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What is Verbal Reasoning?

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

Verbal reasoning is your ability to think using words. It is commonly used as one of the 11+ sections, although not universally. Verbal reasoning is heavily reliant on a child’s previous learning as well as their intelligence – despite being touted as being far more a predictor of intelligence than the English section, for example. This means that the section can be prepared for in much the same way as any other.

Many pupils will find that they have a natural ability with verbal reasoning type questions, especially those who enjoy logic puzzles and those who are avid readers. For other pupils, there can be a steep learning curve before they feel comfortable with these kinds of questions. Whilst they are supposed to be concepts that a child can pick up and apply without prior learning, you will find that without prior preparation some parts of the section could be very difficult.

You should be aware of what type of VR paper is in use in the area that you’re in. The GL Assessment tests are most widely used, although you might find CEM papers or even an independent school which has devised its own papers. There will typically be 21 question types present in a paper, and these are widely agreed on as being a particular set of 21 which you should revise beforehand. Papers are typically presented in ‘standard’ format which means that you must write in the answers yourself – although some will be multiple choice. If the school that you are applying to does not use the GL, then you should endeavour to practise using as wide a range of materials as possible to ensure that you cover any possible question types.

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An Overview of Verbal Reasoning Questions

In general you will find that question types can be broken down into logic questions and vocabulary questions. Different pupils will find one or the other question more accessible. Vocabulary questions are, as the name suggests, much more reliant on a student’s learned vocabulary than they are on their ability to use reasoning – but there remains an element of reasoning. You might have to recognise which word is the opposite of another, consider which two words are most alike in a group of three, or find how one word relates to another. You will need to be confident on different spellings and different meanings for given words. Logic questions are heavily reliant on a student’s ability to follow a particular process. In reality, you can learn these processes and deploy them in the exam with a high degree of confidence. This can mean that for some children who aren’t so widely read, the logic questions may be more approachable in the end, despite seeming difficult at first.

Some of the typical question types that you should be aware of include:
– finding and inserting a hidden, smaller word into a larger word – e.g. TIN in plaTINum
– finding the two words that don’t fit a larger group of five, e.g. lion, lynx, dog, cheetah, puppy
– Finding the synonyms
– Finding an antonym
– Code-based questions in which you must represent a letter of the alphabet with a number
– Questions in which you are provided with an overview of the alphabet and asked to re-arrange letters in certain patterns

There are also some numbers-based questions in the verbal reasoning test, which might seem strange. However, they are questions that are heavily reliant on logic, and should be seen as ‘reasoning’ questions. You will often be asked to complete a sequence, e.g:
1,2,3,5,8,13,21 – Here we can see that the next number is the sum of the previous two, for example.

You may also be asked to solve sums in which you are told that the numbers are represented by certain letters.

The actual mathematics involved is very simple – it’s your reasoning that’s being tested rather than your mathematical ability. 

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Key Takeaways

Having a wide vocabulary is core to this test. Generally, that will simply come from being wide-read. If you have plenty of time to prepare it is therefore crucial to consider upping the amount of reading being done, as well as finding exercises that work to increase the vocabulary. Additionally, being aware of simple English concepts like synonyms and antonyms – and knowing common ones, as well as less common – will set you in good stead. The logic questions require a very different mindset to the vocabulary questions, and can be prepared for using logic puzzles like crosswords as well as practice papers.
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