The Ultimate Guide to Verbal Reasoning Tests

Graduate jobs

June 28, 2021

From writing a CV and cover letter to taking situational judgement tests, numerical reasoning tests and job simulations, any graduate applying for jobs will know how much goes into a job application, all before you even get an interview.


Verbal reasoning tests are another common step in the graduate job recruitment process, but luckily you can get ahead of the competition just by doing some simple research and preparation.


Even if you’ve never come across a verbal reasoning test, there is a very high chance that sooner or later you will have to take one for a job application. But don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. From common question structures to how to prepare, here is everything you need to know to succeed in a verbal reasoning test.


What is a verbal reasoning test?


A verbal reasoning test is a psychometric test that is used to measure how efficiently you are able to analyse written information. It will test your ability to thoroughly skim the text for the relevant information, digest and understand what you have read and finally reach accurate conclusions based on what you have read.


Recruiters have a lot of work to do when it comes to processing and interviewing a large number of candidates to fill graduate schemes or other popular roles. By asking candidates to complete a verbal reasoning test, they can automatically filter out any unsuitable applicants at an early stage. 


These tests provide a completely fair and unbiased way of evaluating a candidate’s relevant skills and aptitudes. Only the candidates that demonstrate the right core skills and basic attitudes will reach the interview stage, saving both recruiters and applicants time in the hiring process.


How to prepare for and succeed in a verbal reasoning test


Now that we’ve covered the basics of what a verbal reasoning test is and why graduate recruiters are so keen on using them, the next step is learning how to prepare for one. Here are our top tips to help you succeed and get invited to interview.


Find out who the test provider will be

SHL, Criterion and Cubiks are just some of the common verbal reasoning tests used by employers, but you should try researching or asking the company you’re applying to which test publisher they use. Not only will this allow you to practise using exactly the same structure and style as you will encounter on the test day, but it also shows the recruiter that you like to take the initiative. Win-win!


Always read the instructions and text thoroughly

Verbal reasoning passages are not always straightforward - in fact, they are often written using complex vocabulary and long-winded sentence structures in order to try and catch you out. Read and reread each piece of text you come across to ensure you understand what is being said (and what isn’t being said) and to avoid making false assumptions.


Always read the instructions, because if you don’t you might miss key information like ‘please select two answers’ or ‘you cannot go back to previous questions’.


Practise…a lot!

Good preparation can give you an edge over other candidates, so it is well worth taking some time to get to grips with the questions types and the timings of the test. Practising will also boost your confidence and lower your stress levels when it comes to taking the real test. 


Remember to always review the questions you get wrong in your practice tests and work out where you went wrong. You will actually learn more from the questions you get wrong than the ones you get right! 


Spend some time reflecting on how the test went

No one likes to reflect on failure, but even if you feel like the test went badly, you will only improve if you spend some time analysing what went wrong and how you can improve on your performance for next time. How you perform in the test will also help you decide whether or not the company and the role are a good fit for you.


Common question types


The good news is that verbal reasoning tests — usually — all follow the same structure, so it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any nasty surprises on the day of the test. 


They tend to take the form of a longer written passage accompanied by a series of questions related to the content of the text. For each question, you must choose between true, false or cannot say. 


True - Based on the information contained within the passage, the statement must be true. 

False - Based on the information contained within the passage, the statement must be false.

Cannot Say - It is not possible to determine given the information contained within the passage alone. More information would be required to say for certain whether the statement is true or false.


It is important to note that the answer you give should be based on what is in the text only. Do not use your own presumptions, or knowledge, even if it seems obvious, because you will probably end up getting a lot of the questions wrong. Also, take care to read the text carefully, because often a tiny detail is the difference between a true/false and a “cannot say” answer.


Useful resources


The key to succeeding in any test practice, and verbal reasoning tests are no different. Whether you’re preparing for your very first verbal reasoning test, or you just want to brush up on your skills in time for your next one, here are some (free!) useful resources to help you practise:


Assessment Day:

Job test prep:


Remember to check out our handy guides for succeeding in situational judgement tests and numerical reasoning tests!


Written by Talya Honebeek

Talya is a freelance writer and Journalism Master’s student at the University of Sunderland, writing about everything from fashion and lifestyle to education.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels


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