4 Myths about Verbal Reasoning Tests

Guest contributor, Guy, from Practice Aptitude Tests explains why many organisations use verbal reasoning tests as part of their selection process. He dispels some common myths about this form of psychometric testing and gives helpful examples of questions and answers, with explanations.
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Verbal reasoning tests are a form of psychometric testing that determine an applicant’s ability to understand and make use of information presented in a passage of text. They are usually given in tandem with other objective psychometric tests intended to narrow down the pool of applicants.


What do verbal reasoning tests measure?

More and more companies have started including verbal reasoning tests in the initial stages of their application process, in order to make sure that only candidates who meet the level of communication skills they require advance to the next stage.

Good communication is a two-way street: it means being able to quickly and accurately understand someone’s message, and being able to quickly and accurately pass a message to someone else.


How are verbal reasoning tests conducted?

Verbal reasoning tests may be conducted online or using pen and paper. Each item presents a passage of text followed by a series of statements referring to the passage. The applicant is asked to tell whether each statement is true, false, or cannot be verified, based on the information given.


Example verbal reasoning test

Read the passage and choose whether the answer is true, false or cannot say.
‘Derivatives and other structured financial products are generally used for positive, risk-reduction purposes. For example, to secure the price of a commodity which is to be “bought” at a future date, but at a price that is set today. However, some academics and economic commentators view these as dangerous and irresponsible innovations in the world of international banking and global financial services. 
Traders in these structured financial products are able to make large bets on the change in price of commodities or currencies and only need pay a small up-front deposit. Such traders can accumulate huge exposure to losses which could be devastating to their employers. 
Sceptics believe that one day such products could lead to financial ruin for a bank if one or more derivatives traders chase their losses over an extended period of time. In summary, complex, structured financial products are a necessary evil to meet the demands of modern-day capitalist societies.’

Question 1: Traders typically make large amounts of money out of structured financial products.
Answer: Cannot Say – The passage doesn’t say whether traders typically make large gains on derivatives and other structured financial products.
Question 2: According to the passage, society needs structured financial products.
Answer: False – They are a necessary evil for “capitalist societies” according to the passage.
Question 3: A derivative could be used by an airline to secure the price of oil now, which it won’t use until six months time.
Answer: True – To secure the price of a commodity which is to be “bought” at a future date, but “at a price that is set today.”


Why are applicants apprehensive about verbal reasoning tests?

Verbal reasoning tests can be nerve-wracking because of the time limit. Given the common format of these tests, the applicant would need to read the passage quickly, understand it, then read the statement about the passage, and determine whether it’s correct, incorrect, or cannot be determined. That’s a lot to do in the 30-60 seconds typically allotted per item!
Verbal reasoning tests can be confusing – they need to be, otherwise they would not be an effective form of selection process. To tell whether a statement is true or false is one thing, but to say that it cannot be verified is another. It requires critical thinking, which often requires sufficient time to understand the passage – again, made difficult by the time limit.
In addition, there are a lot of myths surrounding verbal reasoning tests that contribute to its negative perception. Here, we take them on one-by-one:


Myth 1: Verbal reasoning ability is not important in technical jobs

Some applicants take verbal reasoning ability tests lightly because they do not feel it is important to their job – this is particularly true for those in the so-called hard sciences. But every position will require communicating with others. This means meetings, email correspondence, calls, texts, reports, and the list goes on. The ability to understand and relay information accurately is key to any job, regardless of the expertise.


Myth 2: Verbal reasoning test questions are about the industry being applied to

The passages on a verbal reasoning test could be anything from a news article to an email to a report. These may or may not be related to the industry of the company being applied to. Remember that these measure how well a candidate processes written information, not their knowledge about the subject.


Myth 3: One does not need to practise for a verbal reasoning test

Some people think that verbal reasoning tests are easy because the information needed to answer the question correctly is in the given text passage. So why practise if you don’t have the exact text passage that will be used?

There are several reasons why practising for a verbal reasoning test would be advantageous. First, you are able to practise reading and understanding quickly under a time limit. Second, you can familiarise yourself with the different formats: some tests might require you might to flick through different text passages on separate tabs to get the information needed to answer, others will base questions on the answer chosen from the previous question, and so forth. Third, if you are not fluent with the language the verbal reasoning test uses, practising will definitely help you improve.

Minimise the number of surprises by practising so you can more accurately and quickly finish the test.


Myth 4: Practice tests are the only way to study for a verbal reasoning test

Reading books, scientific journals, current events, or reports are other ways to practise for a verbal reasoning test. After reading, you can choose to summarise the text by writing it down or telling a friend about what you just read. This is a good way to make sure you have understood the text and gotten relevant information from it.

Guy Thornton - Contributor
Guy Thornton is the Managing Director of Practice Aptitude Tests. He’s spent the past 15 years building companies that help graduates acquire their dream jobs. Outside of work, he’s a long-suffering Leeds United fan.