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Six top tips on how to tackle diagrammatic reasoning tests

Book open Reading time: 3 mins

Diagrammatic reasoning tests ask you to analyse a sequence of shapes, patterns and sometimes numbers. Also known as abstract or inductive reasoning tests, they assess your ability to identify the rules that apply to the sequence and then use them to pick an appropriate answer. The questions are usually multiple-choice. And they generally consist of a series of pictures, each of which is slightly different. You must choose another picture from a number of options to complete the series. Here's how to tackle diagrammatic reasoning tests.

Many of the aptitude tests you’ll face while you’re job-hunting will include diagrammatic tests. Employers like them because they measure pure reasoning skills. And the results they generate are less dependent on your education or cultural background than verbal or numerical tests. 

Diagrammatic tests are often used by companies recruiting people who need to work through complex, often conceptual problems in an analytical way. The roles are typically in areas like IT, management consultancy, high-level finance, engineering and science.

Here’s how to make sure you flex your problem-solving muscles to the full.

1. Identify your test provider

As soon as you find out you’re going to sit a diagrammatic reasoning test, ask to see a sample of the questions. That’s because all diagrammatic reasoning tests aren’t the same. They’re produced by a number of different test providers. And knowing which one is responsible for the test you’ll be doing means you can practise on the right type of test. That will be a big advantage when it comes to the real thing.

2. Practise, practise, practise 

This is what separates successful candidates from unsuccessful ones. Getting to grips with the types of question you’ll face and the elements of the shapes and patterns takes time. Practising makes you familiar with the different types of diagram, allows you to learn from your mistakes, lowers stress levels and helps you solve each question faster. Practise little and often. Around 30 minutes a day during the two weeks leading up to your test is ideal. Then, when it comes to the actual test, you can spend your time answering the questions rather than working out how to answer them.

3. Take time to understand

Don’t be afraid to spend time studying the questions, analysing the diagrams and manipulating the shapes. This is where your practice really pays dividends. It will stop you getting flustered during the actual test and help you keep a clear head so you can focus.

Learn more about how to answer abstract reasoning questions.

4. Make lots of notes

Most diagrammatic reasoning tests use abstract images, but some use letters and numbers instead of shapes. Sometimes there will also be ‘operators’ and ‘processors’ sandwiched in between the elements of the question. The aim here is to understand what effect these have on the diagrammatic elements. It’s a good idea to note down the process functions and rules as you work them out so you don’t lose track of your thoughts. Being clear and methodical in this way will help prevent you getting questions wrong by misinterpreting one of the process functions.

5. Make your mind more logical 

It can be done. Crosswords, Sudoku – in fact any type of puzzle – can boost your ability to spot patterns and break codes. So find a few brainteasers to get stuck into online, on your phone or in a book from your local newsagent.

6. Manage your time

Time is of the essence during the test so manage yours wisely. Although you mustn’t rush through each question, you also need to know when to cut your losses with a particularly tough one and move on. Check how many questions are in your test and work out how much time you’ll have to spend on each. That could be anywhere between 30 to 90 seconds depending on your test provider. Don’t get stuck on a specific question – you can always come back to it at the end.