Verbal reasoning tests are designed to assess your ability to read, analyse and interpret written information. The tests vary according to publisher and contain written data in the format of statements, short paragraphs or long passages of text.
They may feature questions on the content of the text, word meanings, analogies, antonyms and synonyms, word swaps and/or the inferences that can be made from the given information.
As achieving a high score on psychometric tests is key to securing advancement within the recruitment process, taking the time to thoughtfully prepare for verbal reasoning assessments is crucial to success.
Here are our top ten tips for preparing for your upcoming verbal reasoning test:
1. Find out the test provider
Once you know you’ll be taking a verbal reasoning test, find out who the test provider (also known as the test publisher) will be. Verbal reasoning tests vary in format, structure and content, according to the publisher of the test (common test providers include Kenexa, Cubiks, SHL, Talent Q, Saville and Cut-e/Aon.
If this information is not freely available, email your recruitment contact directly to ask for details.
Some tests are administered under timed conditions, with the time allocation and number of questions differing between providers. Some may be negatively marked, whilst others do not penalise candidates for incorrect answers.
It is important to know exactly what to expect when you take the official test, so you can be fully prepared. Determining the publisher can reveal vital details such as the work pace needed, the style of the questions and the content likely to be included in the test.
2. Read each piece of text carefully, and re-read if necessary
When sitting your verbal reasoning test, it is critical to read all the instructions and questions carefully, as the test centres on the nuances of the statements or paragraphs, their technical features and the implications of the information divulged.
Maintaining a steady pace is vital, but should not come at the expense of reading and referring back to the text as necessary. Without checking the text, you risk making unnecessary mistakes that will impact your score.
3. Focus on time allocation
To complete the full test within its time limit and secure a high score, you will need to work both quickly and accurately through the questions. Many verbal reasoning tests are challenging due to the short time frame, in which you must read and analyse multiple texts and answer a significant number of questions.
To ensure you can keep to the right pace on the day, practise using the same time limit per question that will be necessary in the test. This can be easily calculated by dividing the duration of the test by the number of questions. On average, a pace of around 30–40 seconds per question is required to complete a test in its entirety.
Focusing on the time allocation during preparation will help you to work through questions at the required speed, and get you used to keeping an eye on the clock.
4. Take the texts literally
When answering verbal reasoning questions, pay close attention to the exact information that has been divulged within the paragraphs or passages. A common type of verbal reasoning question involves being asked if a statement is true, false or if you cannot say.
Consider the text, carefully weighing up whether you have enough evidence to prove or disprove the given statements.
Verbal reasoning tests are based on the information in front of you, and require candidates to cast aside any prior knowledge. To succeed in the test, you need to focus on what the text is actually saying without allowing your brain to supplement additional information. Which brings us to the next tip…
5. Avoid making assumptions (but make sure you can recognise them)
When analysing sets of statements or passages of text under time pressure, it is easy to make assumptions about what you have read. But succeeding in the test hinges upon not taking any information for granted.
If you assume the content or meaning of either the questions or text given – without taking the time to fully understand it – you will lose marks.
Verbal reasoning tests often have questions designed to challenge the inferences that can be made from the passages, in which candidates must identify which statements given are assumptions and which are directly evidenced by the text. Ensure you can recognise when a reflection is an assumption, but avoid making any of your own.
6. Get a good night’s sleep in preparation
This may seem obvious, but the importance of being well rested before a verbal reasoning exam cannot be stressed enough. Sometimes, because the tests are commonly taken online from your own home, candidates fail to prepare to the same degree they would for an external invigilated exam.
Verbal reasoning requires acute focus and consistent attention to detail as you rapidly absorb, analyse and interpret written passages. To do this accurately and at the pace needed, your brain needs to be operating at peak performance.
A minimum of eight hours of sleep is recommended. Avoid alcohol and sugary food and drinks the day before the test, to ensure quality sleep and strong focus come the next day.
7. Use exam conditions
Practising in exam conditions helps you to become accustomed to the set-up required on the day of the test. It will also give you the best chance of focusing during your preparation.
Recreating exam conditions includes:
Conducting your preparation in a quiet environment, free from distractions, so you can focus fully and get a good idea of your true capabilities
Working to the time allocation given or, if you cannot find a sample test of the same length, to the pace required for the real assessment
Completing the questions in one sitting, as in a timed exam
Answering the questions without external help or aids that are not permitted in the official test (like a dictionary)
8. Practise questions you get incorrect
When preparing for your reasoning test, it is important to review your performance in any practice exams. It is not simply the act of taking the sample tests that helps you to prepare, but the process of learning from any mistakes made.
Go through the tests and make a note if any subject matter or style of question seems to repeatedly catch you out. Even candidates who are strong across most verbal concepts tend to be weaker when answering a particular question style – so don’t panic about having weaker areas.
If you are aware of the types of questions you find tricky, you can invest time into targeted practice to bolster your score.
9. Embrace failure
Improvement cannot be made without making attempts and building from mistakes, and verbal reasoning tests are no different.
If you take a practice verbal reasoning assessment and score poorly, do not be disheartened. Instead of being deterred by a low score, use the test to learn by identifying your strengths and weaknesses and targeting your subsequent preparation accordingly.
Failing a test during preparation can be a needed reality check and inspire increased dedication to preparing for the official assessment. It is far better to fail with time to improve, than to leave your weaker areas undiscovered until test day.
10. Practice until you are familiar with verbal reasoning tests
The content of verbal reasoning tests is unlike that of any other literary or word-based assessment. Verbal reasoning has its own style of question, some designed to be particularly difficult and requiring great attention to detail.
They can often border on the ambiguous, asking candidates to identify the answer that is ‘closest to’ the meaning or ‘the best match’ for a word. The correct answer may not be immediately obvious, taking work to decipher.
Gaining a familiarity with answering questions in this style will help to improve your chances of achieving the score you need.