Deloitte/KPMG assessment 2011

Response
#1

Just completed the online assessment for roles in tax within both companies.

I found the material on the forums really helpful in preparing myself to tackle these things, I may be wrong but it seems the posts on these areas are a little out of date so thought I would give my thoughts for the testing as it is now.

I should start by saying that I managed to get through all the tests successfully (thank god) so there is hope.

The first thing to reiterate is that preparation is the key, however do not be fooled by the tests on offer by websites such as assessment day. In my opinion the level of difficulty in these practice tests is much lower than you will find in either Deloitte or KPMG.

I purchased a full set of tests from ‘assessment day’ a year or so back and having been invited to do the real thing i prepared furiously, completing around 8 or 9 practice runs for both Numerical and Verbal. I clearly improved with practice and found myself being able to complete all the questions with time to spare with an accuracy of around 80% and perhaps closer to 90% in Verbal.

I have to say that such accuracy will be damn near impossible for the real thing. The type of maths required still relies on the same principles, however the difference is in the complexity of the information presented to you which required a great deal more thought to manipulate in order to get the answers. Therefore in this area my advice is to seek out the most complex examples that you can find. E-finance offer 3 tests which give a much better feel for how the information will be presented to you. This was particularly true with regard the KPMG tests where the exchange rate questions on the e-finance practice were almost identical to the real thing.

My personal problem with the real tests was in trying to avoid becoming despondent when I realised that time was rapidly running out and I was nowhere near completion (my ability to complete the practice exams with time to spare gave me completely the wrong impression). However the key really is to not panic (as I very nearly did) and just work at the best pace you can whilst ensuring the answers you get are accurate. Don’t be afraid to miss questions where you simply cannot see where the answer is coming from, this time is much better spent moving on to questions where you can see more clearly where the answer is coming from.

It would appear that the SHL tests used by Deloitte have changed in that once you have skipped an answer there is no possibility to go back to it. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case (KPMG you can jump around whichever questions you want). Its possible they are testing how you manage a finite amount of time under pressure, however this seems a little unnecessary. There is a balancing act required between spending too little and spending too much time on individual questions, especially when you can’t go backwards.

Practice will help with this, work out your answer, pick a response and stick with it. I find that allowing yourself to get drawn into an argument in your head about whether your response is the one the examiner is looking for is completely counterproductive. Very rarely will you come up with a better answer by thinking about it for another minute, particularly when your mind is being affected by the ticking clock in the corner. This is particularly true with Verbal exams, the first answer is in my opinion always going to be the best. Then don’t dwell on the answer while looking at subsequent questions. For one thing if you’re taking Deloitte testing you can’t change it anyway.

As regards the difficulty level I can only give my personal viewpoint and this will of course differ as to your particular skills.
With KPMG the rule that has been stated on these forums time and again still applies, they are the most difficult! However this carries with it the advantage that the marks required will most likely be lower. The information you are provided is that approximately 70% of people pass the test, therefore it follows that to get through you need to beat 30% of the field.

In practice I had traditionally found that my marks were much higher for Verbal than Numerical however my results for KPMG suggest the reverse. I got 72% for numerical and 50% for Verbal (these are percentiles btw). Whether I had a bad day I don’t know but my reflections directly after completion was that I had aced the Verbal and screwed up the Numerical. So I guess this just proves the old adage that you never truly know how well you’ve done. With numerical I think I answered approximately 15 questions (out of 24) before I got stuck and guessed a couple prior to the timeout. However, knowing that completion wasn’t my goal helped me to ensure some level of accuracy on the questions I could work out. Not sure about negative marking but I’m guessing it won’t be applied. It might be better not to guess bearing in mind you have 6 choices therefore your chances of getting one right by luck are fairly slim. However, you may disagree. The verbal one has 40 questions as opposed to the normal 30 which adds to the pressure. As I said I thought I had done extremely well and completed all 40 with massive amounts of concentration, but it perhaps appears that I would have been better advised to go for accuracy rather than quantity once again. In any case the texts in Verbal are similar in nature to those in nearly all practice tests on offer so this is good for preparation.

For Deloitte, I received no actual results for the tests, all I know is that I passed. The numerical test was slightly easier than KPMG but still harder than the majority of practices. I think I answered around 14 questions out of 19 while giving educated guesses to the remainder. With these there are only 4 choices therefore guessing some might not be such a bad option. Also, I felt that I was lulled into a false sense of security by the allowance of 25 minutes as opposed to the 20 I was used to in practice. Do not be fooled, it goes quickly so work as fast as you can. I’m sure dawdling cost me a question or two in the first 5 or so minutes. SHL offers only one sample test so I would advise you not to waste it as I did and attempt it late on in your preparation under proper timed conditions.

