Verbal Reasoning Test

What is a verbal reasoning test?

Verbal reasoning is the ability to comprehend and reason using concepts expressed through words. A verbal reasoning test is a form of aptitude test used by interviewers to find out how well a candidate can assess verbal logic, and how successfully they can extract the correct meaning from complex written information.

Who uses verbal reasoning tests?

Verbal reasoning tests have become an invaluable tool for recruiters in a wide range of fields. That’s because many roles require employees to comprehend, analyse and draw conclusions from a huge amount of written material, regardless of the industry they’re employed in. As a result, they are now incorporated into the recruitment and interview process in most industries at one stage or another.

SHL is perhaps the most well known producer of verbal reasoning tests, and the most widely used. There are other providers, including Talent Q, Kenexa, Saville and Cubiks.

What happens during the test?

Most tests take place online, either at an assessment centre, at home or during the interview itself. Tests will always be timed, and will require you to answer a set number of questions in that time.

During the test, you will typically be provided with a passage of text and required to evaluate whether each statement is true, false, or you cannot say. Most tests feature more than one passage of text. So, for example, at the start of the test you will read one passage and answer several questions on that passage. You will then be given another passage about a different topic, and will answer a new set of questions about that, and so on for the duration of the test.


Verbal Reasoning Test

Don't assume any prior knowledge - just base your answer on what's contained in the passage.


How should I answer the questions?

In a verbal reasoning test, you will usually be asked to select one of the following three possible answers:

  • True. The statement follows logically from the information or opinions contained in the passage
  • False. The statement is logically false from the information or opinions contained in the passage
  • Cannot Say. Cannot determine whether the statement is true or false without further information

Alternatively, the answers may follow the true, false, cannot say format, but be phrased slightly different, such as the answers below:

  • The statement is DEFINITELY TRUE, or would be a reasonable conclusion to draw from the passage
  • The statement is DEFINITELY UNTRUE, or would not be a reasonable conclusion to draw
  • I have INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION to answer either of the above with any certainty

You should respond to each question by clicking on the answer that you think is correct. If you make a mistake or want to change an answer just click to go back, or forward, through the questions. Remember that the test is timed and keep in mind that some answers may take longer than others, depending on the question and text it relates to.

What kind of information will be included in the test?

The text could include information about any subject, often entirely unrelated to the role or business you are applying for. Don’t let that panic you though - the point of the test is not to assess your existing knowledge about a given subject. Instead, you are to assume that all the information in each of these written passages is true, and you should only use the information in each passage to work out your answer.

Even if you have studied or are familiar with a given subject, you should not use this prior knowledge when answering verbal reasoning questions. For example, if the text talks about the Second World War and you studied history and disagree with the information in the passage, you should still only answer the questions as though the information is true, regardless of your own experience of the subject.


Verbal reasoning test tips

  • Remember that the test is timed. It’s important to work out how much time you can spend on each question overall and make sure it does not take you longer than this.
  • Take practice tests. The questions are designed to trick you and the text will often be written in a deliberately ambiguous way. It’s a good idea to take practice tests to help you get used to the style of writing and questions you’re likely to encounter.
  • Read the questions first. If displayed, read the question(s) before you read the text, so you know what you are looking for.
  • Don’t use general knowledge. Everything you need to answer the question is included in the passage already, so don’t be tempted to let your general knowledge affect your answer.
  • Take things literally. Passages must be interpreted literally as written - assertions that are implied are not necessarily true unless explicitly stated.
  • If you can’t see it, it’s not there. Some questions will be about things not included in the passage.
  • You can change your answers. That said, try to avoid spending ages debating over one question and wasting time scrolling back and forth

Is it a fair test?

When taken under standard test conditions verbal reasoning tests are a fair and useful way of assessing a candidate’s ability to assess verbal logic. That said, there are some factors that may put some candidates at a disadvantage.

For example, your verbal reasoning ability can be impaired if you have a cold or flu or have had a sleepless night before the test. In addition, your degree can also impact your test results. This is not because of background knowledge - which isn’t relevant to the test - but because you will have been trained to think and analyse in a certain way depending on the subject you studied, For example, if you studied science or maths, it’s likely you’ll be better at mathematical tests, while those who study English or humanities are often better at verbal reasoning tests.

Some evidence also indicates that ethnic minorities and international students whose native language is not English may be at a disadvantage because of linguistic and cultural differences.


Verbal Reasoning Test Technique

  • Work out how much time you can spend on each question and make sure it does not take you longer than this.
  • Be very careful - the questions are designed to trick you.
  • If displayed, read the question(s) before you read the text, so you know what you are looking for.
  • Do not use any general knowledge when answering questions. Everything you need to answer the question is included in the passage.
  • Passages must be interpretted literally as written- assertions that are implied are not necessarily true unless explicitly stated.

SHL-style numerical and verbal reasoning tests can be practised here.


Books That Can Help

We've not yet found a perfect book, but this is one we like to recommend. Most people will need to practice, and in our opinion, this book will give you the best chance of succeeding. Click to check it out.


Practising Verbal Reasoning Tests

WikiJob has an online verbal test you can take as practice for the real thing.

The test consists of 40 questions to be answered in 20 minutes approx (although there is no timer on the test itself). Our test is slightly harder than the real thing, in order to make it challenging practice.

You can take the test as many times as you like. Click the link below to get started (you must be logged in to take it):

Verbal Reasoning Practice Test - Free!

JobTestPrep also offers a wide range of professionally constructed verbal reasoning questions, written in the same style as PSL and SHL tests (the tests most graduate employers use to assess candidates). The questions are structured in a professional format, just like the real thing.