SHL Verbal Reasoning Tests: A Rough Guide

SHL testsAre you going for an interview soon and have discovered that you need to take an SHL verbal reasoning test?

If your answer is yes, then you’ve come to the right place. SHL verbal reasoning tests are common and are widely used by employers.

Such tests are used to obtain a clear as well as objective measure of how well you will perform in a role where verbal reasoning skills are required. 

The tests take the form of verbal reasoning and comprehension with the verbal reasoning one being used most especially when hiring for a graduate-level role. 

How the test is structured will depend on the role that you are interviewing for. 

What is the SHL Verbal Reasoning Test?

The SHL verbal reasoning test is a common psychometric test that employers use when hiring to determine your level of critical thinking skills. 

The test should be completed within a certain amount of time. It can either be taken online or through the traditional version of paper and pencil. 

Pioneered by Saville and Holdsworth Limited, a globally recognized psychometric test publisher, the test involves going through a text passage.

The response to the test takes the TFC format whereby your answers can either be ‘true’, ‘false’, or ‘cannot say’. 

Once you’ve read through the text, you are required to use that information to determine if the statement is true, false, or impossible to say without requiring any further explanation. 

When you are taking an SHL verbal reasoning test, one thing that you need to keep in mind when answering the questions is that your answers should only be based on the information that you’ve been given in the passage.

There must and should never be any reference to anything outside the test. Today, most SHL verbal reasoning tests are taken online. 

Here, the employer can choose to give you the test before you come in for the interview whereby you will be answering the questions unsupervised at home.

The other version is where the employer administers the test at a test centre or their office. Here, you will have someone sit in who will be supervising you until you are done but you will be doing everything online.

The other version and one that is not as common today is the paper and pencil version. This traditional format involves sitting for the exam in a traditional classroom setting where a trained assessor will sit in for the entire duration of the test session. 

How to prepare for and pass an SHL verbal test

Passing the SHL verbal test is usually vital to ensuring a next step interview with an employer. When taking the test, you are expected to base all your answers on the information you’ve been provided with rather than basing them on outside knowledge.  

The test usually contains 30 questions that you are required to go through and answer in 19 minutes. The questions that you will tackle may differ from what another candidate will be handling because employers usually pick the questions randomly from a database. 

The questions are usually straightforward but you will still need to prepare. 

You have 30 questions to answer in 19 minutes which means that each question should take you less than a minute. This means finding a way to go through the passage given plus the statements before choosing the correct answers.  

Speed and accuracy are therefore paramount which is why you need to be prepared. To prepare for the SHL verbal reasoning test, you need one thing – to become familiar with the format and type of passages you are likely to encounter.

So, what’s the best way to prepare? A practice test! An SHL verbal reasoning practice test will help you familiarize yourself with the questions you may be asked and how to answer them.

Remember, your answers only need to be either true, false, or cannot say without any further explanation. By taking a practice test, you can go back and evaluate your answers to see what you did wrong. 

If you are to pass the actual test, you need to purpose a 90% or higher score in the practice test which can only happen if you are familiar with the test questions and are accurate in your answers. 

3 Free example SHL verbal questions 

Question 1

Many organizations in the UK benefit from employing temporary staff during summer. Permanent staff during this period take vacation breaks. It is also during summer that workload increases leading to the hiring of more staff. Temporary employees are paid a fixed rate minus bonus schemes and holiday breaks. 

Statement 1: Is it possible that temporary staff get to do the work left behind by permanent staff who are on holiday. 

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say

Statement 2: Temporary staff who work during summer get to enjoy the same benefits as the permanent staff.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say


Statement 1: True (During summer most permanent employees take their holiday breaks and the workload left is given to the temporary staff who come in during that time.) 

Statement 2: False (Temporary staff who come in during summer, handle the same roles as the permanent staff but are only paid a fixed rate and don’t enjoy other benefits like bonus schemes or paid holidays)

Question 2

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that climate change is still a problem that governments need to address. According to the IPCC, a rise in global temperatures by up to 1.5 °C and the emission of greenhouse gases will see the global ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland continue to melt. The result will be rising sea levels which will endanger millions of people across the globe. The report suggests that governments need to come together to find ways of reducing emissions for a sustainable future. 

Statement 1: Reducing emissions is one of the best ways of slowing down global warming. 

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say

Statement 2: The global ice sheets are melting because there is more production of greenhouse gases in the Antarctic and Greenland. 

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say


Statement 1: True (Emissions are the major causes of global warming and if global warming is to reduce, we must find ways of controlling them)

Statement 2: False (Global ice sheets are melting because the temperatures continue to rise due to emissions. These emissions are, however, not produced in higher qualities in the Antarctic and Greenland compared to other parts of the world)

Question 3

The global Covid-19 pandemic has had an effect on the economy of almost all countries across the globe. This impact has been felt greatly in the business world. The pandemic has, however, created a much-needed change that was not as popular in the past. Remote working has become a part and parcel of almost all companies struggling to remain afloat due to travel restrictions and lockdowns. According to most reports, some companies will most likely carry on with this trend when it comes to certain roles. 

