend actions. You will be assessed on how you handle lots of complicated information in a limited amount of time. You may need to justify why you have made certain decisions.

For further information, see Wikijob: In-tray and TARGETjobs.

Example exercises

For example exercises see the following websites: