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How to Succeed at E-Tray Exercises in 2024

How to Succeed at E-Tray Exercises in 2024

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What Is an E-Tray Exercise?

An e-tray exercise is a simulated computer-based exercise used as part of an assessment centre. The assessment centre exercise requires you to read and respond to a series of messages presented in an email inbox. There is an exercise in a fictional work/business scenario where you have been given a particular job role.

You will be asked to read each item and make a decision on range of key issues that arise. This will test a candidate’s ability on a range of things, including communication skills, time management skills, problem-solving skills and abilities to do urgent tasks in a work environment.

In order to respond to the emails, you will need to refer to various pieces of useful information given to you, for example background information on the company, an organisational chart, or newspaper articles about your company or industry.

No prior knowledge is required to complete the exercise and all the information needed is provided within the assessment.

Purpose of E-Tray Exercise Assessment

Employers use e-tray exercises to assess a set of core competencies that are required for a particular work role. These competencies are often assessed by employers during an interview following the e-tray exercise, through the use of competency-based questions.

Competency-based questions, however, involve describing a past situation or task when you have exhibited that particular quality. With an e-tray exercise, employers are able to assess these competencies first hand in enough time.

An e-tray exercise helps them assess your ability to manage and respond to a series of different tasks, to negotiate conflicting demands and analyse different priorities. Some of the core competencies which employers assess during e-tray exercises are:

Time/Task Management

  • Ability to delegate
  • Ability to prioritise

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Client Focus

  • Flexible and adaptable when dealing with client requests

Analytical Skills

  • Ability to evaluate the relative importance and urgency of information

Interpersonal Skills

  • Ability to respond tactfully and take into consideration different personality types

Negotiation Skills

  • Ability to consider multiple and/or conflicting demands and decide on a course of action that contributes to the overall benefit of the organisation

Decision-Making Ability

  • Ability to make accurate and quick decisions

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Items Allocated During the E-Tray Exercise

At the beginning of the e-tray exercise, you will be provided with background information regarding your job description in the organisation and other key facts such as the organisational structure.

The items allocated to you during the e-tray exercise could include any of the following: Emails, Invitations, Memos, Letters, Complaint letters, Telephone messages, Staff information, Organisational charts, Policy documents, Reports, Newspaper/magazine articles, Calenders, Reviews- internal and external.

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5 Top E-Tray Exercise Tips

In deciding how to respond to each task, you will need to consider the following:

Step 1. Tip 1 : Who Is the Item From?

What is the individual’s significance to the organisation? Are they an internal stakeholder, such as a staff member? Or are they external, such as a client, customer or supplier?

Step 2. Tip 2: When Was the Item Sent?

Check the date of the item and consider if there is a deadline. Is this deadline flexible? If you are unsure, is it possible to confirm or arrange for additional time to attend to the item?

Step 3. Tip 3: How Important Is the Issue?

Some e-tray exercises will ask you to sort the item into ‘urgent’ ‘non urgent’ or ‘important’ before you proceed to choose your response or how you would action the item. Consider how the item affects the organisation and in what way.

Consider which areas of the company are affected by the item, for example:

  • Inventory supply
  • Cash flow
  • Legal
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Health and safety
  • Union relations
  • Competitors
  • Company reputation

Step 4. Tip 4: Do You Need to Attend to the Item Personally and Straight Away?

Some items will require your personal response, while others can be delegated or forwarded to another staff member or colleague.

Additionally, assess how urgent the item is or if it could be deferred to action at a later time.

Take into consideration who has sent you the item when assessing it’s urgency and importance.

Step 5. Tip 5: Do Certain Tasks Need to Be Completed in Order?

Are there tasks which need completing before moving on to others? Can tasks be bundled and addressed by the same person and actioned at the same time? Are there conflicting tasks?

E-Tray Exercise Typical Structure (2024)

Most e-tray exercises will be divided into three parts:

Part 1: Reviewing Background Information

You will be provided with some background information about your company and your role. These may be presented as on-screen email folders.

These folders or documents often contain information such as the organisational structure, company mission or objective, your team, your area of work, company policies or procedures, press cuttings, and other background information relating to your scenario.

Part 2: Multiple-Choice Email Response

In part two you will respond to emails by selecting a multiple choice option. Some tests may ask you to choose two responses- the ‘most likely’ response along with the ‘least likely’ response for the same email. Other e-tray exercises will ask you to choose one response from three or four options.

