Last Updated: 09 January 2019
Deductive reasoning tests aim to measure your ability to take information from a set of given premises and draw conclusions from them.
The important thing about these questions is that there is always a logically correct answer. You won’t need to make any guesses or assumptions when working it out. If you do, you’ve gone wrong.
Deductive reasoning tests are intended to be abstract. That means they aren’t testing specific practical skills necessary to do the job – such as knowledge of a programming language – but are more concerned with how you think.
At its core, a deductive reasoning test examines how well you can:
Deductive reasoning skills are vital for almost any workplace environment, especially in more highly skilled roles. Business, finance, law, software engineering or anything that requires problem solving involves workers seeing things through to their logical conclusion. If you have good deductive reasoning skills, employers know that you are able to analyse, interpret and, most importantly, use given information.
Many employers use deductive reasoning tests as a key part of assessing a candidate’s general critical thinking skills. They are easy to scale, so allow businesses to test many applicants at once and compare the results. These tests might be used prior to interview to filter down potential candidates.
Because the tests are abstract, they don’t rely on any specific industry or cultural knowledge. This means that employers from a wide variety of industries can use the same kind of test. Additionally, they don’t need to worry about unfairly disadvantaging applicants from different backgrounds.
The first step in preparing for a deductive reasoning test is to know how it works. Bear in mind that every test provider is different; while the vast majority won’t stray from these general principles, find out which is providing your test and check the structure.
Typically, deductive reasoning tests are timed, and a significant part of their difficulty comes from this. The questions might not be too hard in themselves, but they are a lot harder when on average you have 30 seconds per question.
Typically, you will be given a short paragraph of text and a statement or series of assumptions based on the premise. You must then decide whether that statement is ‘true’ (it logically follows from the given premise), ‘false’ (it logically does not follow from the given premise) or ‘cannot say/insufficient information’ (it could follow logically, but we don’t have enough information to say for sure). For these, be careful to only use the information given and not any information taken from your own prior knowledge.
John is stronger than Mike, but Luke is stronger than John.
Mike is stronger than Luke.
Given that the first sentence is true, what is the bolded statement?
(c) insufficient information
Here, the answer is (b) false. Since we are only measuring one variable – strength – we know that if John is stronger than Mike, and Luke is stronger than John, then Mike cannot be stronger than Luke. There is enough information to say this for sure. This is quite a straightforward example, containing only three pieces of information to work with.
This type of question is called a syllogism.
The small red plastic cup is three-quarters full. The large blue plastic cup is also three-quarters full. The small green plastic cup is only a quarter full. The purple cup has even less liquid than the small green plastic cup, but the pink plastic cup is fuller than the small red plastic cup.
The green plastic cup is the same size as the purple cup.
Given that the first passage is true, what is the bolded statement?
(c) cannot say
The answer is (c) insufficient information. This question is much more complex and has many pieces of information that are irrelevant to the question. In this case, it doesn’t matter how full each cup is, as we’re only concerned with the size of the cup. We aren’t told anything about the size of the purple cup in question, so we are unable to say for sure whether the statement is true or false. Everything about how full the cups are is meant to distract you.
With questions like this, it’s a good idea to read the statement you’re meant to be assessing first. That way, when reading the information, you can filter out anything that’s irrelevant and focus only on the important information.
Linda is an author who wrote a horror book called Night on the Moor. Apart from horror, she also likes fantasy and crime novels. She attends a book fair where her book is listed alongside a variety of others.
|Title||Night on the Moor||Blameless||The Mountain God||The Night of Two Murders||Bedtime Adventures|
Linda sells 23 copies of her book and then buys a copy each of the other books in her favourite genres.
How much money does Linda have left over from her book sales?
This type of question is a little different. Instead of determining whether a given statement is true or false, you need to select the true answer from a multiple-choice list.
Again, the key here is to pinpoint the information that’s relevant to the question being asked. For example, the titles of the books are irrelevant, as we’re only interested in the price of the books and the genres that Linda enjoys.
First, we need to establish how much money Linda made. This is straightforward: she sold 23 copies and each copy is worth £10, so she has £230 to spend. Then, we are told she bought a copy of each of the other books in the fair of her favourite genres. We know from the introduction that she likes fantasy and crime novels, so we can assume she purchased those. The fantasy novel was £20 while the crime novel was £6, giving a total of £26. Finally, £230 minus £26 is £204, so (b) is the correct answer.
Eight people are sitting around a round table facing inwards.
Alex is two seats to Sophie’s left.
Adam is three seats to Alex’s right.
Michelle is two seats to Alex’s left.
John is six seats to Lucy’s right.
