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500 essential words for your child's 11 plus vocabulary

11 plus
11 plus vocabulary: 500 essential words for your child to learn

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The importance of vocabulary in the 11 plus

Regardless of the 11 plus exam board, you can be almost guaranteed that your child’s vocabulary will be tested in the exam through either English or verbal reasoning tests (or a combination of both).

The vast majority of selective secondary schools include an English test as part of their 11 plus admissions process, which will include either or both reading comprehension and creative writing tasks.

In reading comprehension questions, children will be tested on their ability to make inferences, deduce based on given evidence, rephrase, and summarise a passage. In creative writing tasks, children will be assessed on the extent of their vocabulary and its purpose within the text, as well as the accuracy of their spelling.

If your child’s 11 plus test includes a verbal reasoning paper, you can be sure they will be tested on their vocabulary knowledge. Typical questions include selecting synonyms, antonyms or homonyms from a given list, spotting the odd one out from a selection of words, or identifying the connection between groups of words. Strong vocabulary knowledge is key to success in all of these questions.

5 tips for expanding your child’s vocabulary

1. Reading often and widely

Plenty of studies have shown that children who read many books (and a range of genres) learn new words faster and have much wider vocabularies than children who seldom read. This is because written language uses many more words than we use in spoken language.

2. Play word games

Games such as Scrabble, Boggle, word searches and crosswords can be really useful to help your child discover new words and consolidate their meanings. Playing word games together can make the process of vocabulary learning fun for your child, helping them stay engaged and motivated while aiding retention.

3. Look for word roots

Many English words have the same Greek or Latin roots which provide an indication of their meaning. If your child comes across a word they don’t understand, ask them to break the word down into parts and think about where they might have heard something similar before. Here are some common root words used in everyday language:

  • Aud: referring to hearing, e.g. audio, audible, audience

  • Bio: referring to life, e.g. biography, biology, biodegradable

  • Chrono: relating to time, e.g. chronological, synchronise

  • Geo: referring to the earth, e.g. geography, geology

  • Sens: relating to feeling, e.g. sensitive, resent

  • Sub: referring to something under or inferior, e.g. submissive, subterranean

4. Story writing

Story writing is a great exercise for your child to try out their newly learnt words in a relevant context (not to mention that it’s a skill assessed in many 11 plus exams).

Encourage your child to write stories in different genres, trying out their vocabulary for different stylistic effects.

5. Visualise new words

If your child is a visual learner, they may find it easier to recall difficult words if they can associate them with an image. Encourage your child to draw a visual interpretation of a word they find difficult – for instance, the word ‘economical’ may be associated with a picture of money, while ‘bewildered’ could be symbolised by a person looking confused.

Complete 11 plus vocabulary list

Our vocabulary list includes words which have been used by both GL Assessment and CEM (the UK’s two major 11 plus exam boards) in previous exams, as well as more difficult words included in the Upper Key Stage 2 national curriculum.

Find the 500 essential words we recommend for your child’s age group below, or download the full list in alphabetical order here.

