Law Firm Assessment Centres: Verbal Reasoning Tests

Verbal reasoning tests are one of the most common forms of aptitude test used by law firms for recruitment purposes. They are used across a range of sectors, including law, as being able to accurately comprehend written information is an important skill for most graduate roles.

There is evidence to suggest that they can actually work as a better predictor of job performance than traditional interviews and they are generally considered to be a fair and objective way of assessing candidates.

What to expect:

The format of verbal reasoning tests used may vary from one law firm to the next but most commonly they take the form of a written passage, followed by a number of statements each with the possible answers “TRUE”, “FALSE” or “CANNOT SAY”.

Your job is to read the passage carefully and deduce from the information given whether the statement is definitely true, definitely false or whether you don’t have enough information to say for sure one way or the other.

Typically, each passage of text will have 3 or 4 questions associated with it. This will be a timed exercise and you will need to work through as many questions as you can in the given time.

Whilst this is certainly the most used format of verbal reasoning test, it is not the only one. Other tests exist which focus on, for example, the specific meaning of words in the context of a given text or which perhaps require you to examine the relationship between two or more given words.

What are the assessors looking for?

  • The ability to understand and interpret complex written information
  • An excellent grasp of the English language
  • Evidence that you can work both quickly and accurately
  • A pass mark – companies will often set a clear pass level.  Failure to meet this may mean that your application will not proceed any further, regardless of your performance on other tests. Some employers, however, may adopt a more flexible approach, particularly to borderline candidates

Top tips:

  • This is all about practice. There are a number of free tests available on the internet (see below) that will let you familiarise yourself with the test format and allow you to practice working against a clock. It is highly recommended that you do as many of them as you can.
  • If you have a disability, such as dyslexia, that you feel may affect your performance in these tests, or if English is not your first language, speak to the employer in advance of the assessment centre to see if any allowances can be made.
  • Timing is essential.  Make sure you are aware of how many questions there are and how long you have to complete them.  Work at a steady pace which will allow you to work through the majority of questions (you will not always be expected to complete them all).  Do not spend too much time on a single question as each question will likely be allocated equal points.  If you are really stuck, move on to the next question so as not to waste time. You may be able to go back to it if you finish the other questions in time
  • If the questions are based on a passage of text, focus on reading through the whole text before attempting to answer any questions.  When you have gained sufficient idea of its key points move on to the questions and re-examine the relevant parts of the text in closer detail.
  • In questions which involve choosing a “TRUE”, “FALSE” or “CANNOT SAY” answer, make sure you are using only the information provided in the text to reach your conclusion.  Do not make assumptions and do not bring in any external knowledge that you may have on the subject area.
  • Get clear on whether the test works on a negative marking basis – this means that you will have marks taken away for wrong answers.  If this is the case, it is better to leave questions blank than to make risky guesses.

You can practice verbal reasoning tests and receive further guidance to help you prepare at JobTestPrep >>>

For a rundown of the do’s and don’t of training contract assessment centres and expert tips for other tests and exercises (and how to practice them) see our Essential Guide to Training Contract Assessment Centres.

Matt Oliver

Matt is a former FTSE 100 in-house lawyer, an experienced legal career coach and MD of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. He provides entry level law careers advice to students and graduates through his writing and mentoring. He also offers private one to one coaching to those struggling with training contract, vacation scheme or paralegal applications and interviews. Find out more about Matt's 1-2-1 Coaching >>>>

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