First- and Second-order Rules in Abstract Reasoning

Practise recognising the difference between first-order and second-order rules.

Here’s a first-order rule for two sets (the variable is the type of side; i.e. curved or straight):

  • Set A: all shapes have curved sides.
  • Set B: all shapes have straight sides.

Here’s a second-order rule for two sets (more than one variable is used; the type of shape and its location)

  • Set A: all shapes have curved sides. One square is in the bottom-left corner.
  • Set B: all shapes have straight sides. One circle is in the bottom-right corner.

You can see how the second-order rule is more complex. Identifying relationships in the questions is an essential skill in Abstract Reasoning.

Look out for common distractors

Distractors are designed to make it more difficult for you to identify what’s important. You might find larger shapes, random shading or irrelevant images. The important thing is to stay focused on what you’re examining and to ignore obvious distractions.

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