What is Verbal Reasoning?
Verbal reasoning can be defined as the ability to understand and comprehend concepts expressed through language, think constructively and apply logic to solve problems. Verbal reasoning goes beyond recognising vocabulary or language fluency to how we understand, reason, and engage with written and verbal language.
Verbal reasoning is a skill, rather than learned knowledge, and helps us to use language to negotiate and explain within our environment.
An example of verbal reasoning is reading or hearing some information or problem, processing the information, forming a theory, and using this to evaluate the outcome of a problem.
Other examples of verbal reasoning include:
- Following instructions and deciphering a solution
- Understanding letter sequences
- Drawing conclusions from limited information
- Identifying words within words
- Spotting the odd word in a group
What is the difference between verbal and non-verbal reasoning?
The difference between verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning is the way the information is delivered. Non-verbal reasoning does not involve understanding written or verbal information, but rather information presented visually; for example, using numbers, diagrams, codes, or shapes. It assesses the ability to analyse visual data and solve issues using visual reasoning.
Unlike verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning is not dependent on learnt abilities such as language.
Why is verbal reasoning important?
Verbal reasoning is an important skill that we begin to develop in childhood. When a child asks ‘why?’, ‘why not?’, ‘how come?’, they are using their verbal reasoning skills, and it is essential to their learning as it helps them develop perception, understanding, and the ability to use language to identify and solve problems.
As adults, verbal reasoning is something we use every day, often without realizing, whether we are relaying key pieces of information from a news article to a friend or having a debate with a colleague.
Verbal reasoning is a particularly important skill in the workplace in many different sectors and industries; even those you might not immediately think of as requiring strong verbal skills.
It is essential to many aspects of work like communicating with peers, managers, and subordinates, gaining insights from a report, or producing business copy in a professional manner.
When might you take a verbal reasoning test?
Verbal reasoning is a skill that is relevant to almost all types of industries and sectors, which is why verbal reasoning tests are so commonly seen in the recruitment process. Employers can use these tests as part of their application criteria to determine how well a candidate can read and extract meaning from text, and apply reasoning and logic to solve problems.
The test is typically administered online during the early stages of the recruitment process, which is usually after you have submitted your initial application, but before any interviews have taken place.
Verbal reasoning tests are most commonly used in the recruitment process for entry-level positions, such as graduate schemes and internships, however, they can also be used for more senior roles.
You may also be required to take a verbal reasoning test as part of the entrance examinations used by schools, colleges, and universities.
What does a verbal reasoning test involve?
In a verbal reasoning test, the most common question type is one where you are presented with a passage of text, followed by a statement. You are then required to pull key details from the storyline or piece of information to decipher if the statement is:
- ‘True’ - the statement is logically correct, based on the information given.
- ‘False’ - the statement cannot possibly be true, based on the information given.
- ‘Cannot say’ - there is not enough information provided in the passage to be absolutely certain if the statement is true or false.
You are not required to have any pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter presented in the passage, as all the information you need is provided.
Other question types are also used in verbal reasoning tests: for example, spotting letter sequences, spotting words within words, completing missing sentences, or finding a letter to complete two other words.
Verbal reasoning tests are usually timed assessments, with 60 seconds typically allocated to answer the question. Therefore, you must be comfortable reading the text and coming to a conclusion under time pressure.
How can I improve my verbal reasoning skills?
Practice verbal reasoning tests
The most obvious way to improve your verbal reasoning skills is to practice verbal reasoning tests. There are a variety of free online practice tests available that can help improve your comprehension and analytical skills. The tests are a good way to highlight areas you struggle most with, and which you should focus on improving.
Read newspapers and magazines
Reading newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian, The Times, and The Economist can help hone your ability to read and quickly grasp the information presented in written articles. Whilst reading, consider the main arguments stated and analyze how the author presents and supports these arguments.
Make sure to take stock of all information
Good verbal reasoning skills require you to take in all of the information presented - you need to have a good grasp at what is being presented to be able to separate the salient information from the information that is unimportant to the problem.