What are SHL tests?
SHL is a leading brand of psychometric tests, used by a huge range of organisations. Such tests are often a key element in graduate recruitment campaigns, where achieving a particular level of performance is necessary in order to progress further through the selection process.
Aptitude tests aim to assess an individual’s maximum ability in an attribute that has been identified as important for success in the role. An example would be numerical reasoning for a quantitative position. This maximum ability is then compared to a pre-defined level necessary for success in the role and used to identify candidates who have the potential to perform well.
Different types of SHL tests
A wide range of SHL tests is available but the main ones are:
Numerical reasoning. These test your ability to understand and use numerical or statistical data. They typically display some data, often in the form of a graph or table, and the candidate must use this information in order to answer the question.
Verbal reasoning. These test your ability to understand and critically evaluate passages of written information. They typically comprise a passage of information and the candidate is required to identify whether, based on the information in the passage, the statements following are true, untrue or whether it is impossible to say.
Inductive reasoning. These test your ability to recognise and understand patterns and relationships between bits of information. They are the purest test of ‘generalised’ intelligence as they are not reliant on numerical or verbal ability. Candidates are typically presented with a series of shapes or patterns and must identify the missing or next shape or pattern in the sequence.
Mechanical comprehension. These test your ability to understand and apply basic mechanical principles. They usually include questions relating to cogs, pulleys, springs and levers, where the candidate must use their mechanical knowledge to calculate the correct answer.
Spatial awareness. These test your ability to understand and manipulate the spatial dimensions of shapes. They often include questions about rotation or reflection, or mentally creating 3D shapes from 2D plans.
For better or worse, tests are a fundamental part of many companies' application process.
How SHL tests work in practice
SHL tests are typically completed electronically in the first phase. Candidates are emailed a link to the tests they need to complete and will be given a set (and usually challenging) amount of time to complete the test. To prevent cheating, successful candidates must usually sit a second SHL test, where they will be watched by an invigilator to verify their performance.
SHL tests aim to put candidates under pressure in order to identify their maximum level of performance. This is then compared to the maximum ability level of a reference group (known as a norm group). This norm group is typically composed of individuals with similar characteristics (e.g. age, nationality and educational level). Ability is calculated relative to this norm group and compared to a pre-defined cut off point, which represents the minimum ability needed to be successful in the role.
How to prepare for SHL tests
Online tests will familiarise you with the type of questions you are likely to encounter and give you a ‘feel’ for how to solve them. They will also help you identify any gaps in your knowledge that you may benefit from revising – this is particularly true for numerical and mechanical reasoning tests. You may also want to download this free ebook, which covers numerical, verbal, abstract and spatial reasoning tests, with practice questions included.
Bear in mind that SHL tests have challenging time limits. This means that in order to be successful you need to work quickly but accurately. Practice tests can help you work out how fast you need to be working and what that feels like in a test situation. You ideally want to get to a position where you can pretty immediately understand what the question is looking for and how to solve it, so that you can spend your time working out the answer rather than puzzling over what the question is asking.
Practice tests also help you familiarise yourself with the format and how questions are presented so that you know what to expect when you access your proper test for the first time. This can help you feel comfortable and confident, and is a great way of reducing any anxiety you might feel about the tests.
Providers of practice aptitude tests
WikiJob provides a free numerical and verbal reasoning test for you to try (see below; you must be logged in to take this test). They are very similar to the real tests you will have to sit, and of similar difficulty. You can take the tests as many times as you please, and you will be marked at the end.
If those were useful, you may also like to try the practice aptitude tests from JobTestPrep, which feature many numerical reasoning tests and verbal reasoning tests, in a structured professional format just like the real exam.
Preparation techniques for specific test types
To effectively prepare for the SHL numerical reasoning test, candidates should study GCSE-level maths text books and revision guides, concentrating on their speed and efficiency.
Candidates should specifically prepare to answer questions involving:
- Inflation rates
- Balance sheets
- Graphs/data interpretation
For the verbal reasoning tests, candidates should attempt to read as many newspapers and magazines as possible, concentrating specifically on Commercial awareness issues. Candidates should attempt to analyse articles and practise deciphering difficult information quickly.
Restarting the SHL test
SHL tests have been designed to automatically restart if a candidate's computer loses power, suffers mechanical failure, or is accidentally turned off during a live test.
Consequently, do not worry if your computer loses power during your test. You will be given another chance to take the test from the beginning when you have logged back in to the test system.
For further information, see: