Published on July 17, 2018 by isabellaford

Do you have as assessment centre coming up soon for a training contract or vacation scheme? Wondering how to impress?

Here is everything I wish I’d known before embarking on mine. I draw from my experiences of two assessment centres I attended: Herbert Smith Freehills and Accutrainee

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1. A basic knowledge of contract law is needed

At the assessment centre, you may be given a case study to prepare. As I discovered, the case study required some knowledge of contract law. 

In my opinion, having a basic idea of the following will guide you in AC’s

  • Knowing the five elements of a legally binding contract;
  • ‘Agreements to agree’are normally void for uncertainty;
    You may be a given a contract defined as ‘heads of terms’. The parties agree that they will negotiate on the given terms which may be ‘’subject to contract’;
  • Knowing the difference between ‘Warranties’ and ‘Conditions’, and that a buyer may want ‘Warranties’ from a seller;
  • That an agreement not to negotiate with other parties (a ‘lock-out agreement’) is void, unless the agreement has a time limit.

2. The assessment centre might be close to exam time

This will definitely be the case if you apply for a spring vacation scheme. Chances are the assessment centre will be held in January.

When I was invited to an assessment centre by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), they held their assessment days in the week I had two exams. I could therefore not prepare as thoroughly. 

Do check when the assessment centre are likely to be held. 

3. If you have a group exercise, someone will try and talk over you

At HSF, the group exercise took the form of a negotiation. Two people tried to dominate the discussion and the rest of us were regularly cut-off. 

That unfortunately is the reality, having heard similar stories from a number of people.

If that happens, add structure to the conversation. Try and involve others (ask them their opinion), and move the conversation along (ask the group to address the next point)

You are being tested on your ability to lead as well as your ability to work with others. Being too silent or too loud gives the assessors a bad impression.

Want more assessment centre tips? Read our article on Assessment Centre 101 >>

4. Your interviewer is not out to get you

The process is nerve-racking, and in both HSF and Accutrainee, my interviewers could sense that I was nervous. 

However, in both assessment centres the interviewers reassured me that they were marking me positively. In their words, they wanted to get the best out of candidates. 

It helps to be confident in giving your answers, to pause for a moment before answering, and to appear enthusiastic. 

If you are asked a technical question, as I was in the both competency based interviews, you are not expected to know the full answer. You are being judged on how you approach the problem.

5. You should leave yourself plenty of time to find the firm

At both my assessment centres, I arrived at the firm’s address in advance. I am grateful I did, because I still found it difficult locating the actual office. 

My own suggestion is to arrive around 30-45 minutes earlier than asked, and relax in a nearby coffee shop until 10 minutes before you were asked to arrive.

6. It helps asking other people about their experiences at an assessment centre

Your own friends (or friends of friends) might have first-hand experience at an assessment centre.

I certainly gained a lot of valuable advice speaking to friend who had secured a training contract at HSF. I do wish though that I had sought more advice from friends before attending. 

They will be able to give you insights on how the group exercise was conducted, what questions were asked at the competency interview, and insights into issues arising from the case study

7. Be sure you know exactly what will happen on the day

Not all firms use group exercises (American firms for example). At Accutrainee, no group exercise took place. The most important part of the day as I discovered was the competency interview. 

Some firms will only conduct a competency based interview and a case study. You may even be asked to prepare a presentation in advance, which I did for Accutrainee.

Knowing what will happen beforehand will help you to prepare. For instance, you can spend more time doing mock interviews if there is no group exercise.

More on preparing for an assessment centre:

Author: Jagmaan Bakshi


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