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The Sherwood Coping Strategies Inventory

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This questionnaire is designed to assess coping strategies learners might follow when presented with various real-life scenarios. These assess how well they would cope with barriers that might hinder their studies or employment.

Primarily it is used within FE, HE and by training providers or larger employers as part of their total skills programmes or recruitment drives. It can help identify candidates who may have problems in overcoming everyday barriers to their learning goals or workplace success. With 10 concise questions it can be rapidly given to large groups and is web-delivered.

The Coping Strategies Inventory has been designed to assess how a candidate would deal with various situations that commonly arise in an employment setting. The inventory is divided into 10 areas. Each probes different aspects of the person's coping strategies and decision-making. Each scenario has an ideal coping strategy, which if selected by the candidate would be flagged green. A second, but less acceptable, choice would be flagged amber. Unacceptable choices are flagged red.

Strong candidates are likely to choose the ideal coping strategies and be flagged green in each area. Weaker candidates will be likely to choose a mixture of ideal and second best strategies and be flagged as having a mixture of red and amber indicators. Weak candidates will choose second best or unacceptable strategies and will be flagged with a mixture of amber and red. Candidates are required to choose one answer from five available.

Because this is a self-report inventory, it must also be remembered that individual scores are also dependant on the level of self-insight and honesty of the respondents. Instead of answering frankly, the individual might try to ‘fake good’, in order to make a good impression. To do this, a respondent tries to imagine what the test constructor or selector might be looking for, and skews their scores accordingly. However, one of the benefits of this inventory is that it is quite difficult for respondents to guess what we are looking for.

*NB. This inventory is not strictly normative in nature. Only "Time to Complete" norms are available. These allow you to gauge how quickly a candidate has completed the inventory relative to their peers.


Areas Assessed




Attitude to debt


This item centres on forward planning in relation to having to build up a short-term debt due to unforeseen circumstances. It assesses whether the candidate has a good money management strategy in place, has a casual attitude toward debt or places an over reliance on others for financial assistance.




Honesty and approach to work issues


This item assesses the candidate’s honesty in relation falling behind schedule when preparing a report at work for a manager. Honest responses involve giving a structured account of the issues. Less honest responses include an over willingness to blame external factors to asking colleagues to help write the report.




Customer focus


This item assesses how a candidate would deal with what they think are unreasonable complaints from a client. Ideally, they should contact a supervisor for advice before proceeding. Unacceptable responses include being curt with the client to complaining to others in the office.




Attitude towards sick leave


This item assesses how the candidate views sick leave. It assesses whether the candidate views sick leave as conceptually similar to annual leave where a certain number of days are always allowable per year. Ideally, they should recognise that no sick days should be taken.




Ability to follow instructions


This item tests whether the candidate reads written instructions thoroughly and acts on their content. Ideally, they should read the instructions through to the end and select the correct answer. An alternative involves not reading all the instructions and acting impetuously to not reading or understanding the instructions.




Attitude towards punctuality


This item assesses how the candidate would deal with being late for an important meeting. Ideally they should avoid being late in the first place by good planning or alternatively call ahead to give an arrival time. Other responses indicate a casual or cavalier attitude to punctuality.




Attitude to taking a day off


This item assesses how the candidate views the procedure for taking a days leave at short notice. Ideally they should realise that they cannot take a day off at short notice or alternatively that they should ring the office to check. Unacceptable responses include taking the day off but not telling anyone to calling in sick.




Confidence in making presentations


This item assesses how the candidate would deal with a presentation they have to deliver in two weeks time to a group of ten people. Acceptable responses include confirming the objectives of the presentation and preparing in good time to seeking support and additional coaching. Unacceptable responses involve trying to pass on the task onto others to refusing to do it.




Attitude to teamwork


This item taps into the candidate’s attitude to teamwork and the recognition that successful teams need a broad range of abilities and personalities with an appointed leader. Unacceptable responses show a poor attitude to the concept of teamwork and may show that the candidate would not work well in teams themselves.




Approach to prioritising work


This item assesses how the candidate would approach a task that involves more work than they thought they could cope with. Acceptable answers involve prioritising work and agreeing a secondary delivery date for any uncompleted items. Other acceptable responses involve extending deadline or renegotiating what work is done for the original deadline. Unacceptable responses show poor prioritisation skills.






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