Abstract reasoning test: Formats, Guidelines & Examples

Abstract reasoning test (also known as Inductive reasoning test) is widely used in aptitude assessment of many companies in different industries. Abstract reasoning test is considered one of the most challenging aptitude tests for test-takers due to their complex abstract nature.

This article will go through the overview of abstract reasoning tests, including definitions, when to take the test, question types with examples, and some tips to pass one of the most challenging aptitude tests.

What is an abstract reasoning test?

Abstract reasoning test is an aptitude test used to test your abstract thinking - the ability to identify the patterns in abstract sequences. Through the abstract reasoning test, the candidates have the opportunity to demonstrate how effectively they can deal with abstract notions and unusual material, formulate a general rule, and arrive at a final answer based on their observations.


The abstract reasoning test is also commonly known as the inductive reasoning test. The two terms refer to one type of logical reasoning test in which the test takers need to recognize patterns. 


When to take the abstract reasoning test?

The abstract reasoning test (or the inductive reasoning test) is prevalently used in the recruitment process of many companies, from prestigious consulting firms such as Bain to corporations like Amazon and BMW or large finance “giants” such as Goldman Sachs and Macquarie. A candidate is often invited to take the abstract reasoning test in the online assessment round, which generally occurs after the candidate has passed the CV screening round.

Since the abstract reasoning test aims to evaluate analytical thinking, problem-solving ability, and flexibility in processing new information, it is often used to assess candidates applying for graduate, MBA programs, or managerial positions. Additionally, there are job positions that use the abstract reasoning test to evaluate candidates, such as project manager or data analyst.


Abstract reasoning question types

Abstract reasoning (or inductive reasoning) questions can be divided into 3 types based on the format of the pattern given in the question.

  • Figure Series: complete the missing part of an abstract sequence.
  • Odd One Out: identify the element that does not fit the pattern.
  • Matrix: complete the missing part of an abstract grid.

Now, let’s look at the examples of abstract reasoning questions from the MConsultingPrep Free test.

Figure series

Figure series question requires the test takers to choose an option that fits the pattern rules of the objects in the question. This is the most common question type in the abstract reasoning test - so it’s recommended to spend more effort to master figure series questions. Let’s look at an example of figure series questions from the MConsultingPrep Free test.


Source: MConsultingPrep

Correct answer: C


Elements: There are four elements: a triangle, a square, a white circle, and a black circle

Rules: There are two rules: replacement and quantifier rules

  • A circle will turn a square; a square will turn a triangle; a triangle will turn a circle
  • A circle will be black in the first row, second row, and third row and come back to the first row

Odd one out

Odd-one-out questions ask the test takers to pick a figure that does not fit the other figures' pattern. This question type is quite tough due to the distracting patterns. Compared to the other two types, the Odd one out is less prevalent. Here is an example of odd-one-out questions from the MConsultingPrep Free test.


Please select the object that doesn't fit the rule

Source: MConsultingPrep

Correct answer: C


Elements: There are two elements: black dots, and white dots


  • Other figures: A figure is black if it has odd side numbers and white if it has even side numbers.
  • The odd one is a black figure with even side numbers 


Matrix questions present test takers with a grid with abstract elements and patterns, and the candidates need to choose a suitable figure to fill in the missing spot of the grid. The matrix question is considered the most complex abstract reasoning question since it contains more patterns and elements than the other two types. Let’s see how a matrix question is solved with an example from MConsultingPrep Free test.


Source: MConsultingPrep

Correct answer: B


Elements: There are three elements: Black dot, white dot, line

Rules: There is one rule: quantifier - looking at the rows, the number of lines connecting with black dots increases by 1 through each figure. So the missing figure has 4 connections with black dots.

To see and practice with more examples, you can take our free Abstract Reasoning/Inductive Reasoning test here.

Why is the abstract reasoning test so hard?

Abstract reasoning test is considered to be complicated by the test takers. There are a few reasons to explain the difficulty of the test, including:

  • Hard to identify the pattern
  • Prone to figure out all logic at once
  • Demaning passing score
  • Time constraint

The abstract patterns rule is not easy to identify

The abstract reasoning test is designed to make the test takers spend time and effort recognizing the pattern in the questions. The pattern rules are complex and overlapping or very subtle, mixed with many distracting elements and patterns.

Candidates are prone to figure out all logic at once

The test makers design abstract reasoning tests to have multiple layers of logic patterns. Under time pressure, you quickly jump from one pattern to another, hindering your problem-solving and test-taking speed.

Candidates need to be in a high percentile rank

The passing percentile for most companies is typically set at the 80% percentile. To go on to the next round, you must be one of the finest candidates to pass the assessment.

The percentile scoring method was used to establish a candidate's level of performance on the SHL inductive reasoning exam, just as it was done for all other tests. The passing % changes depending on the results of the other people who are taking the exam at the same time as you. 

