Master The Verbal Reasoning Test: Tips & Time-Tested Strategies To Boost Your Score

Discover three essential things successful students do to prepare for their verbal reasoning test and learn top exam strategies to tackle even the hardest verbal reasoning questions (with examples and step-by-step answers).

How Do You Pass A Verbal Reasoning Test: 3 Verbal Reasoning Test Tips To Maximise Your Preparation Time

Verbal reasoning will make up a large chunk of your final test score, whether you’re sitting a general ability exam, an aptitude test, or a psychometric job test.

The good news is that verbal reasoning is not rocket science. You’re well on your way to acing your test if you follow our failproof verbal reasoning test tips and tricks below.

But before we cut to the chase... what is verbal reasoning all about and why do schools and employers test it?

Verbal reasoning questions are designed to measure how well you reason and solve problems that have to do with words and letters. Essentially, they show your potential school or employer if you can work with word meanings and make logical judgments based on verbal information.

Not sure whether you’ll have to sit a verbal reasoning test? You most likely will if you’re:

  • Competing for a scholarship in Australia (the majority of testing bodies including Edutest, Academic Assessment Services, and ACER measure general ability).
  • Sitting a secondary school test (11+ exam in the UK) or high school entrance exam (HSPT, ISEE, SSAT, and COOP).
  • Applying for a civil service job with pre-employment testing (Victorian Police and PSO Exam, ADF You Session, CSVT and CSNT).

Are Verbal Reasoning Tests Hard?

Aptitude and psychometric tests are never easy. And they shouldn’t be - these examinations are designed to sift through average candidates and recruit only the best of the best.

Verbal reasoning tests are no exception. To give you a general idea of what to expect, here’s a common example of verbal reasoning question (check out more verbal reasoning examples below):

MINNOW is to BAIT as PAWN is to:

A: game
B: collateral
C: pawn shop
D: seafood
E: food

We found that most students struggle with two things in their verbal reasoning test:

  • Time limit – you'll have around 30 seconds per question. It's not much considering that sometimes you have to deal with time-consuming puzzles such as translating codes and rearranging letters.
  • Vocabulary – your verbal reasoning test will be full of uncommon and complex words that take a long time to comprehend.

Verbal reasoning questions are essentially like worded logical puzzles. They do seem intimidating at first. But with the right approach and enough practice, you can get the hang of those tricky questions and earn top marks on your test.

What Is A Good Verbal Reasoning Score?

As much as we would like to give you a clear guideline on what a good verbal reasoning score is, the answer is – it depends.

Like with any competitive aptitude test, there’s no definite “pass” or “fail” mark. Your scores will depend on how your competitors applying for the same program or position have performed in the test.

Simply put, don’t be in a hurry to celebrate if you know you hit 37 correct answers out of 40 on your test.


Because if most of the other candidates have hit 38 correct answers in the same test, you’ll end up at the lower edge of the performance graph.

Here’s how the scoring process generally works:

  • Each correct answer in your verbal reasoning test earns a point. Usually, there are no negative points for incorrect answers (at least, this applies to the majority of aptitude tests).
  • Your raw score - the number of correct answers - is then converted into a percentile rank, which shows how your score compares to those of other applicants.

A 25-percentile rank means that you’ve performed better than 25% of test-takers and is considered low. A 75-percentile rank means that you’ve performed better than 75% of test-takers and is considered above average. And so it goes. The higher the percentile rank, the better your score is relative to the crowd.

Remember that the more competitive and selective your program or job position is – the higher you have to score.

With 8+ years of preparing students for competitive exams, we can say with confidence that those with an 85-90% score in all subtests will most likely succeed. But there are minor variations from year to year and from program to program.

What Comes Under Verbal Reasoning? 3 Verbal Reasoning Tricks (With Example Questions & Solutions)

No matter what exam you’re sitting, your verbal reasoning skills will be tested with some (or all) of these question types:

  • Synonyms/Antonyms
  • Word/Letter Rearrangement
  • Classification of attributes
  • Word Relationships
  • Logical Statements (true/false type of questions)
  • Letter patterns
  • Translation of language

The difficulty level depends on your age and grade group. So, expect the verbal reasoning test for 9-year-olds to use less complex vocabulary and less complicated word puzzles than a Civil Service Verbal Test (CSVT).

But remember, any general ability test highly depends on logic. To tackle the verbal reasoning part, you need to learn the logic behind every question type and how to approach it efficiently.

If you’re already sweating about your upcoming verbal reasoning test, we’ve got your back.

Read on to learn 3 tested and proven verbal reasoning tricks and strategies that our successful students use to vanquish even the hardest verbal reasoning questions.

Verbal Reasoning Trick 1: Build The Bridge

Verbal analogies and questions that require you to determine the relationship between words are probably among the most common (and scary) ones in a verbal reasoning test. The challenge here is that you need to know what these words mean and find a logical connection between the words.

Here’s how these questions typically look like: Item A is to Item B as Item C is to Item D.

You can get easy marks on these types of questions by applying the “Build The Bridge” strategy. Let’s see how it works.

MINNOW is to BAIT as PAWN is to:

A: game
B: collateral
C: pawn shop
D: seafood
E: food

Step 1: Ignore the answer options for now. Instead, look at the first pair of words, define them.

Minnow is a type of small fish, while bait is food/prey used to entice fish and other animals.

Step 2: Establish a primary relationship between these words - build a bridge. Create a short sentence to show how they link together.

In this example, we can create a general sentence:

MINNOW is used as BAIT

Step 3: Apply the created sentence to the second pair of words. Eliminate the options that don't fit. Remember, the relationship between words on the left has to always match the relationship on the right.

