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SHL Tests: 13 Tips, Cheats and Hacks (Prepare Better + Get Top Results!)

SHL Tests: 13 Tips, Cheats and Hacks (Prepare Better + Get Top Results!)

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What Are SHL Ability Tests?

SHL tests are one of the most established and popular forms of psychometric testing used during the recruitment process today.

Adopted by employers worldwide, SHL tests provide a method of assessing a candidate's ability and suitability for the role in a way that is efficient, objective and insightful.

They work by looking at a prospective employee’s natural abilities and behavioral styles, allowing employers to build candidate profiles based not just on qualifications and experience, but also future potential and culture fit.

Often taken online at an applicant's convenience, they are quick and easy to administer. This makes them popular in graduate recruitment, where a high volume of applications are received, and the candidate pool needs to be narrowed down to the most promising talent.

That’s why you’ll usually take SHL tests in the early stages of the application process – employers are looking to spot potential at speed, and progress those who show it through to interview.

What Are the Most Common SHL Tests?

Generally speaking, SHL tests fall into two categories:

  • Aptitude tests – These measure cognitive ability. They look at how well you’re able to perform a given task when faced with new information, assessing things like problem solving and abstract thinking.

  • Behavioural tests – These look at your personal and working preferences, values and character traits, and are used to determine how well suited you are to a specific working environment and role requirements.

Within these categories sit various test types.

SHL Aptitude Tests

These include:

  • Verbal reasoning tests – These test your ability to draw conclusions from written information. You will usually be given a passage and will have to deduce if a statement about that passage is 'true', 'false' or 'cannot say'.
  • Numerical reasoning tests – A measure of how well you’re able to interpret and manipulate numerical data.
  • Inductive reasoning tests – Here, you’re tested on your ability to predict outcomes by identifying rules and relationships in sequential patterns.
  • Deductive reasoning tests – These test logical reasoning and require you to evaluate arguments, and work with inferences and assumptions.

SHL Behavioural Tests

These include:

  • Personality tests – These look at key traits successful employees demonstrate in the workplace, and how closely your own behaviours match.
  • Situational judgement tests – These are a measure of professional judgement, and ask you to choose the most effective response to a range of hypothetical scenarios.

SHL tests are usually multiple choice and taken under timed conditions, with both the accuracy of your answers and the speed at which you work through the questions contributing to your score.

They play an important role in recruitment, and will determine whether you progress to the next stage of the process, making preparation for SHL tests an absolute must if you want to succeed in your job search.

Top 13 Tips for Taking SHL Tests

1. Find Out Which Tests You’ll Be Taking (and When)

The SHL test series consists of many different assessment types, and employers typically use a combination of these to build a well-rounded candidate profile.

To prepare yourself fully, you need to know exactly which test types you’re required to sit. This information should be made available to you, but, if in doubt, contact the employer’s HR department for clarification.

It’s also useful to know if you’re required to take these tests more than once. Some employers administer them in the early screening stages, and again as part of an assessment centre.

Knowing the specifics of what lies ahead will help you tailor your preparation accordingly, as well as settle any nerves caused by uncertainty.

2. Take Plenty of Practice Tests

Psychometric tests are somewhat different from the type of tests you’ll be used to sitting as a student, particularly those that focus on cognitive ability.

These assessments are designed in a very particular way. You’ll face multiple question types, often with quite complex and/or abstract content. You’ll need to separate pertinent from irrelevant information, and do so under the pressure of a time limit.

It may sound daunting, but the good news is the more you practice shl-style practice tests, the easier it becomes. You’ll learn what each question type involves, how best to approach it and how to make the most effective use of the given time frame.

Make SHL practice tests a regular part of your preparation and keep a record of your scores. Your confidence will grow as you see yourself improving.

3. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

From your practice tests, it should become clear where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Look at these objectively, and create a study plan to suit.

It’s human nature to focus on things we’re good at and ignore what we find a struggle, but your study plan should have plenty of focus on your weak spots.

It’s unlikely you’ll turn these into your greatest strengths, but even the smallest improvement can make a big difference to your SHL test scores.

SHL Tests: 13 Tips, Cheats and Hacks (Prepare Better + Get Top Results!)
SHL Tests: 13 Tips, Cheats and Hacks (Prepare Better + Get Top Results!)

You should also look at how to improve on what you are already good at. Your results will be assessed against a normative group, and the higher you achieve above this benchmark, standard the better.

4. Revise Basic Knowledge

Strictly speaking, it’s impossible to ‘revise’ for SHL tests, since they look at your natural abilities rather than your knowledge of a particular subject. What you can do, however, is brush up on some basic knowledge.

This is particularly useful for the SHL numerical reasoning test and mechanical reasoning tests.

For numerical tests, revise converting fractions, percentages and ratios, practice basic arithmetic, and spend some time interpreting tables, charts and graphs.

For mechanical tests, go over key physical principles like force, movement and gravity.

With finely tuned basic knowledge, you’ll be able to approach each test question with greater accuracy and speed, and your final score will be more impressive as a result.

