How Are SHL Tests Scored?

CEB's SHL Talent Measurement aptitude tests are usually comprised of multiple choice questions. The possible marks for each question are correct, incorrect, and unanswered. When you submit an SHL aptitude test, your answers are first measured against the correct answers. Then, your correct answers are counted, and the rate of correct answers is calculated.

What can you learn from this?

  • Don't leave questions unanswered. On CEB's SHL tests, guessing is beneficial (unless you are told otherwise for a specific test).

How Are SHL Scores Interpreted?

Your own rate of correct answers is compared to the average achievement of a norm group. The most relevant norm group is chosen by the employer out of the options offered by CEB SHL. The candidate's normed score is then transformed into a percentile, which tells the employer where the candidate is ranked relatively to the norm group (see graph). For example, if you are ranked in the 75th percentile, it means that you scored higher than 75% of the people in the norm group.

What can you learn from this?

  • Your absolute score does not matter. Since you are graded relative to people of a similar educational background, you should practise as much as you can to gain an advantage.
  • Most candidates try to increase their odds of getting their desired job by buying practice packs and putting effort into their preparation. You can read about the most important criteria to consider when purchasing a preparation pack for CEB's SHL–style tests in this article.
  • Don't panic if you find practice tests to be difficult—they can be difficult for everyone. On the other hand, don't rely on a subjective feeling of confidence. You don't know how skilled other people are.

What Is an SHL Norm Group?

SHL results are collected from thousands of test takers. This data is divided into norm groups so that employers are able to compare a candidate's results to relevant candidates in the employment market. These groups are defined according to two factors: industry and job level.

The industries SHL offers to employers are:

  1. Finance & Banking
  2. Engineering, Technology & Science
  3. Public Sector
  4. General Population
  5. Retail, Hospitality & Leisure

The job level groupings available to employers are:

  1. Managerial & Professional
  2. Graduates
  3. Skilled Technology
  4. Supervisory & Junior Management
  5. Senior Customer Contact
  6. Skilled Technical
  7. Junior Customer Contact
  8. Administrator
  9. Semi-Skilled Technical

What can you learn from this?

  • You may guess your norm group according to the character of the position for which you are applying. This will give you a clue as to the effort you'll need to put into preparation for the tests. For example, taking a numerical test against the Finance and Banking group would require a higher absolute score to ensure a high normalised score than taking this test against the Public Sector group.
  • If you apply for an operational position, your scores on reading comprehension tests, checking tests, deductive reasoning tests, spatial reasoning tests, and calculation tests will be compared to the General Population norm group.
  • Taking an industry relevant test will probably require a relatively high score. For example, a candidate applying for a lawyer position and taking an SHL Verbal Reasoning test will have to score higher than a finance candidate of the same job level taking this test. That is because verbal reasoning is more relevant to law than to finance.
  • You should make your practice as job level and industry-specific as you can, rather than relying on generic practice.

JobTestPrep offers you CEB SHL-style practice packs tailored for specific job levels/positions.

How Are SHL Scores Reported?

The employer is given a CEB SHL report which includes the normalised score for each test the candidate took. The candidate cannot obtain this report, but he or she may receive a CEB SHL feedback report. On that report, the candidate's abilities are marked A-E according to the following criteria:

Grade Meaning Percentile


Well above average



Above average






Below average



Well below average


CEB's SHL Test Results Distribution

How to read the normal distribution graph?

On the normal distribution graph, the 50th percentile represents both the mean and the median score. The absolute mean and median score changes between different tests and different norm groups. Therefore, absolute scores cannot be displayed on this graph.

The different sections of the Bell Curve represent different groups of scores in relation to the mean score. For example, if you had X correct out of Y questions on a certain test, and your score falls in the 80th percentile of the scores achieved by the members of your norm group, then your grade is 'B' (above average). In total, 20% of the people in your norm group received grades of B.

What can you learn from this?

  • Obtaining the feedback report is extremely important for future SHL assessments, especially if you failed the current assessment. The report will give you information about your 'real time' achievements and a general idea about your normed scores.
  • You can use the SHL report to locate your weak spots and decide on a practice plan for future assessments.

How to Find Your SHL Test Results?

If an employer decides to provide you with feedback, it will be linked to SHL feedback reports on your assessment home page. The feedback will be provided only after you have completed your last online assessment. If you have not received an automatically generated feedback report through your SHL online account, you can ask for it directly from the employer.

What Is the SHL Pass Score?

The SHL pass score, also referred to as an SHL cut score or an SHL pass mark, is a score pre-determined by the employer that you have to pass in order to continue on to other parts of the assessment. SHL enables the use of pass scores, but employers do not always choose to use them. There is no general answer to the above question as pass marks and average scores depend on the norm group and on the requirements of each employer.

