I’m going to straight-up tell you I suck at numerical reasoning tests. The last time I tried to do one, I spent a week studying (and silently weeping) only to achieve a measly lower-than-average score. So I’m going to focus on the other three: verbal, logical and situational. (And if you happen to find some good tips for numerical, send them my way!)
These are hard. There’s no getting around that fact. I got a first class degree in an essay-based subject, and I still found these really hard. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, start off by cutting yourself some slack. You’ll get there.
Now, you need to get your hands on some practice papers. I used the tests on AssessmentDay (*affiliate link). I found it was well worth paying the £15 to access all the papers, but they do offer free ones as well. Just make sure you are doing the right type of verbal reasoning test, as there are different styles. It’ll usually say on the email the firm sends you asking you to complete the test, and also on the graduate recruitment site.
Step 1: Download one of the tests as a PDF. We’ll call this test 1. Work through the questions, taking as long as you need. As soon as you’ve finished, get the answers and mark it. It really doesn’t matter what mark you get; what matters is that you understand where you went wrong, so read the explanations.
Step 2: Move onto the next test, test 2. Do exactly the same thing again. Don’t worry if you still suck. Or even if you got a worse mark! Just read the explanations.
Step 3: Complete test 3.
Step 4: Go back, and do test 1 again. I would usually do this the next day; give my brain some time to chew it over. Hopefully this time you got a better mark. Go you! You’re nailing it.
Step 5: Keep working on new tests and repeating the old ones until you’re getting scores of about 80%-ish consistently. (Don’t worry if this takes you forever – it takes as long as it takes).
Step 6: Start thinking about speed. You don’t have to jump straight into taking the tests online, just keep an eye on the time. When you’ve gotten comfortable with timing it, try doing one properly. I’d suggest doing a couple and then you’re ready to go!
The most important thing is that you are kind to yourself. This stuff can be very frustrating, but the key is just practice. Go easy on yourself so you don’t burn out. It took me about five full days of work to be in any way decent at these. Therefore, if you’re reading this and you have just sent off some applications, you need to start practising now.
This is my least favourite test after numerical. They suck and I won’t have anyone tell me otherwise.
Apply the same technique I’ve just set out for verbal. AssessmentDay also offer free logical reasoning tests.
Top Tip: The answer is usually a combination of the following: the number of sides a shape has, its direction of travel, the angle it is facing or its colour. There’s usually a couple of ‘rules’ for each question. For example; the shape moves 90 degrees to the left and the number of sides reduces by one each time. Get used to spotting these rules. And when your back’s against the wall, you’re completely out of time- go with your gut feeling. I found I could often pick the right answer because it ‘looked right’ without really comprehending the reasons.
These are a bit more tactical. You’ve got to think about what traits the firm wants you to demonstrate. If it’s a firm that wants you to be a stand-alone-future-rainmaker, maybe don’t always pick the ‘ask a colleague’ answer. However, if it’s a firm that emphasises teamwork, don’t pick ‘leave early and let colleague pick up the slack.’ Actually on second thought, never pick this answer.
In general, there’s not really a way to assure your success at these tests. It’s all a bit of a gamble. You just need to make sure the rest of your application is so excellent they’ll overlook any crazy mark you might get.
I just want you all to know I think these tests are dumb, and I find it frustrating that anyone gets rejected based on them. A pet peeve of mine is oversimplified-commercialised-human-psychology. I think tests like these are best saved for Buzzfeed.
And I ABSOLUTELY hate this codswallop. But that’s a different matter for a different day.
*[I think AssessmentDay is great. And if you decide that you like it too and buy their tests, they will give me enough commission to buy a small cup of tea and maybe even a biscuit. But that’s hardly enough incentive for me to do a hard-sell, so you do you. You’re a student. Times are hard. I get it.]
Also, if you liked this article, why not check out my post on video interviews?