5. Improve Your Reading Speed

In taking practice tests, you’ll probably have realised that you spend more time reading the test questions than answering them, particularly in an SHL verbal reasoning test where there’s a lot of written information to digest.

Whilst it’s important to read each question carefully (a point we’ll focus on in due course) you don’t want it to eat into your time allowance and prevent you from answering as many questions as possible.

The trick here is to read fast while maintaining focus – something that it is possible to work on.

Set aside time each day to read through something complex in nature, like an academic passage or news piece, for example. Then reflect on what you’ve taken from it before reading it again.

The more you do this, the better you’ll become at identifying key points first time round and understanding the content in context. This will give you an advantage on your official test day.

6. Learn to Manage Your Time to Best Effect

Time management is critical to success in SHL tests, so learn to use what you have wisely.

A key tip here is to not linger when you stumble on a difficult question. Generally speaking, the more you attempt to unravel something, the more confused you become, especially when you know time is not on your side.

Set yourself a certain number of minutes to work on it, and if you’re still struggling when you hit your limit, move on. Most SHL tests allow you to go back to any unanswered questions if you have time left over.

Again, practice tests will be a real benefit here. You’ll learn to spot which questions you’ll find most labor intensive, and which you’ll be able to complete with little difficulty.

7. Read Every Question Carefully

We can’t stress enough the importance of practice, but there’s something to be wary of here too, and that’s overfamiliarity.

The more tests you take, the more you might assume you know what is being asked of you, and pay less attention to detail as a result. This is the easiest way to lose valuable marks.

Digest each question thoroughly, and make sure you understand its purpose before attempting to answer. If you’ve worked on improving your reading speed as discussed earlier, this shouldn’t have too much of an impact on your timing.

8. Always Take an Educated Guess

Unless stated otherwise, negative marking does not apply to SHL tests. That is to say, you won’t be marked down for any incorrect answer given.

With that in mind, it’s in your best interest to take your most educated guess on any questions you’re unsure of.

Remember, SHL tests are multiple choice, so there’s a fair chance you will in fact select the correct answer.

9. Use Key Test Taking Strategies

It may be obvious by now that the biggest obstacle in an SHL assessment is the time restriction.

If left to take a test at their own speed, most candidates would probably perform exceptionally well, but one of the core functions of SHL tests is to see how well you perform under pressure.

Every second you can save counts, and there are some strategies you can implement to help here.

Process of elimination is one. If you can quickly identify multiple choice options that you know don’t fit, you can focus your attention on those that might prove correct.

10. Don’t Just Take Practice Tests, Learn From Them

Taking test after test will ensure you’re comfortable with the format and content, but repetition alone won’t necessarily help you improve – what will is reviewing your performance and looking for ways to work more effectively next time round.

This involves almost everything we’ve discussed so far – how closely and quickly you read each question, how you managed your time, the strategies you used and how accurate your best guesses were.

Look at each question in turn, as well as the test as a whole, and pinpoint any areas you think you can build on.

You should also of course be looking at any incorrect answers to establish where you went wrong. As with most things in life, learning from your mistakes is the best way to move forward with aptitude tests.

11. Answer Honestly

This is a tip for SHL behavioural assessments, like personality tests and situational judgement tests.

Before you take these, it’s wise to do your research into the traits and characteristics an employer sees as important, but don’t let it influence your test responses, and certainly don’t try and ‘cheat’ the test by creating a false impression of who you really are.

The whole point of these assessments is to see how well suited you are to a role and organisation, and vice versa. If it’s not the right fit, it’s not beneficial to either party.

Honesty is always the best policy with behavioural tests, so go with your gut instinct and don’t overthink things.

12. Focus on Physical Preparation

We’ve covered a lot of tips here that look at how to improve your abilities and test taking strategy, but it's just as important to focus on your physical self too.

To perform at your best you need to be well rested, hydrated and energized. If you’re not, it will impact your concentration significantly, so make sure you eat well, drink plenty of water and maintain a regular sleep pattern in the run up to the real test.

There’s also another side to physical preparation, and that’s making sure you’re properly set up to complete your assessment without disruption.

If taking your test remotely, find a quiet location with a stable internet connection, and let others know not to disturb you.

13. Take a Break Before Test Day

This tip follows on from the last. Good physical preparation means not wearing yourself down, and just as you wouldn’t run a practice marathon before official race day, nor should you cram in last minute prep for your SHL tests.

You’ve done the hard work already, so give yourself a break and try to relax. If you’re someone who suffers from test nerves, try using calming strategies like meditation and breathing techniques to keep your anxieties to a minimum.

Frequently Asked Questions

The SHL test is one of the most popular forms of psychometric testing. It is used widely in corporate recruitment procedures. Candidates are examined on their behaviour, and they respond to certain scenarios. The answers given by the candidate give a company a strong idea of compatibility with the given corporate culture.

The most common SHL tests can be split into two categories: SHL aptitude tests and SHL behavioural tests.

There are various types of SHL aptitude tests. Some of these are verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, situational judgement, mechanical reasoning, reading comprehension and general ability.

