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Introducing your child to verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning


Verbal reasoning is a test of skill, rather than knowledge. It measures how well someone can think, communicate and solve problems using words.

Most 11 plus exams (including GL Assessment and CEM) include verbal reasoning tests. If there isn't a specific verbal reasoning paper, your child's potential will still be assessed with other questions.

This skill isn't taught at school so children will benefit from practice at home. Keep reading to find out more about how you can introduce your child to verbal reasoning in day-to-day life.

What are the main skills required for verbal reasoning?

The key skills involved are:

  • Reading comprehension

  • Strong vocabulary

  • Phonological awareness

  • Problem-solving

  • Identifying sequences

Why are verbal reasoning skills important?

Your child will already have some ingrained ability for verbal reasoning. Humans begin to develop cognitive skills, such as logic and the ability to identify connections, between the ages of two and three. The frequent 'why?' questions can be tiresome for parents but show that your child is learning to process information!

In the 11 plus exam, verbal reasoning tests children's potential for critical thinking. It is also a measure of general intelligence – the basis of all selective school entry tests.

Watch the video below to discover tips for 11 plus verbal reasoning preparation.

11 plus verbal reasoning preparation

What is the difference between verbal and non-verbal reasoning?

Verbal reasoning is a measure of our ability to understand and engage with language (i.e. written and spoken information). Non-verbal reasoning is the ability to understand and analyse visual information. This includes shapes, diagrams, graphs, maps and pictures.

Both verbal and non-verbal reasoning need great attention to detail, as well as the ability to solve problems and apply logic.

How can I help introduce my child to verbal reasoning?

Check out our guide to exam preparation for common question types and examples. You may also wish to watch our webinar on supporting your child's reasoning skills.

Parent webinar: Supporting your child's reasoning skills

Our top tips below will help your child develop techniques to tackle these questions. You may also wish to explore the resources linked at the bottom of this page.

Encourage reading comprehension

As verbal reasoning involves words, being able to read and process written information is essential. If your child isn't much of a reader yet, take a look at our ways to engage your child with reading as a starting point.

Once they are reading regularly, encourage your child to read widely. This means reading fiction and non-fiction across plenty of genres, and by authors with different writing styles. Spotting the nuances in writing will help your child improve their comprehension skills, expand their vocabulary and gain more general knowledge.

If you're looking for some new reading material for your child, why not download our recommended reading lists?

Build a strong vocabulary

Did you know that children learn over 1,000 new words each year?

Verbal reasoning tests will often ask children to spot the odd one out in a group of words or identify homophones (words that have a similar meaning). Having a good vocabulary is important to help children understand what the words mean.

In the example below, the two words in each set of brackets are similar to one word in the answers. Children need to select the correct word from the multiple-choice options.

Verbal reasoning question: words similar in meaning

Make learning new words fun with word games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams. If your child prefers to play alone, crosswords and word searches are also great ways to build their vocabulary.

Improve phonological awareness

Phonological awareness means being able to understand the sound structure of words. One of the common question types that comes up on 11 plus verbal reasoning exams is choosing singular words that, when combined, create a new word.

Work with your child on developing phonological awareness by playing rhyming games (e.g. "Can you guess what I'm wearing? It rhymes with cat") and writing poems or even songs together.

Get cracking on codes

Verbal reasoning tests will almost always require children to solve a code. This might be cracking letter codes, number-based codes or unscrambling an anagram.

Applying logic is key to answering these types of questions. Your child can practise solving word problems with fun code-breaking puzzles online. They can also improve their numerical reasoning with sudoku.

For some example verbal reasoning questions, download your free sample 11 plus question packs below:

Download your list of sample 11 plus questions

Develop sequence logic

It might sound simple, but knowing the English alphabet back to front is vital for success!

Sequences using letters are common types of questions in a verbal reasoning test. Test your child on their alphabet knowledge by asking them to recite it from a random letter (e.g. start with J, rather than A). Go one step further and ask them to recite it backwards from Z to A.

Verbal reasoning sequence logic question

Atom Learning can help

If you're still looking for ways to introduce your child to verbal reasoning, why not try Atom Nucleus?

Atom Nucleus is an online learning platform with over 90,000 teacher-written questions. Children can answer real exam questions, work through practice papers (mock tests) and learn from engaging Live Lessons.

Our adaptive technology personalises your child's learning journey to help them prepare for the 11 plus. We also cover every question type known across the 11 plus verbal reasoning exams.

Start your 5 day free trial today to see your child's verbal reasoning skills improve!

5 day free trial for 11 plus

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