Non Verbal Reasoning: Most Similar Shape

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

This is a question type that relies on your ability to see similarity. That similarity can range from simple and easy to spot, to complex and requiring real deduction.

What does this question type involve?

You are provided with three figures on the left of the page. Each of the figures is like the others in some way. You are then given five figures on the right, and have to select the one that is most like the ones on the left. Let’s illustrate this with an example, taken from a GL Assessments past paper.

Here you should notice that the shapes on the left are all different, but all feature a dot in their centre. Therefore, the correct answer must be the shape with the black dot in – which is option E.

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Example question

Let’s consider another example question from a past paper.

Here, the compound shape is always a line with a rectangle on it. The rectangle is unshaded. As such, the correct answer must be B, which features an unshaded rectangle on a line. E is incorrect as there are two rectangles, and C has a shaded rectangle.

4 Steps: Shape, Rotations, Shading, Size

As with the majority of the non-verbal reasoning questions, you should be focused on four major aspects. Start by looking at shape. This is the most basic consideration. However, shape here can be much more complex than just ‘is this a square’ for example. Consider the compound shape, which might be made up of a mixture of lines, circles, squares, etc. Consider how the shape is put together.

Rotation is your next consideration. Are all the shapes pointed in one particular direction, or is part of them always rotated in one direction? Are there arrows that always point in one direction? Rotation can be complex in this type of question.

Next, look at shading. Consider where the shading is, and the type of shading – whether it’s solid, crosshatch, dotted, or whether there’s no shading at all.

Lastly, consider the size of the shapes. Is there always a central shape that’s larger than the others, for example? Is there always a series of shapes that have one larger than the others? As with the other areas of this question type, make sure to delve into the possible complexities here.

Worked Implementation

Let’s consider this question taken from a past paper. We’ll begin by considering the shape. The shape is different in each of the three figures on the left, so a simple shape-based answer can’t be correct. However, let’s dig a little deeper. Note that the shape inside the outer shape is always the same as it, but shaded solid. For example, the figure on the left is a black circle within an outer circle.

Now, consider rotation. It looks like the part of the outer shape that is shaded is different each time. However, there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why the shading is rotated in the manner that it is.

Next is shading. Within each shape, part of the outer shape is shaded. Each time, it seems to be exactly ¼ of the outside that is shaded, irrespective of the type of shape.

The size of the shapes doesn’t seem to be a factor – each shape is the same compound of larger outer shape with smaller inner shape.

Therefore, the correct answer has to have an inner shape that is the same as the outer shape. The inner shape has to be shaded solid black. The outer shape has to be ¼ shaded exactly. The only option which makes sense therefore is C, which is a rectangle with one side shaded.

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Top Tricks

Be prepared for a high degree of complexity in these questions. There might be a few different factors at play, of which only one or two will affect the answer. This is illustrated above, where you might at first think the rotation of the shading is important, or that the amount of shading depends on the shape – but in reality it’s much more simple, and the shading is just ¼ of the shape each time.

Common Pitfalls

As above, don’t be tricked by there being many elements involved. Focus on each in turn and try to break each down as much as you can.


As with the majority of NVR questions, focus on shape, rotation, shading and size. Follow the process. If needed, skip over particularly complex questions and return to them later, or dedicate more time to questions that you can answer, as some of these questions can be very tough.
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