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Non-Verbal Reasoning Test – Ultimate Study Guide With Practice Questions

You have applied for a job or for a college place and your application has been accepted. You feel you have done everything necessary to advance your career prospects until an invitation to do assessments arrives in your inbox.

Suddenly there is another hoop to jump through.

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Anyone new to the job search or applying to college for the first time is bound to encounter various types of assessments, including the dreaded non-verbal reasoning.

If you are unsure about what a non-verbal reasoning test involves or stressed about passing, don’t worry. The test is fairly straightforward once you are familiar with it. Read on to learn what preparation you need to pass a non-verbal reasoning test with flying colours.

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What is a non-verbal reasoning test?

You will probably be familiar with tests assessing your numerical and verbal abilities. Perhaps even tests that provide your personality profile.

However, non-verbal reasoning tests work differently. Rather than testing how adept you are at solving mathematical problems or answering comprehension pieces, non-verbal reasoning tests measure your intelligence, ability to learn new material, and creativity.

Unlike standard school or college examinations, they are not concerned with pre-learned material but rather with how you work with shape and image patterns.

This form of psychometric testing can give a future employer or college an in-depth understanding of your reasoning abilities. It can be more accurate than tests on studied material where candidates can memorize information if they have good memorisation skills!

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What do non-verbal reasoning tests measure?

Non-verbal tests measure your ability to work out the connection between shapes and patterns, decipher the rules of a pattern of images and perform spatial reasoning.

Non-verbal tests can assess your reasoning abilities, gather information on your intelligence levels, and test how focused you are on the job at hand. They can measure how good your logical skills are and, most importantly, your ability to learn new material.

Are non-verbal tests difficult?

All tests are difficult in their own way. Psychometric tests are designed to find the best people for a role, and an employer is only too aware of the expense associated with hiring the wrong people. College heads are likewise aware of the necessity to ensure prospective students opt for a course that suits their capabilities.

If you are new to non-verbal reasoning tests, you may find them difficult, especially coming to them from an academic background.

Another difficulty comes from the fact that you are competing against many people, all angling for the position you want. They may try as hard as you do, so preparation is the key. And no mean feat if you have not encountered these tests before.

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What exactly do non-verbal reasoning tests entail?

Non-verbal reasoning tests cover a wide range of skills, and a future employer or college head may ask you to do one or more of several types of tests.

To see non-verbal reasoning in a more manageable light, see the tests as falling under two headings:

  1. Logical reasoning tests: Tests where you have to see the logic or pattern behind a series of shape sequences. These tests may be abstract, inductive or diagrammatic.
  2. Spatial reasoning tests: These test your spatial awareness.

Logical reasoning tests

When doing questions that test your logical reasoning ability, you can expect questions like this.

Use your logic to understand the pattern at work in shape sequences.

Sample question:

Look at the sequence of shapes in the first row. Fill the square marked X (in the first row) with the shape from the second row that best fits into the sequence.

Test Question

If you attempt this question, you will have to work on deciphering the pattern the shapes are following in row 1. Having done that, select the shape in row 2 that naturally fits into the empty space.

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Spatial reasoning tests

The second type of test consists of questions that assess your spatial awareness or spatial reasoning abilities. You can expect questions like the following example.

Sample question:

You will need to look very closely at both sets of images in the question and then answer the following question:

“When all shapes on top are connected to the corresponding edges i.e. x-x, y-y, etc., the complete shape looks like which shape in the bottom set?”

In this question, you again have to look carefully at the images. But this time, you have to visualise the shape of the images on top form when you follow the instructions and select the corresponding shape from the bottom set.


In this question, your ability to visualise how shapes fit together is being tested.

Looking at these two questions, you can see the challenge presented by this type of testing. Another factor that adds to the difficulty level is the very limited time you have to do each question.

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How can I prepare for non-verbal tests?

How you perform in these tests is going to have a significant impact on your career, so it is essential that you prepare for them.

Preparing for any test requires that you:

  1. Become familiar with the format of the test
  2. Practice doing questions similar to the test questions

To cover both of those requirements, it is advisable to use the services of an employment test preparation company who have experience in preparing applicants for this very different type of testing.

We recommend relying on the services of JobTest Prep, which has been successfully preparing applicants for tests since 1992.

Job Test Prep will give you helpful information on the format of the tests as well as a battery of preparation resources. It will provide you with a Test Prep Pack containing sample test papers which are modelled on the real tests, a useful scoring tool to check your results as you complete the sample tests and detailed explanations for questions and answers.

