How to Pass SHL Tests
Updated October 2021
What Are SHL Tests?
SHL tests are the most common brand of ability, behavioural and personality tests.
Many employers choose to include SHL tests as part of their recruitment process.
SHL tests can be used to highlight candidates with the skills and knowledge needed to progress into leadership roles in the future.
They are suitable for use across all job industries and hierarchy levels, although they are especially popular for graduate recruitment schemes.
The catalogue can be filtered by categories such as ‘Industry’, ‘Job Level’ and ‘Job Family’.
It is also possible to search for specific keywords to find a suitable test.
Want to take some SHL practice tests?
What Aptitude Tests Does SHL Provide?
At the start of the recruitment process, employers identify key competencies that are required to succeed in the advertised job role.
Once these documents have been written, employers select the SHL tests which will help them to assess how well a candidate meets the key competencies required for the job role.
The assessment categories for SHL tests include:
1. Cognitive Ability
This category of tests is used to assess a candidate’s logic, reasoning and aptitude for processing information.
Test results may also be used to identify a candidate’s potential for future success or promotion.
The assessments that are available include:
Typically, these will include assessments that have been created to evaluate business, IT and software skills.
Employers will choose a specific skills assessment according to the job role they are recruiting for.
For example, when recruiting for a secretarial vacancy, they may ask candidates to complete a spelling and grammar, or letter writing test.
For an IT programming role, they will probably select a test that will assess a candidate’s ability to use a specific programming language.
SHL Verify – Cognitive Ability Assessments
Verify Numerical Ability Test – This assessment is used to evaluate a candidate’s numerical and statistical abilities. Tasks will include numerical calculations and equations, word-based mathematical problems and the interpretation of data presented in spreadsheets, graphs or charts.
Verify Calculation Test – This test is used to assess a candidate’s basic mathematical abilities including addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It can also be used to identify a candidate’s data manipulation skills such as checking, auditing and estimating.
Verify Inductive Reasoning Test – This is sometimes called a diagrammatic reasoning or logical reasoning test. It is used to assess problem-solving abilities – often, a sequence of shapes or images will be provided and candidates will be expected to identify the pattern and determine how the sequence continues.
Verify Deductive Reasoning Test – Candidates are required to analyse the information provided to identify strengths and weaknesses of an argument, the information needed to complete the scenario that has been outlined to them or make logical conclusions.
Verify Verbal Ability Test – This assessment is used to find out how well a candidate can understand and analyse written information. Candidates are required to read and interpret a section of text before answering questions to demonstrate their understanding of the written information and how this can be used.
Verify Mechanical Comprehension Test – This test is used to assess a candidate’s basic knowledge and understanding of mechanical systems. Typically, candidates will be expected to apply this knowledge to different devices, including cogs, gears, pulleys and levers.
Verify Checking Test – This test looks at how well a candidate can check and compare information in an administrative setting. Employers will be looking for candidates that can check information with both speed and accuracy.
Verify G+ Test – This generic test looks at overall mental ability (including numeral ability and deductive/inductive reasoning) to measure a candidate’s capabilities for critical reasoning and problem-solving.
SHL can create customisable interactive simulations to put candidates into realistic workplace situations.
Candidate responses during a simulation are then used to gauge their abilities in areas such as accuracy, coaching and customer service.
Situational Judgment – Unlike many of the other tests, there are no right or wrong answers for situational judgment tests. Instead, they are used to find out how a candidate is likely to react and respond to certain situations within the workplace.
Realistic Job and Culture Previews (RJP) – This test can be used to give applicants an insight of working for the recruiting organisation. It is often used at the very start of the application process to help candidates decide whether they wish to continue with their application. In most cases, RJPs are not scored; however, candidates will receive feedback on their response to each scenario.
Universal Competency Framework (UCF) – Linked to behaviours that can be observed, this test offers a framework which can be used to assess performance, potential and behaviour. Candidate responses can be used to help understand behaviours and how these might impact on their suitability for work within particular job roles and work environments. Test results can help to identify whether the candidate works best on their own or within a team, whether they prefer to work within small or large teams, and whether they tend to focus more on detail than the overall picture.
