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11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning Tips for Parents

11+ non-verbal reasoning is relatively new to the 11+ exam scene. Our parent company, Learning Together 11+ Publishers Ltd, wrote some of the first non-verbal reasoning books for the WH Smith chain of shops.

This extensive knowledge is used here to offer a range of useful tips for parents and tutors who are new to this 11+ subject and who want to tutor their own child at home.

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If you are completely new to non-verbal reasoning trying to teach it to your child can be very difficult. It is an 11+ subject that some children and adults find very easy while others just cannot grasp. Age is no guarantee of success and people who have difficulty with left and right can be at a big disadvantage (like my wife!).

However, there are some tips and techniques for making it easier. Skills that can be applied to all types of non-verbal reasoning question.

11+ Non-verbal reasoning is built around shapes and their patterns and properties. There can be many different aspects to each shape in an 11+ non-verbal reasoning question. These can include the outline shape, how the shape is filled, the direction of the shape. Has the shape been rotated or flipped over, has it been increased or reduced in size? Basic maths skills will also be required.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Look to see if the shapes all have the same/similar property such as the same shape, colour, direction they point, number of sides etc.  This a good starting point as it is a very basic view of the question.

  2. If you find an obvious rule between the shapes, in simple or more difficult questions, apply this rule to all the shapes. This approach applies to non-verbal reasoning questions such as series, sequences etc.  If the same rule applies to all the shapes you are getting close to the answer or may already found the answer. (There may be more than one rule to apply.)

  3. Apply this rule to all shapes not just a few of the shapes. If your rule works on all of the shapes you've probably found the answer.

  4. Now you have to choose the correct answer from those given. Firstly, ignore any answers that are obviously wrong such as a circle shape when everything else is a square. With more difficult questions it can be difficult to spot answers that are obviously wrong.

  5. When answering more complicated questions start with something small such as one shape that is drawn inside a larger shape. Does the same shape appear in the other shapes? This helps to break the question down into manageable parts rather than being overwhelmed by a very complicated shape.

  6. More difficult non-verbal reasoning questions might include adding shapes together, subtracting shapes from each other, analogies or series questions. They often appear more complex than they actually are. Apply the tips above systemically to each question, being aware that there may be two rules to apply – rarely more than two rules are applied.

  7. Some 11+ non-verbal reasoning questions involve understanding nets – a net is a flat version of a 3-d shape. Consider what happens when you open up a card board box and make it flat! There are many different versions of a net and only practice helps you to visualise what the folded or flat shape looks like. Find some nets on the web, print them and play around with them! Regarding nets for a cube remember that when sides are separated by 1 square they cannot touch when folded.

  8. Other non-verbal reasoning questions involve using shapes as part of a code. Again, these questions look complex but you are just dealing with shapes. Apply the rules above in a systemic manner looking for obvious rules and then more complex rules.

  9. Learn your basic maths, shapes, rotation etc really well so that you can apply this knowledge very quickly. 11+ non-verbal reasoning does not make great demands on written language but it is maths based.

  10. Using written practice materials can help to develop a child’s non-verbal reasoning skills but there are other activities that can improve visual awareness, spatial skills and other skills related to
    non-verbal reasoning skills. Spending time doing jigsaws, model-making, playing various puzzles or doing a Rubik’s Cubes. Games like this will help improve a child’s ability to tackle 11+ non-verbal reasoning questions and is a change from written practice.

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