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11 plus spatial reasoning

By Atom | Jun 29, 2023, 9:11 AM

Boy sitting at the table with workbooks in front of him, looking thoughtful

Spatial reasoning is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of school entrance exams as it helps indicate a child’s potential, rather than showing that they have been ‘taught to the test’. However, if your child is taking an 11 plus non-verbal reasoning test, it is definitely possible – and wise – to practise spatial reasoning questions to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the exam.

Find out everything you need to know about 11 plus spatial reasoning questions and access free resources to help your child build confidence.

What is spatial reasoning?

Spatial reasoning is a particular skill that falls within the larger category of non-verbal reasoning. While non-verbal reasoning involves the ability to interpret patterns and analyse different shapes, pictures and diagrams, spatial reasoning focuses specifically on the child’s ability to manipulate two- and three-dimensional shapes in their mind.

Spatial reasoning is a skill we all use in daily life through activities such as playing team sports, map reading, and drawing images and diagrams.

What types of questions are in the 11 plus spatial reasoning test?

Spatial reasoning questions require pupils to manipulate and correctly identify a two- or three-dimensional component from a list of options in multiple-choice format.

Manipulating 3D shapes tends to be the section that most children find challenging, as these questions require a lot of cognitive power to successfully manipulate shapes and understand their complex features. Question types include:

  • Nets and cubes

  • Nets from 3D shapes

  • Rotating 3D shapes

  • Combining shapes

  • 3D shapes from above

Find the answers to each of the example spatial reasoning questions below at the bottom of this article.

Nets and cubes

In nets and cubes questions, children will be shown a 2D net. They will need to interpret patterns on the net and select the correct multiple-choice answer which shows what the net would look like when it is folded up into a cube.

A question on nets and cubes on Atom Nucleus

Download nets and cubes helpsheet

Nets from 3D shapes

Nets from 3D shapes questions are the inverse of nets and cubes questions. In nets from 3D shapes, children will see a 3D shape. They will be asked to choose the single correct answer that shows what net the shape would make when it is unfolded.

A question on nets from 3D shapes on Atom Nucleus

Download nets from 3D shapes helpsheet

Rotating 3D shapes

Questions on rotating 3D shapes require children to choose the image that is the correct rotation of a particular 3D shape from a list of possible matches.

A question on rotating 3D shapes on Atom Nucleus

Download rotating 3D shapes helpsheet

Combining 3D shapes

In combining 3D shapes questions, children will have to select the group of blocks that can be combined to make a given 3D shape.

A question on combining 3D shapes on Atom Nucleus

Download combining 3D shapes helpsheet

3D shapes from above

In questions on 3D shapes from above, children will need to choose the 2D plan that shows what a given 3D shape would look like if it was viewed from above.

A question on 3D shapes from above on Atom Nucleus

Download 3D shapes from above helpsheet

Is spatial reasoning relevant for my child?

Many grammar schools and 11 plus exam boards use spatial reasoning questions as part of their selection process. The questions may not be defined in a separate section in the actual exam, but instead incorporated within the non-verbal reasoning test.

Schools using GL Assessment to administer their 11 plus exams have the option to include the non-verbal reasoning test, which includes questions such as combining 3D shapes and 3D shapes from above.

If your child’s target school uses a CEM 11 plus test, they will almost certainly see spatial reasoning questions within the maths and non-verbal reasoning paper.

11 plus grammar school consortiums

Selective independent schools are also starting to include spatial reasoning questions as part of their entrance exams. The ISEB Common Pre-Test has a 30-minute non-verbal reasoning section, which includes questions which require the child to manipulate 3D figures and diagrams to visualise them in a different way. The CAT4 test also includes a subject called ‘spatial ability’, which is split down into two further subtopics called ‘figure analysis’ and ‘figure recognition’.

How do you pass a spatial reasoning test?

Many children find spatial reasoning challenging as it is not taught on the primary national curriculum. The best way to build spatial reasoning skills is through regular practice at home.

While practice papers are a great way to refine exam technique, it’s important that your child understands the concept of each question type and the key techniques for answering it first. Once they have fully mastered the method and feel confident tackling different spatial reasoning questions, they should be ready to move on to practice papers to have a go at working under timed conditions.

Spatial reasoning practice resources

Download your free spatial reasoning practice question pack

Have a go at some more practice questions in this free sample question pack.

Download free practice questions for 11+ spatial reasoning

Watch a free 11 plus spatial reasoning lesson

In this tutorial, Wing will teach you how to answer questions on nets and cubes. This is a common question type in spatial reasoning papers.

Nets and cubes tutorial (11+ exam prep)

For more tutorials, take a look at the non-verbal reasoning playlist on the Atom Learning YouTube channel.

Discover Atom Home

Atom Home student dashboard

Preparing for 11 plus entry to a grammar or independent school can be overwhelming for both you and your child – but Atom Home can provide a stress-free solution.

Our all-in-one online platform will give you access to everything you need to help your child prepare effectively and succeed in the exam. You’ll get:

  • Over 90,000 interactive questions in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning

  • Unlimited practice papers tailored to your child’s target schools – and all automatically marked

  • Hundreds of downloadable helpsheets and recorded lessons – just like the ones in this article

  • Ongoing parent webinars with the latest advice from Education Experts, supporting you through the admissions process

Try Atom Nucleus for free today and see the difference it makes to your child.

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If your child is preparing for entrance exams, why not join one of Atom’s free Exam Preparation WhatsApp groups?

Our Education Experts are on hand to provide instant answers to any questions you have about the admissions process and your child’s upcoming exams.

Answers to example questions

  • Nets and cubes: C

  • Nets from 3D shapes: D

  • Rotating 3D shapes: A

  • Combining 3D shapes: E

  • 3D shapes from above: D

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