What is the verbal reasoning section of the 11+?  - The 11 Plus Journey

The 11 Plus Journey


What is the verbal reasoning section of the 11+? 

Get 20% off your first month and a 5-day free trial with Atom Learning

Guest blog post by Jonathan Ellis of Atom Learning 


For a list of online subscription sites for 11 plus, read our blog on the various options you have.

The verbal reasoning section can cause its fair share of test anxiety. It is designed to test a child’s critical thinking and logic skills but is not a topic commonly covered in primary school classrooms. As such, it may be the first time your child comes across these styles of questions. 

However, verbal reasoning builds on a lot of the skills covered in the Key Stage 2 English and Maths curriculum. So, some of the building blocks will be there. With a little bit of preparation, a dash of enthusiasm and plenty of practice, your child’s confidence in these questions will grow. 

So, what’s on the verbal reasoning section? I’ve summarised the key sections below.


Words and Wordplay 

What’s on it? These are the questions that will be most familiar to your children. They will test things like synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, anagrams and word puzzles. 

Example question: this video goes over ‘synonyms’ and the type of verbal reasoning synonym questions your child can expect! 

How should I prepare my child? 

Honestly, boosting your child’s vocabulary through plenty of reading outside of school is the best preparation here. I get any students I work with to keep a vocabulary journal of new words they come across. Make sure they review it 2-3 times a week. You can make it fun using online tools like Quizlet / Kahoot. Making sure your child is familiar with prefixes and suffixes is also important to help them define unknown words in the test. 


Patterns and Functions 

What’s on it? 

Okay, these questions can be a bit wild. A lot of these questions are to do with cracking codes in sequences. 

Example question

Which two letter pairs will complete this sequence?

__ ZF WJ SN NR __

The answer: BB, HV 

  • 1st letter rule: the letter moves backwards progressively two places, three places, four places.
  • 2nd letter rule: the letter moves forwards four  places in upper case. 

How should I prepare my child? 

There are four key sequences your child needs to know for these questions – make sure they know them off by heart! You can find a summary of them in this presentation from one of our free live lessons. 

These questions will be quite different from anything they’ve seen in school, so if your child struggles with them it may be worth subscribing to Atom to access our unlimited practice questions. 


What’s on it? 

These questions require your child to deduce conclusions from a set of statements. 

Example Question 

Statement one: Some slime is pink. 

Statement two: All slime contains sodium borate.

Which conclusion can we draw from the above statements? 

  1. All slime is pink. 

Wrong – statement one says only ‘some’ slime is pink. 

  1. Slime often contains sodium borate. 

Wrong – statement two says ‘all’ slime contains sodium borate. 

  1. Slime can be purple. 

Wrong – neither statement mentions purple slime. Your child can only use the statements to work out the answer, even if they know slime can be purple! 

  1. Slime is never blue. 

Wrong – again, none of the statements mention blue slime. 

  1. Slime can come in pink.  

Correct – bingo! Statement one says ‘some’ slime is pink; this means slime can indeed come in pink. This is the only conclusion we can prove using the two statements. 

How should I prepare my child? 

These questions can even make my brain hurt, but the best thing to teach your child is to read critically. I know this sounds a bit nebulous – but teach them to look out for words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. These are absolute terms: does the statement really always apply? Can we prove that using the statements we are given? 


What’s on it? 

In these questions, letters are used to replace numbers. Your child will need to work out which numbers represent the different letters and then calculate the answer. 

Example Question 

 v = 13, w = 7, r = 8, y = 15, and z = 6. Which letter balances the below equation? 

(y – r) x z= z2 + ?


(15 – 8) x 6 = 62 + ? 

7 x 6 = 36 + ? 

42 = 36 + ? 

6 = ? = z

How should I prepare my child? 

Your child should be pretty well prepared for these question types, as they build on a lot of key topics from the Key Stage 2 national curriculum (BIDMAS, operations, etc). If your child is applying to a particularly selective school, I would advise making sure they are comfortable with algebra as these can be key differentiator questions. 

Next Steps: 

  • If you are teaching your child verbal reasoning for the first time, I would encourage you to sign up for Atom’s free 5-day trial and have a go at one of our unlimited Verbal Reasoning Mock Tests. 
  • The data you get from the tests should help you identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • If your child enjoyed using Atom and you like the data you get, consider signing up to help with 11+ prep. 

Get 20% off your first month and a 5-day free trial with Atom Learning


I’m an online teacher with Atom Learning and have 5+ years of experience in education. Want to get in touch? Feel free to reach out to me via email or on LinkedIn

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop