How to Prepare for the 11+ Verbal Reasoning

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

Whilst it is a reasoning test, the Verbal Reasoning section of the 11+ can, and should, be extensively prepared for. Here we’ll consider some of the core parts of preparation for this section of the exam. We’ll consider each in order, from the beginning of preparation through to the exam itself.

Gauge Your Current Level

Before you begin preparation, you need to understand the level that your child is currently at. There are various ways to do this, but the simplest might be the best – look into which exam board they’re likely to sit, then work through a practice paper from that board with them. Recognise areas where they’re weaker or stronger, and look to get an overall impression of their aptitude for the section.

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Check English Knowledge

In sync with this, you should check that your child’s ability in terms of basic English key skills is at the level that it ought to be. Remember that Verbal Reasoning will require a child to understand the concepts of synonyms and antonyms, understand when words are being used to describe other words, and have solid vocabulary and spelling.

Check Basic Maths Knowledge

This is a verbal reasoning paper – which typically means that it involves some ‘reasoning’ questions that are less verbal, and more mathematical. Two common abilities that are tested are understanding mathematical sequences – also tested in the Maths section – and BODMAS, which will be required for questions in which you must perform simple calculations using letters to represent numbers.

Encourage Advanced Reading

Well before any directed practice begins, you should encourage your child to read as widely as possible – and to read at as high a level as possible. Many questions are vocabulary based, and having that vocabulary will mean easy marks. Typically, you will find that the exam tests more old-fashioned or classical vocabulary that your child is less likely to encounter on the internet and much more likely to encounter in classic books. Try to encourage them to read some of the more accessible classics, or even more old-fashioned books aimed at older children and younger adolescents. Remember that reading regularly will help your child process words more easily – which will make the test an easier undertaking in turn.

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Improve Vocabulary

As well as reading, you should undertake vocabulary specific exercises. There are different techniques that will work better for different children, and you will understand what will work best. You might encourage your child to keep a notebook of new words, or use a vocabulary book aimed at children of their age. Try to encourage your child to write out new vocabulary, or even find a fun way to integrate testing their vocabulary into everyday life. You could do vocabulary tests in which they win prizes, or play word games with them.

Improve Memory

Vocabulary learning requires a good memory. You might therefore consider integrating memory games as well. Try to find good examples online, or find simple techniques that are proven to boost memory. Remember, this will be of use for general development as much as it is for Verbal Reasoning specifically!

Practice Papers

Of course, any preparation will be geared towards eventually tackling practice papers. Remember to bear in mind here which exam board your child is attempting. Remember that GL Assessment is the most commonly used board, and that they include basic maths and ‘code’ type questions as well as more obviously ‘verbal’ questions. Compare this to the CEM papers which are slightly more orientated towards vocabulary and comprehension – but that the simple arithmetic puzzles will therefore be tested in other sections instead.

Additionally, ensure that you do not focus only on the one paper type. The exam board may well add new question types or change their format, so to prepare your child for one specific challenge only, without allowing for any variation, could lead to them failing to adjust if they find the exam to be very different to what they have practised.

We would therefore recommend that children undertake all practice papers possible – from all exam boards – as well as a selection of multiple choice practice questions. It would be advisable to begin with practice questions, as well as untimed past papers from different exam boards than that which your child will be sitting. Begin to increase the amount of timed work as your child progresses.

Only towards the end of this focused preparation time should you shift the focus towards the past papers specifically from the relevant exam board – so that your child can gain as much from them as possible.
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