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11+ Verbal Reasoning Explained

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Navigating the world of the 11+ exams can feel like uncharted territory, filled with unfamiliar jargon and demanding new skills from your child. One such term you may have come across is ‘Verbal Reasoning.’ If you find yourself asking, “What on earth is that?” or “How can I help my child prepare?” – you’re not alone.

So, buckle up, parents, as we embark on this journey to understand and conquer 11+ Verbal Reasoning!

What is Verbal Reasoning?

Simply put, Verbal Reasoning is the ability to understand and reason using words and language. It’s about thinking clearly, making deductions, and solving problems – all with words.

Unlike your child’s standard curriculum at school, Verbal Reasoning isn’t about memorising facts or figures, but instead, it focuses on evaluating your child’s skill to think constructively. It’s a test of intelligence and logic, not learnt knowledge.

Your child will encounter a range of questions in a Verbal Reasoning exam, such as spotting letter sequences, solving word problems, and decoding letters and numbers. Surprisingly, this aspect of the exam can even dip its toes into mathematical concepts – a reminder that Verbal Reasoning is about problem-solving skills in a broad sense.

Now you may wonder, what does it take for your child to excel in Verbal Reasoning? A broad vocabulary, a good grasp of synonyms and antonyms, and a solid foundation in Maths and English can all contribute to a successful performance. But above all, an inquisitive mind and a knack for critical thinking are your child’s best allies in this journey.

So, now that we have demystified what Verbal Reasoning is, let’s dive into how we can enhance these skills at home. But before we do, remember, it’s not a race. It’s about fostering an environment that cultivates these skills naturally and enjoyably.

The Importance of Verbal Reasoning in 11+ Exam

As we navigate through the labyrinth of exam preparation, it’s crucial to understand the significance of Verbal Reasoning in the 11+ exam.

Verbal Reasoning is not merely another topic to conquer. It’s a window into your child’s thinking processes and a tool that assesses their potential to succeed in a variety of disciplines. It does not just look at how much they know, but how well they can apply this knowledge, reason out problems, and think critically.

Why is this so important, you ask? Verbal Reasoning in the 11+ exam is designed to reveal a child’s innate problem-solving abilities, their comprehension skills, and their aptitude to extract and use information. These skills are valuable across all subject areas, not just English. They are fundamental for success in subjects like Science, History, and Mathematics as well.

It’s also worth mentioning that Verbal Reasoning tests are less influenced by prior tutoring or learning, making them a more accurate gauge of a child’s natural ability. They identify children who are adept at thinking on their feet, those who have the skills to learn, adapt, and excel, regardless of the specific curriculum taught in their school.

In the real world, being able to reason verbally is an invaluable skill. It helps in clearly expressing thoughts, comprehending complex instructions, and engaging in meaningful conversations. In essence, it equips children with the tools they need to navigate through life, whether it be in academia, their professional careers, or personal lives.

Improving Vocabulary for Verbal Reasoning

A Student Preparing for 11+ Verbal Reasoning
A Student Preparing for 11+ Verbal Reasoning

For the uninitiated, mastering Verbal Reasoning might seem a gargantuan task. However, strengthening one key area can drastically enhance your child’s performance: their vocabulary. While this may sound straightforward, it can be one of the most effective strategies in equipping your child for the 11+ exam and beyond.

Expanding vocabulary does not just mean knowing more words; it’s about understanding the nuances, meanings, synonyms, and antonyms of words. This kind of linguistic proficiency is an asset in Verbal Reasoning tests, which often require pupils to identify relationships between words, solve problems using language, and crack codes based on letters and numbers.

So how do we help our children build this mighty vocabulary?

1. Encourage reading

Foster a love for reading in your child. Books, newspapers, magazines – the written word in any form can help. The more diverse the reading material, the broader the vocabulary. Don’t worry if Shakespeare seems too daunting right now; there are plenty of age-appropriate books that can stimulate interest and learning.

2. Play word-based games

Word-based board games such as Scrabble or Boggle can be an enjoyable and interactive way of learning new words. Other games like word searches, crossword puzzles, or even digital word games can also be great resources.

3. Use digital resources

In our technology-driven world, there are numerous online tools and apps designed to boost vocabulary. These range from vocabulary flashcards, quizzes, to interactive language games.

4. Practice writing

Writing is another powerful tool for vocabulary building. Encourage your child to write stories, essays, or even diary entries, and then review these together, exploring opportunities to use a more diverse set of words.

5. Engage in meaningful conversations

Simple, daily discussions on varied topics can expose your child to different words and ideas, enhancing their vocabulary and comprehension.

