Verbal Ability Tests

These tests usually involve grammar, verbal analogies and following detailed written instructions. They can also include spelling, sentence completion and comprehension.


Because they depend on understanding the precise meaning of words, idioms and the structure of the language they discriminate very heavily towards native speakers of the language in which the test has been developed. If you speak English as a second language, even if this is at a high standard, you will be significantly disadvantaged.

You will usually find questions on all of the following:

These tests are widely used since most jobs require you either to understand and make decisions based on verbal or written information or to pass this type of information to others. In practice, the more straightforward types of question (spelling, grammar and instructions) tend to be more applicable to administrative roles and the reasoning and deduction type of questions to management roles.

Spelling Questions
Questions where you have to identify incorrectly spelt words are common in all levels of verbal ability tests. The test designer needs to choose words which are fairly common and in regular usage but which are often spelt incorrectly. There would be little point in using obscure words which only a small percentage of candidates could be expected to know. This means that you will almost certainly have heard of the word and know its meaning. This requirement to use words which are in everyday use but which are commonly miss-spelt means that the test designer has a relatively restricted list of words to choose from.

Example Questions

1. Which of the following words are incorrectly spelt?

  • A) separate

  • B) ordnance

  • C) obviously

  • D) sucess

  • E) none of these

2. Choose the pair of words that best completes the sentence:

The -------- of the timetable caused some ----------

  • A) rivision/inconvenience

  • B) revision/inconvenience

  • C) revission/inconvenience

  • D) revition/inconvenience

3. The following list of 20 words contains 10 that are incorrectly spelt. Write the letter that corresponds to    each incorrectly spelt word in the answer box

  • A) occurence

  • B) dissipate

  • C) weird

  • D) accommodate

  • E) embarassment

  • F) ecstacy

  • G) repetition

  • H) batallion

  • I) dispair

  • J) irritable

  • K) accidently

  • L) liaison

  • M) memento

  • N) millenium

  • O) yield

  • P) existance

  • Q) independent

  • R) insistant

  • S) excede

  • T) privilege

1. D
2. B A 
3. A E F H I K N P R S

In most cases the longer that you have been out of the education system the more your spelling will have deteriorated. Most people now use word processors with inbuilt spell-checking software and it is very easy to forget how words are spelt as we don’t physically write them down and often rely on the software to correct them for us. Many people find it quite embarrassing when they realize how much their spelling has deteriorated – this is one area where remedial action is straightforward and is guaranteed to produce positive results.

Missing Word Questions
These questions are designed to measure your vocabulary, specifically your understanding of precise word meanings.

You will usually be offered a choice of four or five words, any of which could complete the sentence. These questions are relatively straightforward but because more than one of the options will complete the sentence satisfactorily you must read it carefully and choose the best word.

Example Questions

4. Which of these words completes the sentence in the way that makes most sense?

A spirit-level should be used to ensure that the surface is -----------

  • A) straight

  • B) flat

  • C) horizontal

  • D) parallel

  • E) aligned

5. Which of these words completes the sentence in the way that makes most sense?

He avoided --------- because he was ------------

  • A) redundency

  • B) indispensable

  • C) redundancy

  • D) indispensible

6. Which of these words completes the sentence in the way that makes most sense?

The plan must be --------- to make the project ------------

  • A) feasible

  • B) revised

  • C) rivised

  • D) feasable

4. C
5. C B
6. B A

Related Word Questions

To answer these word relationship questions you need to understanding of precise meaning of the words in the question and establish what exactly the relationship is between them. You should then look at the answer options and decide which one is the most appropriate. These questions test your reasoning ability as well as your vocabulary.

Example Questions

7. Which of these is the missing word?

kick, -----------, walk

  • A) throw

  • B) toes

  • C) shin

  • D) feet

  • E) hand

8. Which of these is the missing word?

key, -----------, walk

  • A) lock

  • B) stand

  • C) board

  • D) fob

  • E) stone

9. Which of these is the missing word?

water, -----------, over

  • A) ice

  • B) drive

  • C) wet

  • D) flow

  • E) fall

7. D – Feet are used for both kicking and walking.
8. C – Board forms the words ‘keyboard’ and ‘boardwalk’
9. E – Fall forms ' waterfall’ and ‘fall over’

There will usually be more than one possible answer, so it is important to read the question carefully and pick the 
best option.

Synonym and Antonym Questions

These are words which have either the same or opposite meanings. Once again, these word meaning questions 
test your vocabulary – you need to know the precise meaning of the words given in order to select the appropriate synonym (same meaning) or antonym (opposite meaning).

