Abstract reasoning test strategies

Abstract reasoning test strategies of a very high quality can be found here.

We recommend our 11 plus practice non verbal reasoning tests. Practising this online test will help you to become familiar with abstract reasoning tests.

 1 – Review the Answer Options

There are a few good psychometric test-taking principles to follow. Before starting the test, ensure that you fully understand the abstract reasoning test format – particularly if you have never completed an abstract reasoning test before.

 2 – Review the answer options

The answer to any abstract reasoning test question is based upon a pattern or series of rules that the respondent has identified in the question stem. Well-written abstract reasoning test questions therefore have sets of answer options that also follow one or more of these rules.

Review the answer options, particularly any answer options that are similar. Are any of the question rules are apparent from how the answer options have been constructed. Look in particular for any patterns across the answer options. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

3 – Establish the changing patterns

Changes in the figures/shapes are the key to answering abstract reasoning questions. You need to be on the look-out for these types of change in the sets of figures and shapes shown in each abstract reasoning question:

– Number

– Reflection

– Shape

– Rotation

– Position

– Colour, including shading

 4 – Remember to also consider the more unusual feature changes

Less common changes in abstract reasoning test questions include:

– Crossover area of two figures / shapes

– Number of sides

– Left to right and up / down directional changes

Abstract Reasoning Test Strategies Part II

 5 – Most abstract reasoning questions will have more than one set of changes to be found

An easy abstract reasoning question will only have one rule that needs to be found by the test-taker. For example at each step in the sequence, a change in the position of one or more of the symbols, a colour or shape change. Although most abstract reasoning question sequences are based on two or more rules. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

These tests ask you to look for the changing pattern(s) in the “pictures”. The easier questions typically at the start of the test, will involve one change in colour, position, size etc of the figures shown. Questions become more difficult as you must spot two or three changes in any of the features shown.

It can help, once you’ve worked out at least one of the feature changes, to check through the answer options to discount those that do not conform said feature changes.

 6 – Remove any answer options which you know are incorrect

With abstract reasoning tests, a useful test-taking strategy is to start by eliminating any answer options which looks incorrect. Logically incorrect. Removing inappropriate answer options may even leave you with only the correct answer option left to select from. This test-taking strategy will therefore save you time to spend on the test’s other abstract reasoning questions.

 7 – Follow a step-by-step approach

A sequential approach is vital. Some step-by-step approaches to answering abstract reasoning test questions are shown here.

 8 – Skip over the more difficult questions and come back to them at the end

With abstract reasoning tests, you are likely to complete some of the abstract reasoning questions much more quickly than others. Of course it makes sense to “pass” and then return to those abstract reasoning questions that after say 30-40 seconds you still cannot spot any linking pattern.

Abstract reasoning test tips Part III

 9 – The more difficult questions will have several changing patterns to find

As a corollary to Abstract reasoning test tip 8, it is also likely that the quickest abstract reasoning test questions are those for which there are only 1-2 patterns to find. Logically it makes sense that if there are more abstract patterns to find the longer it will take you, and some of the most difficult questions will have 4-5 patterns going on.

Also though the more patterns there are to find in any abstract reasoning question, then the more likely you are to get stalled looking for one elusive pattern.

 10 – Familiarize yourself with the different abstract reasoning test formats

See Kenexa-IBM, SHL and TalentQ  Websites for sample abstract reasoning questions of test publisher’s own test format. As always, test practice and your familiarity with the test format help – with these tests you are strongly advised to learn the range of possible feature changes.

Leading test publishers Kenexa-IBM and TalentQ have excellent sample questions for you to practise any of these test types. Alongside SHL’s practise test pages these three sites cover most of the psychometric tests you are likely to find. You can ask in advance which test publisher’s test you will take.

Abstract Reasoning Formats

There are many types of abstract reasoning test from Complete the series, Complete the Grid to the UKCAT-type format. A sequential approach is key in each of these to establish:

  • Firstly, which features are changing.
  • Then to eliminate answer options.

For example, the following common types of abstract reasoning test pattern:

Size of abstract shape

Key to passing an abstract reasoning test is often the size of the shapes in the question. Although if size is one of the patterns you need to find, this will still not reveal the complete answer to you. Then, you will need to look further than the biggest and the smallest shapes to find each of the patterns that make-up the abstract reasoning answer.

Size could be one of the easiest patterns to find first. This will then allow you to eliminate those answer options that do not meet this first pattern.

Sides of abstract shape

It’s important when answering an abstract reasoning test to count the number of sides in the key figures.

Symmetry of abstract shape

When taking an abstract reasoning test, you must consider the lines of symmetry of the key figures you’ve identified in the question.

Number of abstract shapes

Key to passing an abstract reasoning test is to count the number of shapes and figures in the question. This is often part of the solution. If you believe that number is important then narrow down the solution. For example, “remove” the number pattern from the question and seeing what other patterns then reveal themselves.

Arrows pointing at particular abstract shapes

It’s important when answering an abstract reasoning test to look out for arrows, the direction in which these are pointing and which figures the arrows tend to point towards.

Shading of particular shapes

When taking an abstract reasoning test, colour or more particularly shading are often a determinant in the solution. Colour is one of the easiest and quickest patterns to find.

You will easily notice that there are black and white coloured shapes. For example, checkered and grey coloured shapes.


Does any pattern immediately stand out? Remember that this pattern can easily be combined with the other feature changes listed on the is page. For example, is there one black circle and one white square.

Then, in a series abstract reasoning question, does the colour swop so there is one white circle and one black square. For example, does the black shape move around the figure (in a series type of abstract reasoning question format).

Order / Sequence of shapes

Part of the key to passing an abstract reasoning test is to review the order and sequence in which particular figures appear.

Rotation of abstract figures

When taking an abstract reasoning test, you need to consider whether one of the trends is based on the rotation of certain figures.

Reflection of abstract figures

Part of the key to passing an abstract reasoning test is to consider whether there has been any reflection of the contents of a figure into an adjoining figure. This can be difficult to spot. Split a pattern in half and to see if each half represents a reflected half.

Overlap of abstract figures

It’s important when answering an abstract reasoning test to look at areas of overlap between key shapes.

  • Firstly, Aptitude test tips and aptitude test practice.
  • Secondly, Numerical reasoning test practice.
  • Thirdly, Verbal reasoning test practice.
  • And next, Situational judgement test practice.
  • Also then, Passing situational judgment tests.
  • Plus, Situational judgment test tips.
  • And then,  Verbal reasoning test practice and Verbal reasoning test tips.
  • Also next, SHL test practice.
  • Plus, Cubiks test practice.
  • And finally, UKCAT test practice.

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