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What are the Verbal Reasoning tests?
Verbal reasoning tests are a key part of most secondary school selection and 11+ exams, as well as Year 7 CATs – but your child won’t necessarily be taught the skill at school.
Verbal reasoning is, in a nutshell, thinking with words. As the name suggests, it’s a form of problem-solving based around words and language. It involves thinking about text, solving word problems, following written instructions to come up with a solution, spotting letter sequences and cracking letter- and number-based codes. Verbal reasoning exams are intended to test a child’s ability to understand and reason using words, and are a test of skill, rather than of learned knowledge. The theory is that they allow the examining body to build a picture of a child’s potential for critical thinking, problem-solving and ultimately, intelligence.
The type of questions on a verbal reasoning test:
It’s generally agreed that there are 21 standard types of verbal reasoning question. These include:
- Finding one letter that will complete two words, e.g. hoo (D) oor
- Finding a word hidden inside another word, e.g. depend
- Spotting the odd ones out in a list of words, e.g. apple, pear, banana, CREAM, PUDDING
- Finding the words that mean the same from two lists, e.g. PLAIN/expensive/rich and SIMPLE/money/earnings
- Finding antonyms (opposites) from two lists of words, e.g IN/on/over and through/between/OUT
- Breaking a code where each letter of the alphabet is represented by a different letter or number (e.g. A becomes B, B becomes C, C becomes D, so that ‘cat’ would be written ‘dbu’)
Although the majority of verbal reasoning tests are word-based, some are based on numbers. For instance, a verbal reasoning exam could include questions where you have to give the next number in a sequence (1, 5, 9, 13…), or where you have to solve a sum where the numbers are represented by letters (so if A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4 and so on, C+A=4). Although these questions require a basic grounding in maths, the main principle is the same as for word-based verbal reasoning problems: to test your child’s ability to solve problems based on written instructions.
Skills needed for the non-verbal reasoning test:
Children perform best in verbal reasoning tests if they widely read and have an extensive vocabulary. They need a solid grasp of synonyms (words that have the same meaning), antonyms (words that mean the opposite of each other) and plurals, good spelling skills, and strong maths skills. A good general knowledge is also needed for verbal reasoning tests. Even if your child understands the question and can follow the written directions, if one of the possible words in the answer is unfamiliar, they may trip up.
Verbal reasoning is not just about being ‘good at literacy’ – children who can read and spell very well may still struggle with some of the code-based questions. Moreover, verbal reasoning isn’t a curriculum-based skill, so your child won’t be taught the techniques at school, and while they may make sense once they’ve been explained (and practised), at first glance, they can be baffling.
Children also need to be good at reading questions carefully, and following the directions exactly, which can be an issue for those who tend to rush or skim-read.
To get more advise and help on preparing your child for Higher GCSE Maths exam contact us or visit our Tuition Centre.