60 common abstract reasoning patterns

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

Using an abstract reasoning question bank, you can familiarise yourself with frequently reoccurring patterns, increasing your speed and confidence when tackling question sets. Remember that some questions may be relatively straightforward. In addition, not everything if significant. Any patterns which are not fully concordant have no significance. Commonly used distractors are big shapes, arrows pointing nowhere and random shading of shapes.


Learning the number of sides of frequently occurring shapes such as L shapes (6) and arrows (7) means that addition of sides can be quicker. If there are few shapes in the figure counting is a good starting point, start using the simplest box.

  1. Total number of sides of all shapes.
  2. Total number of sides of shapes of a particular shading.
  3. Odd/Even number of sides
  4. Number of shapes in each figure.
  5. Number of specific shapes e.g., triangles.
  6. Ratio of one shape to another.
  7. Odd/Even number of shapes.
  8. Odd/ Even number of shapes related to the number of sides.
  9. Number of intersections.
  10. Number of intersections of a straight line.
  11. Number of total right angles.
  12. Number of acute angles.
  13. Number of enclosed areas/ regions.
  14. Number of enclosed vs non enclosed shapes.
  15. Number of lines of symmetry.
  16. Odd/even number of lines leaving a specific shape e.g., small circle.
  17. Total number of lines leaving a specific shape e.g. small circle.
  18. Number of border intersections.
  19. Sequences – increasing / decreasing number across a series.
  20. Number of faces / vertices of 3D shapes.
  21. Difference in the number of sides of largest and smallest shape or shaded / unshaded shape.
  22. Number of a shape equals number of another shape (+/- x).
  23. Equal number of 2 types of shapes.
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If shapes are common in both sets, arrangement is less likely to be relevant.

  1. Arrows pointing all bar one direction
  2. Arrows intersecting with the figure border.
  3. Arrow direction dependent on number of arrows.
  4. Arrow direction effects number of sides / shapes / shading.
  5. Movement of shapes around each quadrant in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. (90 degrees)
  6. Empty quadrants.
  7. Quadrant with a constant shape.
  8. Size of the shape / number of sides of the shape affecting its position.
  9. Certain shapes constantly adjacent or opposite to another shape.
  10. Number of spaces without shapes.
  11. Shapes swapping position.


Shading is only likely to be significant if there is at least one shaded shape in each figure.

  1. Shapes with an even / odd number of sides shaded.
  2. Shape with most / least number of sides shaded.
  3. One shape always shaded.
  4. Shape in a particular position always shaded.
  5. Ratio of shaded to unshaded shapes. May be in addition to total number of shapes e.g. 2 shaded 3 non-shaded total 5 in both.
  6. Smallest and largest shape shaded.
  7. Same shapes one shaded, one unshaded.
  8. Corners being shaded or unshaded circles.
  9. Shading forming a specific shape e.g., shaded shapes form an X.
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  1. The largest shape has an odd / even number of sides
  2. The largest shape in a particular position in the figure.

Symmetry/ reflection/ rotation

orientation patterns tend to be based on overlaps.

  1. Vertical / Horizontal lines of symmetry only.
  2. Symmetrical vs asymmetrical.
  3. Mirror imaging of shapes
  4. Rotation of shapes 90 degrees clockwise/ anticlockwise
  5. Concave vs convex angles.


  1. Constant shape in a particular position.
  2. Absence of a specific shape.
  3. Curved / straight lines only.
  4. Enclosure where there are shapes within shapes.
  5. The collective pattern of shape that can be made from multiple shapes.
  6. Equivalents – when points are assigned to each shape or side such that al boxes equate to the same number of points.
  7. Ends of curves being parallel or perpendicular.
  8. Mathematical relation of addition/ subtraction/ multiplication of minutes and hours on a clock face.
  9. Angle of clock hands – obtuse vs acute.
  10. Regular shapes e.g., pentagon vs irregular shapes e.g. hook shape.

60 common abstract reasoning patterns

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