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11 plus synonyms and antonyms worksheets

Exam guides
11 plus synonyms and antonyms worksheets

Looking for 11 plus synonyms and antonyms worksheets? Here's how to support your child with synonyms and antonyms on entrance exams, along with free downloadable resources to build their confidence and knowledge!

Where do synonyms and antonyms come up on the 11 plus?

Synonyms and antonyms are a key topic your child will encounter on verbal reasoning 11 plus papers. They appear on CEM, GL Assessments, and ISEB entrance exams.

Synonym and antonym questions are used on 11 plus exam papers to test your child's vocabulary skills and their understanding of word class and meaning. They often appear in cloze questions, where children have to pick the correct word out of a bank of words to make a sentence or passage make sense.

As well as the verbal reasoning paper, brushing up on synonyms will boost your child's creative writing skills, giving them tools to add more interest and variation to their writing.

What is a synonym?

Synonyms are words that mean the same thing as each other. For example, ‘pleased’ and ‘glad’ are synonyms because they are both adjectives that describe someone as happy.

Giving your child a thesaurus is a great way to build their knowledge of synonyms. Ask them to underline all the adjectives in a piece of text, then ask them to look up alternative words in a thesaurus. This exercise is a great way to build your child's confidence with identifying word classes too.

11 plus synonyms pdf download

Atom's synonyms helpsheet is designed to share with your child to build their understanding of synonyms and show them how to approach these exam questions on the 11 plus.

Synonym question formats on the 11 plus

There are two styles of synonym question on the 11 plus:

1. Identify the synonym of a given word

Your child will be given a word and must choose the answer which is a synonym for it.

  • Example question: Which word from the list below is a synonym of boring?

  • Answer options: reading, dull, interesting, magazine, writing

2. Identify two words

Both words must be in the same word class. There will be either two or three words in each group.

  • Example question: Select the two words, one from each group, that are the closest in meaning.

  • Answer options: hurtful, amusement, waiting | boring, rollercoaster, mean

Sometimes, synonyms may appear within the same group – this can catch children out. Remember to always select one word from each group, rather than two from one.

11 plus synonyms example questions

Download your free sample pack of 11 plus synonyms and antonyms practice questions to help familiarise your child with the format and style of these questions.

synonyms and antonyms 11 plus example questions

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How to answer synonym exam questions

Identify the word class

The most important step for your child to consider when answering these questions is identifying the word class of the given word. Answers will be from the same word class as the given word. Find techniques for identifying word class on the synonyms helpsheet.

Try it in the sentence

Synonyms can replace one another in a sentence without the meaning of the sentence changing. Your child can check their answer by replacing the original word with the answer they have selected to see whether it changes the meaning of the sentence.

Occasionally, two words may seem very similar in meaning. Your child must check that they are actual synonyms, rather than just similar. These subtleties can make synonym questions more challenging.

For example, ‘solve’, ‘consider’, and ‘decipher’, are all verbs linked to thinking and problem solving. But only ‘solve’ and ‘decipher’ refer to finding a solution or answer to or for something. In contrast, you ‘consider’ something before you make a decision about it.

Pay attention to nuance

Your child should be aware of nuance and ‘shades of meaning’. Although synonyms mean roughly the same thing, there will always be slight differences in their meaning. For example, if you asked someone how they were, and they said they were ‘ecstatic’, you would know this meant they were happier than someone who was ‘content'.

So, your child should pay attention to levels of nuance in the given word and choose the synonym that comes closest to it.

Watch out for homonyms

Homonyms are words that are spelled (or pronounced) the same, but have different meanings – and therefore are likely to be in different word classes. For example: the word ‘bore’ can be:

  • A verb that means ‘to make a hole in something by digging or with a tool’. A synonym of this meaning could be ‘drill’ or ‘perforate’

  • A verb that means ‘to cause one to feel uninterested or weary’. A synonym of this meaning could be ‘exhaust’

  • A noun with a similar meaning to the above – a person whose behaviour or conversation is dull and boring. A synonym of this meaning could be a ‘nuisance’ or a ‘drag’

  • The past tense form of ‘to bear’

If ‘bore’ was in a synonyms question, your child would have to look for a word that fits with one of these meanings.


Free synonyms and antonyms lesson

In this verbal reasoning vocabulary lesson, Wing shows how to answer 11 plus exam questions on synonyms, antonyms, definitions and homographs.

A synonyms and antonyms 11 plus verbal reasoning live lesson


What is an antonym?

An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning to another word. For example, the words 'wet' and 'dry' are antonyms because they mean the exact opposite of one another.

Antonyms will always be in the same word class as each other (for example, they will both be verbs, nouns, or adjectives).

11 plus antonyms pdf download

Download Atom's antonyms helpsheet here to share with your child and build their skills and knowledge.

Antonym question formats on the 11 plus

There are two styles of antonym question on the 11 plus:

1. Find the antonym of a given word

Your child will be given a word and must choose the answer which is an antonym for it.

  • Example question: Which word in the list below is the antonym of 'delicious'?

  • Answer options: tasty, sour, sprinkles, disgusting

2. Identify the pair of antonyms in two groups of words

There will be either two or three words in each group.

  • Example question: Choose the two words, one from each group, that have opposite meanings.

  • Answer options: sensible, careless, daydream | careful, decision, smart

As with synonyms, don't be caught out by these question types. Remember that you must select one word from each group, not two from one.

11 plus antonyms example questions

Remember to download your free sample pack of 11 plus synonyms and antonyms example questions to help familiarise your child with the format and style of these questions.

Atom Learning synonyms and antonyms 11 plus example questions

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How to answer antonym exam questions

When working out pairs of antonyms your child will need to compare two words at a time from the words they have been given. They should start by reading through the words to see if any pairs are recognisable immediately. If not, then begin with either the single word they have been given, or the first word of the left-hand group.

There are three simple steps for finding antonyms: identify, define, and double check. Get the method on Atom's antonyms helpsheet!

The techniques we covered above for synonyms questions are helpful for antonyms questions too:

  1. Identify the word class

  2. Try it in the sentence

  3. Pay attention to nuance

  4. Watch out for homonyms!

11 plus prefixes

Prefixes can be added to words to create antonyms. Lots of antonyms are compound words – words that have been made by adding a prefix like un-, in-, im-, non-. The table shows some examples of these types of antonyms.

prefix antonyms 11 plus.png

Misleading words

Watch out! Some pairs of words seem like antonyms but aren't related. Download our misleading words list. Becoming familiar with these words will help your child to avoid getting caught out.

How to practice synonyms and antonyms for the 11 plus

For a guaranteed (and fun) way for your child to cover all the content they will need for the 11 plus, try Atom Nucleus. Through interactive questions, your child will build their knowledge of synonyms and antonyms as well as all other reasoning, maths and English topics.

Nucleus also gives you access to unlimited practice papers allowing your child to feel fully prepared for test day. Start your 5 day free trial today!

5 day free trial for 11 plus

More synonyms and antonyms resources

Download Atom's vocabulary list of 500 words. This contains recommended vocabulary that your child will need to be comfortable with for the 11 plus. We also recommend that children keep their own vocabulary log of new words.

And don't forget to download your free sample pack of 11 plus synonyms and antonyms questions for your child to practice! The pack includes answers and explanations.

Download questions


Get in touch

We know how important this time is, so we're here to support you and your family every step of the way. You can talk with Atom's Education Experts to ask any questions you may have about the 11 plus or getting into your target school.

Email us on [email protected], click the LiveChat icon in the bottom right of your screen, or give us a call on 020 3973 9226.

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