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11+ Verbal Reasoning

11+ verbal reasoning question types are frequently used in tests that are trying to identify intelligence more generally, rather than in one particular subject, as they are considered useful in predicting aptitude to learn and problem solve. Questions are based on the ability to logically deduce and decode using the information given, which means that they are less dependent on knowledge gained. However, the questions do tend to demand broad vocabularies and secure maths skills.

Verbal reasoning is not part of the National Curriculum in state primary schools, and this style of assessment may feel quite strange for children who have not seen questions framed in this way before. Some pick this type of testing up very quickly whilst for others these questions are challenging. Verbal reasoning tests are often used in 11+ testing, though, and therefore familiarity with the different question types used within verbal reasoning may be critical.

The scope and content of an 11+ verbal reasoning test can often differ across the UK regions as there is a wide range of question types that can be included. However, the tests will usually require children to:

  • process verbal information
  • apply logical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • find and follow patterns and rules
  • determine word meaning
  • spell accurately
  • apply basic maths skills
  • work systematically.

As with all exams, 11+ verbal reasoning papers are timed and they usually last from 45 minutes to one hour. Children therefore need to complete timed 11+ mock test papers as part of their preparation so they can see what they are able to do within a given time frame.

It is difficult to specify an exact period of time your child will need to practise for these exams as all children are different. Some children will pass a verbal reasoning selective entrance exam without having completed many practice papers. Others may have worked towards it for two years and still not achieve the necessary standard. However, as a guide, start to encourage some light skills practice that develop logical thinking and problem solving (word games such as Scrabble®, logic puzzles and numerical problems such as Sudoku, for example) about 18 months before the test date. Starting this early will allow plenty of time for your child to reinforce the foundations that underpin the subject before moving on to learn the specific skills and techniques involved in solving each question type at 11+ level.

Once you have 12 months or less to go, it is important to establish a regular weekly routine for practice – little and often is usually best. This needs to be planned carefully to fit in with school homework. Many children are tired at the end of the school day, so a fixed time slot first thing on a Saturday or Sunday morning is often a good idea .