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What is on the 11 plus (11+) verbal reasoning exam?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction to the 11 plus (11+) verbal reasoning exam

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The 11+ verbal reasoning exam is often considered the most challenging part of this assessment. Many people think you can’t prepare for verbal reasoning, but this is untrue. Candidates who take the time to familiarise themselves with question types and how to answer them have a distinct advantage in the exam. 

Verbal reasoning is not part of the Key Stage 2 national curriculum, so it is unlikely that your child would have seen these types of questions at school. This can cause unnecessary stress on exam day, and your child could waste time just trying to figure out what to do, so it is vital that they are familiar with verbal reasoning before they take the 11+.

Verbal reasoning assesses your child’s language-based problem-solving abilities by testing their vocabulary, spelling, arithmetic, and pattern recognition skills. Your child will need a broad vocabulary and a good understanding of word definitions in and out of context to do well in this exam. In a verbal reasoning exam, your child will be expected to: 

  • Find patterns and apply their rules
  • Understand different word meanings 
  • Accurately spell
  • Use core maths skills 
  • Apply logical thinking skills


The first step in preparing for the 11+ verbal reasoning exam is knowing what to expect from the paper, including structure, question type and content. The exact format of your child’s 11+ paper will depend on the exam board or school that administers the test. Granda Learning (GL) structure its tests differently from Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), so it is vital that you know which examining body is administering the exam and what your child can expect from this assessment.  

The types of questions in the 11 plus (11+) verbal reasoning exam

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Your child could receive many different types of questions in their 11+ verbal reasoning exam. Below are some of the topics your child could face in their 11+ verbal reasoning exam:

  • Odd one out/odd two out

Your child will be given sets of words, and they have to work out which one(s) don’t fit with the others.

  • Shades of meaning 

Candidates are given a set of words, and they have to identify either two words that are closest in similarity or most opposite.

  • Analogy questions

These usually take the form of ‘is…to’ questions. For example, Night is to dark as day is to light.

  • Word puzzles
    • Identifying words within words
    • Missing letters
    • Swapped vowels in words
    • Scrambled words with missing letters
    • Combining two words to create compound words
    • Spotting hidden words in sentences
    • Moving letters between words to make new words
  • Logic puzzles
    • Letter logic
    • Number logic
    • Deductions 
    • Statement logic
  • Alphabet puzzles

Candidates are asked to crack a code that follows an alphabetical pattern. Children are expected to work out the link between the letters they have been given and apply that knowledge to find the answer.

  • Vocabulary-based questions

These questions test a child’s knowledge and understanding of words, meanings, and usage. For example, students might be asked to find synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms or to spot the connection between words.

How to help your child prepare for the 11 plus (11+) verbal reasoning exam

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  • Practice papers and resources

Working through papers can help students become familiar with the exam format, question types and time constraints. It also allows you or your child’s teacher to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Focus on areas where they struggle and allocate more time to practice those specific topics. 

Numerous resources are available to aid in preparation, including revision guides, online resources, and tutor support. At Examberry, we offer a wide range of 11+ revision resources and 11+ practice papers to try. Here, you can access practice papers for verbal reasoning, enabling you to precisely determine your child’s strengths and the areas they need to work on. We also have a variety of area and school-specific resources, so you can find tailored support for the school your child is applying to.

  • Building vocabulary

An expansive vocabulary is helpful for this exam, as many of the questions rely on knowledge of word definitions, synonyms and antonyms. You should encourage reading and using vocabulary-building activities, games, and apps. 

Introducing your child to a variety of fiction and non-fiction books not only expands their vocabulary but also familiarises them with sentence structures and literary devices, which will be very useful for future exams such as the 11+.

Another excellent way to help your child build their vocabulary for their 11+ verbal reasoning exam is to incorporate revision into daily tasks. For example, you could ask them to define words on the way to school, get them to spell different words and their synonyms in fridge magnets, or give them weekly spelling tests, increasing the difficulty level gradually.

  • Timed exercises

Teaching your child to allocate their time wisely during the exam is vital in preparing for the 11+. Regularly giving your child timed tests helps them get used to exam conditions, fostering familiarity with the time constraints and improving speed and accuracy in solving problems.

  • Interactive learning

Using fun and engaging interactive learning tools is a great way to strengthen your child’s verbal reasoning skills. Games, puzzles, and interactive lessons can make learning more enjoyable and less intimidating for children. 

These interactive learning tools often use vibrant visuals, exercises, and reward systems to motivate children. You could select apps or websites that are particularly good for building vocabulary. 

  • Establish a study schedule

A consistent and balanced study routine is vital for preparing for the 11+ exam. Having a regular study plan, setting time aside each day and staying organised can ensure your child has plenty of time to practise. You should encourage your child to take regular breaks and get enough sleep, as too much work could overload them. 

A structured schedule also helps you, your child’s teacher, or maybe even a private tutor track which topics they have covered and determine how much time they need to spend on each subject.

  • Provide support and offer constructive feedback

You should maintain open communication with your child about their concerns and progress. Offer support, encouragement, and constructive feedback, and reassure them of their capabilities.

Providing your child with regular constructive feedback is crucial for their learning. Focus on their strengths and encourage them to check, proofread, and edit their work. Praise your child’s efforts and reassure them that making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

Examberry Papers

One of the most effective way to prepare for an 11+ entrance exam is to use practice tests written by experts.

We offer a range of  11+ revision resources including area & school-specific papers, subject-specific papers, spelling & vocabulary resources, and reading books.

Each of our practice tests:

Key recommendations for the 11+ verbal reasoning exam

Further recommendations for the 11+ verbal reasoning exam

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