Edward is six seats to John’s right.
Michael is not sitting next to Alex.
Who sits one seat to Edward’s left?
The correct answer is (a) Michael
This type of question is spatial: you need to use the statements given to draw a diagram of the table in your mind. Or, if you have access to paper during the test, draw it out on that.
In this question, draw out the whole table. Because it’s circular and all positions are relative to each other, we don’t actually need to worry about where on the table we start. Start by mapping out eight seats and place Alex randomly, then Sophie and so on. To place John and Lucy we need to use a process of elimination by placing Edward in the only seat he can be in. We eventually reach the answer, which is (a) Michael.
Of course, things change if some people have an absolute position (such as, ‘John sits at the top-centre of the table’) or if there is any asymmetry or irregularity involved. This might happen if someone is said to be facing away from the table (so their left and right flips) or if the table is not round.
Deductive reasoning tests are often scored as a percentile in relation to other candidates’ scores. That means that your numerical score might not be important, but rather how well you do compared with other candidates. If you’re finding a test particularly tough, then rest assured many others are probably feeling the same, so you might still be in a good enough percentile.
Like all aptitude tests, deductive reasoning tests are tough. They’re designed to be challenging – if they were easy, they wouldn’t be very good at measuring the difference in aptitude between candidates.
But it is useful to know exactly what it is that makes them challenging, as that can give you an idea of what to focus your practice on.
First and foremost, deductive reasoning tests are difficult because you need to answer a lot of questions in a short amount of time.
The questions themselves might not be that difficult in isolation, but you need to be quick and consistent enough to answer them accurately within the strict time limit of the test.
This is the reason that practice is crucial. Not only do you need to be good at answering the questions, but you also need to quickly, confidently and accurately answer them under test pressure and a strict time limit.
The potential for the correct answer to be ‘insufficient information’ is also a cause of difficulty. It means that determining whether an answer logically follows or doesn’t logically follow is not enough. If you can’t be sure about an answer using only the information provided, then consider the ‘cannot say’ or ‘insufficient information’ option.
For this reason, you need to be precise with your logical working, as using a process of elimination doesn’t work as well as it can do in other aptitude tests.
While there are many providers of deductive reasoning tests, the two main ones you’re likely to come across are from CEB SHL and Kenexa.
This deductive reasoning test will provide candidates with a chunk of information in a passage of text, followed by a statement. You need to decide whether this statement is ‘true’, ‘false’, or ‘cannot say’.
The test is taken online and has 20 questions to complete in 18 minutes, giving you an average of just over a minute per question.
Kenexa’s test has 20 questions that are focused on the positioning of people, such as in the table seating arrangement example above.
Crucially, this test is timed but has no time limit. That is, you can take as long as you want to answer the 20 questions, but the time you take is factored into the employer’s assessment of your score.
As always, your two main tools for tackling aptitude tests are research and practice. If you’re reading this, then you’re already doing the former, so that’s a good start.
Look for forums, test provider websites and practice websites (such as JobTestPrep) for further information about what the tests entail, some tips for tackling them, and personal anecdotes from those who’ve taken one.
A good strategy is, simply, to keep doing practice tests. You need to get your brain used to the kind of logical thinking necessary, as well as speeding up as much as you can.
When practising, try to make the conditions as similar as possible to the actual test. Set aside the time you need, ensure you won’t be disturbed, turn your phone off and sit down ready to start a test. Take it under the exact time conditions the actual test will have, or be even more strict if you like.
Later on, you can focus your practice further if you can identify specific types of questions that you struggle with. If you identify a weak spot, try to practice those questions until you get more comfortable with them.
If you’ve done the practice, then you should be good to go. Still, here are some useful strategies and tips that are always worth bearing in mind.
Typically there shouldn’t be any issues, assuming you speak English well enough to be applying to an English-speaking workplace.
The key point is that these tests will almost never use culturally specific references or idioms. And if they do, they are very unlikely to be relevant to the question and their function can be deduced from context.
This is a pressing question for all aptitude tests with a time limit. The answer is that it depends on how the specific test you’re taking is scored, information on which might be available online.
Usually, it is better to answer fewer questions with higher accuracy. This is partly because some tests use negative marking, deducting points for questions you get wrong to deter rushed answers or guesswork, and partly because accuracy is often tracked. The employer will generally prefer someone who is a little slower but more accurate.
Don’t even consider it.
Anti-cheating methods have only gotten more effective as the years have gone on and it’s almost certain you will get caught. Even if you don’t get caught taking the test remotely, you will often be asked to retake the test later to check the result.
Rather than taking the time to figure out how to cheat, a more efficient use of your time is to take practice tests.
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