SHL Test Tips (2018 Update): How to Get Top Scores on Every Test, Every Time.


SHL tests. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve just discovered you’ll be taking one of these difficult tests as part of an ongoing recruitment process.

If you’ve got that far and now you’re feeling tense about sitting down in front of an abstract quiz, don’t worry..

We’ve got your back.

What Are SHL Tests?

SHL were one of the pioneers of online psychometric testing, and while the company no longer exists their tests and methodology are still prevalent within the psychometric testing industry.

Bonus: Get free unlimited access to aptitude test practice (for 30 minutes) on our partner website JobTestPrep.

This means that it’s likely that you might come across their legacy during recruitment, particularly if you’re applying to a graduate scheme.

The tests are popular because they’re an efficient and cost effective way of filtering out candidates who don’t meet the minimum technical ability levels needed within a specific role.

SHL tests include verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, inductive reasoning and mechanical reasoning, amongst other variants.

SHL’s range of Psychometric Tests can be role or department specific, focusing on core skills through a library of testing questions across a range of disciplines.

What are shl tests, and how are they made up?

What are shl tests, and how are they made up?

Sounds daunting?

Don’t worry.

While there are far too many variables involved to just give you SHL test answers, we’re going to explain how the tests work, what you can do to prepare and then direct you towards some practice tests so that nothing comes as a big surprise on the day.

How Do SHL Tests Work?

SHL aptitude tests are a way of estimating your maximum ability level.

By taking the measure of a candidate’s potential, and then comparing that to the average level of a reference (or ‘norm) group, businesses believe they will have a better idea of who is cut out for the day to day work involved in the role.

The norm group is typically made up of individuals with similar characteristics, for example age, nationality or education level.

A candidate’s ability is calculated relative to this norm group and then compared to a pre-defined cut off point. The cut off point represents the minimum ability needed to be successful in a particular job role or department function.

SHL Test Tips: How to Pass Candidate Screening in 2016

While aptitude tests aim to assess your level of ability, there are ways to develop your approach to the tests themselves.

These tips won’t make you any better at verbal or numerical reasoning, but they will help you understand the procedures, questions and techniques necessary to pass the test itself.

Top Tip #1 – Practice SHL Tests Until They’re Familiar

Psychometric tests are different to most other forms of testing.

They’re abstract, layered and littered with red herrings.

To demonstrate your true aptitude you’ll have to become familiar with the general approach, types of questions and time limits before taking the test that might make the difference between getting the job or missing out.


This video shows SHL test examples. You can try a variety of SHL practice tests on the official SHL website.

Top Tip #2 – Learn Basic Tips for Numerical and Verbal and Reasoning Tests

It’s true that you can’t truly predict which questions you’re likely to encounter in an assessment, you can prepare for them by researching the topics, formats and presentation types you’ll be presented with.

Think of it like revision.

For example, with numerical reasoning tests you may want to make sure that you’re familiar with techniques such as converting fractions to decimals (and vice versa), ratios, and interpreting graphs or trends.

This video covers some of the elements you’re likely to encounter in a numerical reasoning test.



For mechanical reasoning tests (see the video below for test examples), the topics may include devices such as pulleys, springs, circuit boards and gears.



There are a number of benefits to revising for the tests in this way.

It’ll improve your confidence, as you’ll have experience of passing the practice tests and of answering difficult, abstract questions.

Top Tip #3 – Time Management Can be the Difference Between a Pass and a Fail

SHL tests have a time limit for completion.

The tests are designed to place you under maximum pressure, as the business is trying to understand your true potential.

The time limits can be challenging, so to be successful you need to work quickly and accurately.

  • Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly at the start of the test and understand exactly how long you have to complete it.
  • If you’re completing more than one SHL test, make sure that you understand the time available for each; it may vary from test to test.
  • Don’t get caught out spending all of your time on the first test at the expense of the rest. If you find yourself stuck on a particular question for too long, move on to the next one.
  • Most tests allow you to move backwards and forwards through the test materials, meaning you’re able to answer questions in an order that suits you. However if you do this, make sure to take a note of what you haven’t haven’t answered yet.

Note: This is not true for some tests, so find out at the beginning if you’re able to do this. Some tests end when you select an incorrect answer.

Watch the video below for some excellent time management strategies.

Top Tip #4 – Thoroughly Check the Information Given to You. Then Check It Again

Make sure you understand the instructions for the test, and then scrutinise each question. Check your workings and answer selections before moving on.