In comparison, there are less SHL behavioural tests. Some of these are personality tests and situational judgement tests. The aptitude tests examine a candidate’s logical skills, whilst the behavioural tests are a close examination of a candidate’s personality.

The SHL test can be difficult if you do not prepare properly. The aptitude tests require candidates to showcase their numerical and reasoning abilities.

If you are taking aptitude tests, you will be presented with data, patterns and even shapes. Being unaware of how to draw conclusions from these types of questions will make the SHL test difficult.

The SHL behavioural tests do not require any prior knowledge as the questions are designed to examine an individual’s personality. However, if you are unfamiliar with the structure of personality tests or psychometric examinations, then you may struggle to answer the questions confidently.

The first part of preparation is understanding what types of SHL tests you will be taking. You cannot revise properly if you do not know exactly what the tests are.

This information should be made available for you during an application process, but if you are not made aware then contact customer service or HR to obtain this information.

Once you are aware of the tests you will be sitting you should take as many practice papers as possible and revise over the sections that you find difficulty with. Sitting practice papers will help you become comfortable with the questions. Practice papers will also improve your time management skills.

Instead of a raw score, candidates taking the SHL tests will be given a percentile score. This is because of the combination of aptitude tests and behavioural tests.

Percentile scores are compared to the general achievement made by a norm group.

The average score for the SHL test is between 40 to 50 percentiles. These scores may be considered a pass, but the employer may have better scores and candidates to choose from.

Good SHL test scores are usually in the above average and well above average category. To get in these categories you will need to be in the 70th percentile and above. The top category is the 90 to 100 percentiles.

Although there is not a strict pass or fail score to the SHL test, you can be turned down by an employer if you’re score is not considered suitable for the position.

Whether you are permitted to take the test again depends on the employment practice of the respective company. Some may not allow you take the SHL test again if you fail, whilst other will allow you take the test again if you choose to reapply.

For example, the British civil service banks your scores. If you pass the numerical and verbal sections of the SHL test, you will not need to take them again, but you will need to take the other sections of the test when you reapply.

How quickly your results will be available depends on how many people are taking the test and a company’s employment practices.

Because the results are determined by the percentile you fall within, you must wait until all the applicants complete their SHL tests in order to understand where you score in relation to them.

In order to understand the rough time of how long you must wait for your SHL results, look at how long the application window position is.

The SHL test will be a part of a company’s application process and it will be taken online. If you are successful on the SHL tests and the rest of your application is promising, you will likely be invited to sit interviews or attend a day at an assessment centre.

If you fail the SHL test, you will likely not pass through the application process. In this case you may be able to reapply, but this depends on a company’s employment practices.

There are many websites and resources online that provide SHL practice papers. JobTestPrep is a great resource for SHL practice papers. If you take other aptitude tests, the questions you will be answering will likely be similar to the ones you answer on the SHL tests.

The number of questions to answer on each test can range between 18 to 30 questions. Each test will also take a different length of time to complete, and the time you will be allocated can range between 10 to 45 minutes.

It is very likely that you will take your SHL tests online as part of an initial application screening. You may be asked to take SHL tests at an assessment centre, but it is more efficient for companies to make candidates do these tests before they are invited along to this stage.

To pass the SHL test you must familiarize yourself with the questions, and you must sit practice papers to understand how to manage your time.

It is also important that you take the right preparation before the test. Ensure that you get good rest and are hydrated whilst you are sitting any SHL tests.

The pass rate for SHL tests depends on the role, the level, and the company that you are applying for – but you want to perform the very best you can to get to the next stage of the recruitment process.

In general terms, you want to score in the top 15%, as most firms use a cut off of 80% as their pass mark.

If you fail the SHL test, your application for the role will not be taken any further.

However, you may be able to reapply for the position and retake the test later.

The SHL tests are not negatively marked typically, which means that you will only receive a point for the answers you get correct in the test.

In practical terms, with the multiple-choice style questions in the SHL tests you are much better trying to answer every question rather than leaving one you are unsure of – you have a better chance of getting a positive mark if you have answered.

There are several different SHL tests available:

  • SHL General Ability – known as the Verify G+ which encompasses questions on numerical, inductive and deductive
  • SHL Numerical Reasoning
  • SHL Verbal Reasoning
  • SHL Inductive Reasoning
  • SHL Deductive Reasoning
  • SHL OPQ32 – this is a personality test
  • Other tests – these can include Mechanical Reasoning and Error Checking among others

The SHL test is free to take as an applicant for a job role, so there should be no costs incurred by you as a candidate when you are invited to complete it.

Final Thoughts

Psychometric tests are par for the course in graduate recruitment, and, as SHL is one of the most popular test providers, it’s highly likely you’ll encounter one of its assessments at some point.

It has an important role to play in recruitment, and should be taken as seriously as any other part of the process. At the same time, it should not be something that causes you undue concern.

It’s possible for every candidate to put in a strong performance, provided they take the right approach to preparation. Hopefully the tips, cheats and hacks we’ve looked at here have given you an idea of how to do just that.