Remember, vocabulary building is not a quick fix. It’s a gradual process that requires consistent effort and practice. So, take it one word at a time, making learning fun and integrated into your child’s daily life, and soon, you’ll be on your way to conquering Verbal Reasoning!

Practicing Verbal Reasoning at Home

One of the best things about preparing for the Verbal Reasoning component of the 11+ exam is that much of it can be done in the comfort of your own home, incorporated seamlessly into your family’s daily routine. Here are some strategies you can employ to help your child hone their Verbal Reasoning skills.

1. Daily Vocabulary Challenges

Make vocabulary-building a fun, daily ritual. Introduce a ‘word of the day’ and challenge your child to use it in conversation. You could even hold weekly spelling bees or play ‘synonym-antonym’ games, encouraging your child to find alternative or opposite words.

2. Sentence Construction Games

Disordered sentences can be a common question type in Verbal Reasoning tests. You can help your child practice this skill by writing down sentences, jumbling up the words, and then asking your child to arrange them correctly.

3. Reading Sessions

Regularly set aside time for reading. It could be a bedtime story, a news article discussion during breakfast, or an afternoon book club. Use this time to discuss the material, ask comprehension questions, and explore new words.

4. Encourage Critical Thinking

Verbal reasoning isn’t just about language fluency; it’s also about logical thinking and problem-solving. Foster these skills by encouraging your child to explain their reasoning when solving puzzles or making decisions.

5. Make Use of Online Resources

The internet is rich with resources to aid Verbal Reasoning practice, including online tests, digital books, and educational games. Websites like BOFA and Love Reading 4 Kids offer a plethora of material to engage your child in skill-building.

6. Familiarise with Different Question Types

The 11+ Verbal Reasoning test can contain a variety of question types, from ‘choose a word’ to ‘find synonyms’. Using resources like CGP books or online platforms, introduce your child to these different styles to ensure they’re prepared for anything the test throws at them.

Example Exercises for Verbal Reasoning

The best way to understand the kind of challenges your child might encounter in the 11+ Verbal Reasoning exam is to dive right into some examples. Here are a few exercises that mimic the format of questions in the test, along with brief explanations on how to approach them.

1. Shuffled Sentences

In this exercise, your child will be given a sentence with jumbled words, and they have to arrange them in the correct order.

Question: “was very and sewer dirty the in it”

Answer: “It was very dirty in the sewer.”

To solve this, your child should look for clues like the subject (usually a noun), the verb (the action in the sentence), and the object (what the action is directed at). In this case, the subject is “it”, the verb is “was”, and the object is “sewer”.

2. Synonyms

In this exercise, your child will be asked to find a word that has the same, or nearly the same meaning as the given word.

Question: “sizeable sturdy robust impressive immense”

Answer: “immense”

This requires a good vocabulary and understanding of synonyms. Encourage your child to use elimination to narrow down the choices if they are unsure.

3. Choose a Word

This exercise involves choosing the correct words to complete a passage.

(Insert a passage with missing words here. Include a list of possible words to fill the gaps.)

This exercise requires your child to understand the context and meaning of the passage. Practice by reading and discussing a variety of texts together.

4. Odd Word Out

Your child needs to identify the word that doesn’t fit with the others.

Example: “apple banana pear chair”

Answer: “chair”

In this case, “chair” doesn’t fit because all the other words are names of fruits.

By trying out these exercises, your child can get familiar with the types of questions they’ll face in the Verbal Reasoning component of the 11+ exam. Remember, practice is key, but so is understanding. Encourage your child to ask questions and explore multiple strategies when working through these exercises.


As parents, we want to equip our children with everything they need to excel. It is our responsibility to support and encourage them to explore, learn, and understand. The task may seem daunting, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Just like building a vocabulary, it’s done one brick at a time.

Don’t forget the invaluable power of patience and resilience. Each stumble and each moment of confusion is a step closer to understanding. So, keep your child motivated, acknowledge their efforts, and remind them that every great learner once didn’t know.

And if you ever feel like your child could use a little extra help or guidance along the way, remember that Edumentors is here to lend a hand. Our tutors are current students at top UK universities who have navigated these same waters and come out on top. They are experts at teaching other students how to achieve their desired results, boost their confidence, and unlock their full potential.

Edumentors‘ 11+ tutors understand the complexities of the exam and have the knowledge and passion to make learning engaging and enjoyable. They don’t just teach – they mentor, they inspire and they guide, turning hurdles into stepping stones for the students.

Your child’s journey towards mastering verbal reasoning starts here. With a spirit of curiosity, a love for language, and a little bit of help from a dedicated Edumentors tutor, there’s no limit to what they can achieve. Good luck, and happy learning!


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