Non-Verbal Reasoning is not generally taught in schools. In fact there’s very little to actually teach as it is not an academic subject.
For most parents the 11-Plus, Non-Verbal Reasoning is the stuff of nightmares! The main problem is that children will not have been taught the subject in class time at primary school and it is highly likely that parents have never been taught it either.
Non-Verbal Reasoning tests for the Eleven Plus are akin to intelligent tests and some of the questions presented to the 10-year-olds would be a challenge even to Mensa members.
This type of test is meant to help determine the innate ability of children and thereby assess their suitability for secondary education at a fast pace. The tests are designed to be tutor-proof – a somewhat clumsy term often used in the world of education to imply that it is difficult to prepare children for the type of question they will be faced with.
Non-Verbal reasoning tests were designed to try and differentiate between children from diverse educational backgrounds. To make the point in an extreme way the idea was that the same test could identify potential when given to a child from a very good educational background or a child who has had very little education. The tests deliberately use very little English so no real comprehension ability is needed to understand what to do.
In practice of course no test is perfect and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests are useful in helping to identify potential but are never used exclusively. Schools also want to make sure that children have very solid core Maths and English skills because otherwise they simply cannot progress well at their chosen secondary school.
So Non-Verbal Reasoning is used in combination with other test forms.
What’s included in Non-Verbal Reasoning tests for children
The essence of Non-Verbal Reasoning is that it tests a child’s logic and observational skills by giving them collections of shapes and patterns; they then might need to find the odd one out, or two shapes which are most similar to each other or to find a missing shape in a series from options given. Children need no particular Maths or English skills to answer the questions although an awareness of shapes symmetry and reflection is useful.
One hope for the designers of Non-Verbal reasoning tests was that they could not be coached for. In fact as in all tests some preparation does help, although because there are no core skills to learn (vocabulary or times tables for instance) preparation is of limited use.
Non-Verbal Reasoning preparation overview
The best results are delivered by doing some work to understand the different question types and then doing some example questions and papers. The largest improvement can be made by improving speed and accuracy, understanding what is required is the easy part. Most tests differentiate children through the sheer number of questions they ask rather than the difficulty level. Most families find that their children can score very highly in rapid time. However families also find their children reach a plateau which is difficult to overcome.
Here’s an example of a easy question:
Which shape is most unlike the others?
Answer D – In all the other figures the black shape is in front of the white shape
When trying to spot patterns one of the things I recommend is to count the number of sides, lines or shapes presented to see if there’s a link.
2) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:
Answer C – The number of sides of the white shape becomes the number of points on the black shape. The number of small lines becomes the number of sides of the white shape.
If a question has arrows in it the first thing I would recommend is to look for a pattern in the direction that they are pointing.
3) Which shape is most unlike the others?
D – because the arrow is pointing away from the circle. All the other shapes the arrow is pointing towards from the circle
Shading & Line types:
Always look for a pattern in how the lines and shading may change.
4) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:
Answer D – The large and small shapes swap shadings. The outline of the large shape becomes dashed.
Order & Position:
Check to see how a shape is positioned in relation to the other shapes.
5) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:
Answer D – The shape at the back moves to the front and the shape at the front moves to the back. The two shapes at the top swap shading.
It will make life easier if you know what a 45 degree and 90 degree rotation looks like. Also, when a shape is rotated, check the direction, whether it’s been rotated clockwise or anti-clockwise could be the key to the correct answer. The direction is irrelevant for a 180 degree rotation.
6) Work out which option would look like the figure on the left if it was rotated:
Answer A – The figure is rotated 180 degrees. Option B has been rotated and reflected. In option C, two of the arrows are the wrong length. In option D, the diamond is missing and two of the arrowheads are wrong.
Imagine placing a mirror where the line (mirror line) is drawn. What would the object look like when peering into the mirror? Initially, you could use a small mirror when working on reflections as a learning aid.
7) Work out which option would like the figure on the left if it was reflected over the vertical line.
Answer A – Option D looks almost identical, but the white rectangle is smaller than the original shape. Option B the black arrow has moved to the front of the rectangle and in option C, the black arrow is in the original position and has not been reflected.
This relates to the position of shapes either in front of or behind another shape.
8) The first figure below is changed in some way to become the second. Choose the figure on the right that relates to the third figure in the same way that the second relates to the first.
B – The top and bottom shapes disappear leaving the middle circle. The stripes from the top shape move to the bottom and the checks from the bottom shape move to the top.
You can see with a glance that option A cannot be a rotation of the shape on the left, therefore, eliminate it and I would recommend crossing it out. When pressed for time, and believe me they will be, it’s easy for the brain to become frazzled and confused when confronted with several options. So, cross out the options that are incorrect so that there’s less to consider and you won’t have to give it a second glance or five!
9) Work out which option would look like the figure on the left if it was rotated:
Answer C – Option D is a reflection.
What’s our approach to NVR?
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, which is why we use the following method:
- We take time to demonstrate what they should be looking for. For example, shapes, counting, rotations, pointing, elimination, etc.
- Students will then practise this skill before moving onto the next.
- Once this process is complete we will then practise questions that are a combination of the areas below, as they are now in a stronger position to answer these correctly.