What is an SHL test?
SHL designs and administers personality, behavioural and ability tests that are in use throughout the world. SHL tests are available in 30 different languages, in more than 150 countries across the globe - and since the inception of the company back in 1977, SHL has partnered with multi-national companies like Google, retail conglomerates and even stock exchanges.
The SHL range of tests includes aptitude, personality and behavioural questions, and the reason they are so popular as part of the recruitment process is that they have developed their assessments following the input of experts like occupational psychologists. Different tests are used depending on the role (and seniority).
SHL Aptitude Test Types
SHL aptitude tests can be administered as separate tests, focusing on a single aptitude, or as a general ability test that encompasses more than one area. SHL aptitude tests are timed - usually at fewer than 30 minutes per assessment - and often feature multiple choice questions.
Although the subject matter of the questions in each assessment may not be difficult, the pressure of a time limit makes the test hard - and a more useful assessment of inherent abilities for recruiters looking to narrow down candidates for an available position.
As SHL tests are often adapted for use with different employers, the specific length of time for each assessment and the number of questions asked may vary, as will the language and content of some of the questions themselves.
SHL Numerical Reasoning Tests
A numerical reasoning test assesses the mathematical ability of the candidate by presenting information and several possible answers. The data provided is usually in the form of a graph or chart, and will have some relevance for the advertised position.
The questions involve performing a calculation - usually using percentages and ratios - to choose the correct answer from a multiple choice list. The difficulty isn't in the level of mathematical ability, which needs just basic knowledge of maths, but answering quickly and often without the help of a calculator.
Although SHL tests are often created as a bespoke package for employers, you can expect an SHL numerical reasoning test to have around 18 questions that you are expected to answer in 17-25 minutes.
Example numerical reasoning question:
Q) What percentage of overall output was produced by hydroelectric power in the third quarter?
Solution: 7 / (17 + 14 + 7 + 3) x 100 =17.07%
SHL Verbal Reasoning Tests
In a verbal reasoning assessment, the candidate is presented with some text, with a statement after it. The candidate must decide if the statement is true, false, or there is not enough information to answer. The skill needed to complete an SHL verbal reasoning test is in reading, understanding and analysing the text in order to find the answer needed.
In an SHL verbal reasoning test, you will have about 30 questions that need to be answered in 17-19 minutes.
Example verbal reasoning question:
Statement: Unchecked climate change is likely to lead to humanitarian crises.
C) Cannot say
Solution: True - the passage says that it may lead to human relocation and suffering on a scale never seen before.
SHL Inductive Reasoning Tests
Inductive reasoning questions present a collection of images, patterns or shapes and the candidate must discover the pattern or rule for them in order to answer the question.
In some inductive reasoning tests, you might be asked to find the next image in the pattern, spot the odd one out, or decide what image fits in a gap.
In SHL inductive reasoning tests, the questions are usually looking for the 'next in series' - the image that follows the pattern best. They may be described as a logical reasoning test by some employers. There are around 24 questions with a time limit of 25 minutes.
Example inductive reasoning question:
Q) Which of the boxes comes next in the sequence?
A B C D E
Solution: Rule 1: The position of the octagon changes between top and bottom each time. Rule 2: The circle alternates between being present and absent. Rule 3: The square moves 90 degree anticlockwise around the square. Answer = A.
SHL Deductive Reasoning Tests
In a similar way to the verbal reasoning questions, the data needed to complete the question is presented in the form of text, but this time you will be asked to complete scenarios based on incomplete information.
In the SHL deductive reasoning test, you may face questions related to syllogisms, where a number of premises are presented and you need to find the right conclusion that follows if you assume the premises are true.
There are often questions that offer a set of rules that must be used when arranging a group of objects - sometimes colloquially referred to as 'seating arrangement' questions.
Each question is multiple choice, and there are usually around 18 questions that need to be answered in about 10 minutes.
You can learn more about deductive reasoning tests here.
Example deductive reasoning question:
Q) Who can you infer is most likely to have taken the lemon cake?
Solution: Given what we have learned, it is reasonable to assume that Mark is the culprit. The facts about Maggie and Susan might help in forming a deductive argument, however, in this context they are inconsequential. Mark’s pattern of behaviour suggests he is guilty. Answer = C.
SHL General Ability Tests
The SHL General Ability Test combines a number of test types into one simple to administer package. Often used to screen for graduate and management level positions, it is a broad spectrum indicator of reasoning ability in several key areas including verbal, numerical and logical.
Candidates usually have about 35-45 minutes to complete, depending on the number of questions.
SHL Mechanical Reasoning Tests
Mechanical reasoning tests assess the ability of the candidate to apply mechanical, engineering and electrical knowledge. Mechanical reasoning tests usually present a number of images regarding typical physics laws such as force, gravity, levers and pulleys.
You can usually expect a mechanical reasoning test if applying for roles that require a level of mechanical or scientific expertise, like a production operative or an engineer, but they are also used for those in the financial sector.
In the SHL mechanical reasoning test, the knowledge required to answer the questions is usually regarding basic physics, and you will have about 10 minutes to answer 15 questions.
SHL Reading Comprehension Tests
The SHL Reading Comprehension Test is similar to verbal reasoning in that it offers a passage of text, but the skill here is merely to read and understand the passage in order to answer a question. The language used might be complicated, or role-specific to make it more of a challenge.
The assessment usually has about 18 questions that need to be answered in 25 minutes, so to be successful you must be able to quickly read and take in the given information.
SHL Calculation Tests
Although broadly similar to the numerical reasoning type of tests, SHL Calculation Tests are more like a maths exam, focusing on the candidates ability to manipulate equations using basic skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) according to the correct order of operations, ie BODMAS.
