How to solve analytical reasoning questions

Written by stephen byron cooper Google
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How to solve analytical reasoning questions
Some employers give candidates analytical reasoning tests. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Analytical reasoning questions form a specific type of test used in some regions of the world, particularly the United States, to check whether students can follow facts. Some potential employers in the UK also give these tests to applicants. The format of the questions gives a short statement and then a number of conclusions about that statement (A, B and C). Following, a series of options state which conclusions or combinations of conclusions is correct (“A only,” “A and B,” for example). The subject of the test has to indicate which option is correct. You cannot revise the subjects of analytical reasoning questions, but if you follow some basic principles, you should reach the right answer.

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Focus

Clear your mind of other issues. You may be nervous, but put everything else whizzing around in your head on hold until you have finished the test. Read the whole statement. Don’t speed read the example, but read it word for word. Next, read each of the conclusions word for word. Don’t read through the options on the first pass.

Gut reaction

Read the statement again. As you read each of the conclusions, say “Yes,” or “No” in your head if it seems that the conclusion is true. Next, look at the options. You can only choose one of them. Form an idea of which option reads correctly as it refers to the true or false states of the conclusions.

Fact check

Read each of the conclusions again. After reading each, read the main statement again. Be sure that all of the information contained in the conclusion is contained in the statement, then that statement is true. If there is information contained in the statement that isn’t in the conclusion, the conclusion could still be true. If there is information in the conclusion that isn’t in the statement, then the conclusion is false. For example, if the statement is “the bus crashed into the car,” the conclusion “the bus is red” would be false.

Eliminate assumptions

Avoid assuming consequences from the statement. Only allow yourself to consider the information that is in the statement. For example, if the statement is “the greengrocer’s was closed on Thursday,” the conclusion “the greengrocer’s has closed down” is false. This is because you should only accept conclusions as true if every part of that conclusion is proven in the statement. Anything that isn’t proven to be true is automatically false. In this example, all the statement tells us is that the greengrocer’s was not open on Thursday. We do not know for a fact that it is permanently closed down. It may well have been open on Friday.

Hypotheticals

Analytical reasoning tests usually only use definite statements. In the greengrocer’s example the exam is unlikely to include a conclusion “the greengrocer’s has probably closed down.” If you are presented with a non-standard test that does include hypothetical words like “possibly,” “probably,” “may” or “might,” pay very close attention to those words that modify the firmness of the conclusion.

Tips

More complicated analytical reasoning question formats involve a story of several subjects. Several questions follow from each story. To keep track of these situations, draw a table with a row for each subject and a column for each condition. Place a tick in each cell where a true fact exists and a cross where it does not. Refer back to the table when answering the questions.

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