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Guide to 11 plus verbal reasoning papers

11 plus

May 18, 2023, 12:06 PM

Guide to 11 plus verbal reasoning papers

If used right, practice papers are a powerful way to boost your child's performance in exams. Discover the most effective way to use practice papers as part of your child's revision plan. Plus, download your free 11 plus verbal reasoning paper PDF (with answers included) below!


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Verbal reasoning paper

About this 11 plus verbal reasoning paper

This is a full-length paper that mirrors standard GL verbal reasoning papers. GL Assessment is the main provider of 11 plus exams for grammar schools.

There are 80 questions which gradually increase in difficulty. Just like the real exam, all the questions are multiple-choice.

The paper is designed to help your child become familiar with:

  • The verbal reasoning 11 plus curriculum, with topics across number, patterns, vocabulary and logic.

  • The range of question styles on GL 11 plus verbal reasoning papers, including joining and morphing words, codes and sequences, deductions, and spotting the odd one out.

  • The timings of GL verbal reasoning papers, how to pace themselves and work under exam conditions.

  • The format and layout of the exam papers, including using a separate answer sheet.

It's worth noting that each school can choose how they structure their exam papers. Many schools combine a shorter verbal reasoning section with another subject. This practice paper uses one of the most common arrangements.

11 plus verbal reasoning paper instructions

What you’ll need

  • Printed question booklet and answer sheet

  • Pencil

  • Rubber

  • Scrap paper

  • Timer

How to prepare

Your child should take the test at a time when they feel alert. Choose a quiet area where they can work comfortably without distractions.

Talk with your child about the reasons for taking the practice test. Explain that this paper looks similar to the one they will see in the real 11 plus exam. The questions and answer sheet will help them know what to expect on exam day.

Explain that they might find some of the questions difficult, especially as they progress through the paper. They should work as quickly and carefully as possible.

If they get stuck on a question, they should move on to the next one. If they have time left over at the end, they can go back to any skipped questions. If they have more time left over, they should check their answers.

Taking the test

Dictionaries are not allowed. Give your child a scrap sheet of paper to use for any rough working out.

At the start of each section, your child will see an explanation of what to do, with an example question and solution.

Your child should mark their answers on the Answer Sheet, not in the test booklet. This is good practice for the real exam which will have a separate answer sheet like this.

On the Answer Sheet, your child should record their answers by drawing a clear line through the answer box with a pencil. Mistakes should be rubbed out and not crossed out. The real exam is marked by a computer, so it would not be able to interpret a crossed-out answer.


It’s helpful for children to get comfortable with taking tests under timed conditions. You should allow them 50 minutes to take the test. Only start timing when they have finished reading the instructions.

If they haven’t finished the test after 50 minutes, circle the question they got to, then let them carry on. When you mark the test you’ll be able to see how many questions they got right in 50 minutes and how many overall. This will show you whether your child needs to work on their speed, accuracy, or both.

How to mark the test

You can find the answers on the Answer Key which is included in the Parents' Guide download. Give your child one mark for each correct answer (no half-marks are available in the real test!). Do not take marks off for wrong answers.

Take time to discuss your child’s results in a positive and encouraging way. Work through the corrections, what they would do differently next time, and pick out key areas to revise next.

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What's the benefit of 11 plus verbal reasoning papers?

The 11 plus is often a child's first time encountering new styles of question, language or instructions.

Verbal reasoning is not taught at primary school as part of the English Key Stage 2 national curriculum. Some private prep schools will prepare children for entrance exams – but this is not compulsory, and is rare in state primary schools. So, if your child is applying to grammar school or a selective private school, they are unlikely to have seen verbal reasoning exercises at school before.

Reasoning exams often aim to measure 'natural' ability. But the reality is that children who are familiar with the question styles will be at a strong advantage compared to children who are encountering them for the first time on exam day.

Using verbal reasoning practice papers at home can help your child develop this familiarity. On exam day they can focus on showcasing their abilities, rather than spending time and energy navigating the layout of the test and trying to decipher what is being asked of them.

How to include verbal reasoning papers in your 11 plus study plan

Although practice papers are a fantastic tool for polishing exam technique, they're not an effective way to teach – or to learn. To achieve subject mastery, children need access to resources to help them embed their understanding of each topic, self-correct as they go and consolidate their learning.

It's important to build a secure knowledge of the basics across the whole curriculum first, before introducing practice papers. They should be treated as a supplement to the time your child spends developing their confidence with the 11 plus verbal reasoning curriculum.

How many practice papers should we be doing?

  • Once your child has covered the 11 plus curriculum, introduce 1–2 practice tests per month.

  • In the final six weeks before an exam (at the start of August for the 11 plus), increase this to 1 test per week.

We've found this to be the right pace to ensure children are able to solidify their knowledge across all topics while perfecting their exam skills and confidence.

Avoid the temptation to sit repeated practice papers. Your child should only take mock exams when they're feeling fresh, as this is when they will get the most out of it. As the exam draws near, we recommend 4 or 5 short sessions of revision during the week, followed by no more than one practice test at the weekend. Taking a little-and-often approach helps to keep young learners' motivation and energy up.

How to debrief with your child after a practice paper

Always take five or ten minutes to sit down with your child after a practice exam paper to review their answers together and talk through any corrections. Remember to celebrate the process, not just the results. Praise their resilience in making mistakes and learning from them, their attention to detail, improvements they've made from the last practice test – and encourage them to reflect on what they're proud of too.

When working through corrections, try asking these questions:

  • Is there a different way you could solve this problem?

  • Was this the quickest way to solve the problem?

  • How would you explain this to someone else?

(Atom makes these debrief conversations easy for you and your child – learn more.)

More 11 plus verbal reasoning resources

Remember to get your free 11 plus verbal reasoning paper!

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Unlock unlimited 11 plus practice papers

Atom Nucleus is an online learning platform, created by teachers, that gives your child everything they need to prepare for the 11 plus from home.

All 11 plus papers on Atom are automatically marked and timed, giving you explanations and handy resources for each question.

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Alongside practice exam papers, children build their knowledge by working independently through over 90,000 interactive questions. Helpsheets and videos help them gain confidence in new topics and consolidate their learning – so when exam day comes around, they're ready to shine.


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