SHL is a leading brand of psychometric tests used by a range of organisations.
The business serves more than 10,000 clients in over 150 countries and has decades of experience. In 2013, SHL was acquired by CEB (now known as Gartner), so sometimes you will see the name CEB/SHL instead.
SHL tests are often a central part of graduate recruitment campaigns, requiring a particular level of performance to progress further through the application process.
Aptitude tests, such as those produced by SHL, aim to assess an individual’s ability in a competency that has been identified as important for success in a job role. For instance, numerical reasoning aims to measure the computational skills required for a quantitative position.
While there are many kinds of SHL tests available, these are the main ones you’ll see:
SHL tests are usually completed electronically in the first phases of a recruitment process.
Candidates are emailed a link to the tests and will need to complete them in a limited amount of time, usually within a few days or weeks.
The test itself will have a time limit; usually a tough one.
To prevent cheating, successful candidates are often required to sit a second test in-person. The results are compared to the initial test and if they are vastly different, alarm bells will ring.
This second test often takes place during an assessment day.
SHL tests aim to assess candidates under pressure in key areas. The results of each candidates’ tests are then compared with a reference group, also known as a norm group.
These norm groups are typically made up of individuals with similar characteristics, such as age, nationality, level of education and so on. This is to try to account for environmental, societal and cultural factors that could impact performance.
The score on the test needed to progress is therefore not a set number but instead is relative to the norm group. For instance, instead of a required score of, say, 25 out of 30, the required score could be 50% higher than the average score of the norm group.
The fact that you’re reading this article means you’ve already begun this step.
With any challenge, it’s important to know what you’re up against. SHL tests are no different.
In addition to that, there are many different kinds of SHL tests.
Do some research and find out which test you’re taking. Then you can make your practice much more focused, training the specific skills and strategies needed to perform your best.
All the core skills you’re learning will be applicable to any aptitude test of the same kind, but it pays to be prepared for the specific test in hand.
For example, the most common kind of tests that SHL provide are in their Verify series. Searching for practice materials and tests from this series will help with precise preparation.
Even if you’ve taken these kinds of test before, always go back to the basics.
After all, you don’t only need to know how to perform all the necessary operations and workings out, you also need to be able to do them quickly and under pressure.
Make a note of some essentials. How much time are you likely to have? How many questions? What format are the questions?
With that in mind, you can then focus on key skills, and you will have a benchmark for how quick you need to be.
Many aptitude tests have tight time limits. And even if they aren’t explicitly timed, the time it takes you to complete the test is often recorded – and is sometimes used to evaluate your performance.
So keeping time is important. And, as you will no doubt have experienced before, the added time pressure can have a big impact on your performance.
That’s why it’s imperative that you practise with a timer.
As part of your research, you should be able to get a sense of how long you will have in total and per question. That way you'll know how quick you need to be.
By far the most important part of the process is practice. And there’s no way around that. You just need to get stuck in.
But, of course, there are many different ways to practise, and they should all be utilised.
Doing mock tests is your bread and butter. You should aim to do as many as you can.
Some of these you should do untimed. Deliberately and carefully work through the problems to try and get everything right. Stop to look things up if you need to.
Others you should do timed, to get used to the time pressure and to answering the questions quickly and accurately. For these, you should practise on tests as close to the real thing as possible.
SHL offers its own online practice environment, which is worth using. However, note that their tests here do not provide the correct answers or explanations – they’re simply tests with a score at the end. For practice tests with workings, we recommend JobTestPrep.
For the numerical tests, candidates should study GCSE-level maths text books and revision guides, concentrating on their speed and efficiency.
Prepare to answer questions involving:
For the verbal tests, candidates should attempt to read as many newspapers and magazines as possible, concentrating specifically on commercial awareness issues. Analyse articles and practise deciphering difficult information quickly.
Amidst all this practice and pressure, don’t forget your mental and physical wellbeing.
It’s important to give yourself regular breaks, eat well and get plenty of sleep. Being well rested, well fed and calm can make a big difference.
Pulling an all-nighter to practise the day before the exam is not a good idea. The extra practice will not make up for how much slower your brain works.
So, make sure you develop your own strategies for remaining calm, especially if you often have problems doing so. Try to keep your diet healthy, but don’t deny yourself a treat every now and then.
Don’t neglect your need for sleep and rest. Breathe, and remember it’s going to be OK.
To get started on that all-important practice, try the tests provided below. They have been created by WikiJob in association with psychometric experts and are closely modelled on real tests.
The numerical and inductive tests consist of 10 questions to be answered in 10 minutes, while the verbal test consists of 10 questions to be answered in 5 minutes (although there is no timer on the test itself).
These tests have been designed to be a little harder than the real thing. That should make it good practice, and mean that the real test feels comfortable by comparison.
But it also means you shouldn’t be discouraged if you find it too tough for the time being.
You can take the tests as many times as you like. Click the ‘Take test’ links below to get started.
Pass percentage: 70%
Time limit: 10 mins
Pass percentage: 70%
Time limit: 5 mins
Pass percentage: 80%
Time limit: 5 mins
If those were useful, you may also like to try WikiJob's psychometric tests app, available for both Apple and Android, which includes 10 numerical tests and 8 verbal tests. The tests include a timer and worked solutions at the end.
If you’re applying to lots of graduate-level jobs you will almost certainly need to take some aptitude tests – and it’s highly likely you’ll come across an SHL test.
SHL tests can be tough, but that’s intentional. Remember, it’s not your absolute score that counts, but rather your score relative to your norm group.
So, if you’re finding the test hard, don’t panic. It might just be a particularly difficult test that everyone is struggling with. All you need to get is a score a little higher than the norm group.
The main thing you should understand is that there is no replacement for practice. Not only do you need to be accurate on these tests, you also need to be fast.
Even if you’re excellent at working out the answers, if you can’t do it quickly and comfortably, you’re in for a rough ride.
So, the core of your preparation should simply be to take practice tests and to work on the areas you find most difficult. Try and get everything down to second nature.
You may be interested in these other articles on WikiJob:
WikiJob recommends using JobTestPrep's mock aptitude test packages to help you pass: