You are on page 1of 16

When I took my entrance exams in preparation for high school and college, I distinctly remember one particular section

(aside from
math) that almost drove me nuts: the abstract reasoning portion. The sight of shaded shapes and squiggles made me want to
reach for my aspirin.
If Id known then that there was help available, I never wouldve killed myself over it. As with all kinds of tests, abstract reasoning
exams sections have strategies and approaches all their own. Check out some of them below.
Of Languages and Patterns
My godfather once told me that he once had trouble with mathuntil he came to understand it as a language. In fact, any tricky
subject, abstract reasoning included, has a language all its own, and that language can be broken down further into rules and
patterns.
The key, then, is to understand, the pattern or the rule behind the question. If youll notice, most abstract reasoning questions
come in the form of sequences, with you being asked to find the missing part in the sequence.
Rotations and Reflections
Heres a tip: study the available parts of the sequence and look for similar elements, shapes, shaded portions, and their
corresponding numbers. Its common practice for the elements in a set to get rotated around.
In these cases, it helps to think of one unit of sequence as the blade of an electric fan or a mirrored globe in a disco. If you know in
which direction the blade or facet of the globe is moving in, you can figure out what the missing portion is and where itll turn
up.
Sudoku Relationships
Another approach involves studying the relationships between elements in a grid. Oftentimes, youll see similar shapes strewn
throughout that differ only in terms of shading or the particular direction that theyre facing.
Study the relationships between elements by taking them per row or column at a time. If the grid is bigger than four by four, divide
it as such. And then, take a look at the available answers and, by process of elimination, select the one that the sequence seems to
be missing.
Practices Makes
The ability to understand relationships, whether its between things or people, is a skill. Like all skills, it can be developed through
practice. Fortunately, you dont have to look any farther than your friendly neighborhood Internet.
If youd like to get your feet wet in the world of abstract reasoning way before the entrance exam date, or if youd simply like to
keep your skills sharp, here are links to a few resources Ive found online:
1. Psychometric Success This one contains some good questions to get you started, complete with an answer key and a brief
history on the topic.
2. Logic and Reasoning Problems This site has a good collection of reasoning problems, abstract and otherwise. The areas of
interest are slides 22 to 23 (pages 11 to 12), with answers on slide 116 (page 105)
3. Kent.AC.UK Classified as non-verbal reasoning, this webpage has 20 questions worth of abstract reasoning, plus hints,
strategies and an answer key, to boot.

4. YouTube video Nope, this isnt a pure sample of test questions. Its more of a visual guide designed to help you nail those
abstract reasoning exams.

Abstract Reasoning Tips and Tricks


Introduction
With the new selection procedure, EPSO has introduced another type of preselection test - abstract reasoning. These abstract tests
are commonly used worldwide in graduate and managerial selection. They assess ones ability to understand abstract and complex
concepts.
What to expect
At the EPSO preselection exam you will have 10 abstract reasoning questions in an allotted time of 10 minutes. This means one
minute per question. The mark obtained in the Abstract Reasoning test will be added to the mark obtained in Numerical reasoning.
In order to pass, you will need to have a combined mark for abstract and numerical reasoning of 10 out of 20.
So far, the abstract tests were only requiring identifying the next figure in a sequence. There are 5 sequenced figures and 5 answer
choices. Only one answer is correct.
Types of exercises
As mentioned before, you will most probably have Which comes next? type of abstract reasoning exercises. You have to carefully
examine the figure and look for patterns. Most common patterns include:
clockwise and anticlockwise rotation
mirroring
mirroring combined with rotation
movement on vertical, horizontal and diagonal
movement under different degrees 45,90,135,180 etc
one figure could move clockwise while other could move anticlockwise
color alternation: white(empty) / black figure
How to improve your score
With so many candidates applying for EPSO exams, not preparing for well in advance would be a big mistake. A small improvement
in your score would have a big impact on your mark and consequently on the admission to the next phase of the competition.
By practicing, try to develop a technique and identify your weak area. Once identified, you will be able to take remedial actions and
improve yourself. Try to concentrate when practicing and dedicate your full attention to the tests. It is recommended to practice
them alone, in an empty office, during lunch break, at home, etc. Always try to time yourself when doing exercises. After all, the
goal is to simulate the exam conditions.
Managing Stress
From previous test takers experience, the time of 10 minutes for 10 exercises could be scarce. In this situation stress could arise.
In fact, even before the new exam format, the preselection phase of the competition involved an element of stressfulness. In order
to decrease this feeling, it would be best to take this type of test in practice mode before the actual exam. You would definitely
decrease the degree of stress and nervousness if you actually practiced in advance and knew what to expect from the real exam. It
could be the case where you dont find the solution to one question. Just leave it and dont spend anymore time with it. If there is
sufficient time left at the end, you can come back. As a conclusion, the most efficient way to decrease stress related to abstract
reasoning exam is to practice in a systematic way before the exam so that, when the time comes, you are prepared and know what
to expect.