Cut scores are used differently on CEB's SHL verify tests (tests administered online before the assessment centre) and on aptitude tests taken at the assessment centre:

  1. SHL Verify tests are used by employers to reduce the costs of the selection process. These tests allow recruiters to quickly sift through a large volume of candidates and select only the best to continue on to the next stage. Therefore, most of these tests do have cut scores. We have seen different examples ranging from the 15th to the 80th percentile, so the cut scores depend mainly on the job type and on employer requirements.
  2. In cases where the first aptitude test is taken at the assessment centre, assessors tend to integrate all the information they have gathered on each candidate (psychometric tests, personality tests, group exercises, in-tray exercises, etc.). This makes the aptitude test scores an important, yet not the sole, factor of qualification.

What can you learn from this?

  • You should put real effort into preparing for your SHL tests. Failing to make the cut score will prevent you from qualifying for the assessment centre, where you are able to show your true colors. Don't lose out on your dream job just because of an aptitude test. Start practising for your CEB's SHL tests today.
  • If you know that demand is high for the position you have applied to, cut scores may be higher than usual.

What Is the Average Score for SHL Tests?

There is no such thing as a uniform SHL average score. Rather, the average score depends on the type of test (numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, etc.) and the norm group. Nevertheless, we can provide some examples of average scores from several different SHL tests, just to give you a hint about the range of SHL average scores. In a series of surveys conducted on graduates in Australia, SHL test scores were collected:

  • The average number of correct answers on the Numerical Reasoning test for graduates (NMG2) ranged from 10 to 21 correct answers out of 35 questions.
  • Among the same candidates, the average number of correct answers on the Verbal Reasoning test (VMG2) ranged from 19 to 36 correct answers out of 48 questions.

In a series of SHL surveys conducted on supervisors taking the Critical Reasoning Test Battery (CRTB) in Australia (published in 2006):

  • The average number of correct answers on the Numerical Reasoning test for supervisors and junior managers (NC 2) ranged from 18 to 30 correct answers out of 40 questions.
  • The averages of correct answers on the Verbal Reasoning test for supervisors and junior managers (VC 1) ranged from 37 to 43 correct answers out of 60 questions.

What Is Considered a Good Score on SHL Tests?

There is no conclusive answer to this question as CEB's SHL test scores are normalised and a good SHL score depends much on the norm group and possibly on a pass score determined by specific employers.

However, in general, a good score on SHL tests is a score that will enable you to move on to the next stage of the assessment. On SHL verify tests this would mean scoring above the pass score.

We can safely say that getting a grade of A (see chart) is a great score which will help you 'stand out from the crowd'. Getting a grade of B is also a good score.

Note that you can only estimate the number of questions you need to get right in order to receive these grades as this rate changes between norm groups.

Do SHL Results Include Speed and Accuracy?

SHL does not include speed and accuracy in its standardised ability scores. These only take into account the number of correct answers. However, SHL provides the employer with precision scores as additional information:

  • Work Rate – Refers to the candidate's speed. Calculated as the number of attempted items (i.e. the number of questions answered + the number of questions clicked through without answering) divided by the total number of questions on the test.
  • Hit Rate – Refers to the candidate's accuracy. Calculated as the number of correct answers divided by the number of attempted items.

SHL advises employers to regard this data with a degree of caution as there is no evidence to support that higher speed and accuracy correlate with better work performance.

Practise CEB's SHL-Style Tests

As we saw, SHL test results are normalised. This means your score is compared to other candidates of your job level and industry. True, you cannot tell what exact score you need to achieve to pass the test. However, knowing the industry and position you are applying for can give you a clue as to the norm group to which your score will be compared. This can help you decide on how much time and effort to put into preparing for the test. The more competitive your industry or job category are, the more practice you need in order to 'stick out' from your norm group and get the job you want.

How can we help?

JobTestPrep offers you the web's best preparation hub for CEB's SHL tests:

  • Thousands of SHL–style practice questions, all with answers and explanations
  • A rich collection of study guides and video tutorials covering a variety of topics
  • Smart score reports
  • Immediate 24/7 access to our online preparation materials
  • Friendly customer service

Our SHL–style preparation packs are specifically tailored by job level, position, and/or topic. Just choose your position or the test you need to sit and start practising today.

Tests by Position/Level

Tests by Topic

Graduate & Management Senior MGMT & Executives Numerical Reasoning OPQ32 Personality Test
Administrative & Clerical IT & Computer Support Verbal Reasoning Situational Judgement Test
Supervisory & Junior Managerial Technical Roles
Logical Reasoning Diagrammatic Reasoning

More Information and Tips on CEB's SHL Tests

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