You will also be given study guides and access to helpful videos and tutorials.

To get an idea of the types of tests they provide you with, try your hand at the following free sample deductive reasoning test.

If you are doing more than one test, you can get an all inclusive test prep pack covering you for all the tests you have been asked to do.

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What are the different non-verbal tests?

The first group of tests require you to study the logic and pattern between a series of shapes. Usually, a blank space is left in the series. You have to use your logic to decide what shape should fill that space. See the example above to get a better understanding of this.

Non-verbal reasoning tests come in many different forms. The ones you are most likely to come across are:

  • Abstract Reasoning Tests
  • Inductive Reasoning Tests
  • Diagrammatic Reasoning Tests

Abstract reasoning tests

In abstract reasoning tests, you are required to work with shapes and matrices. You may be asked to do one of these if you are taking an intelligence test, pre-employment tests and tests for school and college admissions such as UKCAT.

An abstract reasoning test assesses your ability to draw assumptions and conclusions from information presented in the form of symbols and matrices.

Your answers will tell the examiner if you can understand and analyse visual information. Your performance will also provide a measure of your abstract thinking and problem-solving skills as well as your general intelligence.

To get a picture of an abstract reasoning test question, look at the following sample question.

Assessment Questions


The correct answer is:

Blue circle

Answer Explanation: The pattern in this sequence is that the entire circle rotates 90 degrees clockwise with each step. This means that the diagonal line and the small circle across from it both move simultaneously so as to remain directly across from each other.

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Inductive reasoning tests

These will become a feature in your life if you are doing school tests, intelligence and pre-employment tests. Psychologists maintain that if you do well in your inductive reasoning test, you will perform well in a variety of tasks in the workplace.

Because the test is non-verbal, it is also considered very fair as it does not require the testee to have a particular linguistic or cultural background.

For an SHL style inductive reasoning style question, try the following sample question.

This is a next in series question. The tester will be able to map your general mental ability from your answers and the length of time it takes you to do the question.

Which of the shapes in the second row logically follows the shapes in the first row?

Square boxes

Answer: the correct answer is (C).

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Let’s start by examining the different elements of the figures:

The black dot shifts between the corners of the outer square in a clockwise direction. First, it shifts one place, then two places, then one place again, and so forth. Since it moved two places between the fourth and fifth figures, in the next figure, it should move one place clockwise. Thus, the correct answer must include a black dot in the bottom left corner. This leaves us with three options: B, C, and D.

The white dot shifts between the corners of the inner square in a clockwise direction, moving one place at a time. Thus, in the next figure, it should move to the bottom right corner. Of the three options left, option C is the only one to follow this pattern. Thus, option C must be the correct answer, and we do not need to further examine the series to figure out the movement pattern of the diagonal lines.

As you can see from the question and answer, a lot of thought goes into coming up with the correct answer.

Naturally, in the real test, you will not have to give an explanation for your answer, but you will have to be able to come to a decision at speed.

Practising on sample papers will hone your inductive reasoning skills. Establishing a regular pattern of doing questions like the one above will train your brain on what signs to be aware of when your real assessment comes along. You will quickly learn how to identify logic patterns and the general rules at work in patterns more easily.

Diagrammatic reasoning tests

Diagrammatic reasoning tests are aptitude tests prepared by testing companies and are also used to test your skills in pre-employment assessments and university entrance exams.
However, although they are sometimes called abstract reasoning tests, they are different to regular non-verbal reasoning tests.

Before explaining the difference, it will be helpful to look at a sample question. The following is an example of a shape diagram question.

Shape Diagrams

This test typically includes a number of diagrams in which shapes can be modified by different operators. A panel illustrates different operators and their effect on different shapes.

Your task is to infer the rules dictated by the operators and to apply them to new situations.

Reasoning question

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Letter and number diagrams

You may be given a letter and number diagram to work on.

In this test, you get a combination of letters. The combination of letters can be changed or modified by rules. The rules are represented by numbers. Your task is to follow the paths, a series of arrows telling you which direction you are to go in. Then you must determine what impact the numbers (rules) are having on the letter combinations.

To make the test more challenging, the rule a number represents may vary from diagram to diagram.

This test obviously demands intense concentration and alertness and the ability to draw conclusions.

Look at the following example of a number and letter diagram to get a clearer idea of the type of challenge this question poses.


All of this is as complicated as it sounds and is not the type of test you want to meet for the first time when you sit down to do the real assessment.

