The 11 Plus Exam Explained: Verbal Reasoning

Mums and dads are constantly trying to understand what the 11 plus exam actually involves and what the 11 plus myth actually is. This is one of four blog posts in our mini-series covering the four aspects of the 11 plus exam, namely:

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

Sometimes the different subjects can change or go under similar names. But most students will encounter these four areas of the exam. Pupils will need to score well in all four areas to get into a grammar school.

The trouble with these subjects is that two of them are not on the national curriculum. Verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning do not have a dedicated class within school time, like Maths and English do.

This causes problems for parents trying to help their child study. You can make that process easier with this dedicated post on verbal reasoning in the 11 plus exam.

The Content of 11 Plus Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning is the process of logical and critical thinking to come up with solutions to English-type problems. It often gets confused with the English part of the exam because both sections deal with words and require an extensive vocabulary.

However, verbal reasoning asks children to solve unique problems to show off their logical thinking while also displaying high-level English skills. For example; a child may be asked to use letters from one word to create another. This requires them to first engage with logical thinking and maybe even trial and error methods. But it simultaneously asks the child to show that they have a vocabulary wide enough to provide possible answers.

This is not like the English test in the 11 plus exam, which focuses on more orthodox English questions like spelling and grammar.

More Information on Verbal Reasoning Questions

To give you an even greater understanding of what will be involved in the verbal reasoning part of the 11 plus test, here are five question types and explanations:

  • Hidden word questions: students will have to identify a hidden word by using another word or multiple words.
  • Letter codes and sequences: children will have to break the code by adding the correct letter into a sequence. This may be a letter that fits into two different words while remaining correct.
  • Creating words from existing words: students could be asked to use letters from one or more words to create another word. This other word may even have to fit into the theme or word grouping, such as animals or colours.
  • Matching words: Just like the above, children may be asked to group words together based on their meaning (synonyms). This is why the verbal reasoning aspect of the 11 plus exam also demands children to have a wide vocabulary and a great understanding of what words mean (semantics).
  • Compound words: compound words are words that are made up of more than one word. A good example is blackboard (black + board). Children may be asked to create compound words, separate them into their root words or match them up. Again, this requires a strong vocabulary.

Some of these skills will be developed in English classes, but many of these question types will never be discussed or taught in schools!

The Format of Verbal Reasoning Questions

The format of verbal reasoning questions may change depending on the question itself. For example; the questions that ask the student to make new words from existing words will require them to simply enter the new word into the answer box. In this regard, they are classed as open questions.

It is not easy to be specific about question types or exam details because different schools use different 11 plus exams. The two overseeing bodies of the 11 plus; CEM & GL Assessment, are used throughout the UK and their exams can differ in format, time allocation and question type.

To know which 11 plus exam your child will face, it is best to ask the school directly. A breakdown of the areas and which type of exam they use is predicted on this blog post.

How to prepare for the Verbal Reasoning Test

Students will need to prepare for the test by working on their English grammar and vocabulary. One way of extending your child’s vocabulary is by encouraging them to read more, whether it be blogs, books or articles.

It is also important to do a lot of work on word categories within the English language, such as synonyms (words that mean the same thing such as clever and bright) and antonyms (words that mean the opposite thing like good and bad).

But this is only one half of your child’s verbal reasoning preparations. These things do not help develop logical thinking skills. The best way to do those is with tailored tutoring and practising these unique questions.

Don’t Worry, Help Is Here!

The 11 Plus Success Course is one method of proof that verbal reasoning is not ‘unteachable’ as some people have suggested. The course has been designed with interactive lessons and plentiful examples of verbal reasoning questions to build learner’s confidence.

Only with constant exposure to these unique questions, not often practised at school, will your child develop the critical skills to conquer them – and get into a grammar school.

For more help, you can download free exam papers from our site, subscribe to weekly free resources and check-in to our blog for additional tips.

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