A guide to teaching your child 11 plus Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning is a test of skill as opposed to a test of knowledge, which is why it is important that your child prepares fully for this aspect of the 11 plus exam. The skills required are language based hence the name verbal reasoning. Your child will not be taught all relevant skills at school. Here we explain what verbal reasoning is and how you can help your child at home. 

What is Verbal Reasoning in the 11 plus?

In essence, verbal reasoning is thinking with words. An extensive vocabulary is required coupled with speed and accuracy. Verbal reasoning skills include solving word problems, identifying sequences, and cracking letter and number-based codes. Yes, it is surprising to see mathematical concepts on the English paper but the problem solving skill remains the same.

How can you help your child with Verbal Reasoning at home?

Boost Vocabulary

Encourage lots of reading! Groan…

Seriously children who read widely have an advantage as their general knowledge and vocabulary is enhanced.

I am not suggesting you should force your child to read the complete works of Shakespeare! In reality, lots of children are reluctant readers, and boosting vocabulary isn’t just of benefit to the 11 plus it’s a life skill that will enable your child to express themselves. 

My top 3 tips:

  1. Get your child to enjoy reading

Easier said than done? I disagree… choose titles that are of interest to your child, what is their passion? You can access free books on a plethora of topics at Love Reading 4 Kids.

  1. Play Board Games

We have had so much more time at home recently, board games are a great way to boost vocabulary without your child knowing it! Scrabble, Bananagrams, Articulate, Boggle to name but a few.

  1. Use Screen Addiction

Avoid techno-tantrums by providing computer based revision – this isn’t just pertinent to boosting vocabulary but to all aspects of the 11 plus including comprehension. There are specific vocabulary apps out there and children don’t see these at ‘work’, revision can be carried out anytime anywhere. Check out the recommended website section for further links.

What’s our approach to Verbal Reasoning?

  • Regular vocabulary checks – each session commences with a vocabulary starter. Weekly home learning includes new vocabulary.
  • Fluency – we teach and practice each skill required in an abstract manner.
  • Problem Solving – once fluent we apply the skill taught to the context of the 11 plus.
  • Revisit – we regularly revisit the skills taught to ensure pupils have retained and therefore mastered the skill.

Why not try some of these example Verbal Reasoning exercises?

Shuffled Sentences

Rearrange the words so that the sentence makes sense.

Underline the word that doesn’t fit in the sentence. 

  1. it for time was late bed

To become fluent in this skill children must be aware of sentence structure and word class. All sentences contain a subject, verb, and an object – we teach fluency in identifying each within a sentence before attempting to reorder.

Once fluent your child will be able to identify the subject as it, the verbs as time and was, and the object as bed.

It was time for bed.

Leaving late to be the word that does not fit. Two confusing words are often added and children will be required to play around with adjectives and adverbs, all of which is part of the fluency process at Super Tutoring.

Now try these:

  1. was dirty very and sewer the in it
  2. cinema the a gave film horror me nightmare
  3. I to be polishing my repaired shoes took


Find the word that means the same, or nearly the same as the word on the left.

  1. cup          bowl fork mug plate

Answer – mug

A strong vocabulary and knowledge of synonyms is required for this skill. Children may be asked the same thing in varying ways:

Underline the two words, one from each set of brackets, which have the most similar meaning.

  1. (plate bowl cup)          (fork mug whisk)

Answer – (plate bowl cup)          (fork mug whisk)

Now try these:

  1. (slide skip tumble)         (fall dive skate)
  2. sizeable          sturdy robust impressive immense         
  3. (collapse crush ruin)          (injure spoil wound)

Choose a Word

Choose the correct words to complete the passage below.

Answers – useful, is, nothing, satisfaction, created

Again a strong vocabulary is required.

Now try this passage:

Provide Resources

Here at Super Tutoring, we follow the same method as CGP. I would recommend familiarising yourself with each of the Verbal Reasoning question styles before introducing them to your child. 

There are 21 standard question types which include; spot the odd one out, shuffled sentences, finding antonyms, etc. The question types are resourced brilliantly in the CGP books for both the Granada Learning (GL) and Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) assessments. The more your child is exposed to question types the more familiar and time efficient they will become.

Useful Websites

11 Plus For Parents

Provides information for parents on the common question types with examples and downloadable resources.

Education Quizzes

Provides online quizzes for each aspect of verbal reasoning.

Love Reading For Kids

Houses a plethora of downloadable reading materials on varying topics.

Get in touch with us

Super Tutoring prepares children for the 11 plus exam by plugging the gap between what’s taught at school and what’s needed to pass the exam. Build your child’s subject knowledge and improve their confidence: Book a 15-minute chat with me to find out how we can help.