The 11 Plus Exam Explained: Non-Verbal Reasoning

The 11 plus exam is one of the most unique exams anyone can take. It includes some elements which will be familiar to Key Stage 2 children from their lessons in school, but some parts of the exam will be completely new and unfamiliar (for those not prepared!).

This blog is the fourth in our mini-series looking at segments of the 11 plus exam. Here we dive into the particularities of one part called non-verbal reasoning. So, what is it? What does it contain, and how can our children prepare for verbal reasoning questions?

The Breakdown of the 11 Plus Exam

The 11 plus exam is often broken down into four sections. These are:

  • Maths
  • English
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning

However, there are some differences between 11 plus exams because two different bodies create the tests, namely GL Assessment and CEM. This means the format of the exam and how it is broken up can change between schools depending on which 11 plus exam they are using.

To make it even more confusing, some schools use a bespoke 11 plus exam not from one of the two aforementioned exam boards. To get clarity on your child’s situation, always speak directly with your school.

So, What Is Non-Verbal Reasoning?

Non-verbal reasoning is the ability to identify and solve problems using visual cues. This means looking at shapes, patterns, sequences and similar visuals to solve problems and answer questions.

The question types included in this section can differ. Children may need to analyse graphs, make predictions, guess the next number in a sequence or identify net shapes (how a shape would look if it was unfolded/folded – and possibly rotated at the same time).

It requires the student to critically and logically think about visuals. Many of the questions involved have an element of maths and often include numbers. This is why the non-verbal reasoning part of the exam is confused with the maths element.

However, they are not the same. Whereas the maths section focuses on fractions, ratios, multiplication and other topics often covered in school, verbal reasoning is rarely part of a math lessons. Your child should not rely on their maths skills alone to ace the non-verbal reasoning part of the exam.

The Content of the Non-Verbal Reasoning Section

Now you have an idea about what non-verbal reasoning is and what your child should expect, let’s dig a little deeper.

Lots of the questions will focus on shapes. They will ask children to rotate shapes, imagine their reflections, analyse shapes and more. This means children will need to think outside the box – pardon the pun – to imagine how shapes can be reconfigured. These skills are not easy to practice simply with a pencil and piece of paper. Those who do try will find it time-consuming. A more beneficial way to practice logical thinking with shapes is to use interactive technologies and video, just like our 11 plus course does!

Another major aspect of the non-verbal reasoning questions are codes and deciphering which numbers or shapes are next in the sequence (or missing from a sequence). Some of these codes may require maths skills from their English lessons and specific 11 plus study, yet, sometimes codes will need to be broken by spotting visual patterns rather than multiplication or addition. Children need to be eagle-eyed to spot the subtle clues and break the code. The good news is that these can be fun once the child has a knack for spotting what these clues are.

The good news is that non-verbal reasoning can be heaps of fun and engaging for children, mainly because it is different from what children are used to learning in their maths lessons. 

How Can Your Child Prepare for Non-Verbal Reasoning Questions?

Unfortunately, there are no school lessons for the non-verbal reasoning assessment. This means that these questions can be even trickier and most children will not be fully prepared to take them on. Its uniqueness is what makes some people consider non-verbal reasoning as ‘unteachable’.

The best way to prepare for the non-verbal reasoning is through practising the questions frequently each week and getting insider tips from 11 plus tutors. This can be an expensive way to prepare when tutors usually charge £30 per hour.

But there are other more affordable options…

The 11 Plus Success Online Course

We offer an 11 plus online course that has plenty of examples and explanations of the most common non-verbal reasoning questions. The course is a unique opportunity to provide hundreds of examples to students, so they start to develop the skills needed for these questions.

Only by constantly practising these questions - with instant 11 plus expert explanations and feedback- will children develop in this area and build their confidence.

Learn more about our online course now!

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