Back to blog

11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning: Top Tips for Success


What is non-verbal reasoning?

Non-verbal reasoning is a central part of 11+ exams and although it can seem confusing to those who have never come across it before, it can easily be tackled once the basic rules are understood and essential skills are worked on!

Non-verbal reasoning is a form of visual problem-solving that uses shapes, diagrams and pictures rather than words (as you would find in verbal reasoning). The 11+ non-verbal reasoning exam papers usually last around 45-60 minutes and are found in either standard format (answers written on the test paper) or multiple-choice format (answers noted in a separate booklet).

Non-verbal reasoning tests a child’s ability without the need for any prior knowledge as it is based on logic and patterns. However, you should not assume this means that it is impossible to prepare for! While an individual may not technically need any prior knowledge to do well, there is no doubt that practising certain skills will increase your child’s chance of success.

Non-verbal reasoning questions will test your child’s:

  • Math skills

  • Logic and problem-solving skills

  • Spatial awareness

  • Ability to identify patterns and rules These skills may come more naturally to some than others, but this doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. Remember, a child who works on these skills and improves their attention to detail has a good chance of performing well!

Follow the top tips listed below to find ways of improving these skills.

Top Tips

1. Know the process

For most non-verbal reasoning questions you can follow this general process:

  1. Type – What type of question is it?

  2. Analyse – Look at the shapes in the question. What are the most obvious qualities (e.g. shape, colour, pattern) of the shapes and patterns?

  3. Similarities/differences – Find similarities and differences between the shapes and patterns. Remember this also includes patterns and changes in frequency when looking at a series of shapes!

  4. Rule – Find a rule from these obvious qualities.

  5. Eliminate – Eliminate those that don’t fall into this rule.

2. Drawing

Drawing can simplify everything. When we try to picture many shapes in our heads, these images can become jumbled and we can get easily confused. Encourage your child to draw the shapes out as this can help them visualise the answer more clearly.

3. Practise, practise, practise and practise!

Try to have your child practise different types of non-verbal reasoning questions. The table below explains the types of non-verbal reasoning questions you may come across in the test. Has your child attempted all of these?

Refer to this table to identify which types they find most difficult and spend more time working on these. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect and the more questions your child completes, the faster they will be in the test. Increasing their general answering speed is important as it can give them more time to focus on the questions they struggle with.

Analogies One item turns into another. Find the relationship between the first two and apply to 3rd and 4th.

Codes Letters represent certain features of the shape. Find the rule and apply it to the new shape.

Groups Find the odd one out or the ones that share something in common.

Series Find the missing shape in the series.

Rotations Find the shape that is a rotation of the original shape.

Reflections Find the shape that is the reflection of the original shape.

Matrices Fill in the empty square or hexagon with the missing figure.

Nets Find the cube that can be made from the net.

Compound Shapes Find which 3D shapes can make the original shape.

Elevations Figure out if the shapes provided are rotations of the original 3D shape.

Mock questions are key for practice. You can find some for your child to try out online here.

4. Make it fun and play a game!

Find fun and interactive ways to improve your child’s non-verbal reasoning skills by playing games such as Sudoku, which improve logic and attention to detail. Playing Lego is also a great way for children to practise shape building and visualisation.

5. Consistency and repetition

This one may seem a bit boring, but consistency really is crucial for non-verbal reasoning. A little bit every day will go a long way, as repetition will make these exercises second nature to your child. This is also much easier than trying to cram all this learning into long last-minute sessions – this often leads to frustration for everyone involved!

6. Study breaks and rewards

Did you know that a child’s attention span tends to be between 30 to 50 minutes? You will find that taking a break every half an hour will improve the productivity of the study sessions. Your child is more likely to come back feeling refreshed and more ready to be challenged.

Reward them with something they love! After you finish a study session why not reward your child for their hard work (e.g., a bit of time playing their favourite game)?

7. Atom Learning - Nucleus

If you’ve tried out these tips and are still looking for new ways to improve your child’s non-verbal reasoning practice, sign up to Nucleus. It’s an online learning tool with teacher-approved content and adaptive technology that provides a personalised journey to prepare your child for their exams! A sophisticated algorithm makes sure the content is always at the right level for your child, meaning it is an easy way to guarantee high-quality non-verbal reasoning 11+ learning.

To access this on-demand education for your child, sign up today with the 5-day trial!



Follow Atom Learning

Atom Learning Ltd. is registered and incorporated in England and Wales. Company Registration Number: 10867907 VAT number: 316903508 Copyright Atom Learning Ltd. All rights reserved.