The Most Fundamental Guide to Mechanical Reasoning Tests

Mechanical reasoning tests are preliminary appraisals designed for specialized positions like technicians or engineers. They mainly focus on testing professional knowledge in the mechanical field, especially the application of machinery tools and physics and math principles.

This article will explain what mechanical reasoning tests are, what topics they cover, the most popular tests, and some tips for preparation.

What are mechanical reasoning tests?

The mechanical reasoning tests, also called the mechanical aptitude tests, are pre-employment assessments for technical, engineering, emergency service, and military positions. Candidates need to answer around 20 to 30 multiple-choice questions in 20-30 minutes about machinery tools, technical applications, physics, and mechanical principles.

The tests are especially used by companies that rely heavily on mechanical products and services like ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble, Mercedes Benz, etc. Unlike other aptitude tests, mechanical reasoning tests require real knowledge from candidates in their field of professionalism to ace.


Eight common topics in mechanical reasoning tests

There are 8 popular topics in mechanical reasoning tests that you should pay attention to: forces, levers, pulleys, gears, springs, simple electrical circuits, tools, and shop arithmetic. Note in mind that there could be more topics in these tests for specific positions.


Questions about forces and movements are reported to be the most common in mechanical reasoning tests. These questions can cover basic physics concepts like gravity, velocity, heat, and friction.

Below is an example of this question type:

Source: Saville

Question: Which handle requires less force to lift?

A. Handle A
B. Handle B
C. Both handles require equal force

Answer: A

Explanation: Handle A requires less force to lift because its weight is placed closer to the pivot than the weight on Handle B


This type of question often displays scenarios of placing an object(s) on levers and asking about relative stats. To answer these questions, you should learn basic formulae related to the use of force, distance, mass, and the physical benefits of levers.

Here is an example of questions about levers:

Question: How many pounds of force are needed to lift a 30-pound box in the above diagram?

A. 360 pounds

B. 24 pounds

C, 37.5 pounds

Answer: B


(30 pounds) x (12 feet) = (x pounds) x (15 feet)

=> x = 30 x 12 / 15

=> x = 24


Questions about pulleys are situations of using pulley wheels to move objects or operate a pulley system. They require you to have a basic understanding of how pulley wheels work in terms of minimizing forces and navigating directions.

Let’s look at a simple question on this topic:

Source: Saville

Question: If the pulley wheel on the right turns, which other wheel will turn in the same direction?

A. Pulley wheel A

B. Pulley wheel B

C. Neither pulley wheel A nor B

Answer: B

Explanation: The pulley from the right wheel to wheel B is not crossed over, which means pulley wheel B will turn in the same direction as the pulley wheel on the right.


Gears questions focus on the relationships between gears with each other and, sometimes, with other accessories like racks, plates, etc. To answer correctly these questions, you need to learn the functions of gears in terms of changing direction and speed.

Here is an example of this question type:

Source: Saville

Question: In which direction will the gear on the left turn?

A. Direction A

B. Direction B

C. Neither direction

Answer: A

Explanation: As the gear on the right rotates anticlockwise, it pushes the teeth on the left gear in the opposite direction.


This topic requires you to understand the use of springs in creating and reducing compression, force, and distance. These questions often include calculation, so make sure you know the basic formulae related to springs.

Question: 2 springs are placed between a solid wall and a moveable block. The constants of the springs are 10 pounds per inch and 15 pounds per inch each. How many pounds must the force be to move the block 3 inches further from the wall?

A. 75 pounds

B. 25 pounds

C. 150 pounds

Answer: A

Explanation: To stretch a spring by 3 inches, we need to multiply its constant by 3. To stretch both springs, we need to pull the block with the sum force of both constants. Therefore, we have the following calculation: 10 x 3 + 15 x 3 = 75

Simple electrical circuits

This topic tests your knowledge of building functional electrical circuits. The questions might be about activating power, calculating loads, and connecting wiring paths.

Here is an example of this question type: 

Source: All About Circuits

Question: What positions do the switches have to be in for the light bulb to receive power?

