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Police Assessment Tests: IRTs, VRTs, NRTs

Reasoning tests IRT VRT NRT

Psychometric tests are one of the many types of assessments used in the inevitable postcode lottery of UK police promotion processes. If your force has them as part of your local process, why not study and practice like you did for the NPPF Step 2 legal exam?

In my blog all about the various assessment tests used in UK police promotion processes, I gave some overall definitions, pointers on preparation, and summarised the various psychometric and other assessment centre tests in use. Then I shared insights about Situational Judgement Tests and the Watson-Glaser test.

In this follow-up blog, I explain more about Inductive Reasoning Tests, Verbal Reasoning Tests, and Numerical Reasoning Tests used in promotion assessment centres. This includes examples and signposting to where you can practice ahead of your next opportunity.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. It reduces the imperfection.” – Toba Beta

The explainer video below gives a helpful overview of what to expect with these types of assessment tests, before we dive in with definitions and examples of each…


Inductive Reasoning Test (IRT)

Definition: Inductive Reasoning Tests are used to assess your ability to see patterns and solve problems.

What are Inductive Reasoning Tests (IRTs)? IRTs assess your ability to think logically and methodically in solving problems, within a limited time. These capabilities can be a particular strength for those with neurodiverse thinking. IRTs test your skill in thinking broadly and testing out different possibilities. I’ve blogged before on thinking differently about challenges, see ‘Thinking Outside De Bono’.

In this assessment test, you will need to recognise patterns or rules in a sequence of visual diagrams and abstract shapes. Based on the sequence, you may be asked to decide from the options which is the odd one out or what comes next in the sequence. Accuracy and speed are important, plus they can be tricky to get the hang of for the uninitiated, so practicing IRTs in advance of your promotion process is a must! Your logical thinking and also timekeeping are important factors in IRTs.

IRTs are designed to measure abilities that are important in solving problems. Common tests used include the SHL Logical Reasoning and the Saville Abstract Reasoning tests. Problem solving is clearly a critical and timeless skill relevant to police leadership. However, be aware the tests will rarely resemble anything police related and are usually depicted graphically. As such, IRTs are sometimes referred to as abstract reasoning tests and diagrammatic style tests. They are designed to measure ability to work flexibly with unfamiliar information and find solutions.

People who perform well on these tests tend to have a greater capacity to think conceptually and analytically. The best way to approach these tests (other than practice!) is to determine the pattern in the first few figures, then quickly test out your theory by applying the logic to the next figures.

An example IRT is shown above, with the correct answer highlighted. In this instance, you can imagine that in the first example, image ‘X’ has rotated clockwise to become image ‘Y’, with the triangular corner shape changing from black to white. Performing the same logic on image ‘Z’ would create the highlighted image from the available options below.

Here is another example of an inductive reasoning sequence. Take a look at the top row, where the frames again advance from left to right in a certain way. Try to predict the next shape in the sequence from the options listed in the second row.

You can practice more free IRTs here.


Numerical Reasoning Test (NRT)

Definition: Numerical Reasoning Tests assess a candidate’s ability to interpret and draw conclusions from numerical information.

What are Numerical Reasoning Tests (NRTs)? NRTs indicate someone’s ability to perform calculations and interpret/evaluate numerical information to solve problems. Questions in NRTs may be presented in tables or graphs and like many other assessment tests will be timed and in multiple-choice format. NRTs are more common at the more strategic Inspecting ranks, who will be dealing with such information as part of performance management in the role (see video below on this topic).

Like other psychometric tests, the best approach is practicing the NRTs. Those with neurodiverse conditions such as dyscalculia will clearly be at a disadvantage here, so in addition to practice tests the associated study guides will help. It is recommended to seek support or reasonable adjustments in your force. You will be under time pressure, so consider the following handy tips on shorthand approaches and information about NRTs to get you started:

The numerical reasoning section might include a question like:

‘The average age of 20 kids in class is 9 years. What is the sum of their ages?’

To answer the question correctly, you would need to follow a formula such as, (sum of items) = average x (number of items). In this case it’s 9 x 20, which equals 180.

In a number series section, you might be asked to choose one correct answer from a series of numbers and letters. For example, in the following sequence what would be the next letter and number:

A5   |   C3   |   E1 |   ?

To answer the question correctly, you will have to figure out that as the letters increase by 2, the numbers decrease by 2 (so the answer here would be G-1). See more practice tests and study guides here.

You may also want to familiarise yourself with numerical and graphical information on a subject of interest, as part of your general CPD. For example, check out my analysis of the results from the Sergeants legal exam and UK promotion opportunities, or this blog on how many UK police officers there are and how that has changed since the 1940s!


Verbal Reasoning Test (VRT)

Definition: The ability to identify relevant information and draw logical conclusions from written information.

What are Verbal Reasoning Tests? VRTs assess your logical abilities and capability to understand written information. Understanding and evaluating complex information to inform decision-making is a key part of the CVF competency, ‘We Analyse Critically’.

You will typically be asked to read a passage of text, then asked questions to determine whether statements about that text can for example be logically defined as ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘cannot say’. This is exactly what is meant based on each of those statements, so be careful to only use information within the text to infer such conclusions:

True: The statement follows logically given the information contained within the passage.

False: The statement cannot logically follow given the information contained within the passage.

Cannot Say: The provided information is not sufficient to determine either way; i.e. more information would be required to say for certain.

As with all psychometric tests, practice makes perfect so here are some free practice VRTs and study guides to help you on your way.

I hope you’ve found this blog on various reasoning tests helpful in your preparation for a promotion assessment centre. I’ll continue this deep-dive into assessment tests next time, exploring the world of in-tray and e-tray assessment tests.

Kind Regards, Steve


Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuidesa podcast.

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