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Introduction to Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning is almost universally used as one of the test papers in the 11+. It is believed to be an effective way of testing a child’s potential, not just learned ability.

Of course, learned ability does enter into the equation. While some of the question types simply test a child’s logical deduction skills or their ability to decipher codes, much of an 11+ verbal reasoning test will require a good vocabulary and also strong basic maths skills. Strangely, most verbal reasoning tests also encompass maths questions. You can find more help in both those areas on our English and maths sections.

Some children simply have “the knack” when it comes to Verbal Reasoning, even if they have never encountered it before. These children also tend to be keen on puzzles of all types – crosswords, wordsearches, word games, jigsaws, Sudoku, etc. If you can encourage your child to enjoy these activities they make for good informal preparation for Verbal Reasoning tests.

If your child is not one of the lucky few it is still possible to become very adept at Verbal Reasoning simply by learning the techniques required to solve the problems. Preparation will not enable a child who is not innately intelligent to qualify in the 11+, but it will assist children who find VR more difficult than curriculum-based learning. An analogy sometimes used is that of doing the Times Crossword: If you do the crossword every day you become familiar with how the compilers think and you can see the solutions more quickly. However, if you do not possess a good vocabulary in the first instance, you will not know the answers to the clues.

There is a very wide range of Verbal Reasoning question types and it is essential to research exactly which question types feature in the papers in your area.

The most common Verbal Reasoning tests in use for the 11 Plus are those prepared by GL Assessment (formerly NFER) and for that reason we provide specific advice on their question types. There are either 15 or 21 question types featured on each paper, although papers using all 21 types are by far the most common. The format of the papers may be either “standard” format (no answer options are provided and the child must work out the answer from scratch) or multiple choice, where five possible answer options are provided on the answer paper.

In areas where the tests are not set by GL Assessment and past papers are not available (such as the Durham CEM test used in Birmingham and Warwickshire, or the Moray House papers used by many Hertfordshire schools) it may be necessary to cover a wider variety of VR question types. The publisher that features the biggest range of questions is probably Bond Assessment, but it would be wise to buy a selection of other books that may feature different question types.