What is a verbal reasoning test?

Verbal reasoning tests are psychometric tests that assess your ability to make deductions from passages of text. They evaluate your understanding of language and level of verbal comprehension and logic, as well as your dexterity when it comes to filtering out key information from a bulk of text.

Candidates are usually presented with a written passage followed by a series of statements. Typically you must decide whether, based purely on what’s in the text, the statement is true, false or that you cannot say.

Depending on the role you are applying for, questions may range from basic reading comprehension to more advanced reasoning. There are also a number of different test providers used by recruiters, offering a range of verbal reasoning assessments for different industries and job levels. We will look at these in more detail later in this article.

Why do employers use verbal reasoning tests?

Verbal reasoning tests are an effective way to reveal a candidate’s language and comprehension skills, and their ability to apply reasoning and logic.

These are key in any working environment, which is why verbal reasoning tests are so popular with employers in a wide range of industries – even those you might not think require strong verbal skills.

Many employers also regard verbal reasoning tests as more fair than other types of assessment, such as an unstructured interview. This is because all candidates face questions of a similar level of difficulty and their tests are scored objectively.

So verbal reasoning tests may help to provide a more level playing field for applicants from all backgrounds. However, a verbal reasoning test is likely only to form one part of a wider selection process, and your performance in all areas will be taken into consideration by the employer.

How do verbal reasoning tests work? What skills are required?

There are two main formats of verbal reasoning tests:

Verbal critical reasoning – these test your ability to apply logic by confirming whether a given statement is verified by the text provided.

Reading comprehension – these assess your ability to digest written information and then use the information provided to answer questions quickly and accurately.

The most common form is the true/false/cannot say test, where you are required to read some text and then determine whether the statement that follows is true, false or impossible to say based on the information provided.

Other forms of verbal reasoning tests you may encounter are:

Explicit multiple choice – here the answer to questions will be explicitly stated in the text. For example ‘Who said..?’ or ‘How many..?’

Implicit multiple choice – here the answer will not be explicitly stated but can be inferred from details provided in the text. For example ‘What made the employee decide to…?’; or ‘What caused…?’

Meta multiple choice – here the answer does not refer to details specifically given in the text but requires the candidate to answer broader questions such as ‘What can we conclude from…?’ or ‘Which statement would weaken the argument..?’

Regardless of the format of the test, you will need to read text, interpret information and decide on the most logical conclusion. It is important to remember that no previous knowledge of the passage topic is required, so make your decisions based solely on the information you’re given.

As well as or instead of verbal reasoning tests, you may also be asked to take a verbal test assessing your language and literacy skills. This could include:

Grammar and spelling – checking your knowledge of correct spelling and grammar. These might include questions such as find the new word and word swap (for more on those, check out the videos at the bottom of this article).

Vocabulary – testing the range of your vocabulary and your ability to identify correctly how ideas are related. This is usually in the form of synonyms or antonyms (words which have the same or opposite meaning to another).

Word analogy – testing your ability to find the relationship between a pair of words.