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Find out what to expect if you are asked to take a verbal reasoning test as part of your application for a graduate job or scheme, and how to prepare.

Many employers ask applicants for their graduate jobs and schemes to take verbal reasoning tests. These assess comprehension skills and logical reasoning, and are used for many different kinds of roles, from engineering to marketing. You’re particularly likely to come up against a verbal reasoning test if you are applying for a job in which it’s important to be able to understand and analyse written information.

KEY TIP: verbal reasoning tests do not test your general knowledge. You should answer the questions based only on the information available in the test.

What will the verbal reasoning test be like?

Verbal reasoning tests often use a multiple choice format. For each question, you could be presented with a paragraph of information and asked if it is true or false, or if it is impossible to know on the basis of the information provided.

Verbal reasoning tests can assess any combination of the following:

  • Comprehension and analysis. Can you draw logical conclusions on the basis of the text in front of you?
  • The ability to evaluate arguments and statements.
  • Vocabulary. You could be asked to identify words that have been used wrongly in a passage of information. This might include testing you on words that are similar and easily confused.
  • The ability to extract and summarise the key points from written information.

Verbal reasoning tests don’t typically assess your ability to write fluently or persuasively – they are more focused on your understanding.

How can you prepare for verbal reasoning tests?

Practise. Whatever degree subject you’re studying, it will help you to familiarise yourself with this type of test. This applies even if you’re studying a subject that involves dealing with large amounts of written information, such as a humanities degree. Practice will help you approach the test with confidence and perform at your best.

For general tips about making sure you know as much as possible about what to expect from psychometric tests and advice on what to do on the day, see our guidance on psychometric and aptitude tests.

We’ve also put together tips for numerical reasoning tests and inductive reasoning tests.

Everyday practice for verbal reasoning tests

Keep up to date with relevant industry news and developments that affect the area of work you’re trying to enter. It will help you to become familiar with the terminology used in your chosen career. Although you won’t be tested on this directly, similar terms could turn up in comprehension passages.

  • Think about meaning. When you read news stories, think about what statements really mean and how they could be interpreted. Reading unfamiliar or technical information and trying to understand it may also help you to develop your skills. If you come across words you don’t understand, look them up.
  • Do word puzzles. Never has there been a better excuse for frittering away time on the Saturday morning crossword.
  • Be aware of commonly misspelt words. Most English grammar books and websites have lists of commonly misspelt or 'confusable' words, such as 'its' and 'it's', or 'complement' and 'compliment'. Check you are also aware of the English spellings of words such as liaise, favourite and organise.

Make use of the Graduate Benchmark

Have you taken the Graduate Benchmark tests yet? They include a verbal reasoning test, with the chance to practise beforehand and see how you did afterwards. You’ll also find specific tips on how to approach the tests.

How important is verbal reasoning in different careers?

You’ll need to use verbal reasoning skills in any role that involves understanding and analysing written information and using it to make decisions. Verbal reasoning skills are highly valued in careers in areas such as law, the public sector, retail and marketing, and they are also important in more technical professions such as engineering.

A basic level of verbal reasoning skills is useful in most careers, but you may be less reliant on these skills on a day-to-day basis in roles that are highly technical. Also, bear in mind that not all graduate employers set verbal reasoning tests. Browse our hundreds of job descriptions for ideas of jobs that might suit you.

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