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We invite you to visit our Assess Candidates website.

What is an e-tray exercise? How to prepare for an e tray exercise? How to pass an e-tray exercise? If these are questions on your mind, read on to accelerate your assessment centre practice.

In this text we go into depth about e-tray exercises in an assessment centre including what an e tray assessment test is, provide an e tray exercise example, tips for practice and discover how these are assessed.

Our website provides assessment centre practice exercises that can be used to prepare for an etray assessment test in the recruitment process. Start your practice to prepare for a e-tray assessment.

Wondering whether you should be practising to prepare for your e-tray exercises? According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD, 2020), around one third of employers use assessment centres in their application process.

Experiencing the office environment is a significant factor for candidates in recruitment. Moreover, candidates felt that being personally valued and a potential to further their career are just as important, which can be achieved in a virtual setting.

Institute of Student Employers (2020)


  1. What is an e-tray exercise in an assessment centre?
  2. What happens during an e-tray assessment? 
  3. Why are e-tray exercises used at assessment centres? 
  4. How are e-tray exercises assessed? 
  5. What industries use e-tray tests?
  6. 5 Top Tips to help you Prepare for an e-tray exercise
  7. E Tray Exercise Example Question and Answer
  8. 7 Key Tips to help you pass an e-tray exercise
  9. E-tray Exercise FAQs

What Is an E-Tray Exercise?

An e tray exercise is a type of online assessment that simulates a real-world work environment to evaluate the skills and abilities of candidates for a specific role. E tray exercises are often used in the recruitment process for roles that involve managing emails and other tasks in a professional setting. 

What does an e tray exercise measure?

The e-tray assessment is used to evaluate a candidate’s ability to:

  • Manage their workload, and the workload of their team
  • Set priorities
  • Use logical problem solving and decision making
  • Prove time management skills
  • Demonstrate attention to detail

What Happens During an E-Tray Assessment?

An e tray exercise is a virtual assessment, which means that it is conducted on a computer or other digital device. The e tray test can be done remotely, from the candidate’s own location, or in a controlled environment such as at an assessment centre.

Good to know: The specific location used may vary depending on the organisation conducting the assessment, and their own specific requirements and preferences.

What are the different elements of an e-tray assessment?

  1. At the beginning of an e tray exercise, you will typically be provided with scenario-based instructions that may include details on the timeframe and any specific tasks that need to be completed.
  1. Once you have read through the instructions and familiarise yourself with the scenario, you will be presented with a computer-based simulation of an electronic inbox containing a variety of simulated emails, documents, reports and other materials.
  1. You will then be required to read through all the documents and prioritise them based on their relevance and urgency
    • After prioritising the documents, you will make decisions about how to respond to or handle each one, based on the scenario’s requirement. The exercise is usually timed and you will have to work quickly and efficiently. 
  1. When time runs out or when you have completed the assessment, the candidate can receive automated results or results from an assessor.
    • The results will be based on the quality and timeliness of your decisions, your ability to prioritise, manage your workload and communicate effectively and professionally. This evaluation will be used to determine your suitability for the role or job you are applying for. 

What is the difference between an e-tray and an in-tray exercise?

E-Tray ExerciseIn-Tray Exercise
Computer-based simulation of an electronic inboxPhysical inbox containing documents and materials
Can be conducted remotely with flexible schedulingRequires candidates to travel to a specific location at a specific time
Lack of face-to-face interaction with assessorsAllows for face-to-face interaction with assessors and a direct observation of a candidates behaviour and communication skills
Simulates a real-world work environmentProvides a realistic assessment of handling physical documents
More cost-effective compared to in-tray exercisesCan require travel and accommodation costs for candidates and assessors

It’s important to keep in mind that the selection of either e-tray or in-tray assessments will be dependent on the specific criteria of the organisation and the role the candidate is being assessed for. 

In recent years there has been a rise in virtual assessment centres, meaning e tray tests have also become increasingly popular. 

PsychologyWorks (2021)

Gain a quick insight into why more and more employers use virtual assessments with this quick video below:

Why Do Employers use Virtual Assessment Centres? #shorts

Why Are E-Tray Exercises Used at Assessment Centres?

E tray assessment tests are used at assessment centres as they simulate a realistic work environment and can evaluate a wide range of skills and abilities that are required for a specific job role. 

Good to know: These test exercises assess these skills through imitating the types of tasks and communication that a candidate is likely to face in their day-to-day work, which provides an accurate assessment of their potential in the role.

E-tray assessments are also efficient and environmentally friendly as they are completed on a computer or tablet, making them a convenient and cost effective way for companies to evaluate candidates from all distant locations. 

As they are completed on a computer or tablet, this allows for easy sharing and storage, and automatic grading – reducing the time and resources required to administer the task. Additionally, results from e tray exercises allow for more efficient scoring and analysis of the candidate’s performance.

