What is the SHL Numerical Reasoning Test?

SHL is a leading brand of psychometric tests which is employed by a wide range of companies as a part of the recruitment process, particularly in graduate recruitment campaigns where a certain level of competence is required to progress through the selection process. They are widely used for their efficiency and cost-effectiveness in testing for a minimum level of technical ability within a specific role. The various types of SHL assessment are intended to measure and assess an individual’s level of ability in a given competency relevant to the position for which the test is being administered.

The SHL Numerical Reasoning test is one such type of the SHL test, falling under the aptitude category of the full range. This test is an objective metric of a candidate’s numerical critical reasoning skills. Requiring the interpretation of numerical data presented in a number of formats such as tables and graphs, the difficulty of the items on the test will not be overwhelmingly difficult for most candidates. However, the time limit presented in this test is considered to be rather challenging.

Numerical reasoning tests are important in the assessment of skills and knowledge required to perform most jobs. Core mathematical/computational skills are required in day-to-day work processes and as such are essential to possess. If you are applying for a job and have been faced with an SHL Numerical Reasoning Test to ascertain your competence in such areas, Prepterminal has you covered. Our expert psychometricians have put together a comprehensive preparation pack for the SHL Numerical Reasoning test. Using both text and video material in our learning modules, our preparation pack explores all the concepts covered in the exam in depth. In order to benchmark your progress and get demonstrable results prior to your real test, we provide a number of mock assessments in order to accurately emulate the real SHL Numerical Reasoning Test and ensure that you are getting the results you need for success.

SHL Numerical Reasoning Test Format

The SHL Numerical Test can be delivered in one of two formats – either in one stage or two.
In the instance where there is just one stage, known as a Management and Graduate Item Bank (MGIB) test, the entire examination is supervised in an assessment/testing center, either online or on paper.
In the instance where there are two stages, known as a Verify test, a candidate first electronically completes an unsupervised SHL test, and then a short supervised exam is carried out in order to ensure that there was no collusion/cheating on the test, as is likely to commonly occur in unsupervised tests.

The test comprises of 21 questions, with a time limit of 21 minutes. It is, essentially a data interpretation test, meaning that the candidate will be required to interpret data from tables, graphs, and charts, for the purpose of performing simple calculations based on them. While the mathematical principles involved are basic, they must be thoroughly understood.

The skills to be tested in the SHL Numerical Reasoning Test are:

  • Calculations involving time
  • Fractions
  • Interpretation of data from a chart
  • Percentages
  • Ratios

It is important to note that the difficulty of tests will be contingent upon the job level being applied for, and the questions might vary in topic also. This is explained in the next section.

SHL Norm Groups

In order to accurately define the parameters for success in SHL tests based on industry/job levels, SHL has defined a number of norm groups for two factors: industry and job level:


  • IT
  • Accountancy & Financial
  • Public Service
  • Telecom & Media
  • Consulting
  • Retail
  • Industry & Manufacturing
  • Law & Legal
  • Pharma, Science & Healthcare

Job Level:

  • Managerial & Professional
  • Junior Management
  • Junior Customer Contact
  • Graduate
  • Senior Customer Contact
  • Administrator
  • Skilled Technology
  • Skilled Technical
  • Semi-Skilled Technical

It is important to take note of both categories here when determining what to expect in your exam.

In the case of industry, one must assess the importance of numerical skills in said industry. For instance, an individual applying for a role in the Accountancy/Financial industry is likely to face a higher difficulty than an individual applying for a role in the Law/Legal industry at the same job level as numerical skills are vastly more central in Accountancy and Finance than they are in Law.

In the case of job level, higher job levels will inherently carry higher difficulty within a given industry. It is highly recommended to take stock of the level of the job being applied for so that one might accurately predict the difficulty of the test and prepare accordingly.

Based on both norm groups, it is probable that an individual will face different styles of questions which specifically pertain to the industry/job level – after all, the tests are intended to measure functional capacity in the specific job setting, so it is predictable that the tests would cover skills required on the job.