The tests currently used by Deloitte and KPMG use the latter format. Often, in a simulated exercise, these emails will appear in your inbox with increasing frequency as you answer them and particularly towards the end of the time limit.

Part 3: Written Email Response

After completing the multiple-choice section, you will then be given the task of constructing a written email. Employers will be assessing your grammar and written English ability during this part of the exercise. This means you should ensure your response does not contain any spelling mistakes as there will be no spell check available.

Take into consideration who the email is addressed to, and choose an appropriate tone for the person you are replying to. Employers will also be looking to see how you structure your email. If you are given two emails to respond to, ensure you manage your time effectively so you are able to respond to both adequately.

Employers will also be testing your reasoning ability during the written response, as the exercise will often ask for you to make a recommendation and provide reasons to substantiate your decision/recommendation. A key technique is to plan what you are going to say before you start writing, and to write your concluding paragraph first and work backwards providing supporting arguments for your conclusions.

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How To Prepare for the E-Tray Exercise

The e-tray exercise is a type of assessment used by some organizations to evaluate a candidate's ability to handle realistic workplace tasks and scenarios. It's often used as part of an assessment center or selection process. Here are some steps you can take to prepare for the e-tray exercise during the application process:

Step 1. Understand the Exercise

Begin by thoroughly understanding what the e-tray exercise entails. Review any provided information or instructions. This could include the context, objectives, work scenarios and the specific tasks you'll need to complete.

Step 2. Practice Time Management

The e-tray exercise usually involves multiple tasks that need to be completed within a limited time frame. Practice managing your time effectively. Break down the allotted time for each task and stick to your schedule.

Step 3. Familiarize Yourself with the Tools

The exercise may be conducted using a computer-based platform. Familiarize yourself with the tools and interface you'll be using. This may even include usng tray exercise examples.

Step 4. Brush Up on Relevant Skills

The e-tray exercise may require skills like communication, decision-making, prioritization, and problem-solving. Review these skills and think about how they can be applied in a professional context.

Step 5. Read and Analyze Information

You'll likely be presented with various pieces of information, such as emails, reports, and memos. Practice quickly reading and comprehending these documents. Focus on extracting key information and identifying the main points.

Step 6. Prioritize Tasks

The exercise often involves multiple tasks with different levels of urgency and importance. Learn how to prioritize tasks effectively. Consider the potential impact of your decisions and actions on the organization's goals.

Step 7. Practice Problem-Solving

The e-tray exercise may present you with challenges or dilemmas that require problem-solving. Practice analyzing situations, considering different perspectives, and coming up with effective solutions.

Step 8. Enhance Communication Skills

Effective communication is crucial in a workplace scenario. Practice writing concise and clear emails, memos, or reports. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and the overall structure of your communication.

Step 9. Simulate Real Scenarios

To practice for the e-tray exercise, create or find realistic scenarios similar to what you might encounter during the actual exercise. This could involve responding to emails, making decisions based on provided information, and collaborating with virtual colleagues.

Step 10. Stay Calm Under Pressure

The e-tray exercise is often timed and can be intense. Practice staying calm and focused under pressure. Techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness can help you manage stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Candidates are often evaluated on their overall performance, which encompasses their ability to handle multiple tasks, manage time effectively, and produce coherent and practical solutions within the given constraints.

The assessment may use a scoring rubric that outlines specific criteria and assigns points or ratings for each criterion. The rubric provides a structured method for scoring responses consistently.

E-tray exercises, also known as electronic-tray exercises, are commonly used in various assessment scenarios, primarily in the context of employment assessments, civil service exams and similar evaluation processes.

Some organizations and assessment providers offer official practice e-tray exercises or sample questions on their websites.

Look for test preparation books or study guides that include e-tray exercises. Many test prep books for civil service exams, employment assessments, and management aptitude tests provide practice exercises and explanations.

Several online platforms and websites offer practice e-tray exercises and simulations.

The Deloitte E-Tray Exercise is a component of Deloitte's graduate and internship recruitment process.

Deloitte is a global professional services firm that offers a wide range of services, including audit and assurance, consulting, tax and advisory services.

The E-Tray Exercise is used by Deloitte as a tool to assess candidates' abilities in various competencies, including problem-solving, decision-making, time management and communication.

The PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) E-Tray Exercise is an assessment tool used by PwC, one of the world's largest professional services firms, during their recruitment and selection process for graduate, internship and experienced hire positions.

The exercise is designed to evaluate candidates' skills in areas such as problem-solving, decision-making, time management, prioritization and communication, which are essential for success in roles within the firm.

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