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Logical Reasoning Tests

28 September 2015 |


Many City firms use logical reasoning tests produced by SHL as part of their assessment process. Logical reasoning tests typically involve you being presented with a horizontal sequence of 5 images. Each image will be slightly different and the changes in each image give rise to a pattern that allows you to ascertain what the next (i.e. 6th) image in the chain should look like. You will also receive multiple options for what the next image in the sequence could be. Select the one that you believe fits the sequence based on the pattern(s) you have noticed in the original sequence of images that you were presented with.


Within each image, there will be a number of different elements (typically shapes and/or lines). The key is to first separate (in your mind) each individual element in the first image. One by one, track how each element in turn changes or moves throughout the sequence to ascertain what that element should be in the next (i.e. 6th) image of the sequence.

When you have identified the sequence of changes that occur to the first element (e.g. shape or line) across the images presented to you, look at the potential answers that you are presented with (these are typically in multiple choice form). Which of the possible answers have the element that you have focused upon in the form/position that you would expect based on the pattern(s) you have identified?

There will likely still be multiple options left to choose from, so go back and select another element from the original image, track its movements once again and then check which of the remaining multiple choice options still fit the pattern. Do this until you have only one option remaining. Using a process of elimination can help you to work out which patterns provide a valid explanation for the sequence.

Patterns to look for

The patterns tend to vary and some are more complicated than others (I still come across some that I have no idea how to solve!), but below are some of the patterns you should consider when looking at sequences.


  • You may have lines or shapes that rotate or move around the image. Check how often they move/rotate. Are they moving in a particular direction (e.g. clockwise) along a line or around a series of squares? Are their movements triggered by something within the image (perhaps an arrow that changes colour/moves)? Do the movements occur consistently as you progress through the sequence of images (e.g. does every new image have the item in a different position)?


  • You may for instance be presented with some black shapes and some white shapes. Check whether they change colour as you progress through the sequence (e.g. every image or every 2 images).


  • You may have elements (for instance shapes or lines) that change in number throughout the sequence. Is there a pattern you can pick up on that dictates when an extra line or shape is added or subtracted (e.g. 1st image: contains 1 circle, 2nd image: contains 2 circles, 3rd image: contains 3 circles)?


  • If there are shapes contained within another shape (e.g. a circle containing a smaller triangle and an even smaller square), try to see whether one of the shapes from the 1st image reappears in the 2nd image in some form. Does the largest shape in the 1st image (i.e. the circle) become the smallest shape in the 2nd image? Does the shape in the middle of the 1st image (i.e. the triangle) become the largest shape in the 2nd image? If so, such changes may indicate (an element of) the pattern you are looking for.

The pattern may be simpler than you initially suspect. If there are all sorts of shapes and the changes to the shapes across the sequence do not seem to follow any particular pattern, then try looking only at the colour or number of shapes (or if there is a diagonal line in the middle, then the number of shapes on either side of the line).


Practising these tests can help you to pick up on the types of patterns that recur more quickly. This is important as the tests are designed to put you under time pressure. Try to get in the habit of quickly zoning out different elements and knowing which patterns to look out for.

Do Not Panic

The downfall of many candidates undertaking logical reasoning tests is that they panic. When a new set of patterns flashes up on the screen, they may not make any sense for the first few seconds. Keep calm and break down each pattern methodically in order to work towards discovering the answer.