There is a time constraint

Abstract reasoning test normally has a pressing time limit - usually around 75 seconds per question. Some tests allow a total time limit for the whole test, but some tests set a time limit for each question. Without careful preparation, it is hard to think logically and recognize patterns fast enough while doing the abstract reasoning test.


How to pass the abstract reasoning test

Tip 1: Research and practice your test in advance

Thorough preparation and understanding of the test are crucial since abstract reasoning test is challenging. You can’t improve your abstract reasoning ability overnight! Before your actual test, you should spend time researching this information:

  • Test providers
  • Test format (multiple-choice or gamified)
  • Question types
  • Strategies to solve the test

Tip 2: Understand question patterns in practice and real test

After an overview of the test providers, you should start investigating the common rules/patterns of abstract reasoning questions. The key for you is to get acquainted with as many different sorts of patterns as possible. Specific typical patterns test publishers regularly use. These include:

  • rotation
  • mirroring
  • flipping
  • replacement
  • swapping
  • side/shapes changing (division, multiplication, addition, subtraction)
  • trends (constant, increasing, decreasing), etc.

Tip 3: Solve one pattern at a time - start from the most distinctive one

Typically, there will be multiple items with unique patterns. You should concentrate on determining the pattern of one item at a time, following it all the way through, and eliminating any responses that don't fit. Start with the pattern that you can detect right on the spot.

Tip 4: Eliminate distractors

Using the elimination technique, you may eliminate one possible response choice at a time until there is only one answer option. This strategy may be helpful when you are unsure which of two solutions to choose or when you need help recognizing the pattern.

Tip 5: Don’t spend too much time on one question

The time limit for abstract reasoning tests is often pressing for the candidates - usually around 75 seconds per question - to check their ability to solve problems under pressure. If you may spend more than 1 minute on a question, move on to the next one. The goal is to get the most correct possible.


Which test providers have abstract reasoning tests?

The majority of companies use abstract reasoning tests developed by third-party recruitment services. There is a wide range of recruitment test providers offering abstract reasoning tests. Each test publisher uses different terms for the test: abstract reasoning test, inductive reasoning test, or logic test.

Let’s look at the most prominent providers in the market:


One recommendation for the candidates is to do a quick research on the test providers that power the test of the company you are applying to have better preparation with the test format.


SHL is one of the most popular test providers. The abstract reasoning test of SHl is called the SHL Inductive reasoning test, which contains two formats: SHL Verify Standard Multiple-choice and SHL Verify Interactive.

  • SHL Verify Standard Multiple-choice has 18 questions to solve within 24 minutes.
  • SHL Verify Interactive has 15 questions to solve within 18 minutes.

SHL Inductive Reasoning Test has two abstract reasoning questions: figure series and matrix. Here is an example abstract reasoning question from SHL Inductive Reasoning Test

Source: SHL Direct

Test Partnership

Test Partnership, a UK-based psychometric assessment company, provides an abstract reasoning test called Insights™ Inductive Reasoning Test. The test consists of 16 questions to solve within 40 seconds each question. The main question of Test Partnership’s abstract reasoning test is the figure series. The difficulty level will increase gradually after each question.

Let’s see an example of figures series questions in Test Partnership Insights™ Inductive Reasoning Test.

Source: Test Partnership


The abstract reasoning test of Sova is called the Sova Logical Reasoning Test, which is widely used in the pre-employment testing process of many big firms, including Bain. The test contains 15 questions with no time limit. The question types in the Sova test are often figure series. An example of the Sova Logical Reasoning test is below to demonstrate how an abstract reasoning question is presented in the Sova test.

Source: Sova Assessment

Korn Ferry

Talent Q - Korn Ferry designs an abstract reasoning test named Korn Ferry Elements Logical test. The test contains 12 questions under a time limit of 23 minutes. However, there is a time limit to solve each question -75 seconds for one question. This can make the test more challenging.

The test contains two question types: figure series and matrix. Let’s see an example of an abstract reasoning question in the Korn Ferry Logical test.

Source: Korn Ferry (Talent Q)


Practice with MConsultingPrep

MConsultingPrep has a complete preparation package for the abstract reasoning test (also known as the inductive reasoning test). Here are some advantages for you when practicing with our package.

  • Understand the test structure and question types thoroughly with our study guide to have a suitable approach to the test.
  • Have a timed practice test with our 400+ question resources.
  • Learn from your practice with our detailed step-by-step explanation for each question.

You can now check our Inductive Reasoning Test package to practice for your aptitude test! Besides that, we also offer an All-inclusive Aptitude Test Package that includes practice tests and guidance for the 4 most popular aptitude tests - Numerical reasoning, Verbal reasoning, Deductive reasoning, and Inductive reasoning test.