Did you know? An e tray test often includes simulated email, calendar, reports and document management features, making it reflective of the types of tasks the candidate would perform in the workplace. 

E-tray email exercise
E-tray Email Exercise
Source: Freepik

Overall, the goal of an e-tray exercise is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how a candidate would perform in the role they are applying for and identify the best candidate for the job based on their performance in the e tray assessment test.

How Are E-Tray Exercises Assessed?

E tray tests can be assessed by a panel of assessors or due to their digital nature, they can be assessed and scored remotely and automated. Assessors will use a pre-defined scoring criteria to evaluate the candidate’s performance and make their decision based on the candidate’s ability to demonstrate the required skills, knowledge and abilities

Good to know: The assessors score the candidate’s performance based on predetermined criteria, the scores are then compared to a benchmark, and an overall score is established. These benchmarks will largely depend on what type of skill and experience the employer is looking for in their candidates.

What do employers look for in an e-tray exercise?

Employers use e-tray exercises to examine a variety of skills and abilities to evaluate  candidate’s potential performance in a given role, such as:

  • Quality and Timeliness
    • A crucial skill for achieving goals and meeting deadlines in a timely and professional manner. Employers seek candidates that make well-informed decisions which align with the company’s goals. 
  • Prioritisation and Management
    • This is an important skill as employers want to see that the candidate is able to manage their time and tasks effectively so they will be able to accomplish what is expected of them on time.
  • Handling Pressure
    • This is important for many roles as you will have to handle pressure whilst maintaining a high level of performance. Employers want a candidate that will be able to handle the pressure of the role and remain focused.
  • Dealing with Unexpected Challenges
    • A critical skill for many employers is the ability for a candidate to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions when faced with unexpected obstacles. 
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills
    • Employers seek a candidate that can not only discover and analyse a problem, but are also able to identify potential solutions and make decisions that are well informed.
  • Electronic Communication Skills
    • This is an important skill for employers to evaluate as they want to see that the candidate can write clear, concise and professional emails, whilst being able to communicate with others in a way that is appropriate for the organisation.
  • Critical Reasoning Ability
    • The ability to understand and interpret information is crucial in many roles as employers are wanting to see that the candidate can use the information presented to them to make informed decisions that align with the goals of the company.

Overall, when an employer conducts an e tray exercise, they are trying to evaluate your potential, skills and abilities to perform the responsibilities of the job you are applying for. The results of the e tray assessment test will be used to determine the best candidate for the job by assessing if the candidate has the required skills, knowledge and abilities for the role.

Good to know: Received an invitation to take an etray exercise at your assessment centre? Familiarise yourself with the best practice using our In-tray exercises as part of our assessment centre package.

Customer service e-tray task
Customer Service E-tray Task
Source: Freepik

What Industries Use E-Tray Tests?

E-tray assessments are used by a wide range of industries and are most commonly used for management and administration roles, such as those in human resources, customer service and operations management, as well as in starting graduate-level roles. 

Here is a list of some of the industries that have used e tray exercises for certain jobs as part of their recruitment process:

  • Government and public sector 
  • Banking and finance 
  • Consulting
  • It and Technology 
  • Healthcare 
  • Sales and Marketing 

What companies use e-tray exercises as part of their recruitment process?

 Some global companies that use online e-tray exercises as part of their recruitment process include:

  • Deloitte one of the largest professional services networks in the world.
  • Ernst & Young (EY) – a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London.
  • Barclays – British multinational bank and financial services company 
  • Shell – British-Dutch multinational oil and gas company.
  • Civil Service – the bureaucracy supporting the government of the UK in administration.
  • Accenture – a global professional services company that provides consulting, technology, and outsourcing services to a wide range of industries.
  • KPMG – a global professional services firm that provides audit, tax, and advisory services to a wide range of clients in various industries.

Overall, the use of e-tray exercises are used across many industries and companies. E-tray exercises are suitable for any industry or company that requires employees to carry out decision-making, prioritisation, manage workloads, communicate effectively, and handle stress and pressure within their role.

5 Top Tips to Help You Prepare For an E-Tray Exercise

E-tray tests are a common selection method for employers to evaluate candidates’. Here are 5 top tips to help you prepare for an e tray test

  1. Familiarise yourself 
    • Understand the digital tools and software that will be used in the e tray exercise, such as email, calendar, instant messaging, and document management systems, to ensure you are comfortable using them.
  1. Time management 
    • Aim to practise managing your time and prioritising tasks, so you will be prepared for the time pressure of the e tray exercise.
  1. Understanding the scenario
    • You should have an understanding of the types of scenarios and tasks you will be presented with during the e tray exercise and practise how you would respond to them.
  1. Review the brief 
    • Take the time to review the instructions and any examples provided before you begin, so you know what is expected of you during the exercise.
  1. Understanding the company
    • Make sure to have a good understanding of the company and the role you are applying for, so you can tailor your responses to the e tray exercise accordingly.

