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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 corelationships

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 corelationships 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:

y y y y

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.

The term diagrammatic reasoning is often used interchangeably with abstract reasoning. Some of the companies who produce psychometric tests refer to abstract reasoning tests as diagrammatic reasoning tests. This is presumably because abstract tests use diagrams or pictures rather than words or numbers. If you are told that you need to sit a diagrammatic reasoning test then it may be just another name for an abstract reasoning test. Or it may not. If you are applying for a job in information technology then you may be faced with questions which test your

abstract reasoning ability in a very specific way. These are referred to on this web site as diagrammatic reasoning tests to differentiate them from 'normal' abstract reasoning tests. These diagrammatic reasoning tests measure your ability to infer a set of rules from a flowchart or similar diagram and then to apply those rules to new situation. These questions are often found in tests aimed at selecting information technology specialists who need to work through complex problems in an analytical way. Example Questions 1) The functions 'M' and 'S' transform the input shapes in a certain way. You need to use the diagram to determine what effect each of these functions has. Apply them to the input shape in the question to arrive at the correct output.

Another type of question that appears in these tests measures your ability to follow a set of logical instructions. In the next example, the operators are defined in the first diagram. Each operator acts on the figure that it is attached to. The sequence of operations is from top to bottom. Use this information to answer the questions.

In the street plan above, for example, Shakespeare Road is one-way between Cole Street and Trenchtown Road. This means that if you were driving south on Trenchtown Road you could not turn right into Shakespeare Street.

2) Which figure results from the operations shown?

3) Which figure results from the operations shown?

Answers 1. B - Function 'M' inverts color (black > white and white > black). Function 'S' rotates shape anticlockwise through 90 degrees. 2. B - work from top to bottom, making a note of the effect of each operator at each stage. 3. D - Remember some of the operations involve changing the relative position of figures.

Remember, you are unlikely to be asked questions if this type unless the job calls for a high level of analytical abstract reasoning skills. These types of question are usually restricted to technical jobs in information technology but may also be used to select for technical jobs in the finance industry. If the employer has made any mention of diagrammatic reasoning then you should ask them to clarify exactly what they mean, and if possible to supply some example questions.