Abstract Reasoning Tests
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Abstract reasoning questions are seen to be a good measure of general intelligence, as they test your ability to perceive relationships and then to work out any co-relationships without requiring any knowledge of language or mathematics.
Because of this, they are frequently used during the interview process for graduate jobs, and you should be prepared to face them.
The questions require you to recognise patterns and similarities between shapes and figures.
As a measure of reasoning, it is independent of educational and cultural background, and can be used to indicate intellectual potential.
These types of question are very commonly used in graduate and management selection, and are of particular value when the job involves dealing with abstract ideas or concepts. This can apply to many technical jobs.
You will often encounter them where the job you are applying for involves:
- A high degree of problem-solving
- Dealing with complex data or concepts
- Developing strategies or policies
- Performing non-routine tasks where initiative is required
However, as they also provide the best measure of your general intellectual ability, they are very widely used. You will usually find some questions of this type whichever assessment you are given.
If you want to take further practice abstract reasoning tests and improve your performance, click here.
Abstract reasoning tests are designed to be challenging, to differentiate between candidates and to identify the maximum performance they are capable of. They usually have tight time scales and questions that rapidly increase in difficulty.
This means that you will need to identify more rules to solve the problems and that the complexity of these rules is likely to increase.
Abstract reasoning tests use diagrams, symbols or shapes instead of words or numbers. They involve identifying the underlying logic of a pattern and then determining the solution.
Questions tend to involve the repetition or change of the following:
Abstract reasoning questions use symbols arranged in a straight line or a pattern. You are required to identify the missing symbol or the next in the sequence.
You can expect to be given slightly longer time for these questions than for verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning questions. Thirty minutes to complete 20 questions would be typical.
Try this free practice test before reading on:
This type of question requires you to identify and understand the pattern behind the order in which the shapes are presented.
In this series, the black rectangle is alternating from top to bottom and the number of white squares is increasing by one each time.
This type of question is all about relationships between data: being able to recognise what links two boxes together and then apply this rule to a new shape to solve the problem.
Begin by comparing the top figures. Does each one contain the same number of elements? If so, does each contain the same elements? If so, the elements must have been moved in some way. This is usually done by reflection or rotation.
This type of question requires you to look at some data, identify the pattern or rules, and then spot which square does not meet those rules.
Watch out for relative position, number of items, relationship between items, colour, shape, and orientation of shapes: there are many different variations on these rules and there may be some extraneous data in there that complicates the rules.
For this question, begin by looking at the elements in each figure. Are there the same number in each? Are they the same? If so, then look at the configuration.
This type of question requires you to look at the patterns in the squares and understand their relationship to one another to identify the missing square.
Begin by looking for a relationship between the figures in the top row. If you think you have found one, then check that the same relationship holds for the second row.
You will need to understand the relationships between the objects in the grid to be able to identify which objects will complete the grid.
Check to see if each row and column contains one, and only one, of each shape. If not, then divide the grid horizontally and vertically.
Are they reflections? If not, are individual rows related in some way?
What about individual columns? If not, divide the grid into four groups of four squares to see if there is a relationship between these groups.
Diagrammatic reasoning tests are closely related to abstract reasoning tests, so we've included them here. The questions consist of flowcharts or process diagrams and measure your ability to follow a series of logical instructions or to infer rules presented using symbols.
These types of questions are particularly suited to information technology jobs, because they closely mirror how analysts and programmers approach software design.
Even if you are not applying for an IT-based job, it is worth familiarising yourself with this type of question as they can and do appear in more general abstract reasoning tests, particularly where the job requires analysis of business processes.
In the first example, the diagram shows 'inputs' and 'outputs' made up of short 'strings' of letters. The 'operators' or 'processes' are shown in the small boxes.
You need to determine what effect each of the 'operators' or 'processes' is having on the 'input' in order to produce the 'output' shown.
The type of operations or processes you can expect include things like:
- Swapping letters
- Moving letters
- Adding letters
- Removing letters
In this diagram, the black diamond appears twice and must be having the same effect each time.
In the next sample, the operators are defined for you.
The sequence of operations is from top to bottom and each operator acts on the figure that it is attached to. Use this information to answer the questions below.
You need to work from top to bottom, making a note of the effect of each operator at each stage. Remember, some of the operations involve changing the relative position of figures.
Subsequent operations may need to be applied to the 'new' figure – not to the one shown.
Answers: 1. D; 2. D; 3. C; 4. A; 5. D
Abstract and diagrammatic reasoning ability is closely correlated with general intelligence. However, familiarity with the types of questions you are likely to encounter and some strategies for solving the questions will certainly help you perform at your best.
Here are our five key tips:
Many people find that they enjoy the mental challenge of solving abstract reasoning tests. There is a range of puzzle books and apps available that you can use to practise with. Similarly, many test publishers provide practice tests that you can access, such as JobTestPrep; this is certainly worth doing.
It can be useful to develop a mental checklist of strategies to solve abstract reasoning questions, such as a list of different rules that govern data like size, shape, number, etc. This gives you a starting point to think about questions and can help you work methodically in the test.
Look at one rule at a time. There may be extraneous data within the question which is designed to confuse you. Looking at only one aspect of the question at a time can help you to work out what is important and what isn’t.
Manage your time. Sometimes, you will come up against a question where you just cannot see the answer. On these occasions, don’t spend too much time on it, move on and, if you have time at the end, go back and check it. Make a note of any questions you want to come back to. Practise your pacing during your preparation and keep to your ideal pace where possible.
If you’re struggling to find a pattern, sometimes there are clues in the answers. Look for any patterns or themes in the possible answers that might help you spot what is important within the question. For example, if you have a sequence of shapes and all of the answers are squares or triangles, you know that the next shape in the sequence must be either a square or a triangle and that can help you work out why.
Remember to listen carefully to the instructions you are given and to read the questions carefully. Sometimes a series of similar-looking questions will be presented but the question may change throughout. Underlining keywords will keep you focused.
Abstract reasoning tests are widely used within selection processes to assess a candidate's general intellect and ability to work out new concepts and abstract ideas.
To successfully complete abstract reasoning tests, you need to be able to think creatively and use lateral thinking to solve novel problems. You need to see the relationships between shapes and figures, identify rules and similarities, and quickly apply these to identify the answer.