Top Tip #5 – Put Yourself in the Zone by Looking After Your Brain

You won’t perform at your best if you’re tired, hung over, distracted or interrupted. SHL tests exist to measure your maximum ability, so don’t give a false impression by attending the test in a less than maximum mental space.

  • Work out when you’re at your most energised. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Choose a time that is good for you in terms of your energy, alertness and relaxation.
  • Make yourself comfortable. Get a drink, go to the toilet, grab some chewing gum and switch the heating on before the test starts.
  • Make a checklist of helpful materials that you may need. Calculator, pens and some paper are generally allowed and always useful.
  • Grab a safe, quiet spot. You don’t want to be interrupted or disturbed when you’re in the zone and tackling abstract brain teasers. Tell your family, partner, kids or friends to leave you alone for a specific amount of time.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep can be the difference between you demonstrating your real potential, and having an off day.
  • Don’t go in hungry. Eat an hour before the test, so that your stomach doesn’t gurgle and distract you with demands for snacks.

Top Tip #6 – It’s About More Than Just the Answers.

SHL tests, numerical and verbal, are often repeated.

Doing just enough to pass first time round may backfire later, as might having someone help you if you’re doing the test at home.

Chances are if you can’t pass the test, the job may not be right for you anyway.

Give it your best shot on your own!

10 thoughts on “SHL Test Tips (2018 Update): How to Get Top Scores on Every Test, Every Time.

  1. June 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    “Watch it then try out a practice test here.”

    And the link goes to a blank page…

    1. Edward Mellett

      June 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      Good spot! looks like SHL have updated their website. I’ve found a new link and updated the article. Here it is:

  2. October 9, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks you guys for informative tips. I really appreciate the guidance. Big up. It’s my SHL test tomorrow and hopping for the best to pass, thanks.

  3. April 9, 2018 at 10:30 am

    SHL are a bunch of idiots as they don’t have a basic understanding of the human brain.

    By artificially putting people under pressure (time limit) you DO NOT GET THEIR MAXIMUM POTENTIAL but something RANDOM. The explanation is simple: under pressure/stress, there is a common PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE – stress hormones flood the body and the brain and impair the cognitive ability. The results of the SHL tests are thus RANDOM as they are TOTALLY UNCORRELATED with how people perform on the job.

    If there is pressure on the job that only shows that the managers are creating it as should be none for maximum performance – so the managers either create it by coming with unrealistic deadlines or by hiring the wrong people sometimes using RANDOM test results like SHL’s.

    Basically, that gives enough background to anyone to sue SHL for misrepresenting their TRUE abilities and causing them a loss of earnings.

    1. August 28, 2018 at 8:48 am

      As an adult educationalist of 30+ years I totally agree. I’ve just recently come across these tests and am frankly appalled! I’ve started a LinkedIn campaign but I’m also considering legal action for contravention of both the Equality Act and the UK Employment Law. Some of the questions have no obvious correct answer, one of the practice questions indicated the incorrect answer!! What a shambles and HR, who, I’m sorry to say, don’t look further than their noses, are skipping with joy at having another meaningless evaluation media!

      To me, the SHL tests your ability to contain their irritation under severe provocation. Anyone with half a brain will not be able to withstand the banality that is the SHL test. Two hours of my life I’m not going to get back.

  4. May 2, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    I just failed one.
    Nieves G. Soto
    Good thing I am on Social Security.
    Wait. You say that is why I failed?

  5. June 8, 2018 at 7:28 am

    I would have to agree that SHL testing is not a realistic test. It’s like psychiatry, the analysis is set for the norm. And that’s where the fallacy occurs. Since everybody is different, they all react to different scenarios. So depending on what happens in a person life, a person can pass a test on one day and fail it on a different day.
    Between the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) and now utilization of the SHL testing, we will eventually turn our society into “1984”. And if you don’t think so, look at the difference of 10-15 years ago as to how long it took an individual to find a job as compared to now. It was two to four weeks and now six months to a year. Add SHL will increase that time even more.
    Getting a job now requires a pretty resume for the ATS and only test takers who can pass the SHL. Some time the employment market is going to have to turn on their windshield wipers to be able to see out of their glass stomachs before it’s too late. We have 200 to 500 people applying for an open position. Why? If you can’t see why, it’s too late.

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