Non Verbal Reasoning: Missing Shape

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

This is a question type that relies heavily on pattern recognition. The questions can feature 4 shapes or 9, and each set will have one missing.

What does this question type involve?

You will be provided with a square. That square is divided into either four or 9 squares, and within each smaller square is a shape. However, one square has a missing shape. This is best illustrated through an example question:

Let’s look at an official past paper question:

Here, we have four shapes. In order to determine what is in the bottom right corner, we need to look at the relationship between the top two shapes. The chevron has been rotated 90 degrees to the right. Therefore, to find the shape in the bottom right we can rotate it 90 degrees to the right – which means that option A is correct here.

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Example question

Let’s look at another example question from a sample paper.

This is a more complex question, although again it only features four squares. Here, the main shape has been rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise. The square attached to it has rotated exactly with it – i.e. the entire compound shape has rotated 90 degrees together. That means that D is correct, as it features a 90 degree rotation anticlockwise.

4+1 Steps: Shape, Rotations, Shading, Size, Pattern

Stick to the same core factors as you might for other question types: the shape, rotations, shading of the shapes, the sizes. However, you must also consider the pattern here. That will become more obvious in a 9 square question.

Begin by looking at the shape. With a four square, for example, you’ll be transforming the bottom shape – which might be different to the top shape. However, it’s possible that shapes may swap places with one another in different ways too.

Next, consider rotation. This is a common part of the question type – it was seen in the example above. Make sure to consider how this could affect a shape in both a 4 square and 9 square.

Your next step is to consider the shading of the shape. This is particularly important, as shading here can involve crosshatch shading that might change direction, and different types of shading ranging from dots through to solid through to crosshatch.

Next, check the size of the shapes. Again, this is particularly relevant with this question type, as the shapes will vary in size. In a 9 square pattern, for example, there could be three different shapes and each could have three different sizes.

Lastly, you need to look at the pattern. This is vital with a 9 square shape. We’ll look at an example below to illustrate this. You must follow the way that the shapes iterate – they generally will move in a diagonal across, like this:

This pattern can take some getting used to, but will be invaluable when you begin to spot it quickly.

Worked Implementation

Here, we start by looking at the shapes. We will notice that there is only one type of shape, although it does vary. As such, let’s look further at the variety – some shapes have two outside lines, and some have one only.

Rotation doesn’t seem to play a role here at all, as all shapes are rotated the same.

Next is shading. You’ll notice that the outside of some shapes is dashed, while the others have a solid line.

Last is size. By now, we should be aware that there are three types of the shape – a double solid line, a solid line, and a dashed line version. Each seems to have a large, medium and small version.

So, let’s consider the pattern. Shapes go large, medium, small, as they move down, although they may start with any size at the top. We are looking for the missing double circle. It must be the small one, as the pattern dictates that that is the missing shape. Therefore the correct option is C.

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Top Tricks

Practise following patterns across diagonally, and make sure you’re aware of how small changes move within the patterns. Practise both four-square and nine square versions.

Common Pitfalls

A common error would be failing to take note of the size of shapes, as you might become too focused on the shading or other aspects.


Make sure to follow the process through logically, and pay particular attention to the pattern when it is a nine square question.
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