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Students often find non-verbal reasoning questions the most difficult initially, especially if they have never encountered them before. Here are a few tips to help tackle these questions from an experienced HPAT tutor.
Non-verbal reasoning questions will require you to find the most simple and logical answer. It may feel like the questions are out to trick you, and that may lead to you trialling overly complex rules. However, in many situations, the simple pattern is the correct pattern. Having this in mind will help form your approach to the questions. For example, if you have a question with several elements, find the element where you can see a simple pattern. This can give you an answer that you can then check with the other elements.
One cannot see what the mind does not know. Hence, it is important to be familiar with as many patterns as you can, through practice. Also, find a way to organise the database of patterns that you encounter. For example, consider organising your database by types of questions (pick the middle, positional next in the sequence, matrix etc). From this pattern database, you can build a general approach to each type of question.
There are various strategies that can be used to solve non-verbal reasoning questions quickly. One such technique is mapping, which can be particularly useful in the early stages of your preparation, to isolate each element and figure out the rules. If you have multiple maps for several elements, aim to identify maps with simple sequences, or sequences you are familiar with, then work from there to answer the question. There are various other strategies that can be used and which are outlined in detail in the non-verbal reasoning guides.
It is important to know when you can use a particular strategy and when you cannot. The 3-2 rule, for example, works for some questions but not all. Avoid blindly applying the rule. Instead, carefully consider the question, and the possible sequences of the elements. If applying the 3-2 rule leaves a very complex or strange pattern for the remaining elements, perhaps the rule does not apply. This is the same with other techniques you will encounter during your HPAT preparation.
Ultimately, nothing beats practice! The more non-verbal reasoning questions you attempt, the faster and more accurate you will become. Good luck!