Abstract Reasoning Exam Tips

How to Pass the Abstract Reasoning Exam

Understand the difference types of questions

Good news! All the abstract reasoning questions found on the NZ Police Aptitude Test have the same format. 

The format for the questions is: a series of shapes with different colours are shown and your job is to find out the rule/pattern between each series, which is used to find the answer. 

Why is this good news?

These types of abstract reasoning questions are easier than others because the range of possible differences is rather limited.

Once you become familiar (through practice) with the different ways the questions are asked, you’ll be able to quickly identify the rules/patterns and go on to answer the questions correctly.

The more you train your brain to look for the rules/patterns, the faster and more accurate you will become.

Let’s take a look at some common types of questions.


Type 1: Colours moving clockwise / anti-clockwise

With this type of abstract reasoning question, the shapes remain in the same position and only the colours are moving. In this case, the colours are moving anti-clockwise.

With the answers, usually one or two can be discarded quickly. In this example, B would be removed because the triangle is red. D would be removed because the rectangle is in the wrong position.

These types of questions are the easiest because there is just one thing you have to work out.

Tip: Pick a focus point to help answer the question

When working out the answer, I like to pick a focus point and then move the colours around it. For this question, I focus on the top left square showing the brown triangle. I move the brown color down, so the rectangle has to be brown. This rules out E.

Behind the brown colour is purple, so the triangle is purple. This rules out A. 

Therefore C is the answer.

Picking a focus point is something that helps me and it’s something I use for all questions where the colours and shapes are moving around. I might focus on a colour that stands out more such as the red or black, or I might focus on a fixed location. Pick something that works for you.

In this question, the colours are moving clock-wise. To help answer it, pick a focus point in the third series and then move the colours around clock-wise. 

Tip: To answer questions more quickly, move one colour in your mind and then cross-check with the answers to remove the obvious incorrect ones.

For example, I move the yellow across to the right in my mind and then look at the answers.

D can be removed because of the blue triangle.

A & E can be removed because grey is in the top right where the yellow should be.

Because we know the shapes are staying in the same position, C can be removed because the circle is in the wrong location. E

This leaves B as your answer.

Type 2: Shapes are moving

Similar to the abstract reasoning questions above, this type of question has one rule/pattern where the shapes are moving.

Often, the shapes are moving clockwise or anti-clockwise, but other times, there will be different rules/patterns.

Here is an example of the shapes moving clockwise. This type of question should be straight forward to answer. 

Start of by picking a focus point in the third series. I use the green star. Move the start to the right (clockwise) and then either move the black pentagon or yellow arrow next. 

The idea is, when you move shapes in your mind, you do it in sequence. For this question, I move the black pentagon up one in my mind, because the black colour stands out more than the yellow. 

I then move the green star across to the right as the green stands out more to me.

Tip: Only work out 1 or 2 steps in your mind as often you can get to the answer quicker  instead of working out where all of the shapes should end up

Looking at the answers, we can rule out B because the triangle is black, C because the shapes are moving in the wrong direction and E because the black triangle is in the same position at the black pentagon. D can be ruled out because of it having two black shapes.

A is the answer.

For this case above, I only worked out the green star and black pentagon moving. I then just removed obvious incorrect answers based on what I had worked out.

Here is another example where the rule/pattern is the shapes are moving. 

The format of this type of abstract reasoning question is different to the question above but the system to working out the answer is the same.

Looking at the left series, you might see the square moving anti-clockwise but if you go along the series, you see this rule doesn’t apply. 

Instead we see the shapes of the middle figure have been reflected from the left figure (reflected horosontally). 

Then the right figure has been reflected (vertically) from the middle figure.

To answer this, start by picking a focus point. I use the green cross. I bring that down and the circle up and then do the same with the triangle and cross.

The tricky part to this question is making sure the black triangle and the blue star are reflected properly. 

So the top of the star needs to be pointed downwards in the answer.

We can see in A, the top of the star is pointed up. This rules this answer out.

E is out because the cross is in the same position.

C is out because there are two black shapes.

D is out because the black triangle has not been reflected, it has moved to the correct position but then needs to reflect in that position.

B is the answer.


Type 3: Colours & Shapes are moving

These types of questions are more difficult as they require you to work out two rules/patterns in the sequence. 


In this example, we see the colours are moving anti-clockwise and the shapes are moving clockwise. 

Start by picking a focus point. In this case, I am using the red circle as it stands out the most to me. I move the circle up and then follow that by the pentagon. I then move the grey colour down and the black colour across to the left.

Just by doing these 4 things, we can rule out most of the possible answers. We know the top left square should be a black circle, which rules out B and E. 

D can be ruled out because it has a green diamond not a green square.

This leaves us with A and C. A bit more brain work needs to be done. If I move the red colour anti-clockwise, I know it should end up in the bottom right, which rules out A. 

C is the answer.

Here is another example of shapes moving as well as being removed along each sequence. 

What can we see? The shapes are moving clockwise and one shape is being removed from each figure.

Knowing this, start off by choosing a focus point, in this case I am using the yellow circle. In the third figure, I know it should be on the bottom right, which rules out B, C & D.

Because the red diamond is in front of the yellow circle, it should be in the bottom left corner, which rules out A. 

E is therefore the answer.


Type 4: Different formatted questions

You’ll see in the abstract reasoning practice questions for the NZ police, questions are shown in a range of different formats. 

Some are easier than others. This one below is more difficult as you don’t have many examples to work out the rule/pattern.

This question is quite difficult. Ready for a challenge?

What can we see here? The shapes remain in the same position, which rules out A.

The yellow remains in a fixed position throughout. The blue circle remains fixed from the second figure. The grey, green and black colours are moving in a random order. And each figure has 4 different colours

The rule/pattern is based upon the colours between the 4 figures. In the first figure, one colour is fixed in the same position, which is the yellow. In the second figure, a second colour is fixed in position, which is the blue. In the third figure, a third colour is fixed in position but we don’t know which one, green of black.

With this info, we can work out the answer.

We can rule out D because the yellow is fixed in the top left. C is ruled out because blue is fixed in the top right. Which leaves us B and E. 

Because B has two blacks, it can be ruled out too.

E is therefore the answer.

The final example here has a few possibilities to find the rule/pattern. It could either be looking at the 2 rows, the 3 columns, or both rows could be one sequence.

Looking at the top row, we see the grey shape is moving clockwise and in the bottom row, the grey is moving anti-clockwise.

B & C are your possible answers. We would rule out B because blue is a duplicate colour. Because no colours repeated on the top row, we should assume the same for the bottom.

C is the answer.


Final takeaway

The NZ Police abstract section is a whole lot easier with practice. Download the abstract practice exams here and go through them once a week. In 3-4 weeks time, you will be recognising the patterns with ease and should be getting really high scores each time.

Good luck with the prep!

If you would like extra help on a question, drop me an email.


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