Diagrammatic Reasoning

Diagrammatic reasoning questions (also known as logical reasoning and inductive reasoning) are designed to assess your logical reasoning ability. They consist of multiple choice questions and are administered under exam conditions. They are strictly timed; a typical test might allow candidates 30 minutes to complete 20 questions.

Many of the aptitude tests that you will face during the job selection process will contain questions of this type. These questions may either be integrated into a test along with verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning questions, or they may be presented as a separate diagrammatic reasoning test paper.

The aptitudes measured by questions that use words and numbers can easily be related to real jobs, which invariably require some degree of literacy and numeracy. Questions which use figures and diagrams seem to have very little application to regular professions and yet these types of question appear in most graduate and management aptitude tests. This is because evidence from psychology shows that this type of pure reasoning question is less dependent on your educational and cultural background than either verbal or numerical questions.

You can take practice diagrammatic reasoning tests here.

Diagrammatic Reasoning or Abstract Reasoning?

The term diagrammatic reasoning is often used interchangeably with "abstract reasoning" by employers, although technically speaking abstract reasoning questions are slightly different to diagrammatic reasoning questions.

If you are told that the test you are going to sit contains diagrammatic reasoning questions, then it is a good idea to ask to see a sample of the types of question that it will contain. This will allow you to find out exactly what sort of questions you are going to be asked.

Abstract Reasoning Questions

"Abstract reasoning" (which, to make things even more confusing, are also sometimes known as "inductive reasoning") questions involve a series of figures which appear in a sequence or pattern – these can be thought of as the 'problem' figure. You need to analyse this problem figure and determine which of the answer figures best completes it. For example:

1. Which symbol in the Answer Figure best completes the sequence in the Problem Figure ?
Abstract Reasoning Example  Question

In this example, the question figure is rotated clockwise through 90 degrees each time. The answer is therefore option C which represents the last shape rotated through a further 90 degrees.

2. Which of the Answer Figures best fits the missing space in the Question Figure?


In this example, each complete row and column of the question figure contains one line of each type – horizontal, vertical, bottom-left-to-top-right and top-left-to-bottom-right. Option D is the correct answer, as when this is used to complete the figure each row and column contains one of each line type.

Diagrammatic Reasoning Questions

Diagrammatic reasoning questions measure your ability to infer a set of rules from a flowchart or similar diagram and then to apply those rules to a new situation. These questions are often found in tests aimed at selecting people who need to work through complex, and often conceptual, problems in an analytical way. These include information technology specialists and high-level management consultants as well as specialists in more complex types of finance.

In this example, the diagram shows 'inputs' and 'outputs' in the large boxes. 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.

In this example, there are two operations separating each input from the output. The first task is to isolate the function of one of these operations and then to use a process of elimination to work out what each operator does.

If we examine the Operator C/E in the diagram above, we can deduce that it cannot reverse the colours of the input because in Path A-C the input and output colours are the same.

Using this piece of information, we can assume that Operator D is reversing input and output colours. Looking at Path D/E, this means that Operator C/E must be reflecting the input in the vertical plane.

Using this piece of information, we can deduce that Operator A is adding the angled line to the input, from top left to bottom right.

Finally, we can deduce that Operator B must be rotating the input 90 degrees clockwise.

Now that we know what effect each of the operators has, we can proceed to answer the questions.

The answers in order therefore are: D, B, A, C. The original test is available here (20 minutes).

  • Good exam technique for this type of question is to write down a note about the operation next to the symbol as you work them out. Often when performing written tests at asssessment centres you will not be allowed to write on the original question paper. In this case, you are usually provided with scrap paper onto which you can do a quick sketch. It is very easy to make mistakes on this type of question while under pressure, so make sure you take time and care to not become confused when answering - a single incorrect assumption can derail all your answers for the question.

Practice Tests For Diagrammatic & Abstract Reasoning

Even though the terms diagrammatic reasoning and abstract reasoning are sometimes used interchangeably by employers when referring to aptitude tests, you need to be clear about which type of questions you can expect. You can then practice the questions to make sure that you are comfortable with each type. This will allow you to spend your time answering the question rather than trying to work out how to answer it.

You can find examples of both types of question at JobTestPrep and Assessment Day.

For candidates intending to improve their performance taking psychometric tests, high-quality coaching literature is available here. See also Aptitude Tests.