The verbal test was to my mind harder in nature than KPMG and this was down to the texts I received. It may well be that I got unlucky with the questions, however I found them to be much more complex and difficult to digest. The subject matter has a lot to do with this, for example I got one extremely difficult scientific text which I struggled to comprehend. The same advice still applies though, if you get confused don’t dwell as you will very rarely improve and you waste time better spent on later texts which will be much easier to digest.

Hope this helps, sorry it’s so long but having used the forums wanted to give something back that might help others. Good luck.

#2

As an addition I have just completed the process and have been succesful. I would be happy to offer advice to people who need it concerning the first interview stage and the final assessment centre as it is now.

#3

Congratulations on being successful! I’ve got first round interviews coming up with both companies for tax and was just wondering what the questions were like and if you have any hints or tips? Thanks!

#4

Hey there.

I actually failed my KPMG first interview and used it as a bench mark to spur me on for the subsequent Deloitte version which was in fact very similar.

All I can say is how I proceeded in terms of preparation the second time around and this seemed to work. Basically what I did was compile a list of around 15-20 typical competency questions and then came up with two thorough and distinct examples for each. I know this may sound tough and to be sure it takes time but I can assure you that when you get in there you are in complete command of what you are saying and this makes the world of difference. With KPMG I had no prep time and tried making them up on the spot and this clearly comes across poorly and is a mistake.

In coming up with examples I consulted the kent uni website which breaks down the competencies into their constituent parts and gives you some really good ‘buzz’ words to use in the real life situation. For example with teamwork think about delegation, co-operation, seeing different points of view as positive, enthusiasm etc. Once you have the initial example you can weave these elements into your discussion and make it sound a great deal better to the interviewer. In Deloitte a few of the competencies distinctly required two different examples. Having researched and prepared for this I am sure that it came across very well to the interviewer as I knew the examples instantly and he could tell I was well prepared.

The only problem area that might arise is commercial awareness. It caught me unawares for KPMG, whereas all my preparation for Deloitte was then wasted with very few questions being asked in this area. The classic advice for reading the times, FT and BBC website is useful, I also bought the economist for several weeks before the event. Although I am sure questions like ‘tell me about a company that is doing poorly’ must arise on occasion I did not have to answer them. The focus was more on the how clients and the company themselves are being affected by the current climate. It comes down to confidence, if you feel comfortable talking about these areas then fine, if not then read extensively and immerse yourself in the subject until you feel you can hold an intelligent conversation.

To conclude I think the question is to be as thorough as you can in anticipating questions and then you will find that there is very little with which they can catch you out, particularly in the competency interview. Know your examples so that you can recall them instantly, then when you’re in there you can concentrate on being as eloquent as possible. Rereading this it might come across as a bit vague, if you want any more specifics please feel free to ask.

#5

Thank you so much for your lengthy reply - I really appreciate it! Just a quick question though - in terms of the KPMG interview, did they ask loads of commercial awareness questions and general econonic issues? I was caught out at pwc when asked what I’d do if I were George Osborne so I’m determined not to get caught out on business questions again!

#6

I very much appreciate all the information here, it will certainly help!

Did anyone feel as though they were totally inadequate for the role at the big 4? All I seem to hear from friends is that Imperial, LSE and Oxbridge geniuses are the only ones who can get in. By contrast, it feels as though continuing my application is just wasting time.

#7

OK answers to these two questions. I have done about five competency interviews with big four and mid tier firms. As far as I can tell they have a list and will usually have to pick one or two questions, however I should say that commercial awareness includes questions like ‘why tax’ ‘why KPMG’. The question I was asked is how does the current economic climate effect KPMG and its clients. This was so vague and wide that it caught me out and the problem I encountered was in not knowing enough detail, therefore when i provided a broad answer which lead to a discussion I could provide no further details. Therefore if you are going to mention something then make sure you can handle any follow up as you will be leading the direction of the conversation. That said if you know a subject fully then you can make sure that you stick to what you know and dont veer off into areas that doesn’t suit you!

As far as oxbridge and LSE is concerned, my personal experience is no. I went to Exeter (top 10) and Durham (top 5) and studied arts. Good universities but not the best of the best. I come from a fairly working class background but I was not intimidated in the slightest and quite the contrary was particularly enthused by the people who interviewed me. To my mind the degree is only the foot in the door, wheras they are hiring the person in the interview.

If I had to say one element that I feel was vital in my approach it was enthusiasm. Know the role, know why you want to do it and show your passion. It sounds obvious but being excited by the prospect of working for the best is vital and Im quite sure that this is what swung it for me with the partner, particularly when I felt I had an average level performance in the e-tray exercise.

#8

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well. I am applying for the Marketing Graduate Scheme September 2015.

I passed my Assessment Centre last week and am just waiting on a date for a final interview with a Senior Partner. Can anyone offer any advice on this stage of the process? I have found that there is much more information on every other stage of the process. Anything would be a great help and I am more than happy to offer advice on any of the other stages of the process if you PM me.

Many thanks,

Lara