E-Tray Exercise Tip: It is important to remember that the e tray assessment tests are designed to simulate the types of tasks and challenges you may face in the role you’re applying for. By practising, staying organised and using your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, you’ll be well prepared to tackle the exercise and show off your skills and abilities.

Discover how to best prepare and gain insights in your job search with this sneak peek into a commonly used example e-tray below!

E-Tray Exercise Example Question and Answer


You are the manager of a marketing department at a technology company, you are currently in charge of overseeing the new software product launch in the US in 3 months’ time. 

You expect to receive a variety of emails today from different departments including the: public relations, product development and sales teams with concerns and input regarding this launch. You will be required to make use of the provided documents in relation to the launch such as: a press release, the budget and a product brochure. 

For this task, you are provided with the following.

  • A team member requesting time off for a family emergency.
  • Product development teams provide updates on the development of the software and they are requesting your input on certain features.
  • Public relations team requesting final approval on the press release for the product launch.
  • Sales team requesting additional budget for a promotional campaign.
  • Budget – outlining the financial plan for the product launch
  • Product brochure – providing information about the software and the features 
  • Press release – outlining the details of the product launch

In this e tray assessment you will have 1 hour to review and respond to each of these emails, prioritise the tasks within these based on relevance and urgency, make decisions and complete any necessary tasks. 

Good to know: You will be assessed on your ability to manage tasks, make decisions and communicate effectively. You should demonstrate your ability to prioritise and manage your workload, meet deadlines, effectively lead and collaborate with other departments to ensure the product launch is successful. 

Your goal is to ensure that the product launch is successful and all departments are working together seamlessly.

E-tray exercise example
E-tray Exercise Example
Source : Freepik

7 Key Tips to Help You Pass an E-Tray Exercise

Once you have started your e tray test during the virtual assessment centre, here are our 7 top tips you can use to ace it:

  1. Be organised 
    • It is important to be organised and efficient in your approach to the e-tray exercise, as this will help you stay on top of the task and manage your time effectively.
  1. Communicate clearly
    • You should communicate clearly and professionally in your responses, as e tray assessment tests will often evaluate your communication skills.
  1. Prioritise
    • You should show that you are able to prioritise and manage your workload effectively, this will demonstrate your ability to handle stress and pressure.
  1. Pay attention to the details 
    • You should pay attention to the details, and carefully read and understand the information presented, this will help you make informed decisions during the e-tray exercise.
  1. Unexpected challenges 
    • Show that you can handle unexpected challenges and can think on your feet, this will demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to adapt to different situations.
  1. Work in a structured way 
    • Make sure that you follow the instructions and format provided for the e-tray exercise, as this will show that you are able to work in a structured way.
  1. Stay calm 
    • Remember that the e tray test is just one part of the recruitment process. Stay calm and take your time during the exercise. Don’t rush through the materials and make sure to read everything carefully.

Overall, preparation, organisation and attention to detail are key to success in an e-tray exercise. Additionally, being able to demonstrate good communication, problem-solving and time management skills will help you pass the e tray assessment test.

Be sure to also check out below for a lowdown on answers to the most commonly asked questions about e-tray assessments!

E-tray Exercise FAQs

How does an e-tray exercise differ from an in-tray exercise?

An e-tray exercise is a digital simulation of a real-world work environment, which is completed using a computer or tablet. Whereas, an in-tray exercise is paper-based simulation of a work environment.

What are employers looking for during an e tray exercise?

Employers use e tray exercises as a tool to evaluate a candidate’s potential, skills, and abilities to handle the tasks and responsibilities of the role they are applying for. They will be assessing the candidate’s ability to:

  • Make decisions
  • Manage workloads
  • Communicate effectively
  • Handle stress and pressure

What is the purpose of an e-tray exercise?

An e tray test is designed to simulate the types of tasks and electronic communication that a candidate would face in their day-to-day work. It aims to provide employers with an understanding of how a candidate would perform in a similar role and evaluate their ability to manage their workload, communicate effectively, and make decisions under pressure.

What can I expect during an e-tray exercise?

During an E-tray exercise you are presented with a simulated work environment and a set of tasks to complete. These tasks can include responding to emails, scheduling meetings, and making decisions. The e-tray is timed and your skills on time management, problem-solving, communication, adaptability to unexpected challenges will be evaluated.

Practice and Register with GF to ace your e-tray exercises first time

Do you want to pass your e tray assessment tests first time? Sign up for tools offered by GF, the only aptitude practice test experts that provide tests to over 100 UK universities and their students, and also across Asia and continental Europe.

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