What Is Analytical Reasoning?
Analytical reasoning describes a skill based on critical thinking, where you use logic to answer complex questions. By identifying patterns in facts or rules, you can use those patterns to determine outcomes that could be or must be true.
There are several different aspects of analytical reasoning that you might need to identify to be able to draw a conclusion, such as:
Causation. Being able to identify that one event is the direct cause of another – rather than correlation, where two events happened together but were not directly related.
Conditional statements. Also known as ‘if-then’ statements, conditional statements provide a hypothesis (if) and a conclusion (then). Related to this is a converse statement, which swaps the hypothesis and the conclusion.
Trends. Using quantitative data that is both measurable and exact, you can identify when an outcome is consistently increasing or decreasing over time. This is known as a trend.
Sequences. When presented with a seemingly unrelated series of numbers, images or shapes, finding the pattern or rule that makes them a sequence will help you predict the next in the series.
What is the difference between analytical reasoning and logical reasoning?
Although analytical reasoning comes under the umbrella of logical reasoning – especially in terms of pre-employment assessments – it is slightly different in scope.
Logical reasoning is about following step-by-step logical thinking to reach a conclusion, and this can be tested in many ways, from inductive and deductive reasoning to abstract reasoning.
Analytical reasoning is about interpreting the logic needed to reach a conclusion that could be or has to be true.
In practice, both terms are used interchangeably to describe problem-solving techniques.
When might you use analytical reasoning?
When we first begin to learn in school, we use analytical reasoning in the form of pattern recognition and application to read and do maths. This application of analytical reasoning can be used for learning new skills – like a language – or for picking up new information when you start a job.
As an adult, you are likely to need analytical reasoning in the workplace. Whether that is to improve communication, help resolve conflict, or to think of solutions to problems, analytical thinking is a cornerstone of higher-level roles.
Analytical reasoning is an essential part of management roles, especially those that need critical thinking and problem solving. You might find analytical reasoning most important in careers in law or financial positions, for example. For roles like these, you could encounter analytical reasoning assessments as part of the application process.
You might also need to use analytical reasoning in your everyday life, to identify trends in your spending habits when creating a budget, or when completing a planner for your future goals.
What to expect in an analytical reasoning test
When you are faced with an analytical reasoning test, understanding what to expect will make you feel more confident.
Most analytical reasoning questions are based on a passage of information, usually in sets based on the same data.
The questions are looking for your competency in finding relationships, working with conditional statements, making inferences, and finding patterns or rules to predict the next element in the sequence.
It is important to remember that these questions are designed to be answered by most people, which means that you do not need any formal training in the advertised role, or in logic, to be successful.
How to improve your analytical reasoning
Whenever you are presented with some information, whether it is an academic article, a news story, or even a fact, you can practice your analytical reasoning skills.
Look for relationships between key pieces of information: how they are connected and whether they directly or indirectly affect one another. Think about how information is provided, so you can get clarity on the arguments and the information.
You want to be able to identify key information including the wording used. Factors and elements are an important part of the way the information is presented, as well as the argument that is being made.
You can use the wording of the piece to help: look for words that limit or define the relationship between factors, like only, always, must or never, and cannot.
Of course, the best way to see whether you have improved your skills is to look at practice assessments that can be found online; these can help you put these skills into practice.