If you’re applying for a skilled technical role or a job in engineering, you may well encounter a mechanical reasoning test as part of the recruitment process. Used to streamline candidate pools by identifying applicants with the strongest mechanical aptitude, these tests require dedicated preparation if you wish to succeed.

Mechanical reasoning tests assess a candidate’s ability to understand and apply mechanical principles within different scenarios. They are challenging but should be seen as an opportunity to display strong logical thinking and problem-solving skills, alongside your mechanical knowledge.

Mechanical reasoning tests measure your familiarity with mechanical principles, concepts, and components, such as:

Gears and screws – to determine your knowledge of rotation and speed

Wheels and belts – to explore rotation and (cross) connections

Forces and pressure – involving springs, levers, and clamps

Electrical circuits – to gain insight into your knowledge of electric fields and currents (this also covers magnetism)

Energy transformation – across solids, liquids, and gases, and including temperature and heat transfer, plus kinetic and potential energy

The questions may ask you to perform a calculation, to identify the voltage, pressure, or force involved, for example. You may also be asked to identify certain aspects of the machinery presented, or to indicate the correct tools to use or procedures to follow.

To achieve a high score in a mechanical reasoning test, preparation is vital. Work through our ten tips below to increase your chances of success.

1. Decide which mechanical concepts apply to your role

Mechanical reasoning tests are often tailored to the job role in question. To prepare for your test, review the job description and essential criteria for the position, and list out the mechanical concepts that are relevant to your role. This will give you a good idea of the topics most likely to be encountered on the test.

2. Revise specific mechanical concepts

Once you’ve isolated the mechanical concepts you’ll need to know for the role, revise these and any accompanying principles, components, or calculations. Unlike most reasoning tests, mechanical reasoning relies upon your existing levels of knowledge. Ensure your revision is fresh, so you’re ready to apply it to answer complex questions.

3. Develop your own technique to solve questions

Work through the questions on the test in the way that best suits you. You might want to work through each problem without getting distracted by the multiple-choice answer options, or you may wish to review the components in each diagram in a particular order. If it works for you, and is getting you to the correct answer, stick to your own way of deciphering things.

Remember that you can use a pencil and paper to make notes at any time. It can be tricky to hold all the information in your head when completing an online test.

4. Practice mechanical reasoning tests

Mechanical reasoning tests are unlike other exams, so be sure to familiarise yourself with the format, style and content of these tests. The best way of doing this is through completing full online practice tests. The more different question types and topics you encounter, the more confident you’ll feel to complete your mechanical reasoning test.

5. Avoid distractors in the multiple-choice questions

Multiple-choice answers do to necessarily make tests easier. Be on the lookout for answer options designed to distract you – for example, choices that immediately jump out or that are very similar to the correct answer you are looking to select.

Make sure you take the time to work through each question carefully and double-check the answer, rather than selecting the answer that appears the most obvious.

prepare mechanical reasoning

6. Practice tricky questions

It is natural that you’ll find certain questions more complex than others. Dedicate time to practicing the types of questions you find more challenging so that, come the day of your official test, you’ll feel confident in tackling them. As well as sitting practice tests containing a range of questions, locate questions on the specific topic(s) you find difficult and work on improving these in isolation.

7. Allocate time to each question

The test will be timed, so you’ll need to work at a steady pace to complete all of the questions. Review your test invite, enquire with your recruiter, or research the publisher of your test to find out how many questions are featured on the test and the time allowance given. From this, calculate how much time you are able to allocate to answering each question.

8. If you get stuck on a question, move on

The time limit of the test will be challenging, as there is often only around 30 to 40 seconds to solve each problem. If you’re unsure about a particular question, don’t dwell on it for too long. Take your best guess from the multiple-choice options given (as long as your test isn’t being negatively marked) and progress to the next question.

9. Ensure your wi-fi is stable

Mechanical reasoning tests are administered online, in timed conditions. To avoid any issues, check the stability of your internet connection before you begin your test. It’s also worth making sure your internet browser is updated to prevent any difficulty loading or navigating the test questions.

10. Track your score progress when practicing

When taking practice tests, make sure you review how well you performed in each test. Go through your answers and pay attention to your areas of strength and weakness, so you can tailor your remaining preparation time accordingly. Also, allow yourself to be proud of your progress. Tracking your score can help you to see the improvements achieved by your hard work.