Aptitude Tests > Numerical Ability Tests


The first type of numerical ability test covers basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction multiplication and division), number
sequences and simple mathematics (percentages, powers, fractions, etc). This type of test can be categorized as a speed
test and is used to determine your basic numeracy. Obviously you will not be allowed to use a calculator.

Arithmetic Questions

1. 139 + 235 =

A) 372

B) 374

C) 376

D) 437

B) 96

C) 98

D) -96

B) 86

C) 88

D) 78

B) 4

C) 5

D) 6

B) 45

C) 40

D) 35

B) 13/8

C) 9/16

D) 3/4

2. 139 - 235 =
A) -69
3. 5 x 16 =
A) 80
4. 45 / 9 =
A) 4.5
5. 15% of 300 =
A)20
6. + x 3/4 =

A)3/8

Answers
1. B
2. D
3. A
4. C
5. B
6. C

These questions are directly applicable to many administrative and clerical jobs but can also appear as a component of
graduate and managerial tests. The speed at which you can answer these questions is the critical measure, as most people
could achieve a very high score given unlimited time in which to answer. You can therefore expect 25-35 questions in 20-30
minutes.

Number Sequences
These questions require you to find the missing number in a sequence of numbers. This missing number may be at the

beginning or middle but is usually at the end.

7. Find the next number in the series

16

32

A) 48

B) 64

C) 40

D) 46

---

8. Find the next number in the series

12

20

A) 32

B) 34

C) 36

D) 38

---

9. Find the missing number in the series

54

49

---

39

A) 47

B) 44

C) 45

D) 46

34

10. Find the first number in the series

---

19

23

29

A) 12

B) 15

C) 16

D) 17

31

These number sequences can be quite simple like the examples above. However, you will often see more complex questions
where it is the interval between the numbers that is the key to the sequence

11. Find the next number in the series

11

18

A) 30

B) 22

C) 27

D) 29

---

12. Find the next number in the series

48

46

42

38

A) 32

B) 30

C) 33

D) 34

---

These number sequences usually consist of four visible numbers plus one missing number. This is because the test designer
needs to produce a sequence into which only one number will fit. The need to avoid any ambiguity means that if the number
sequence relies on a more complex pattern then there will need to be more visible numbers. For example;

13. Find the missing number in the series

.
4

A) 32

B) 30

12

C) 24

D) 26

17

---

14. Find the missing numbers in the series

A) 19

B) 17

10

C) 15

D) 16

C) 11

D) 13

11

14

---

----

10

----

15. Find the missing numbers in the series

--

A) 6

B) 3

Answers
7. B The numbers double each time
8. A Each number is the sum of the previous two numbers
9. B The numbers decrease by 5 each time
10. D The numbers are primes (divisible only by 1 and themselves)
11. C The interval, beginning with 3, increases by 2 each time
12. B The interval, beginning with 2, increases by 2 and is subtracted each time
13. D Each number is the sum of the previous and the number 3 places to the left
14. C A There are 2 simple interleaved sequences 5,7,10,14,19 and 6,8,11,15
15. A D There are 2 simple interleaved sequences 1,4,7,10,13 and 6,7,8,9

To solve these number sequence questions efficiently, you should first check the relationship between the numbers themselves
looking for some simple arithmetic relationship. Then look at the intervals between the numbers and see if there is a relationship
there. If not, and particularly if there are more than 4 numbers visible, then there may be two number sequences interleaved.

You will occasionally find multiplication, division, or powers used in these sequences, but test designers tend to avoid them as

these operations soon lead to large numbers which are difficult to work out without a calculator.

Letter of the Alphabet as Numbers

Another type of sequence question which appears in these tests involves the substitution of letters of the alphabet for numbers.
For example A=1, B=2 etc. It may seem strange to consider these as numerical reasoning questions but they actually work in
the same way once you have changed them back into numbers.

16. Find the next letter in the series

i) L

ii) M

iii) N

iv) O

---

17. Find the next letter in the series

i) C

ii) X

iii) D

iv) Y

---

18. Find the next letter in the series

i) Y

ii) B

iii) A

iv) W

---

Answers
16. iii There are two letters missing between each one, so N is next
17. i There are 2 interleaved sequences A,B,C and Z,Y, so C is next
18. ii Miss a letter each time and loop back, so B is next

Because arithmetic operations cannot be performed on letters there is less room for ambiguity in these questions. This means
that interleaved sequences can be used with fewer visible letters than in questions that use numbers. Question 17 for example
can use 2 interleaved sequences even though only four letters are visible. This would be very difficult to achieve with numbers.

It is implicit in these alphabetic sequence questions that the sequence loops back around and starts again. See question 18. It
is important to recognize this as it is not usually stated explicitly you are just expected to know it.

If you see more than one of these questions in a test then it is almost certainly worth taking the time to write out the letters of the
alphabet with their ordinal numbers underneath. You can then treat these questions in a similar way to number sequence
questions. This can save a lot of time overall and avoid simple mistakes.

