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Print Numerical / Quantitative Reasoning Best Practices #4: Mastering Ranking Exercises

A type of question that arises occasionally in SHL / Kenexa-style Quantitative Reasoning tests asks you to rank data. In tests where you have to rank values calculated from a table, the sheer number of calculations may be daunting. But there are many shortcuts that can save you a lot of trouble. Here is an example of such a test.

Question: If the table shown below were ordered by the percentage increase in holidaymakers between 2008 and 2009, which destination would be in the middle?



The problem statement


Step 1: On the face of it, there appears to be a lot of calculations required to solve this. First we examine the data and determine what is needed for this question and ignore the rest. We can see that we need all the data from the 2008 and 2009 columns to calculate their percentage increase.

Step 2 : Next we determine the approach we are to take and decide on the calculation. A percentage increase means we need to take the difference and divide by the starting value and then multiply by 100. We need to do this for each destination and then sort them into order and select the middle value.

The shortcut

Do we really need to do all that? Absolutely not!

Because this is a question about comparing values, there are many shortcuts that can be used here to cut down the work required by more than a half and that means a considerable saving in time.

Take a look at the question. There are two important points to be inferred from this.

Step 1 : First it talks about ordering the table by 'percentage increase in holidaymakers'. As we're talking about percentages then any order of magnitude adjustments are going to cancel out and need not concern us. Secondly, the question asks us to sort them into order. In effect we just need to know their relative positions and so the actual value is not important.

Step 2 : Now, if we take a look at the data and make some rough estimates, what do we find? We need to take the difference between the 2008 and 2009 figure for each destination.

If the figure is positive then there has been an increase, and if the figure is negative then there has been a decrease. Two of the destinations (Scandinavia and Britain) show an increase and so they will be the top two. It doesn't matter a jot how much they have increased; they will always be the top two and so we can ignore them completely.

Step 3 : Of the other three we need to know which one has decreased the least and that will be in the middle of the table. The calculation that we need to do for each is divide the difference by the 2008 value and multiply by 100. However, if we multiply all of them by 100 then they all change by the same amount relative to each other so there is no need to bother.

This leaves us with 3 fractions:

The one that we seek is the smallest of these as it will represent the smallest decrease in visitors.

The lessons learned

The first thing to note is that the numerator of the second fraction (142) is almost exactly half of the first one (286) yet the denominator is much less than half; hence it will be much bigger. It cannot be the smallest so don't even calculate it.

The first fraction is not a long way from 300/3000 or 1/10 whereas the third fraction would need to be about 60/600 to equal that and it is less than a third of that. It is obviously much smaller and is the answer we seek. And not a single calculator button has been pressed.

Isn't this just great? Check our online practice tests for quantitative / numerical reasoning now!

Dumebi 24 Sep 2014

Hi Coach,

I would appreciate if you could help with some more examples for my study.

Oladipo 28 May 2014

Hi Coach,

I have a shl test coming soon, and i really want to be ready. I have done many shl test in the past and failed despite several practices. Is there a material that shows tricks on how to pass these test coz I find it embarrassing. I really want to get this job and pass the test. I appreciate your response

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