Abstract Reasoning Test: The Essential Guide to Exam Success

Being faced with an abstract reasoning test? It might be a bit of a mouthful, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. Our expert guide will teach you everything you need to know to succeed.

In this free abstract reasoning test guide we will show you:

  • 4 proven steps to pass an abstract reasoning test
  • Example test questions (with answers and explanations)
  • 3 simple ways to approach the questions

You can find some of the best tailored abstract reasoning practice tests here.


What is an abstract reasoning test?

These tests are designed to assess how well you can think logically and work out abstract concepts and patterns.

In short:

They measure your ability to see the rules and patterns in a set of symbols or shapes.

Instead of testing your prior knowledge (like math or language), an abstract reasoning test assesses your overall intellect and judgement (similar to an IQ test).

Why employers use them

You might be asked to take an abstract reasoning test as part of the selection process for a job or graduate scheme.

They are also commonly referred to as diagrammatic reasoning or inductive reasoning tests, and they’re used by employers to get an idea of your intellectual potential.

Because the tests don’t rely on your knowledge of language or math, they give employers an objective indication of your problem-solving ability. This can be especially useful for jobs that will require the successful candidate to handle complex data, think creatively and take initiative.

What to expect in an abstract reasoning test

The format of the test will be up to your potential employer, but you can usually expect some form of online multiple choice test.

Some employers will ask you to take the test before your interview, while some will expect you to take it as part of the interview itself.

The test is timed. How long you’re given will depend on the employer and the number of questions in the test, but you can typically expect a time limit of 30-40 minutes (which works out to be around 25-30 seconds per question).

Most questions in the abstract reasoning test will show you a pattern of shapes, symbols or objects, and ask you to choose what comes next in the pattern from a set of multiple choice answers.

Abstract reasoning example questions

Take a look at this sample question from JobTestPrep and see if you can spot the pattern:


Which of the following complete the above sequence – A, B, C, D or E?



The correct answer is E.

In this example, all the black triangles around the outside are moving slightly counter-clockwise.

Let’s try another sample question. Choose the image that completes the pattern:


Which of the shapes complete the sequence – A, B, C, D or E?




The correct answer is B.

This one is a bit trickier, with a few more elements to consider.

Here, we have an X shape, black dots, and white dots. The black dots are being added in a counter-clockwise direction to each angle of the X shape until it’s full, then being removed in the same direction. The white dots are also being added and then removed, but in a clockwise direction.

How to solve the test questions

Abstract reasoning test questions are designed to be difficult, and the questions get more difficult as the test goes on.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a great score.

Here’s how to approach the questions:

  • Read them carefully. This sounds simple, but there’s often vital information in the question that gets missed. Multiple choice answers almost always include distractors that are deliberately similar to the correct answer, to test whether you’ve read the question properly.
  • Break them down. The test questions are designed to overwhelm you with a lot of information. Sometimes there will be extraneous symbols, shapes and colours in the question that are just there to make it look more complex. Break down the individual elements and work through them one at a time to figure out what’s important and what’s not.
  • Look at the answers for clues. For more difficult questions, it can help to start with the answers and then work your way back. Look for patterns in the possible answers to identify the important elements in the question.

Abstract reasoning test video – More sample questions and answers

Have a go at some of these sample abstract reasoning test questions from CareerVidz.

How to pass your abstract reasoning test: 4 pro tips

#1: Be fully prepared

Practice is so important — we can’t stress that enough.

Practising for the test is the only way you’ll get familiar and confident with the types of questions it will ask, the format, and the testing conditions.

As well as taking abstract reasoning practice tests, you can also develop your logical thinking skills with brain training games and puzzles.

Apps like Peak, Lumosity and Mensa Brain Training have daily exercises to help you train your logic and problem-solving skills. Or, go the old-fashioned route and pick up a puzzle book from your local newsagent.

These simple but super-effective methods can help you practice the skills you need for not only abstract reasoning tests, but also logical reasoning, numerical reasoning, and verbal reasoning tests as well.

#2: Get in good shape

We’re talking mentally and physically.

Take care of your health so that you’re in your best mental and physical shape, and can go into the test in a good headspace.

You know the drill:

Eat well, drink plenty of water, take time to relax and meditate, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

And this might go without saying, but avoid alcohol the night before the test. You’ll want to be clear-headed and calm for this one.

Which leads nicely into the next tip…

#3: Stay calm

Going into the test calm is one thing, but staying calm is where most people struggle.

You’ll be working to a time limit, so it’s easy to feel the pressure — but it’s essential that you don’t let the stress impact how well you perform. Remember to breathe deeply and focus your concentration on the task at hand.

You’ll also find that taking practice tests beforehand will help a lot with your confidence! You can get our recommended practice tests here.


#4: Be aware of the time

Good time management is vital. It’s also the part that catches a lot of people out.

Scan through the whole abstract reasoning test before you start to get an idea of how long it is and how much time you should spend on each question. Keep that in the back of your mind as you’re working through the questions.

And if you find yourself stuck on a hard question? Take the age-old advice for any type of test or exam:

Just leave it and move on. Come back to it at the end if you have time. Dwelling on difficult questions will only sway your confidence and slow you down.

Go for it! You can do this.

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