Pawn is a chess piece. But it also means the object that is left as a security when you're borrowing money.

Let's eliminate answer choices that do not match these definitions and that do not fit the relationship we've established before:

PAWN is used as GAME/PAWN SHOP/SEAFOOD/FOOD - these options obviously don't fit the sentence.

Thus, we're left with the correct answer B – COLLATERAL.

There are hundreds of possible relationships between words, but here are some common ones:

  • Part to whole: ROOM to HOUSE is as CABIN to SHIP
  • General to specific: CACTUS is to SPINES as PIG is to BRISTLES
  • Object to function: HATCHET is to CHOP as LIFEBOAT is to RESCUE
  • Cause to effect: SPARK is to FIRE as ACQUITTAL is to FREEDOM
  • Descriptive characteristic: SLOTH is to SLUGGISH as DEER is to SWIFT
  • Age: TADPOLE is to FROG as CUB is to WOLF
  • Synonyms: STALL is to DELAY as DESPISE is to HATE
  • Antonyms: HEED is to DISREGARD as IMMURE is to FREE

Verbal Reasoning Trick 2: Make It Visual

Tables, graphs, and Venn diagrams are your best friends when it comes to tackling conditional statements as well as ordering and classifying items.

Don’t even try figuring out the questions with mind-boggling details in your head! This will likely result in mistakes that could be easily avoided and lost marks.

Let’s see how to approach these types of questions:

Assume that some chians are pohs, some weis are tian and all shans are weis. Therefore it makes sense that:

A: all pohs are shans
B: some chians are shans
C: all shans are tians
D: all weis are shans
E: some shans may also be tians

Step 1: Identify the keywords.

In this question, you don’t need to understand the words as they are made up.

Step 2: Visualise the given information.

You need to be confident and accurate in drawing diagrams and tables and know which one works best for your particular question.

Venn diagrams, for example, work great for conditional statements that include such words as “all” and “some.” While line diagrams are better for comparing things or objects.

Good news: That’s what we teach in our online verbal reasoning course.

In this case, Venn diagrams will work.


This simple diagram shows relations between the objects and contains enough information to figure out which statement is true.

Step 3: Evaluate the answer options and eliminate those that don’t match the diagram.

Eventually, we’ll be left with the correct answer, E – some shans may also be tians.


Verbal Reasoning Trick 3: Match One Part At A Time

Are you a fan of scramble games? Then you’ll love to learn that word rearrangement questions are pretty common in verbal reasoning tests.

If you’re not – no worries. We’ve got a strategy just for you.

One thing, though - you will need to brush up on your grammar and parts of speech because that’s exactly the knowledge that will help you conquer this type of question.

Rearrange the following words to form the best sentence possible. What is the second last word of this sentence?

five even that fakes owner were paintings her with notice of the substituted didn't

E: None of these

Step 1: Focus on separate words. Use them to create small phrases instead of trying to match the whole sentence.

Here’s where good grammar helps. We know that nouns go with adjectives, adverbs with verbs, articles before nouns, etc.

If we play around with the given words, we will end up with a list of grammatically correct phrases like these:

  • Didn’t even notice
  • Fakes/Paintings were substituted
  • Substituted with
  • Five paintings/fakes
  • The owner
  • Five paintings/fakes
  • Notice that

Step 2: Use your knowledge of sentence structure to form a possible sentence out of your phrases.

Our sentence starts to make sense:

The owner didn’t even notice that paintings were substituted with fakes.

Step 3: Check what words are left and try to fit them into the sentence.

We're left with five, her, of that fit perfectly into a sentence:

The owner didn’t even notice that five of her paintings were substituted with fakes.

Step 4: Eliminate your answer options.

In this question, we have to identify the second last word of the sentence, which is "with".

The correct answer is E - none of these.

Want to learn more score-boosting verbal reasoning tricks and strategies? We’ve got test prep just for you.

Online verbal reasoning course

Get everything you need to master your verbal reasoning test at your fingertips. We combined in-depth video lectures with effective drill practice so you could gain the knowledge required and refine your skills at the same time. Enjoy an easy performance monitoring to see your strength and identify weaknesses and learn to manage your time wisely with a timed practice mode.

Verbal reasoning test bank

Feeling confident in your verbal reasoning powers? Put your skills to test with hundreds of online verbal reasoning questions similar to your exam. Time yourself with an in-built timer for an added challenge or go at your own pace. And don’t forget to watch explanatory videos to each question – that’s where our experts share all score-boosting secrets and strategies.

Verbal Reasoning - Teaching Test Bank

Practice and ace your verbal reasoning test with 150 sample questions plus expert video solutions.

The teaching test bank combines 150 online sample practice questions (option to use timed or untimed practice mode) with a 'how-to' video to show you how to answer a question in 5 steps or less.

Verbal reasoning is a commonly tested in aptitude and psychometric testing for school and job entry.

This test bank provides a range of different verbal reasoning questions to really hone your critical thinking skills and vocabulary knowledge. It provides you with expert tips and shortcuts so that you learn how to beat the clock when it comes to your exam.

It is suitable for those who want to prepare for the verbal reasoning component of the following exams:

  • Job aptitude tests like police, defence and armed services, fire fighting and,
  • Selective school entrance exams and scholarship tests for entry into grades 7 - 9.

This test bank is available now

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Exam Success has invented a better way to help you prepare for your test through over 7 years of experience. Our teaching test bank is totally new in 2019 and gives you access to practice questions and a 'how-to-answer' video for each question. Each 'how-to-answer' video shows you how to answer in just 5 simple steps. This helps you learn exam technique and more importantly, how to solve problems quickly, just like the experts!

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