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What is Abstract Reasoning?

Abstract reasoning is usually assessed as part of intelligence testing. The abstract reasoning test is also called the graphical, conceptual or diagrammatic reasoning test because it measures the lateral thinking skills or fluid intelligence, which are abilities to quickly identify patterns, logical rules and trends in new data, integrate this information, and apply it to solve problems.

Abstract problems are often visual and typically do not involve social ideas. This is one major reason for their popularity and extensive use for recruitment tests (e.g. EPSO selection tests for European institutions); no language barrier exists as it is purely symbolic. Also, these tests can be used to measure the ability to quickly identify relationships, patterns and trends in organizational data, such as customers’ purchasing behavior or market research; and these are crucial skills required for a candidate to think strategically, grasp the bigger picture and quickly solve problems.

Different types of reasoning?

Inductive and abstract reasoning are often used interchangeably. Whilst they are slightly different tests, the concept behind both inductive and abstract reasoning is to test the candidate's logical problem solving ability; these are a common form of aptitude assessment, after numerical and verbal reasoning. Inductive reasoning is open and explorative. It examines the applicant's ability to reach general conclusions based on perceived patterns observed in specific events (like real-life arguments or scenarios). The most common form of inductive reasoning test involves discovering the patterns that exist in a series of graphics. The patterns are usually one of, or a combination of multiple possible techniques.

Inductive logic is different from deductive logic. With deductive reasoning, possible outcomes are explored and discounted in order to arrive at the only possible outcome without contradicting the given premises (e.g. Sudoku puzzles).

How can this logic be tested?

In an abstract reasoning test question, you are given a group or a series of shapes that are defined based on one or several logical rules. Each group or series is followed by a question, which typically requires you to find the missing shape or the next shape based on the series’ rules and patterns. Each question has four or five proposed answers. Each test has a certain level of difficulty. This level of difficulty is similar across all the test questions. A level of difficulty is determined based on: the number of logical rules used to define a group of shapes, the complexity of the rules and the time constraints (usually very limited). Check-out these sample questions!


Abstract thinking is a skill difficult to cultivate, and constant practicing is the essential approach in order to familiarize with the patterns, models and with the time constraints. In this sense, our mobile testing application for iPhone/iPad can help you to master abstract reasoning!

Which are the main techniques?

- Rotations: (anti) clock-wise at a specific angle (e.g. 45, 90, 180, 270 or 360 degrees);
- Axial reflections: “mirror” reflection horizontally or vertically;
- Inversions: “negative” effect, black becomes white and vice-versa;
- Translations: figurine is shifted in a specific direction (right, left, up, down, diagonally);
- Visual arithmetic: mathematical relations (e.g. counting the number of black/white figurines, the number of lines, angles, intersections);
- Transformations: changing size or shape (e.g. increase or decrease in size, changing number of lines);
- Superposition: overlapping figurines form a new figurine, or one shape neutralizes the other (e.g. black eliminates white);
- Sequence with instructions: arrows or numbers indicate a particular logic that applies to one or more techniques.

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