As these questions are not complicated in terms of the mathematical ability, you will usually have a shorter time to complete - usually 10 minutes for about 20 questions.
SHL Personality and Behavioural Assessments
The other part of the SHL assessment offering that is becoming more and more part of the recruitment process is personality and behaviour tests. Employers want to make sure that even the prospective employees who are qualified through aptitude and experience have the right personality traits to fit the culture, work well with others, and have similar thought processes to the rest of the team.
Personality and behavioural assessments are created from the science of occupational psychology, and SHL have created several versions of these tests that have developed as scientific knowledge has grown.
SHL Personality Tests
SHL personality tests can be split into two separate entities. Both have no time limit.
SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (SHL OPC32)
The newest iteration of this personality test offers up to 104 questions that focus on 32 characteristics of personality. Candidates are presented with a block of 4 statements, and in each block must select the statement that is most like them, and least like them.
SHL Motivation Questionnaire (SHL MQ)
The SHL Motivation Questionnaire specifically looks at 18 factors that determine motivation, from power to fear of failure.
To assess this, you will be faced with a statement and asked to rate how it would affect your motivation to work on a scale. There can be up to 144 statements, but no time limit.
SHL Situational Judgement Tests
In a situational judgement test, the candidate is assessed on how they deal with difficult scenarios.
In the SHL Situational Judgement Test, you will be presented with a scenario based on a real-life, work-based situation and have to decide which course of action is the most appropriate out of several possibilities.
There can be 12-25 scenarios, and there is not usually a time limit.
SHL Personnel Test Battery
The SHL Personnel Test Battery is a thorough test that is made for positions that involve high levels of clerical and administrative work. The SHL Personnel Test Battery combines verbal reasoning with numerical reasoning as well as clerical checking tests.
Clerical checking tests look at speed and accuracy, often involving checking lists of data to find discrepancies. You may be required to look at a passage of text and mark it for errors in comparison to a control text and may need to complete a typing test too.
The time limit depends on the number of the questions in the battery.
SHL Graduate and Managerial Tests
SHL tests aimed at graduates or for managerial roles are usually presented in one of two ways.
- SHL Verify+
The SHL Verify tests tend to be more business-orientated and are generally higher-level and more difficult. The Verify tests are usually administered online and are meant to make the experience of test taking simple and straightforward for candidates.
- SHL Management and Graduate Item Bank (MGIB)
This is a battery of tests that combines questions on verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and what is described as productive thinking which assesses your ability to be creative and find abstract solutions to problems. It is one of the most popular options for selection, assessment, and development of those in graduate and management-level positions.
The tests are supervised (usually taken at an assessment centre) and take 25 minutes for the verbal section, 35 minutes for the numerical section and about 32 minutes for productive thinking.
Which financial employers use SHL Tests?
The SHL test packages are used in the selection process for several banks and financial organisations around the world, and are also important for improving internal progression.
You are likely to come across an SHL aptitude test if you apply for a role at Barclays, Capital One, Citibank, Credit Suisse, the London Stock Exchange and BDO. The recruitment process for these organisations tend to attract numerous applicants, and the aptitude tests are designed to help employers narrow down potential candidates for initial employment.
Further to this, many of these employers also implement SHL tests to facilitate training in order to offer development opportunities.
5 Tips to prepare for and pass SHL Tests
The content of SHL aptitude tests are simple enough, based on basic maths, English, and scientific knowledge. The difficulty comes from the structure of the questions and the time limits of the test - as well as the knowledge that your score will have an influence on the job you want to get.
1. Learn What Tests You Will be Taking.
Knowing what aptitude tests you will be facing will help you prepare in the most appropriate way. You can often find out what tests you will be taking from the recruiter or in your application pack, but don't be afraid to reach out and speak to them to find out.
2. Practice SHL-Style Questions
SHL have a number of practice tests based on the different types of assessment available on their website. You can also find SHL-style questions in preparation packs that are a great way to hone your skills, not only in answering the right type of questions but also finding out if there is anything that you need to focus on.
3.The Importance of Time Management
SHL assessments do not offer a lot of time for answering questions, so the time pressure is an important facet of the test. When you practice SHL tests, be sure to set a timer so that you can practice as accurately as possible. Becoming used to the idea that you need to work fast (and accurately) makes the actual test less of a surprise - effective time management is key.
4. Focus on Reasoning
SHL aptitude tests have a lot to do with reasoning of varying types. Reading widely and practicing rudimentary math skills will make you feel more confident in your own abilities. Through your practice, you are likely to come across some areas that you aren't necessarily as comfortable with, so make sure to do as much as you can to improve your results.
5.Read the Instructions
All the information you need to answer the questions is provided in the instructions, so even after you have practiced on SHL-style tests it is important that you read all the information you are given in the tests.
Is the SHL test hard?
The SHL range of tests are not made to be difficult in terms of content, although the graduate and management battery tests usually have more in-depth content. As has been previously mentioned, the difficulty comes from the time limits and the structure of the assessments themselves.
What is a good SHL score?
This is a difficult question to answer as the right score will depend entirely on the needs of the employer. Some recruiters might only take the top 15% of scorers further in the application process, while others might be looking at a broader range. The best way to ensure good performance is to make sure that you score as highly as possible.
How are SHL tests scored?
SHL tests are scored by the amount of correct answers. There are not normally any marks deducted for wrong answers (which means answering as many questions as possible is a good strategy, even if some are guesses). This raw score is turned into a percentile after comparison to a norm group.
Can you fail the SHL tests?
Although there is not a hard and fast pass/fail mark in SHL tests, the employers that use the tests will have a target for percentiles that will be taken further in the recruitment process - so that could be assumed to be the pass/fail point.