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How to do Verbal Reasoning for the 11+ exam?

Pupil taking 11plus exam.

Verbal Reasoning questions will be used by almost all Local Authorities or grammar schools for the 11+ exam or entrance examination.

There are 21 common types of 11plus Verbal reasoning questions. It is one aspect of the 11+ that can be practised and a child’s skills should improve. It is important to realise that not all schools' 11+ papers will use the same format to test Verbal Reasoning. Some will employ a multiple-choice format for answers;(this is where a child chooses the answer from 4 or 5 given answers) and some will use standard format VR questions where the child works out the answer and then writes it in the space provided. It is known that the type of Verbal Reasoning papers vary greatly across the country. 

From the outset it is important to understand “What sort of elevenplus exam will my child take?” You must research what sort of 11+ exam your child is taking. Some schools use papers prepared by external companies while some write their own 11plus papers, yet others use the same paper for a consortium of schools such as the consortium of grammar schools in Birmingham and the consortium of grammar schools in Essex, and yet others use computer based online eleven plus exams.  

Not often taught in schools as part of the curriculum elevenplus Verbal Reasoning questions will be composed of a variety of questions – many of which are word based. So the first thing is to encourage your child to read widely as this will expose them to a wide variety of words and their meanings.

From this extensive reading your child will begin to learn about anagrams, synonyms and antonyms, homophones and word to letter connections. 

There are 21 types of Verbal Reasoning question that are commonly used in the elevenplus exams however there may be at least 35 – 40 (or more!) different versions of 11plus questions. As outlined above the majority of these Verbal Reasoning papers will be language based and hence the name “Verbal Reasoning.” 

Can your child spot smaller words hidden in larger words? Can they add one letter and make four new words? They will need to as these are the type of questions that they will need to understand and be able to complete quickly and accurately. 

Your child can develop these verbal skills by trying games and puzzles, especially word related puzzles. Games such as Scrabble are ideal for developing a child’s vocabulary for this very demanding 11+ test and of course they must read widely. 

Other question types will require a good vocabulary and accurate spelling skills. There are many ways of practising for these questions, from “How to do Verbal Reasoning Books”   technique books through to online elevenplus exams VR tests.  

Practice is important and a child can learn the technique to approach a particular question type but in reality even if the child has generated the correct answer he may not recognise it as the correct answer if he has not got a sufficiently large vocabulary. The Learning Together technique books give good practice and advice on how to do Verbal reasoning. 

As well as these word based questions your child will also be asked to complete mathematics based VR questions such as  number series, complete the middle number from the outside numbers  and word-number codes as well as straight forward mathematical equations. Strange to see maths based questions in a Verbal Reasoning 11+ paper but there you are! Clearly a sound knowledge of all aspects of maths is also required. 

Research shows that Verbal Reasoning Skills can be developed by practicing and you will need to start your 11+ training in good time. Many suggest the end of Year 4 or the beginning of Year 5 – however you will know your child best so do enough extra work but be careful not to overload! 

Make use of a comprehensive range of exam preparation activities and materials and ensure that the correct means of answering- multiple-choice answers or standard format answers - is included in any preparation scheme.  It is important to ensure that your child has extensive practice and testing in all 21 Verbal Reasoning question types and any other areas which fall under the title of Verbal Reasoning. 

Computer based online eleven plus exams offer good practice which will give a well-earned break from the monotony of pencil and paper based preparation and they can be completed anywhere at any time. This form of practice can be very potent in helping your child realise his or her full potential.


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