These assessments can be used throughout the entire employee life cycle, from the initial recruitment stages through to employee development and succession planning:
Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) – SHL describes this test as: “The world’s leading personality assessment for predicting performance, potential and fit.” It can be used to analyse more than 30 precise personality traits that might be required for a particular job role. The results can be used to make a judgment on whether or not a candidate would be a good fit for the existing team.
Motivation Questionnaire (MQ) – This test is designed to measure 18 different motivational factors. Candidates are expected to read information relating to a workplace situation and then rate each one in terms of how this might affect their motivation levels. The results of the test will be used to form an MQ Report Pack which will include a Profile Chart, Candidate Motivation Report and Employee Motivation Report. This pack can then be used by recruiters to help inform their recruitment decision.
Why Might You Be Asked to Take an SHL Test?
Many employers require prospective employees to complete one or more SHL tests during the early part of the recruitment process.
Typically, candidates will be notified of this via an email, which will include a link to the online tests.
A deadline for the completion of the tests will be provided; this is likely to be anything from a few days to several weeks.
Results from the initial tests will be used to help decide whether or not to invite a candidate to interview.
Applicants who are moved forward to the next stage of the selection process will probably be asked to complete further SHL test(s) as part of the interview or assessment centre.
It is important to bear in mind that the results from both sets of tests will be compared.
If they appear to be very different, employers may be alerted to potential cheating.
How Are SHL Tests Scored?
Each candidate’s results will be compared to a ‘norm’ or reference group which is made up of people with similar characteristics (nationality, age, education, etc.)
To progress to the next stage, candidates will need to achieve a score that is relevant to the reference group, for example, 40% higher than the average score by individuals within that group.
To stand the best chance of progressing to the next stage of the selection process, candidates should aim to achieve a score in the top 20%.
How to Pass SHL Tests
Brush up on your basic skills – While it isn’t possible to predict exactly which questions you will be required to answer during an SHL test, it is sensible to spend some time revising basic techniques like interpreting trends, converting decimals to fractions and working out ratios.
Complete plenty of practice tests – There are plenty of online resources which enable you to practise SHL tests. Your best first option is to visit the official SHL Direct website. You can take practice tests here, although not that many are available. The more practice tests you complete, the more familiar you will become with the format, question types and time constraints of SHL tests. To take lots of tests, visit JobTestPrep, where you can take free and paid for SHL simulator tests.
Be prepared – If you are the type of person who works best first thing in the morning, plan to complete the tests as early in the day as possible. Similarly, if you’re more productive during the evening hours, complete the tests then. If there are other people in the house at the time you are planning to do the tests, let them know to ensure that they do not disturb you. Before you get started, have something to eat, make yourself a drink and grab any materials you might need, such as a pen, paper and calculator.
Manage your time – As mentioned, each SHL test will have a timeframe during which candidates must complete it. One reason for this is to put candidates under pressure, to see how they perform and understand their potential. When starting a test, allow yourself time to carefully read the full instructions, including how much time you have to complete it. If you find yourself stuck on one particular question, try not to spend too much time trying to work it out. Unless it is a test that times out if you skip a question or give an incorrect answer (this information will be given within the test instructions), then it is best to move onto the next question. You will usually be able to move back and forth through the questions, but if not, then just make a note of any questions you haven’t been able to answer and go back to them later.
Many employers incorporate SHL tests (or other cognitive ability or aptitude assessments) into their recruitment processes.
You are especially likely to be asked to complete SHL tests if you are applying for graduate roles.
SHL tests can be a challenge – the best way to prepare is practice, as this will help you to become familiar with the format of the test and the type of questions you will be asked to answer.
Reviewing your results after each practice test will enable you to identify the areas that you need to focus on improving.
Remember, the more practice you do, the quicker you will be able to complete questions – and, hopefully, this will lead to a higher score when it comes to a live test situation.