Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Tips

July 31, 2015 Madeleine K

Some tips for tutors and parents about how to teach and tackle reasoning for the 11+ exam and similar levels.

Non-Verbal Reasoning Tips

Words in bold represent the different non-verbal reasoning question types.

Odd one out: Students should be able to define ("say out loud") the single rule that connects the images. Check the rule against each image- the right rule will apply to all but one shape.

Next in sequence: When practising, cover the answer choices. Get students to say what the rule is (e.g. what's changing and how) and to predict what the next image looks like. Then reveal the answers and see which choice, if any, matches the guess.

Letter codes: The position of the letter (first, second, third) represents the same thing in every image. For example, the first letter may always relate to colour, or the second may relate to size.

First find the position of the "?", then determine what feature that position represents. 

Do this by finding 2 images with the same letter in that position. What do they have in common? That's the feature represented by the position of that letter. (for example, if "XB" and "XA" are both black, then the first letter always relates to colour).

Finally, find an image which has a feature that matches the "?". 

Combining shapes: Rotate the piece of paper. Look for little differences.

Which cannot make the net: Cut out some practice nets with pupils. Fold them up and see what happens. students should know that sides which are separated by 1 other side can never touch.

The part of the mind that works the most for non-verbal reasoning is the called the "visuospatial sketchpad", which is part of working memory. Visuospatial Sketchpad activities can boost non-verbal reasoning ability.

Verbal Reasoning Notes

Generally: Be familiar with common pre-fixes, suffixes, and letter combinations -especially ones that don't 'look how they sound' (e.g. "-ough" and "kn-"). Write alphabet at the top of the page before you begin.

Number codes: Teach students to 1) find similarities and 2) eliminate answers. Look for words that start and end with same letters, then match them to number codes that start and end with the same numbers. Some students may benefit from writing down possible words directly above/below the numbers and eliminating them one at a time.

Same letter ends and starts the words: If students can't see the answer pretty quickly, imagine each letter, alphabetically, at the beginning and end of the words. Remind them that the letters can have different phonemes (sound different in different words). 

Continue the sequence of letter pairs: Easiest way – look at the first letter and then look at its relation to the next one first letter – use a friction pen to find the pattern on the alphabet – you can get them in different colours. Then look at all the second letters. Think of it as a loop – when you get to the end of the alphabet you start at A B again. It can help to add the XYZ to start of alphabet to remind you of this. Make sure you work through the whole sequence as the pattern can only appear as you go through it. e.g. 1 jump, 2 jumps, 3 jumps etc.

Worded Logic problems: In timed conditions, only do these if students have done EVERYTHING else as takes time and is only worth one mark.

Finding a word within a sentence: Space your fingers (or pencils) four letters apart, then move them across the sentence until you see a word. 

Remember: It can be usual to not finish the paper. They are designed not to be finished. Really important you tell them not to worry. If you can’t get a question in a few minutes then MOVE on.

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