Abstract reasoning tests

Presented with a series of symbols, diagrams or shapes you are asked to decide what comes next in the sequence. This will test your intellectual reasoning ability, your logic and ability to spot trends, and is used by employers who want candidates who can problem solve. Abstract reasoning tests are also known as diagrammatic reasoning tests and conceptual reasoning tests.


Test yourself by practiing questions (see resources|). Try answering abstract problems in newspapers and magazines. The more you practice the more familiar you will become with these types of questions, and you should start to see some improvements.

There are three steps you can take to help you correctly answer these questions:

  1. Commonality – What do the symbols have in common? Is it their shape, size, colour, symmetry, markings?
  2. Pattern – Is the sequence in 2s, 3s, 4s etc.? Are the symbols repeated? If the sequence is displayed in a shape other than a line is this repeated horizontally or vertically? You may be asked to compare one set of sequences to another and identifying the similarities or differences.
  3. Predict the next symbols in the series.

Types of question

There are four distinct types of diagrammatic reasoning tests (please bear in mind the examples are as demonstrators only, expect to be faced with more challenging questions on the day of your test).


From a series of shapes, patterns and symbols you must identify the next character.

For example:

What is the next shape in this sequence?


Answer: C


Using a flow diagram you will be expected to deduce rules and apply these rules to new, related situations. Used for positions where logic and analysis to solve problems is essential, it will measure your symbolic reasoning ability.

For example, given this flow diagram:


Identify what x equals here:


Reasoning: E


The start of the thinking question will involve a shape, called the development figure. Candidates are also given information relating to varying instructions attributed to differing symbols or characters. The differing symbols or characters are then introduced to the development figure simultaneously, numerous times. The figure will go through a variety of characteristic changes throughout the process, based on the instructions the symbols or characters dictate.

For their answer, candidates may be asked to select the instructions needed to reach a particular end shape (the comparison figure) or they may be asked to identify the comparison figure from a selection. Recruiters use this method of testing for technical positions where suitable candidates will be able to juggle a multitude of variables acting upon a given situation or task.

For example:

Instructions for abstract reasoning 'thinking' exercise
SHP Shape changes from rectangle to triangle, and vice versa
CLR Colour changes from black to white, and vice versa
SZE Size changes from big to small and, vice versa
RTD Shape is rotated 180 degrees

Identify the instructions needed in position E, to achieve the comparison figure.


Answer: SHP and SZE 


Particularly used in the IT industry, diagramming involves following instructions from diagrams to identify the resulting sequence.

For example:

Given these commands:


And this sequence of diagrams and commands:


Which of these sequences of diagrams would be produced by following the commands on the sequence above?


Answer: D