Non Verbal Reasoning: Odd Shape Out

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

This is a common question type, in which you have to choose the shape that is least like the other four shapes.

What does this question type involve?

You are provided with five shapes. Of the shapes, four will have a similarity that the other one does not. You must try to find the shape that doesn’t fit with the others, and select it. For example, if you were given five shapes, of which four were unshaded and one was shaded, and all the shapes were different – then you would choose the shaded shape. Let’s look at this, as it is a real example question from a previous GL 11+ Paper:

Here, it’s immediately obvious that the correct answer must be B.

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Example questions

Let’s look at another official past question.

This is much more complex than the one above, and you might need to give it some more thought. There are different shapes each time, and the number of dots within the shape varies as welo – in some it is 6, and in others it is 7. So, let’s look at the dots – we notice that there is a relationship between the number of white dots and the number of lines at the bottom. For all options bar A, the number of white dots is equal to the number of lines at the bottom. Therefore, A is the odd one out. 

5+1 factor approach: Shapes, sides, rotation, dots, lines. Shading.

These questions can vary hugely in difficulty, from simple questions where you need to realise that one shape has three sides and the others all have four, through to complex shapes where you need to consider the relationship between rotation and dots, for example.

You should always begin with the simplest possibility – that the shapes are all the same, bar one. There may well be one or two questions that are this simple, so don’t discount this at the outset. If that’s not the case, then you need to consider the number of sides. Again, this is a very simple possibility – are all the shapes four sided? Are they all six sided? Remember that they can use different shapes with an equal number of sides to throw you here. If you still haven’t found the answer, then consider the rotation of the shapes. For example, are all the shapes triangles rotated such that the flat side is at the bottom, bar one? Are all the shapes at a diagonal, bar one?

If not, then move onto considering dots and lines. Note that other complexities are possible here, like added circles or arrows – but in general dots and lines are favoured. Count the number of dots and check if it is the same in each. See if you can spot a pattern which rules out one of the shapes. Lastly, look at the number of extra lines. Are the lines matched to the number of sides of the shape? Perhaps they’re matched to the number of dots within the shapes.

If you still can’t find the solution, consider how shading could affect the result. In the example above, the shading of the dots was the key – so we’d need to work through the process until the end to find the answer. 

Worked Implementation

Let’s look at an official past paper example.

We might be tempted to focus on the complexities immediately here – we can see the diagonal line, the circle and the extra rectangle. Instead, let’s work through the process. We begin by looking at the shapes – are all the shapes the same? Immediately, we can see that they are not. Next, let’s consider whether they have the same number of sides. C has 5 sides, and all the rest have four. Now, we should quickly think through the rest of the possibilities here – given that all the shapes have a rectangle at the bottom and a circle at the top, and that the rotation of the diagonal line varies across multiple shapes, the number of sides is the answer. This question, which looked difficult, was actually straightforward.

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Top Tricks

Focus on simple solutions first, and work through the process logically. Try to avoid being confused and distracted by additional details, or trying to assess everything all at once.

Common Pitfalls

As stated above, students will often become overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them, and therefore fail to focus on the simple answer that might be right in front of them.


To summarise, make sure to work through step by step, and keep focused on each step. Only after you have gone through each should you include the possibility of a more complex relationship between parts of the process.
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