Non-Verbal Reasoning

What is a Non-Verbal Reasoning Test?

Non-verbal reasoning is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of psychometric ability tests such as inductive, logical, abstract, diagrammatic and spatial reasoning. The term is used to indicate that verbal competency is not necessary for, or assessed by, the test. Because of this the tests are seen as particularly effective for international assessment, as candidates speaking a wide range of languages are able to access the same test material.

What are Non-Verbal Reasoning Tests used for?

Non-verbal reasoning tests are used extensively in selection and assessment processes. As they don’t rely on specific language skills, they are seen as a useful way of assessing candidates ‘raw ability’ rather than learned skills (i.e. language).

To successfully complete non-verbal reasoning tests, candidates must use logic, be able to recognize patterns in material and understand and assimilate novel information. Therefore these tests are often used by companies recruiting to positions where problem-solving or technical ability are important, such as engineering or project management.

They are also often used in leadership assessment processes (such as graduate scheme recruitment), as they assess candidates’ ability to respond to novel situations and are correlated with generalised intelligence. So the better a candidate performs on a non-verbal reasoning test, the more likely they are to be able to logically and creatively solve novel problems in the workplace.


The theory goes that high performance in a non-verbal reasoning test should correlate with excellent problem-solving ability.


Non-Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions

There are a number of different types of test that fall within the category of non-verbal reasoning. To make it easier for you, all of the key question types are covered below. Should you need further practice, you can take more tests here.

Inductive/Logical/Abstract Reasoning Tests

Inductive reasoning tests (sometimes also called logical or abstract reasoning tests) assess a candidate’s ability to understand patterns, relationships between different elements and inconsistencies in data.

To successfully complete these tests, you need to be able to work out what the question is asking for, then find the solution. While every question is unique, there are a number of common themes in these tests and it can be useful to ensure that you are familiar with these. Each question will be based around a number of rules, so you need to identify what these rules are to find the answer. Here are some examples of common rules:


Question 1: Things that move around

Which box completes the set?

These types of question are some of the more straightforward rules to identify: items move around, or have a particular location within a box. There are two rules to look out for in this example. Firstly, the black square occupies the same relative position within the box, as the box’s location within the question. This tells us that B cannot be the correct answer.

The second rule governs the location of the arrow. There are two ways of looking at this rule. The first is to say that the position of the arrow is determined by which column it is in, with the all of the arrows in the first column in the middle of the box, those in the middle column are on the right, and those on the right column are on the left, with the arrow always at the same level as the square (or relative box position).

An alternative way of looking at this rule is to say that the arrow always occupies the position immediately to the right of the square (and when the square is on the right, the sequence restarts on the left). Either way, the correct answer is C.


Question 2: Relationships between items

Which box comes next in the sequence?

To solve this question, there are three rules you need to identify. Firstly, the circle is moving clockwise around the box, meaning it will be in the top-right-hand corner in the correct answer.

Secondly, the circle is always white. Thirdly, and this is trickier, there is a relationship between the circle and the square: when the circle is on the right-hand-side of the box the square is black, and when the circle is on the left-hand-side of the box, the square is white. The correct answer is therefore A.


Question 3: Incremental numbers of things

What box is next in the sequence?

Once again, there are three rules you need to identify to solve this question. Firstly, the number of shapes the box increases by one each time, so the answer box needs to include 5 shapes, and is therefore not box D.

The second rule is that the colours alternate, so that when there are an odd number of boxes the outermost shape is black, and when there are an even number of boxes the outermost shape is white. Answer A therefore cannot be correct. The third rule is that the shapes are alternating circles and squares/diamonds, Answer C is therefore incorrect. The correct answer must be B.


Question 4: The odd one out

Which of these boxes does not form part of this group?

This is an example of a question where you have to work out what the rule is that makes these eight boxes a group.

In this case, the rule is that there must be the same number of shapes as the sides of the black shape. So where the black shape is a square, there must be four black squares. Where the black shape is a pentagon, there must be five black pentagons.

The odd one out is therefore answer H, as there are only five hexagons and there should be six. Watch out for the extraneous information in questions like this, as it is added to make the rules harder to spot.

Diagrammatic Reasoning Tests

Diagrammatic reasoning tests can be a bit different. Instead of presenting purely abstract problems to the candidates, they can also require you to understand a flow chart (or similar diagram), work out the rules it uses, and then use these to solve the question. For example:


Question 5: Flow Chart

Which diagram is next in each sequence?

The candidate must work out what rule each of the different elements contributes, and then use this to answer the questions below.

Here are the rules that the different elements contribute:

This symbol reverses the colour, turning black shapes white, and vice versa

This symbol introduces a line along the vertical axis of the shape

This symbol introduces a small black circle into the centre of the shape

This symbol rotates the shape by 90 degrees

This symbol duplicates the shape

Therefore, the correct answer to question 1 is B, question 2 is B and question 3 is A.

Spatial awareness

Spatial awareness questions test your ability to understand shapes in different dimensions and configurations. Questions often include reflection, rotation or images of flat shapes, which the candidate has to imagine in 3D.


Question 6: Spatial awareness

Which of these shapes cannot be created using the individual shapes below?

To answer this question, you need to be able to mentally move and rotate the shapes in order to imagine them within each of the answer shapes.

The correct answer is C, which uses two small squares and does not include the rectangle.


If you want to take more non-verbal reasoning tests to improve your performance, click here.


Tips and Techniques for Non-Verbal Reasoning

To maximize your chances of being successful on non-verbal reasoning tests, it’s important to prepare properly. Some preparation activities that can be useful include:

  • Practice, practice, practice! While non-verbal reasoning tests are closely associated with generalized intelligence, you will always perform better if you are familiar with the types of questions you are likely to encounter, and have some strategies for solving them. Many test providers, such as JobTestPrep and Graduate Monkey, sell practice test packages, and it is worth completing as many of these as possible.

  • Problem-solving puzzles are a great way of honing your skills in this area and many people find them fun. Look for puzzle books or apps that contain a range of different puzzle types.

  • Familiarise yourself with a number of common rules (such as those explained above) so that you have a mental checklist of options to run through. This can help you find the answers more quickly, and stop you from panicking/going blank because you know you have some strategies to work with.

  • Focus on solving one rule at a time. Look at each of the different elements of a puzzle as well as the overall configuration, and try to work out what is happening and whether it’s important.

  • Manage your time well. Make sure you know how many questions you need to complete and how long you’ve got to do that in. You can then allocate yourself a time limit for each question. If you’re struggling with a question, move on and come back to it if you have time at the end.

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