Abstract reasoning tests are arguably the toughest form of aptitude test. Use this guide to learn expert tips & be sure to take a few abstract reasoning practice tests.
4 useful starting-point resources
- Get hold of our recommended abstract practice tests here.
- Read our other aptitude test guides here (numerical, verbal, logical etc).
What’s in this guide?
- 6 essential tips for abstract reasoning test success
- 3 useful abstract reasoning test resources
Give yourself an advantage & prepare perfectly
Ok, lets get started…!
‘What’s being measured in an abstract reasoning test?’
Your abstract reasoning test will assess your ability to identify and interpret patterns. How easily can you see rules & consistent patterns in sets of objects and verbal data? Can you tell how a pattern of objects in a sequence should continue?
As with all types of psychometric testing, an abstract reasoning test also gives employers a view of your overall intelligence and judgement.
‘Is this the same thing as inductive reasoning and diagrammatic reasoning?’
Abstract reasoning tests, inductive reasoning and diagrammatic reasoning are areas that overlap.
Test providers and assessment companies often refer to these similar tests by different names. It can be a little confusing but the thrust of the assessment is exactly the same regardless of the terminology.
‘When will I take my abstract reasoning test?’
It depends on your prospective employer. Sometimes candidates are asked to take an abstract reasoning test before an interview or assessment event, but it’s possible your abstract reasoning test will take place during the interview day itself.
‘Ok, what should I expect during my abstract reasoning test?’
Most abstract reasoning tests will show you a sequence of shapes, words or illustrations and ask you to predict what comes next in the sequence.
‘Can you show me some sample questions from an abstract reasoning test?’
Sure, here’s a couple of examples:
Abstract Reasoning Test Example 1
Here’s a typical example question from an abstract reasoning test. Look at this sequence of shapes and see if you can spot the pattern that’s evolving:
Which of the 4 shapes below would come next in the above sequence?
Abstract Reasoning Test Example 2
Ok, let’s try again. Here’s the sequence of shapes. Can you spot a pattern?
Which of the 4 shapes below would continue the above pattern?
Abstract reasoning test example answers
How did you do? Did you spot the patterns?
The correct answer to the first question was the fourth shape (the one on the far right). The correct answer to the second question was the third shape.
These are two easy examples and it’s likely that your abstract reasoning test will be significantly more difficult.
Choose your practice tests carefully
We always recommend these abstract reasoning practice tests because they are supplier-specific and contain very clear explanations.
(Most of the time, the hardest part of abstract reasoning is simply figuring out what variables are even in play. The tests above do a great job of making this clear.)
6 Essential Tips For Abstract Reasoning Test Success
1) Break a complex pattern down & avoid distractors
Some abstract reasoning test patterns look difficult when you first see them. Like this:
A difficult-looking question can hit your confidence and it’s vital you don’t let this mentally weaken you. Remember that often there are shapes and colours that are in the sequence merely as distractors to make the question to look harder.
This is often the case if the pattern has unusual or strange shapes, like the one above.
(The colours are irrelevant here and purely a distractor. The determing factor is where the shapes touch the edges of the box they’re in. Set A touches the top and left edges. Set B touches the bottom and right edges.)
To quickly ‘decode’ a pattern, compare only one element at a time. Orientation, size, shade of colour, symmetry, angle, location and direction of both inner & outer shapes. Study carefully. Remember, look only at one element at a time.
2) Begin with the END in mind
A useful way to break down a confusing sequence is to approach it from the end, first. What patterns or consistencies can you see in the multiple choice shapes you’re given?
This will often lead to a breakthrough for tricky questions where a conventional approach has proved unsuccessful.
Staying calm is easier said than done, but nothing will damage your performance more than losing focus during your abstract reasoning test. The test will be timed of course and some people find this introduces an element of pressure that makes it tough for them to concentrate.
Here’s two articles of ours that will help enormously with this:
- “How To Prepare For An Interview Or Assessment Centre: The Ultimate Guide“
- “How To Deal With Nerves & Anxiety At Your Interview Or Assessment Centre“.
4) Practice beforehand. Practice beforehand. Practice beforehand.
Nothing with boost your chances of success more than practising real, timed, abstract reasoning tests. Being comofortable with the format, structure and general nature of the test will help you relax and ensure you perform to your maximum on the big day.
PRO TIP: You can practise abstract reasoning tests used by employers here and here. (These tests aren’t free, but they are a must-do for candidates who want to do everything they can to boost their chances of success.)
What about free tests? Well, there are free tests available on the web, but overall, they tend to be low quality and out-of-date. This means they don’t accurately represent what you’ll face in a modern test and that pretty much defeats the object of taking a practice test.
Listen to our podcast on assessment day success, you can find it here.
Stop worrying! Download a 12-step assessment day cheatsheet & be perfectly prepared.
5) Manage your time with care
Most abstract reasoning tests last for around 40 minutes and it’s essential that you manage your time carefully. Scan ahead and see how many questions remain in the test, this will help you gauge how much time to allocate for each question.
PRO TIP: If you’re stuck on a difficult question don’t waste time trying to solve it. Just move on.
6) Boost your spatial awareness beforehand
It’s hard to develop innate/passive skills, but it isn’t impossible. Manipulating shapes mentally can be difficult, but if you spend time practising you will see an improvement. This short video from GraduateMonkey will show you typical shape-manipulations that occur in abstract reasoning tests:
Another simple-but-effective tip is to try doing some logic puzzles. You’ll find them in most newspapers, but it’s best to buy a book of them from the newsagents and you can practice lots of them in a short space of time.
An excellent book on how to pass abstract reasoning tests
‘Psychometric tests for Dummies’ (Amazon.co.uk) will get you up to speed.
Recommended practice tests
We always recommend the JTP abstract reasoning practice tests because they are supplier-specific and contain very clear explanations. As stated above, one of the hardest parts of abstract reasoning is simply figuring out ‘the rules’ of the test itself; the elements in play are often deliberately vague.
These tests do a great job of adapting you to this disorientating aspect of abstract reasoning.
More free articles that will help you
- Do you have to take a numerical reasoning test or a verbal reasoning test? If so you may want to check out the aptitude tests section of the site.
- You can find practice tests and tons of free advice on every other type of ‘reasoning test’ too: numerical, verbal, abstract, logical, inductive, diagrammatic, spatial, mechanical comprehension, UKCAT and Watson-Glaser tests.
- Worried about your assessment day? Maybe you’re worried about performing a presentation or preparing for an interview or group exercise or in-tray exercise?
- Perhaps you’d like some guidance on how to deal with nerves & anxiety at your interview?
- Lastly the Tools and Resources page is packed with useful equipment and ‘A’ List recommendations that will make your life easier.
We hope you enjoyed this free guide? We’d love to hear your feedback so please do get in touch and let us know. Thanks and good luck in your abstract reasoning test!
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