Statement 1: Lockdowns and travel restrictions have had a stronger impact on businesses most.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say

Statement 2: Many companies are going to adopt remote working long after the Covid-19 pandemic is gone.

  • True
  • False
  • Cannot Say 


Statement 1: True (With lockdowns and travel restrictions so many businesses across the globe have been affected)

Statement 2: Cannot Say (While during the pandemic businesses have had to adopt measures like remote working to remain afloat, not all companies will continue with this trend. Some will evolve to include remote working when it comes to certain roles but there is no telling if this will be felt throughout the globe)

Are SHL verbal reasoning tests difficult?

SHL verbal reasoning tests aren’t difficult but they can be if you don’t prepare well. This is especially considering that you are not supposed to draw any conclusions from additional resources or outside knowledge. 

The fact that you only have 19 minutes to read through 30 passages plus the questions and come up with an answer can also make the test seem difficult. 

With SHL verbal reasoning tests, it’s also hard to determine the average scores of pass marks that you need to achieve.

This is because the average score requirements change based on the employer and the norm group being tested. 

At the end of the day, however, you should aim to end up at least in the top 20% of the norm group to ensure that the employer doesn’t cut you off. 

How are SHL verbal tests scored?

SHL verbal tests are scored based on the correct answers. What this means is that you won’t be penalized for not answering a question correctly. The test is after all administered to determine how well you can use your verbal reasoning skills in a certain role. 

When you are taking an SHL verbal test, you answer all questions. But what if you are not sure about the answer?

The nature of SHL verbal reasoning tests means that you can safely make a calculated guess rather than leaving the question unanswered. 

Your correct answers are then compared to the achievement of that norm group before being converted into a percentile that lets the employer know exactly where you fall within the norm group. 

How long is an SHL verbal test?

The SHL verbal test usually takes 17 to 19 minutes during which you are expected to answer 30 questions. The questions contain text passages that are used to gauge your verbal reasoning skills.

You are required to go through the passage, the questions and then give either a true, false, or cannot say answer.  

What if English isn’t my first language?

SHL verbal tests are not just limited to people whose English is their first language. If you speak English as a second language, tackling SHL verbal tests will be more challenging for you.

So, what should you do? Practice as much as you can. This means trying to perfect your English the best way you can so that you can get to a level where you can comfortably deduce what a given passage is all about. 

Where can I practice verbal reasoning tests?

If you are stressed about an upcoming SHL verbal reasoning test, our website contains free practice tests that you can take.

The practice test will give an insight into the format as well as the type of questions that you might encounter in the actual test to give you a better chance of passing it when that day comes. 

How can I improve my verbal reasoning?

Verbal reasoning is all about understanding what you hear or read. It means being in a position to draw conclusions from information at your disposal.

Playing games that require verbal reasoning skills like hangman, word searches, crosswords, and quizzes can help you improve your verbal reasoning. 

Taking time to also practice with free verbal reasoning tests online can also work wonders when it comes to improving your verbal reasoning skills. 

6 Tips for Taking SHL verbal Reasoning Tests

Here are some of the things that you need to bear in mind if you are to pass an SHL verbal reasoning test

Top Tip #1 Practice, practice, practice!

SHL verbal reasoning tests require you to go through text passages and answer the questions based on that text only. If you are to do well and be among the top tier of candidates, practicing is what will make this possible. Go through verbal reasoning practice tests until you are familiar with the format and the type of questions you might encounter on D-day. 

Top Tip #2 Manage your time well

With SHL verbal reasoning tests, you only have 19 minutes to go through 30 passages that may contain long paragraphs and come up with an answer. That means, less than a minute per question. Being able to manage your time during the test could mean the difference between passing and failing the test. 

Top Tip #3 Avoid making assumptions

When taking a test, it’s natural to draw conclusions from general knowledge or other experiences when answering the questions. This is the worst thing you can do when taking a verbal reasoning test. With such a test, such assumptions are not necessary since you only need to base your answers on the passage you’ve been given. 

Top Tip #4 Work on improving your English

If English is not your first language, you will have a hard time reasoning based on the long passages you are given. As such, practice until such texts become easy to comprehend. You can do that by reading as many newspaper articles or publications that you can find.

Top Tip #5 Read and re-read the given text

SHL verbal listening text passages can be a bit long and can seem complex when you are reading them for the first time. If you jump right into the questions, you might have a hard time answering them correctly. Therefore, read and re-read the text until you are very sure that you understand what the question is communicating and what it’s not. 

Top Tip #6 Prepare your brain beforehand

SHL verbal reasoning tests can be tricky and the last thing you want is to take the test when your brain is not fully into it. Therefore, before the test make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. You also need to make sure that you clear your brain off any distractions and that you don’t walk into the test centre hungry. 


SHL verbal reasoning tests can be tricky and complex if you are not well prepared. You might also feel under pressure considering that you have less than 20 minutes to answer all 30 questions. 

Practicing with online practice tests will give you a competitive edge since you will have an understanding of the formatting of the questions plus the questions that you are likely to be asked. 

The good thing about SHL verbal reasoning test is that your score is based on your correct answer rather than what you got wrong. After all, the main use of the test is to determine how well you will use your verbal reasoning task to fulfil the role you are interviewing for. 


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