However, with regular practice, you will recover from the overwhelm your first encounter with this type of testing will bring. It is important to get started on sample diagrammatic tests as soon as you become aware, you have to do an assessment on this as the style of questioning is so different to the norm.

Your performance in the diagrammatic test can tell a future employer or head of college a lot about your mental agility, attention to detail, your problem-solving abilities, and your ability to focus on the task at hand.

SHL, Saville Consulting and Kenexa, for example, create the tests outlined above but may sometimes call them by different names. Other companies involved in their production include Cubiks, Cur-E and Talent Q.

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Spatial reasoning tests

Spatial reasoning tests are the second group of non-verbal tests you may come across.

The purpose of these tests is to assess your spatial visualisation, to measure your mental folding and mental rotation abilities and your spatial and visuospatial functions.

Or, to express it more clearly, the tests measure our spatial orientation abilities. Our intelligence or capacity to carry out a task can be measured by assessing our awareness of objects in the space around us and our awareness of our place in that space.

A person with well-developed spatial awareness can visualise objects from different perspectives, mentally rotate or spin things around in their heads, and can, for example, visualise how things fit together.

As you might expect, tests to assess if you have these abstract abilities are complicated, as you will see from the following question.

Sample question:

Different shapes

The Answer is A.

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Test your own spatial awareness by working out how the examiner came up with this result!

Assessment question

With a lot of time on your hands, you could probably come up with the answer. However, when working under time pressure and the stress that naturally comes with doing an assessment, this will not be so easy.

To ace this part of your assessment, regular practice on sample questions will help you hone your abilities in this area, and you will train your mind to identify shapes more easily.

To give you an idea of the challenges posed by this test, try the following:

free sample spatial reasoning test. Note that you have four minutes to complete ten questions.

When finished, check your scores. Could you improve on that score? If acing the test is important to your career, consider doing further tests.

What company will administer my test?

Quite a number of testing companies create non-verbal reasoning tests. The more widely known companies include SHL, Cubiks, Talent Q, and Saville. All are highly respected and provide tests with differing difficulty levels.

The employer or college you have applied to will decide which testing company to use.

However, if you do your preparation, the test provider should not matter. Being familiar with the format of the tests, the amount of time allowed, the style of questioning, and of course, your own work are the factors that are going to impact your results.

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What is psychometric testing?

Psychometric tests of many different types have been developed by testing companies, including but not limited to Kenexa, Saville, and SHL. Developed around well-researched psychological principles, the tests are a means of ensuring candidates are ideally suited to the job or course they have applied for.

Measuring an applicant’s intelligence, numerical, and verbal abilities, and personality type, psychometric tests provide a means for an employer or college to narrow down the number of applicants they will accept for places or interviews.

In a world where competition for jobs or academic places is intense, doing well in the tests is your way of overcoming the competition and following your chosen career path. And to do well, you will find it helpful to access the help of a test preparation company.

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Preparing for non-verbal reasoning tests

As these tests are going to be different to other assessments you may have done, taking an organised approach to your preparation is essential.

  • Calculate the amount of time you have remaining to prepare
  • Draw up a study timetable and determine to stick to it
  • Use good study techniques. Work in short, fifty-minute bursts of time followed by ten-minute breaks.
  • Ensure you get adequate rest and fresh air. Your brain will work better as a result.
  • Try to end every day’s work with a quick review of what you learned during the day.

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Use sample papers

Your sample papers should play a central part in every preparation session.

This will allow you to:

  • Become thoroughly familiar with the type of test you are facing
  • Remember the particular skills different tests are assessing you on
  • Train yourself to work within the time limit of the tests. Expect this to be challenging at first, but with regular practice, you will notice yourself improving in this area
  • Monitor your progress when you check your scores from paper to paper
  • Identify the areas you are having the most difficulty with and ensure you devote more time to those areas
  • Prepare in a structured way

Before the tests

  • Ensure you keep the day before the test free for a final review and to get some rest. Remember, tests can be stressful even for the most hardened of us.
  • Avoid any late night study marathons. Tiredness will sabotage all the work you have done. You need to be alert for the actual assessments.

Doing the tests

Approach the tests fresh and well rested. If doing the assessments remotely, ensure you are working in a space free from disturbance. You do not need your concentration broken for these particular tests.

If you fear becoming nervous, have some stress busting techniques, such as deep breathing, ready to fall back on. And finally, go in there knowing you have worked for this and deserve to succeed!

If you have non-verbal reasoning tests to prepare for, you will find all the resources needed to ace them here.

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Written by Elizabeth O Mahony

With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.