Example Questions

10. Which of two of these words are opposite in meaning?

  • A) lose

  • B) winner

  • C) victor

  • D) loser

  • E) vanquish

11. Which of these words is the odd one out?

  • A) swindle

  • B) harass

  • C) provoke

  • D) annoy

  • E) pester

12. Which of these words is the odd one out?

  • A) verify

  • B) authenticate

  • C) confirm

  • D) ask

  • E) substantiate

10. B D – are exact opposites.
11. A – The others are synonyms
12. D – The others are synonyms

Word Pair Questions
Firstly, you need to establish the relationship between the ‘X is to Y’ words before you can arrive at the answer. Some people find it helpful to mentally express the relationship before they look at the answer options. This can short circuit the process of considering and rejecting each option because you know in advance exactly what you are looking for.

Example Questions

13. Dog is to canine as wolf is to ---------

  • A) vulpine

  • B) ursine

  • C) piscine

  • D) bovine

  • E) lupine

14. Sadness is to happiness as defeat is to ---------

  • A) joy

  • B) victory

  • C) tears

  • D) victor

  • E) none of these

14. Paper is to timber as --------- is to hide

  • A) tree

  • B) seek

  • C) ox

  • D) animal

  • E) leather

13. E – lupine means ‘relating to the characteristics of wolves’
14. B – The word pairs are opposites
15. E – Paper is made from timber, leather is made from hide

Comprehension Questions

These questions consist of a short passage and some related questions. They will often be about a topic which is unfamiliar to you, but this is an advantage rather than a disadvantage because you need to answer the questions based only on the information that you are given – not using any knowledge that you already have. Most people find that the best way to tackle these verbal comprehension questions is to scan the text fairly quickly to get the general idea and then to attempt each question in turn, referring back to the appropriate part of the text.

Example Question

16. Read the following short passage and say whether or not the statements are true.

There are seven species of deer living wild in Britain. The Red Deer and the Roe Deer are native species. Fallow Deer were introduced by the Romans and, since the seventeenth century, have been joined by three other non-native species: Sika, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer which have escaped from parks. In addition, a herd of Reindeer was established in Scotland in 1952. Most of the Red Deer in Britain are found in Scotland, but there are significant wild populations in south-west and north-west England, East Anglia and the north Midlands. Red deer can interbreed with the introduced Japanese Sika deer and in some areas, hybrids are common.

16a. All of the Red Deer in Britain are found in Scotland.

  • A) true

  • B) false

  • C) can’t say

16b. Red Deer can interbreed with Fallow Deer.

  • A) true

  • B) false

  • C) can’t say

16c. The Fallow Deer is not native to Britain.

  • A) true

  • B) false

  • C) can’t say

16d. There are no Reindeer in England.

  • A) true

  • B) false

  • C) can’t say

16a. B
16b. C*
16c. A
16d. C

*Note that you must answer these verbal comprehension questions using only the information supplied. Red Deer cannot interbreed with Fallow Deer but, because this is not stated in the text, you must answer ‘can’t say’ even if you know that the statement is technically false.

Reasoning Questions
These questions are not concerned with measuring your facility with English. They are designed to test your ability to take a series of facts expressed in words and to understand and manipulate the information to solve a specific problem. Verbal reasoning questions are usually restricted to graduate and management level tests.

Example Question

17. Working together, Tom, Dick and Harry need 9 hours to paint a 400 meter long fence. Working alone, Tom could complete the task in 18 hours. Dick can not work as fast and needs 36 hours to paint the fence by himself. If Tom and Dick take the day off, how long will it take Harry to paint the fence by himself?

  • A) 9

  • B) 12

  • C) 18

  • D) 36


17. D – In 9 hours Tom would have painted half of the fence and Dick would have painted one quarter of it. This leaves one quarter to be painted by Harry who must therefore work at the same speed as Dick.

Verbal ability tests can be divided into tests of simple verbal ability, for example; spelling, grammar, synonyms and antonyms etc. These tests usually consist of 30 to 40 questions which need to be completed in 15 to 20 minutes. They are speed tests in that they don’t require very much reasoning ability. You either know the answer or you don’t.

Verbal reasoning tests, on the other hand, are designed to measure your problem solving abilities. These questions may take the form of comprehension exercises, which are straightforward (as long as you remember to read the relevant part of the text carefully) or more complex statements where the best tactic is to make notes about what you can deduce from each part of the text. These tests usually consist of 10 to 15 questions which need to be completed in 20 to 30 minutes and are designed to test your reasoning ability rather than your facility with the language.

Verbal critical reasoning questions assess your ability to use words in a logical way. The questions measure your understanding of vocabulary, class membership and the relationships between words. Some questions measure your ability to perceive and understand concepts and ideas expressed verbally. While these questions are designed to measure reasoning ability rather than educational achievement, it is generally recognized that verbal reasoning test scores are influenced by educational and cultural background.

You may also be interested in: Aptitude Tests IntroductionQuestion Types & ScoringThe Difference between Speed & Power TestsVerbal Ability TestsNumerical Ability TestsAbstract Reasoning TestsSpatial Ability TestsMechanical Aptitude TestsData Checking TestsWork Sample TestsInterpreting Aptitude Test ResultsDifferent Types of Scoring Systems,  Standard Scores, Percentiles & Norming and Using the Results to Make Selection Decisions.

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