Prepterminal’s expert psychometricians have produced a comprehensive SHL Numerical Reasoning Test preparation pack for those who are preparing to undergo the exam. When taking the real test, you won’t get a second chance if you perform poorly. Don’t take the risk and let your dream job pass you by – sign up today for our comprehensive course featuring text/video modules and SHL Numerical Test mock assessments in order to guarantee your success in a fiercely competitive job market.

SHL Numerical Reasoning Test Scoring

When the test is completed, the employer is provided with an SHL report which records the normalized score achieved on the Numerical Test, as well as any other SHL tests taken at the time. While the candidate is not given access to this report, an SHL feedback report may be provided, which grades the candidate’s performance from A-E according to the given scale:

AWell Above Average99-92
BAbove Average90-73
DBelow Average27-10
EWell Below Average8-1

For the purpose of percentile ranking, it is helpful to understand how normal distribution graphs work. In the center of the graph is the 50th percentile, representing both the mean and the median score.


Above, we see a normal distribution. This represents the distribution of the results of candidates, and the respective grades associated with each percentile ranking (the measurements in this graph are not exact – they are simply to give some visual idea as to the proportions of each grade). This graph is very helpful as each grade/percentile ranking is visually proportionate to the percentage of people who attain this grade – for instance, it is visually very easy to tell that there are many more people who score a C than an A.

It is the case, however, that the raw scores associated with a percentile rank change between norm groups, based on the performance of others in the group. This is why norm group percentile rankings are important – if only raw scores were used and all candidates scored either poorly or highly then there is no room for differentiation between candidates. By placing the bottom percentile at the lowest actual grade and the highest at the highest actual grade, rather than the lowest and highest possible grade, the test can serve to test performance against that of other candidates, allowing for an accurate understanding of a candidate’s performance potential in relation to the appropriate industry/job level.

How to Pass SHL Numerical Reasoning Test

While there is no outright passing grade on the test, as we have seen in the distribution graph there are better and worse grades to obtain. Generally speaking, you want to achieve at least a B in order to stand a chance of getting the job. Here are a few tips for the SHL Numerical Reasoning Test:


Understand the questions: Make sure that you have properly read the questions and understand all the units and data presented. Missing a single detail may throw off your calculation and lead you to an incorrect answer.


Use paper for working out: In the test, paper will be provided to work out questions. This can be extremely helpful to make note of the things you need to remember as you solve a problem so that you don’t lose your train of thought. Make sensible use of this and the process may become quite a bit easier.


Use your time wisely: As you only get one minute per question in this assessment, you must ensure that you work quickly and accurately. Do not linger too long on a question you cannot answer quickly at the expense of other more approachable questions.


If you have the time, check your answers: If you solve a question in good time, make sure you skim over your working to make sure you haven’t made a silly mistake. Many a question has been incorrectly answered due to a tiny error in working, be it an omitted digit or an incorrect operation.


Don’t panic: While this is, perhaps, the most generic advice given for every test ever taken, it is also the most important. Ensure that you are adequately rested and fed before the exam so you do not find your brain to be too cluttered with anxiety and clouded thoughts. A cool-headed approach to your test is guaranteed to improve performance.


Spatial Reasoning- This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge and ability regarding spatial relations among objects and space. This test is common for candidates for public safety roles as well as engineers, chemists, etc.


Bring a calculator: As you are allowed a calculator in the test, it is essential to bring it. It will help save time on calculation and make some problems which cannot be solved with mental arithmetic viable.


Really, don’t forget your calculator: I cannot overstate how important it is that you bring that calculator. If, like many of us, you have shown up to an examination in school without the necessary calculator and floundered in the test as a result, trying to scrap what little marks you can from the questions you could figure out without the calculator, then you’ll know the extreme anxiety that comes with the situation. Whatever it takes, do not forget that calculator. Tape it to your forehead the night before the test if you have to.

While passing tips are helpful in an anecdotal sense, the key component to preparation for this test is practice. By taking the appropriate steps to familiarise yourself with the exam you can guarantee increased scores by a significant margin. Proper preparation is often the difference between getting the job and letting it pass you by. Prepterminal’s comprehensive preparation pack is a one-stop shop for the SHL Numerical Reasoning Test, featuring video/text modules and mock assessments to refine and benchmark your skills. Do not let that dream job pass you by: sign up today and get started on the road to success.