A. One switch closes in the “up” position and the other in the “down” position

B. Both of the switches stay open

C. Both switches close in the “up” position or in the “down” position

Answer: C

Explanation: 2 switches need to be closed in a connected circuit for the electricity to run through the wires.


These questions focus on the usage of tools necessary for the job’s specialism. They can range from identifying tool functions to describing the process of using the equipment.

Let’s have a look at a simple tool question: 

Question: What are these tools used for?

A. Tightening bolts

B. Carving wood

C. Loosening or tightening plumbing pipes

Answer: B

Explanation: They are engraving drills especially used for carving small details on wood. 

Shop arithmetic

Shop arithmetic questions require basic mathematic knowledge such as fractions, decimals, ratios, percentages, mean (average), unit conversion, and geometry. To ace these questions, you need to know the math formulae to calculate the area or volume of shapes.

Below is an example of a shop arithmetic question:

Question: What is the area of the triangle?

A. 10 in²

B. 20 in²

C. 5 in²

Answer: C


Follow the formula for calculating the area of a triangle, we have:

Area = AH x BC / 2

Area = 2 x 5 / 2

Area = 5 (in²)


SHL Verify Mechanical Comprehension Test

This is the most popular mechanical test for engineers and technicians. It tests your knowledge of machine tools and applications as well as how you practice mechanical principles in certain scenarios. This is a multiple-choice test with 15 questions and 10 minutes as the time limit.

Bennett Test of Mechanical Comprehension (BTMC)

This multiple-choice test focuses on your spatial reasoning and problem-solving using physical and mechanical principles. It also asks for your knowledge of machinery operation. Questions often include images and diagrams for better visualization. The test has 55 questions and a time limit of 25 minutes. 

Wiesen Test of Mechanical Aptitude (WTMA)

This test is developed by Criteria Corp, specifically designed for the direct operators of machines or equipment. It focuses on your ability in installing, running, maintaining, and repairing machines. It has 60 questions to be done in 30 minutes. 

The suggested WTMA score ranges by position. Source: Criteria Corp

Barron’s Test of Mechanical Aptitude

This test is commonly used in the hiring process of the military. It tests your knowledge of physics concepts and your understanding of electricity and hydraulics. The modern version of this test can be taken in both online and paper-based forms. 

Stenquist Test of Mechanical Aptitude

This is one of the oldest mechanical reasoning tests, focusing on problem-solving using illustrated information. Your main task in this test is to select a picture to match a group of other pictures. It would not be too challenging if you have a basic knowledge of the tools and machines used for your specific role. 

Ramsay Mechanical Aptitude Test (MAT)

This test is a product of Ramsay Corp. It is often used for entry-level engineering positions and aims to test the learning ability of candidates. The questions will mostly have illustrations, focusing on problem-solving scenarios using mechanical tools. There will be 36 questions and a 20-minute time limit in this test.


How to prepare for the mechanical reasoning tests?

The best ways to get ready for mechanical reasoning tests are learning the basic mechanical principles, taking mock tests, and reading books.

1. Learning basic mechanical principles

Equip yourself with knowledge of mechanical and physics principles. Make sure you memorize terminologies and formulae in basic maths and physics. Knowing the functions of mechanical components like gears, pulleys, springs, etc. is also crucial.

2. Taking mock tests

Taking mock tests would give you insights into the format and question types of mechanical reasoning tests. Several test providers like SHL or Ramsay Corporation offer free and paid tests for practice. There is also a free app named Bennett Test that offers practice questions specifically for the BTMC.

3. Reading books about mechanical reasoning tests

You should look for books that can analyze these tests in detail. We recommend some books for you to check out:

“Mechanical Aptitude and Spatial Relations Test (Barron's Test Prep)” by Dr. Joel Wiesen
“Master The Mechanical Aptitude and Spatial Relations Test” by Peterson’s
“Mechanical Aptitude Test” by National Learning Corporation
Stenquist Mechanical Aptitude Tests: Manual of Directions” by John Langdon Stenquist

Read next

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Related product