Verbal reasoning tips

Here are some useful verbal reasoning tips.

Verbal reasoning tips

Ask yourself these questions

Ask yourself the following broad questions as you read through:

  1. The introductory statement – What point(s) is/are being made here?
  2. The main body of the text – What does this explore/detail?
  3. The final statement(s) – What details are provided here?
  4. If there is a summary at the end of the passage, what point, if any, is it making?

Step 5 Ask yourself again: Do I have a sufficient understanding to answer the set of questions? If the answer is yes, then you are ready to carefully read the first question. You may only need to read the passage in full twice if you already know where to find the relevant information. Remember that the passage will always be there for reference so you don’t need to memorise it.

Don’t worry if the subject matter in the passage is unfamiliar to you. Many of the passages you read will be about areas in which you have no interest or background knowledge. Nor do you need to apply any outside knowledge of the subject. Remember that your answer must be based solely on the information presented in the passage. Don’t let your answer be clouded by any background knowledge that you may bring to bear on the question. A reading comprehension task requires you to extract the relevant information to answer each question. Each question will relate to a particular part, or parts, of the passage. You will need to ferret out smaller pieces of information contained somewhere within the passage to answer the question correctly.

Verbal Reasoning tip – Key words

Watch out for certain key words and phrases in either the passage or question (or both!). These key words often act as the link between different pieces of information. In many cases they qualify the information that has been given. When you come across key words in passages and questions you need to focus on their precise meanings. You are being tested on reinterpreting the passage so ask yourself: do exactly the same emphasis in both the passage and question?

Contrast words tips example: 

Spain has always been a popular tourist destination, however it now faces competition from cheaper resorts in other countries.

You need to pay careful attention to the information that follows the contrast word as it is often the key to answering the question.

Is the answer to the following statement True, False, or Cannot tell: Spain is unrivalled as a tourist destination. The answer is False. The sentence says that Spain has always been popular, but goes on to say that it now faces competition.

Propositions tips example: 

The author claims that his book will improve your verbal reasoning test performance.

Is the answer to the following statement True, False, or Cannot tell: This book will improve your verbal reasoning test performance. Yes, there is a very good chance that this book will improve your performance if used properly, but this is not a fact so the answer has to be Cannot tell.

Comparisons tips example: 

There is less unemployment in the UK today than at any other point in the past decade.

If asked whether the following statement is True or False – Unemployment rates are currently lower than they were five years ago – the answer would be True. If there is less unemployment today than at any point over the past ten years, then it follows that unemployment rates are lower than they were five years ago.

Absolutes and generalisations tips example: 

UK Most educators agree that excessive television viewing usually damages a child’s concentration.

If faced with the statement: Excessive television always damages a child’s concentration you might be tempted to answer True. The answer is in fact False – because the word usually tells you that this is a high possibility, not a guaranteed effect.

So, to summarise: don’t assume that usually means the same as always. In the world of verbal reasoning tests such words are miles apart!

Verbal Reasoning tip – Cause and effect

After doing lots of practice tests you will come to recognise cause and effect words and phrases. These include: since, because, for, so, consequently, as a result, thus, therefore, due to and hence. It is a good idea to focus on these as often a question will ask you to interpret how these words have been used to link different aspects of an issue or argument together. There are subtle differences between these words and phrases, as some signal stronger causal relationships than others. A word like because indicates a direct causal link. The word so also joins facts together but does not necessarily mean that it was the first fact that led to the second.

Verbal Reasoning tips examples

1) As a result of oversubscription, Adam did not get a place on the philosophy course.

2) The philosophy course was oversubscribed so Adam enrolled in a different class.

What is the answer if you are asked: Did Adam get a place on the philosophy course? In the first sentence, you know that he did not. The second sentence is more ambiguous. Perhaps Adam got a place, but opted out of the overcrowded course.

Be careful not to mix up causal words with words such as then, next, after and later. These words indicate a chronological sequence rather than a causal effect. For example, then does not imply that one thing caused another to happen, only that it happened after.

Verbal Reasoning tip – Speculation

Look out for words or phrases indicating speculation, such as perhaps, probably, possibly and maybe. Words such as may, might and can also point to the possibility of something happening. You need to tread carefully with such phrases – they do not mean the suggested outcome is guaranteed, only that it is a possibility.

If you are told – The team is almost certain to win the championship – you should not interpret this as meaning that the team will definitely win. It is just speculation, even if there are good reasons for making that prediction.

Verbal Reasoning tips example

Conglomerate Plc announced redundancies in its accounts team, as well as job losses in its logistics and human resources departments.

You may be asked to say whether the following statement is True or False: Conglomerate Plc made redundancies in three parts of its business. The answer would be True because the statement mentions job losses in accounts, logistics and human resources.