A verbal reasoning test is designed to evaluate your ability to read and understand a passage of text, and use that information to answer questions.
To perform well in verbal reasoning tests, comprehension, analysis and speed are important: there are often several passages in a test, each with between 3 to 5 questions.
Verbal reasoning tests are used as part of the job application process for many roles, and are usually completed online. They can vary in their presentation depending on the publisher, and to succeed it is important to understand how the assessment works, what the questions are looking for, and how to approach the test.
To get the best result from a verbal reasoning assessment, we have put together this list of tips and tricks to help you perform well.
First, let’s deconstruct a sample question to show how verbal reasoning questions should be approached:
An example verbal reasoning question decoded
Read the passage and answer the associated questions
Public sector pensions are increasingly under threat as the Government’s actuaries and external financial advisors struggle to establish how current levels of pension scheme obligations can be met. The problem has been caused by a global retraction in world stock indices where many billions of pounds were invested.
While pension fund assets have been falling in value, contributions paid into funds have also fallen as more people take early retirement. Longer life expectancy has also added to the strain. This combination of factors has led to a major deficit that has prompted the government to extend retirement ages and force public sector employees to contribute increasing amounts into their pension schemes. These changes have resulted in outrage amongst many public sector workers. Many private sector workers, however, believe that despite these reforms, public sector workers still benefit from more generous pensions. One radical proposal for alleviating the deficit is infrastructure investment, which some economists believe would stimulate economic growth.
More people taking early retirement is the major contributing factor to the public sector pension deficit.
C: Cannot Tell
C: Cannot Tell
Although the article does mention that people taking early retirement is a contributing factor in the deficit, it also mentions less value of the pension fund assets and the longer life expectancy as factors, too. So we cannot say that early retirement is the major contributing factor.
For more practice questions, please take a look at our verbal reasoning test questions and answers page.
Tip 1: Find out who the test provider is
Although the basic framework of the verbal reasoning test is always the same, the way it is presented, the number of questions, and the layout may differ depending on who the publisher is.
You can ask the hiring manager who the test provider is ahead of time, or look on employment sites, forums or even the company website to find out.
Don’t worry if you can’t get this information ahead of time; you can still look at all the various publishers on our site for more details.
Tip 2: Find your weaknesses
Through practice, you might find that you struggle with a certain part of the test: whether that be understanding, reading or even answering. Use the practice sessions to highlight where you are weaker, and seek to improve those areas.
When you discover that you have made a mistake, analyse why you did. This might be in the description of the answer at the end of the practice test, or you might need to work out what went wrong yourself.
Using mistakes as a learning experience is a positive way to move forward, and ensures that you are making the most of your practice sessions.
Tip 3: Understand true, false and cannot say
To answer the questions correctly, you need to be confident that you can label each question as true, false, or cannot say. All the information you need to be able to answer the questions is included in the passage of text – thus you need to make a logical deduction as to whether it is true or false (or impossible to determine).
Don’t be afraid of the ‘cannot say’ answer - it is a relevant deduction that can be made if there just isn’t enough information available.
If the reasoning in the text does not give a definitely true (or definitely false) outcome, then the answer is ‘cannot say’. Remember that verbal reasoning is assessing your ability to extract information from the given text only; there is no need for prior knowledge to be applied.
Tip 4: Practice, practice, practice
This could be the most important part of your preparation. Whether you have taken several psychometric tests as part of a job application, or this is your first time, practicing has several benefits to your performance.
When you know the publisher of the test you are going to take, you can become familiar with the presentation of the text and the questions. Some providers may have three questions relating to the passage, whereas others might have as many as five.
Even if you do not know the publisher, or cannot find out before the test, taking verbal reasoning practice tests can help highlight where you might have difficulties in the live test. This might be a timing issue: if you take too long on one piece of text to find the right answers, you might run out of time to complete other questions. Practicing can help you become faster at answering the questions without losing accuracy.
Tip 5: Don’t assume
One of the main learning points when you are taking a verbal reasoning assessment is that there is no need to use any prior knowledge. They are meant to be abstract ideas, passages and text, and provide all the information you need to answer the questions.
This means that it is important that you don’t apply any bias, knowledge or assumptions into answering the questions – just logical conclusions from the textual data given.
Tip 6: Prepare effectively
For most people, verbal reasoning tests are taken at home via a weblink. If this is the case for you, there are some ways to prepare for a verbal test to give yourself the best chance.
The most important thing to do before taking any test is ensure that you have a good night’s sleep. If you are well rested, you are much more likely to be successful. In addition to this, make sure you have eaten a good breakfast and stay hydrated.
Whether you are using a laptop, PC or tablet, ensure that you have a steady internet connection – you don’t want to suffer a sudden drop in Wi-Fi.
Wherever you are working, make sure you are comfortable, free from distractions, and have everything to hand that you might need (like a pen and paper, if permitted).
If you are taking the assessment in a test centre, be sure to arrive early and be prepared. You will usually receive instructions about what to expect at the test centre; we have some further tips on assessment centres that might help.
Tip 7: Read the instructions
Always take the time to fully read and understand the instructions. This will make taking the test more efficient, plus you’ll get the opportunity to settle down and ready yourself.
The instructions might also have a practice question built in. If so, complete this too, so that you are in the right headspace.
Tip 8: Time management
Almost all verbal reasoning tests are timed, which means that time management is one of the most important things to remember. There will be a number of questions, and some you will naturally find easier than others.
You need to have enough time to read, understand and analyse the text, as well as answering the questions. Don’t linger too long on any single part.
It’s important that you do not spend too long on the trickier questions, since you might run out of time to complete them. If you find there is one that you become stuck on, leave it and move on. Come back to it if you have time at the end.
Tip 9: Choose one of two strategies
There are two ways to approach the verbal reasoning test, and the one you choose will depend on the way you work.
You can choose to read the passage first, then answer each question in turn, going back through the passage to find the correct answers. This is great for those who are good at retaining information.
Some people prefer to read the questions first, and search the passage for the information needed to answer. This can sometimes be quicker, but might not work for all test publishers, depending on how they display their questions.
Whichever way you choose, being able to quickly read and understand the given information is key to answering correctly.
Tip 10: Brush up on your English skills
Whether you are a native English speaker, or have English as a second language, getting used to ‘business speak’ and complicated terminology will make it easier for you to pick apart the language used and find the right answers.
The texts used in verbal reasoning assessments are usually complicated, sometimes with technical language and formal grammar. Getting used to this sort of information and what it means will give you the best chance at speed and accuracy in your comprehension.