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11 Plus Verbal Reasoning: Exam Preparation Guide

Verbal Reasoning

What is the Verbal Reasoning test?

11 plus Verbal Reasoning tests your child’s ability to reason and solve problems with written information. The tests vary with each exam board, so it is worth checking which one your child will be sitting. For instance, there are typically 21 different types of Verbal Reasoning questions determined by GL Assessment. Their average length is between 50 minutes and an hour.

What will be tested?

The 11 plus Verbal Reasoning tests ability, rather than knowledge learnt in school. It tests:

  • Ability to discover and apply rules

  • Attention to detail

  • Time management

  • Understanding and analysing tasks

Don’t be fooled by the use of the word ‘verbal’, as the exam does not only include the manipulation of words and letters. Your child will come across numbers and symbols too. However, as most questions will require an understanding of the meaning of words and the relationship between certain words, a wide vocabulary is essential.

What is the layout of Verbal Reasoning 11+ questions?

Questions vary in length, with some being a few sentences and others containing only a few words. They are often accompanied by an example question. Some questions are designed to take longer than others, so if your child becomes stuck on one of these, it is best for them to guess the answer and come back to it later if they can.

What are the most common Verbal Reasoning mistakes?

Here are some of the most difficult types of Verbal Reasoning 11+ questions and some tips on how to tackle them:

Synonyms and antonyms

  • Have a look at the options you’ve been given and if you’re not sure what the word means try a process of elimination. If you still don’t know, then just take a guess!

Compound words

  • Make sure the word is spelled correctly.

Two odd ones out

  • Watch out for words with double meanings.

  • Remember that two words need to be marked.

Move a letter

  • Try taking a letter out of the first word, one by one, and see if the word still makes sense.

Missing word

  • These can take a lot of time and often slow candidates down. Use a scrap of paper to try out different combinations and look out for tricky spelling.

It is worth going over these types of questions to see if your child feels confident with them. As every child has different abilities, they may find some questions come very naturally to them, whilst they struggle a lot with others. Identifying these areas is central to an efficient learning strategy.

How can I help my child prepare for the 11+ Verbal Reasoning test?

1. Challenging Reading

When it comes to the Verbal Reasoning test, there is always a tendency for parents to push their children to complete as many mock papers as possible. Whilst doing mock papers this is by no means a bad strategy, it should not be the only way your child prepares for their 11+ Verbal Reasoning test.

The most guaranteed way of improving your child’s reading skills, which are central to mastering Verbal Reasoning, is to encourage your child to read as many challenging books as possible. Classic novels are a great place to start, as they are likely to contain a lot of vocabulary your child has never come across before.

Reading regularly will increase the speed at which your child recognises words and therefore allow them to complete the Verbal Reasoning 11+ exam faster.

2. Improving Vocabulary

Improving your child’s vocabulary is a sure way to make them more confident sitting the Verbal Reasoning exam and give them an advantage over other candidates. Reading is a brilliant way to engage with new vocabulary, however, it is important that the process of learning vocabulary is proactive otherwise these new words will easily be forgotten.

There are a few ways that you could help with cementing new vocabulary in your child’s long-term memory. Starting a word journal where you record each new word with its definition is a great place to start. Then go through this journal every few days and test your child on these words.

Or why not learn some vocabulary while getting some quality family time. Word-based board games, such as Scrabble, Bananagrams or Articulate, are super engaging ways of involving the whole family in the learning process!

3. Enhancing Memory

Learning vocabulary is dependent on a good memory. The better your child’s memory, the more words they will identify in the exam and the more likely they are to perform well. Why not spend some time playing memory games with your child?

There are hundreds of free memory games online and many learning apps that you could download too. Encouraging your child to play these games could make their screen time both fun and productive!

4. Mock Papers

Completing mock papers is an absolute must. While the skills we have discussed are vital, they can’t be put to good use if your child misunderstands the questions they are being asked or struggles to finish in time due to being confused. Using mock papers will allow your child to become familiar with the types of questions they will be asked and help them develop a sustainable exam technique.

There are so many practice papers to choose from online that there is no need to worry about running out. Atom Learning provides unlimited 11+ mock tests to all premium subscribers so if you are looking for papers this is a great place to start!

We can Help

If you’re looking to help prepare your child for their 11+ Verbal Reasoning test, start your 5-day free trial of Nucleus for success in the classroom, entrance exams and beyond.



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