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11+ Verbal Reasoning Tips

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

Beforehand: Practise!

Remember that a majority of mistakes in the verbal reasoning section come through not understanding some of the more simple sections – including synonyms, antonyms, compound words, understanding the ‘odd words out,’ failing to correctly identify a missing word, or failing to recognise where to move a letter to create new words. These are all areas that can be simply prepared for, so long as adequate time is given.

You should incorporate a range of different practice materials into the preparation process so that your child is confident with all question types. This means looking outside the specific exam board (e.g. GL Assessments) and finding a range of other materials too.

Try to ensure that all 21 of the common question types are given equal focus, and ideally that each of these 21 question types can be easily recognised in the exam itself. Make sure that practice incorporates strict timing requirements (towards the end of the practice period) so that your child feels confident on the timing in the exam and isn’t thrown by the pressure.

Focus on specific areas that your child is struggling with and encourage them to practise these areas in particular. Remember, there is always a tendency to focus on areas of strength rather than areas of weakness – but for your child to enter the exam feeling confident they must have taken the time to develop their weaknesses, rather than becoming complacent through practising topics that they are naturally much better at.

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Time Management

You should ensure that your child is used to assessing how far through the paper they are, and therefore how much time they should have taken. This should become second nature to them through practice. The simplest solution is encouraging them to calculate the amount of time that they can spend on each question, and thus how far through the paper they ought to be at any one time. As an example, an 80 question paper that takes 60 minutes would allow 45 seconds per question. That means that 5 questions should take less than 4 minutes, and 10 questions should take closer to 7 minutes than 8 if they wish to finish on time. Of course, this depends on the exam board. For some you might be able to spend more like a minute on each question – which makes calculating how long you’ve got left much easier. Your child might find it easier to think in sections. If they seem to have a particular affinity for certain topics, but struggle with other topics, then encouraging them to think in sections – and understanding that it might be worth moving on from a difficult section in the interests of time – is a good idea.

Remember that there will be some questions that your child cannot answer. This is completely normal for even the absolute best of students. You must therefore help them to realise that they need a good strategy for understanding when to move on these difficult questions. Spending three or four minutes on one question means that they might have to forego answering four or five easier questions later in the paper if they run out of time – which means they may have swapped one mark (or even none if they still cannot answer the harder question) for none. A simple technique that will allow children to move on from a question without feeling that they have ‘given up’ is marking it, and then continuing. That way, if they have time they can return to it at the end, after they’ve completed the questions that they feel confident on.

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Sleep Well, and Hydrate

These are common exam tips that should always be practised, but still worth remembering – especially for an exam of this kind that may seem unfamiliar and therefore be more likely to create anxiety for your child. Make sure that your child has a good night’s rest beforehand, and ensure that they take a bottle of water to the test. Small rituals of this type can create confidence and a feeling of familiarity.

Read the Instructions for each Question

It might be tempting to skip over the instructions for each question in the VR section, as there are many different types. Unless your child is an especially quick reader and very confident on each question type, try to avoid this. Remember also that a new question type might be introduced – so encourage your child to read the brief for each part if they feel at all confused or that something is different.
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