Summer term is about to begin, and for children in Year 5 this is the time for their Eleven Plus preparation to step up a gear.  Don’t worry if you are a late starter – there is still time to catch up!


One of the 11+ subject areas that may be new to children, as it is not taught in school, is verbal reasoning.  Along with English, verbal reasoning counts towards 50% of the total marks available, and is tested as it is believed to be an effective way of measuring a child’s innate ability to problem solve, not just their learned ability.  Children who enjoy reading and have a wide vocabulary tend to perform well in verbal reasoning tests.  A good general knowledge is also helpful, plus an understanding of antonyms, synonyms and an ability to spell.

There are a variety of verbal reasoning (VR) question types, any of which could be included in the 11+ test, and so it is important that your child has practised and is confident in solving as many as possible in order to feel prepared for the big day.  Some examples of the question types that may appear include, but are not limited to:

  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Other vocabulary exercises, e.g. compound words
  • Word categories
  • Word patterns
  • Code questions
  • Letter sequences
  • Letter patterns
  • Spelling based questions
  • Number patterns


How to support your child’s verbal reasoning skills

Some children are naturally strong at VR.   Should you suspect that this may be a weaker area for your child, start by working through some practice VR questions together. Explain that at this stage it is not about getting a great score, but that you are identifying areas that need improvement.

Learning the techniques for each question type will enable your child to increase their speed and accuracy.  If your child is being tutored, they should be taught these techniques in their lessons and if you are going it alone, there are a number of VR technique books on the market, such as Schofield and Sim’s Understanding Verbal Reasoning. Encourage your child to take care when reading the questions as some of the question types look similar but require a different response, e.g. synonyms and antonyms questions.  As they become more familiar with the question types, your child should aim to work quickly but without rushing as this is when careless errors may creep in.  Once they start doing timed exercises, encourage them to be mindful of the time and to pace themselves. Plenty of practice will help to improve time-keeping and if they finish within the set time limit they should go back and check their answers carefully.


Activities for developing verbal reasoning skills at home:

Reading a wide range of materials, including fiction and non-fiction books, magazine articles and newspaper reports will help to broaden your child’s vocabulary.  Your child should also know the alphabet inside out and back to front as this will help them with the letter sequencing and other questions. There are lots of great word-based games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams which you can play as a family and which will help your child to learn whilst having fun.  Alternatively, your child may prefer activities they can do alone, such as word searches, crosswords, number puzzles and Sudoku.

With the new Bucks 11+ test, there are even more potential question types than before and this may seem overwhelming at times.  If you’re not sure where to start or you’d like to gauge how your child’s practice is progressing, a Flying Start Mock Test Experience will help you to identify any “sticky” areas.  Running during the Easter, half term and summer holidays, these sessions provide a realistic mock test in a similar style to the Bucks GL Assessment 11+ test, followed by an afternoon pupil feedback session in which students review their test papers. If your child could do with some extra help with verbal reasoning.  Flying Start’s holiday Booster courses cover all the main VR question types.  Booster courses in English, mathematics and non-verbal reasoning are also running over the Easter, half term and summer holidays.

For more information, contact Flying Start Tuition on 01494 772 898, email or visit: