Resources for Job Seekers

Verbal Reasoning Test Advice

How to pass a Verbal Reasoning Test

What is a verbal reasoning test?

Verbal reasoning tests are a type of cognitive ability test that helps employers make more accurate predictions about whether a candidate will be a good fit for a role. Many employers now use verbal tests during their recruitment and selection processes and they can be a great help in allowing recruiters to better understand whether a person has the verbal aptitude to succeed in a job.

Verbal tests are also used by some employers to help identify the training and development needs of businesses and their teams. In this case the test would be used as more of a diagnostic tool that helps to provide a more objective way of finding out peoples strengths and weaknesses.

Many recruiters use verbal tests to supplement their decision making, rather than just relying on a CV or gut instinct alone. If you’re applying for a job that requires you to sit a verbal test, it is important to know what you’re up against so you can show your best self. ¬†¬†

Types of verbal reasoning

Generally speaking verbal reasoning tests will come in 3 levels of difficulty;

  1. Verbal comprehension

  2. Verbal reasoning

  3. Verbal critical reasoning 

The most commonly used type in recruitment today is the verbal reasoning test, although for more senior positions you may be asked to complete a verbal critical reasoning test as well.

Verbal comprehension tests

Verbal comprehension tests tend to be the simplest type of verbal assessment. Verbal comprehension tests are typically displayed as simple information followed by a series of ‘yes/no’ or ‘true/false’ answers.¬†

The questions will have been designed to test your understanding of the information presented. The trick here is to show that you can read and understand a level of information that you would likely encounter on the job itself.

You can easily spot a verbal comprehension test by the yes/no, multiple choice answer format. Tests that include other options (like ‘cannot be sure’) will likely be a higher level of difficulty.

Verbal reasoning tests

Verbal reasoning tests are the most common type of verbal test that you’re likely to encounter in your job search. The information that’s presented in these types of test will be more complex than that of a verbal comprehension test. The format will usually be multiple choice and will typically have more options that just a yes/no.

Verbal reasoning tests measure  a more advanced type of verbal ability. You will not only need to understand the information but will be expected to reason with it. This means you must show that you can make decisions based on the information presented as well as being able to understand it.  

Verbal critical reasoning tests

Verbal critical reasoning tests are the most advanced type of verbal assessment. These type of tests will usually contain high-level, complex information that simulates the demands of senior level positions.

The questions will be designed to assess your ability to draw conclusions from and make complex decisions based on the information presented.

Verbal critical reasoning tests are used in recruitment and development processes that require the highest levels of verbal ability such as lawyers, who need to digest high levels of complex information, solve difficult problems and make important decisions based on the info presented.  

Your personal best score

Your personal best score is the maximum score you can hope to achieve on any verbal reasoning test. In order to attain your personal best score you must tackle all the causes of low test scores. These causes fall into three broad categories:

  • Lack of knowledge

  • Lack of strategy

  • Lack of practice

The term ‘personal best score’ comes from classical test theory. This is a model used by business psychologists in the development of cognitive ability tests to interpret candidate results. Classical test theory states that for any given test people have a true-score of ability. This true score perfectly represents the individuals ability on that test.¬†

Verbal Reasoning Test Tips

People who are experienced in taking cognitive ability tests tend to have quite high levels of test-sophistication – that is they know the best approach to take during any particular test session, regardless of what type of test they’re doing.

Taking lots of tests gives them an advantage over less experienced candidates because their ongoing exposure to this type of assessment will mean they will have developed strategies and techniques to perform at their best. 

As a candidate you can use these strategies yourself, which will help you compete against the more seasoned test-takers.

Revision for verbal reasoning tests

It is very difficult to ‘revise’ for a verbal reasoning test in the way that you would a school exam. Modern day verbal reasoning tests require no prior knowledge so revising for them is impossible. You can however prepare – which is likely why you’re reading this.

Find out more about your specific test

Knowledge of verbal reasoning tests will help to ensure you are prepared for the session. It’s important to let go of any misconceptions and try to gain a good understanding of the format so you can calmly progress through the test to the best of your ability.¬†

The company that has asked you to complete the test should provide you with details about the specific test they’re using. Once you know this you can do a bit of prior research into the test provider.¬†This will ensure you’re ¬†prepared to deal with anything unusual that may crop up during the test.

Wrong answers 

Modern day verbal ability tests don’t take marks off for getting an answer wrong, so if you are struggling to answer, give it your best guess anyway.¬†

Before the test

Try to make sure you are in peak form before you do the test. It sounds obvious but try to get a good night’s sleep, make sure you arrive early and try to remove any distractions or needless stressors beforehand.

Read/listen carefully

If you’re attending the test in person then you will need to listen carefully to what the test ¬†administrator is saying. If the test is online you won’t need to listen but you will definitely need to ensure you read everything carefully so no key bits of information is missed.¬†

Pace yourself

Ensure that you know exactly how much time you will be given to answer the questions so that you can pace yourself more effectively. Most tests offer some form of timer. If they don’t you can use the clock on your computer and a pen and paper to keep track of how long you’re spending on each question. ¬† ¬†

Minimise distractions

This mainly applies to those taking a test at home and online. Obviously you should try to sit the test at a time when it is relatively quiet and free from distractions so you can concentrate on answering.  

Don’t get stuck

If you’re struggling to answer a particular question don’t spend too much time on it. Leave it and move on to the next one. Many online tests will allow you to go back and re-answer. If the test doesn’t allow this then you will need to make your best and most educated guess.¬†

Avoid random guesses 

When you’re unsure of an answer do not just guess randomly. Try to narrow down the options as much as possible to increase your chances of getting the question right. It is always better to use a ‘best guess’ than leave the question blank.

Revisit your answers

If you complete the test before the time limit runs out then you should use the additional time to go back and check through your answers. Try to focus on the questions you found the most difficult.

Centre your breathing

If you’re feeling anxious before the test session starts you can centre yourself and reduce anxious feeling by taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply and slowly, focusing on the sensations that are occurring in your body. Do the same again, but this time on the out-breath. Do this for a few minutes and you should be feeling relaxed enough to ¬†tackle the test. ¬†¬†

Practice materials

The vast majority of test publishers will provide practice materials for the tests they offer. 

Employers won’t always send the practice materials to candidates meaning you will have to search for them online yourself as part of your preparation.¬†

Developing your  verbal ability 

Your verbal ability is like a muscle. And like any muscle it responds and can be developed by exercising it. Regularly exercising your verbal ability will help it to grow and become stronger. Like all muscles, if you stop using it, it will soon weaken, meaning you will be unlikely to perform at your best if asked to take a verbal reasoning test.

By completing practice verbal reasoning test questions you can ‘exercise’ and this will help in developing your skills. However the benefits of just taking practice tests alone will likely not be enough‚Ķ

In order to build up your raw verbal ability you will need to combine practice tests with regular use of that ability. When combined with regular use, practice tests will help your verbal ability to become stronger and more well-rounded.  

Your raw verbal ability can be developed by any activity that requires regular use of it, for example;

  • Taking part in discussions & debates

  • Completing puzzles & word games (think Wordle, crosswords etc‚Ķ)

  • Reading more complex material than you would usually

  • Analysing any complex written material you may be studying (identifying key themes and finding underlying connections etc‚Ķ)

  • Writing letters, reports and composing written arguments

Like any form of exercise, these activities will bear the most fruit if you are able to integrate them into your day-to-day life so that they become ingrained in whatever you’re doing. If you can make them habitual then your verbal ability will grow steadily each day. 

Remember that just as there is an upper limit to our other abilities there’s also an upper limit to our verbal ability! Unfortunately we can’t all be Einstein! What you can do, however, is combine your knowledge of the test, test taking strategies and ongoing practice to achieve your maximum score.