Abstract Reasoning - Finding The Flow | EU Training

Abstract Reasoning - Finding The Flow

In this edition of our abstract reasoning guides we are going to talk about something that is a bit less on the methodological side of things and more on your innate ability to understand and solve abstract reasoning tests.

Though with some practice you can develop your abstract reasoning skill to a point where only the most devious tests can be an obstacle, however, let’s not discount the importance of a skill you have from the get-go.

Please keep in mind that the following tips should be used with caution as there is no hard evidence supporting them – yet we feel that they can be a very useful tool in your arsenal if used carefully!

We are going to talk about the flow of an abstract reasoning item.

Let’s take a look at our example item below: 

Now look only at the upper row. Do not concentrate on the individual images; just let the whole visual effect wash over you.

What do you see?

Even before forming any kind of rule in your head, just by looking at the movement of the shading you can see a certain pattern already showing itself.

Let’s take a look at the actual rule:

Rule: The shading moves downwards until hitting the bottom triangle then back upwards.

Based on this, the shading should fall on the middle triangle in the correct answer. Now let’s see if this helps us in finding the correct answer:


We already managed to rule out one possible answer option. We are not that closer to the final answer, but this is not bad for simply taking a look at the item and letting our eyes guide us.

Let’s try finding another such visual “rule”:

This one is a bit harder. You have an easy job with shadings as they are very easy to isolate from the rest of the image. If, however, you concentrate on the moving circle (again – do not try to find a rule here, do not count, and do not think about it) you will see a wave like movement similar to the one with the shading before.

Now let’s take a look at the actual rule:

Rule: The small circle takes a step upwards each turn.

So the circle should be in the middle triangle in the correct answer. Let’s see where this takes us:

 And let’s put this together with the previous solutions:

And with that, we have arrived to a place where only two possible answer options remain. We did not find any rules (remember: we have only mentioned the rules to reinforce what we saw) and we already have a 50% chance of hitting the correct answer. Not bad!

Now let’s take a look at the final ingredient – the large triangle! This is the hardest piece of this puzzle. Your best bet is to look at all three on any given image and not try following a single one through the series – this way you can separate the one that actually changes better.

Let’s look at the rule:

Rule: The upside-down triangle is moving from top to bottom.

As you can see, color coding the triangles made it very easy to spot – again – the trademark wave-like movement of this exercise (helpful hint: you can think of the upside down triangle as an arrow, showing that it is, in fact, moving downwards).

So or upside down triangle should be the top one in the correct answer. Let’s see which answer options fulfil this requirement!

 And finally, let’s mesh together our previous images:

And so our correct answer is option D.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is important to understand the limitations of this method of rule finding – we are pretty much talking about “gut feeling” here.

That being said, in abstract reasoning where every second counts, developing a sense for such things can mean the difference between being able to answer the question or not.

Like every skill, this one can be developed and nurtured by practice. I recommend sitting down in front of your old tests, taking out piece of paper and start trying to find the ebbs and flows of the items!