Data Interpretation
Information is provided that requires you to interpret it and then apply the appropriate logic to answer the questions. Sometimes
the questions are designed to approximate the type of reasoning required in the workplace. These data
interpretation questions will often use very specific illustrations, for example the question may present financial data
or use information technology jargon. However, an understanding of these areas is not required to answer the question.

19. Below are the sales figures for 3 different types of network server over 3 months.

19a. In which month was the sales value highest?

A) January

B) February

C) March

19b. What is the unit cost of server type ZXC53?

A) 12

B) 13

C) 14

19c. How many ZXC43 units could be expected to sell in April?

A) 56

B) 58

C) 60

19d. Which server had its unit price changed in March?

A) ZXC43

B) ZXC53

C) ZXC63

20. Below are some figures for agricultural imports. Answer the following questions using the data provided. You may use a
calculator for this question.

20a. Which month showed the largest total decrease in imports over the previous month?

A) March

B) April

C) May

20b. What percentage of rice was imported in April?

A) 17%

B) 19%

C) 21%

20c. What was the total cost of wheat imports in the 5 month period?

A) 27,500

B) 25,000

C) 22,000

Answers
19a. C
19b. B
19c. A
19d. C
20a. B April, 12 tons
20b. C - 21%, 30 tons out of a total of 141
20c. A - $27,456 made up of 176 tons at an average of $156/ton

Summary
Numerical ability tests can be divided into tests of simple numeracy, where you are told which arithmetic operations to apply,
and numerical reasoning tests where you are presented with some data and questions but the methods required to answer the
questions are not specified. In all cases you need to prepare by practicing your mental arithmetic until you are both quick and
confident. Your score in the simple speed tests will be very much influenced by your ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide
quickly and accurately.

Even though you will need to do fewer arithmetic operations in the reasoning tests, there is no point in working out how to
arrive at the answer if you make a simple mistake when calculating it. Although you are allowed to use a calculator for some
questions, you should make a habit of mentally estimating your answers as a way of checking them.

Numerical Reasoning questions assess your ability to use numbers in a logical and rational way. The questions require a basic
level of education in order to successfully complete and are therefore measuring numerical ability rather than educational
achievement. The questions measure your understanding of such things as number series, numerical transformations, the
relationships between numbers and your ability to perform numerical calculation.

Abstract Reasoning Tests


The aptitudes and abilities measured by verbal and numeric reasoning tests can easily be related to real world tasks and jobs,
as many jobs require some degree of skill with words and numbers. Abstract reasoning tests on the other hand, seem to consist
of questions which have little or no application in the real world. Yet these types of question appear in most graduate and
management aptitude tests. Why is this?

Abstract reasoning tests date back to the research done by the psychologist Charles Spearman in the 1920s. Spearman used a
statistical technique called factor analysis to examine relationships between peoples scores on different tests or sub-tests of
intelligence. He concluded that people who do well on some intelligence tests also do well on others (e.g. vocabulary,
mathematics, spatial abilities). Conversely, if people do poorly on an intelligence test, they also tended to do poorly on other
intellectual tests. This led him to believe that there are one or more factors that are common to all intellectual tasks.

As a result of this research Spearman developed a two-factor theory of intelligence.

As the diagram shows, Spearman said that intelligence is mainly made up of g, with bright people having a lot, and dull people

having less. People may also vary according to their specific abilities, s, i.e. one person might be better at maths, while another
would be very good verbally. However, Spearman placed much more importance on g and believed that the most important
information about someones intellectual ability is an estimate or measurement of g. Even though Spearmans research was
done many years ago, his theory of g is still widely accepted by psychologists and a great deal of research has supported it.

Spearman defined g as:

the innate ability to perceive relationships and educe co-relationships

If we replace the word educe with work out then you can see why abstract reasoning questions are seen to be a good
measure of general intelligence, as they test your ability to perceive relationships and then to work out any co-relationships
without you requiring any knowledge of language or mathematics.

Example Questions

1. Which symbol in the Answer Figure completes the sequence in the Problem Figure ?

2. Which of the Answer Figures belongs in neither group?

3. Which of the Answer Figures belongs in neither group?

4. Which of the Answer Figures fits the missing space in the Question Figure?

Answers
1. C - The question figure is rotated clockwise through 90 degrees each time.
2. D & E - Group 1 shapes are all straight lines, group 2 shapes are all curved.
3. A, B & D - Same color shapes are diagonally opposite (Group1) or above/below (Group 2).
4. D - Each row and column contains one line of each type.

These tests are of particular value when the job involves dealing with abstract ideas or concepts as many technical jobs do.
However, as they also provide the best measure of your general intellectual ability they are very widely used and you will usually
find some questions of this type whichever particular tests you are given.

These tests are particularly valued where the job you are applying for involves:

A high degree of problem solving

Dealing with complex data or concepts

Developing strategies or policies

Performing non-routine tasks where initiative is required

Abstract Reasoning assesses your ability to understand complex concepts and assimilate new information beyond previous
experience. The questions consist of items which require you to recognize patterns and similarities between shapes and figures.
As a measure of reasoning, it is independent of educational and cultural background and can be used to provide an indication of
intellectual potential.