How to succeed in inductive reasoning tests for graduate jobs

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Find out what to expect from inductive reasoning tests, when they are used and how to improve your performance.

Inductive reasoning tests typically involve spotting patterns. You are particularly likely to be asked to take inductive reasoning tests when applying for engineering, science and IT roles, including software developer jobs and positions that involve technical design. As they are usually based purely on symbols, these tests are international and there is no language barrier.

What are inductive reasoning tests like?

Inductive reasoning tests typically consist of multiple choice questions that you have to complete against the clock. Each question might consist of a series of simple pictures, each one of which is slightly different. You might then be asked to choose another picture from several options to complete the series. The patterns may involve changes such as rotation, reflection or replacement.

Most inductive reasoning tests involve thinking about 2D objects, but you could also be asked to think about 3D objects. For example, you could be shown a shape that can be folded to make a cube, followed by a series of different cubes. You could then be asked to decide which cube can be formed using the initial shape.

Inductive reasoning tests are similar to diagrammatic or abstract reasoning tests, which also tend to involve recognising and interpreting patterns. Different test providers use different names for tests that are broadly similar.

KEY TIP : you might find it easier to tackle this kind of test if you look at each one of a series of symbols in sequence, rather than staring at the whole group. It could also be helpful to try looking at the series backwards.

Inductive reasoning tests assess:

  • your ability to spot rules or consistencies in sets of objects
  • your ability to think logically and methodically
  • your ability to work quickly and accurately.

How to succeed in inductive reasoning tests

  • It’s important to practise. This will help you to become familiar with the type of questions asked in inductive reasoning tests and will increase your confidence, helping you perform at your best.
  • For tips on what to do on the day and links to free tests, see our guidance on psychometric and aptitude tests .

Everyday preparation tips for inductive reasoning tests

As well as taking practice tests, here are some other ways you can prepare.

  • Assemble flat-pack furniture! Using a diagram to see how something should fit together and then assembling it will help develop your ability to think about 3D objects.
  • Reflection is a common element of the patterns used in inductive reasoning tests. You could get used to thinking about this by drawing shapes and their reflections and then checking if you got the reflections right by using a mirror.

How important is inductive reasoning in different careers?

Inductive reasoning is particularly important for jobs in engineering, science and IT roles, including software development jobs. Big graduate recruiters may sometimes use inductive reasoning tests for other roles.

You are less likely to be set inductive reasoning tests for roles are focused on personal interaction and communication, such as caring roles, sales jobs and roles in HR. Not all graduate employers set formal inductive reasoning tests for technical roles.

Browse our hundreds of job descriptions for more ideas on jobs that might suit you.

How are inductive reasoning tests different to deductive reasoning tests?

Deductive reasoning tests assess a different type of logical problem solving. Broadly speaking, inductive reasoning moves from observation of specific instances to forming a theory that can be used to make predictions. Deductive reasoning starts with a number of rules and applies them in order to work out what happens in specific cases. Inductive reasoning can arrive at new solutions rather than using what is already known to solve a problem, so you can see why employers who focus on technological innovation are interested in it.

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