  1. abandon

  2. absence

  3. absurd

  4. abundant

  5. accommodate

  6. accompany

  7. according

  8. accuse

  9. accustomed

  10. achieve

  11. acquainted

  12. acquire

  13. address

  14. adhere

  15. admission

  16. advance

  17. affectionate

  18. aggressive

  19. alert

  20. altitude

  21. amateur

  22. ambition

  23. ample

  24. ancient

  25. anxious

  26. apparent

  27. appeal

  28. appearance

  29. applicable

  30. appreciate

  31. apprehensive

  32. approve

  33. argument

  34. article

  35. assemble

  36. assistance

  37. attempt

  38. available

  39. average

  40. avoid

  41. avowed

  42. awkward

  43. chaos

  44. charred

  45. coarse

  46. coax

  47. college

  48. combination

  49. commence

  50. committee

  51. communicate

  52. community

  53. companion

  54. competition

  55. completely

  56. complex

  57. composition

  58. comprehend

  59. conceal

  60. conceited

  61. conceive

  62. conclusion

  63. condemn

  64. confidential

  65. confine

  66. conspire

  67. conscience

  68. conscious

  69. consent

  70. conserve

  71. consideration

  72. consist

  73. constant

  74. consume

  75. contemporary

  76. contempt

  77. content

  78. contest

  79. contract

  80. contrast

  81. contribute

  82. controversy

  83. convenience

  84. conventional

  85. convert

  86. convey

  87. convict

  88. convince

  89. correspond

  90. coy

  91. criticise

  92. cultivate

  93. cunning

  94. curb

  95. curiosity

  96. curious

  97. curt

  98. custom

  99. banish

  100. bargain

  101. barren

  102. beautiful

  103. because

  104. believe

  105. belligerent

  106. bemused

  107. benefit

  108. besieged

  109. betray

  110. bewildered

  111. brief

  112. Britain

  113. bruise

  114. burden

  115. business

  116. debate

  117. debrief

  118. deceit

  119. declare

  120. decline

  121. definite

  122. deliberate

  123. demolished

  124. deny

  125. dependable

  126. deposit

  127. derelict

  128. description

  129. caffeine

  130. calamity

  131. candidate

  132. category

  133. caution

  134. cease

  135. ceiling

  136. cemetery

  137. changeable

  138. despair

  139. desperately

  140. destitute

  141. determine

  142. develop

  143. devote

  144. digest

  145. dilapidated

  146. diluted

  147. disappear

  148. disappointed

  149. disarray

  150. disastrous

  151. disclose

  152. discontent

  153. dishevelled

  154. dismal

  155. disperse

  156. dispute

  157. distasteful

  158. distinct

  159. distinguished

  160. distress

  161. divine

  162. domestic

  163. dose

  164. drought

  165. dwelling

  166. emerge

  167. empire

  168. endeavour

  169. endure

  170. enterprise

  171. environment

  172. equipment

  173. errand

  174. especially

  175. estimate

  176. evaluation

  177. evident

  178. exaggerate

  179. excellent

  180. excitement

  181. exciting

  182. exclaim

  183. existence

  184. expel

  185. expense

  186. explanation

  187. extended

  188. exterior

  189. extinction

  190. extract

  191. extremely

  192. flamboyant

  193. flawless

  194. fleet

  195. flora

  196. flourish

  197. foe

  198. forbid

  199. foreign

  200. forty

  201. foundation

  202. fragment

  203. fragrant

  204. frequent

  205. frivolous

  206. fund

  207. hollow

  208. humble

  209. hygienic

  210. garment

  211. government

  212. grate

  213. gratitude

  214. grave

  215. grieve

  216. grotesque

  217. guarantee

  218. guard

  219. identity

  220. idle

  221. idol

  222. ignorant

  223. imitate

  224. immediately

  225. immerse

  226. inaudible

  227. incision

  228. inconspicuous

  229. individual

  230. inedible

  231. inferior

  232. influence

  233. inhabitants

  234. insane

  235. insert

  236. insolent

  237. inspire

  238. intangible

  239. intense

  240. intention

  241. interested

  242. interfere

  243. interior

  244. interpret

  245. interrogate

  246. interrupt

  247. invalid

  248. isolation

  249. earnest

  250. economical

  251. elect

  252. elude

  253. embarrass

  254. embrace

  255. familiar

  256. famine

  257. fatal

  258. fatigue

  259. favourite

  260. feeble

  261. feign

  262. fertile

  263. habitable

  264. habitat

  265. halt

  266. harass

  267. hasty

  268. heroic

  269. hindrance

  270. hoax

  271. holiday

  272. labour

  273. lament

  274. language

  275. latter

  276. lavish

  277. lean

  278. legible

  279. leisure

  280. lenient

  281. liberal

  282. liberty

  283. library

  284. lightning

  285. limb

  286. linger

  287. lodge

  288. lofty

  289. loneliness

  290. loyalty

  291. muscle

  292. mysterious

  293. perilous

  294. perish

  295. permit

  296. perplexed

  297. persuade

  298. physical

  299. pigment

  300. pioneer

  301. pledge

  302. plume

  303. plunge

  304. pompous

  305. poultry

  306. precarious

  307. prejudice

  308. present

  309. privilege

  310. proclaim

  311. procure

  312. profession

  313. profit

  314. programme

  315. prohibit

  316. prominent

  317. promote

  318. prompt

  319. pronunciation

  320. proportion

  321. prosperous

  322. protein

  323. provoke

  324. public

  325. punctual

  326. puncture

  327. purpose

  328. quaint

  329. quell

  330. quench

  331. queue

  332. quiet

  333. quite

  334. quiver

  335. nauseous

  336. neat

  337. necessary

  338. nimble

  339. noted

  340. nuisance

  341. ramble

  342. rare

  343. really

  344. receive

  345. recite

  346. recognise

  347. recommend

  348. refer

  349. referee

  350. release

  351. relevant

  352. repent

  353. reprimand

  354. reserve

  355. reside

  356. residence

  357. resign

  358. resolve

  359. restaurant

  360. restore

  361. restrain

  362. retain

  363. retreat

  364. reveal

  365. rhyme

  366. ridiculous

  367. rigid

  368. majestic

  369. margin

  370. matte

  371. maximum

  372. meagre

  373. meant

  374. merchant

  375. mercy

  376. meticulous

  377. minimum

  378. mischief

  379. moderate

  380. modest

  381. moral

  382. mortal

  383. oath

  384. obey

  385. obedience

  386. objection

  387. obscure

  388. obstinate

  389. occupy

  390. occur

  391. odour

  392. offend

  393. omen

  394. opportunity

  395. oppose

  396. oppress

  397. option

  398. ordeal

  399. origin

  400. painstaking

  401. parallel

  402. parliament

  403. passive

  404. peak

  405. peculiar

  406. perceive

  407. roam

  408. robust

  409. rogue

  410. rowdy

  411. rural

  412. subdued

  413. submissive

  414. submit

  415. subterfuge

  416. subtropical

  417. successful

  418. succumb

  419. sufficient

  420. suggest

  421. summit

  422. superior

  423. supposed

  424. surprise

  425. suspect

  426. suspend

  427. system

  428. unfathomable

  429. uniform

  430. union

  431. unite

  432. unnecessary

  433. unsurpassed

  434. sacred

  435. sacrifice

  436. sane

  437. sanitary

  438. score

  439. scripture

  440. secretary

  441. secure

  442. seize

  443. seldom

  444. separate

  445. sermon

  446. shoulder

  447. shrine

  448. signature

  449. sincere

  450. sincerely

  451. sleek

  452. sly

  453. soldier

  454. sow

  455. special

  456. stern

  457. stomach

  458. stoop

  459. stout

  460. stretched

  461. stubborn

  462. sturdy

  463. temperate

  464. temperature

  465. temptation

  466. thrust

  467. tolerable

  468. tolerably

  469. toleration

  470. tomorrow

  471. torment

  472. traitor

  473. tranquil

  474. transference

  475. transferral

  476. trivial

  477. turbulent

  478. twelfth

  479. twilight

  480. tyrant

  481. vacant

  482. vanished

  483. vapour

  484. variety

  485. vast

  486. vehicle

  487. veil

  488. ventilation

  489. vessel

  490. volatile

  491. wasteful

  492. weary

  493. weird

  494. wholesome

  495. wholly

  496. wither

  497. wound

  498. wretched

  499. yacht

  500. yield

Free resource: 500 essential words for the 11 plus


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