Why is non verbal reasoning important?

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:

Shapes:

Which shape is most unlike the others?

 Answer D – In all the other figures the black shape is in front of the white shape

Counting:

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:

NVR Counting

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.

Pointing:

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.

Rotation:

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.

Reflection:

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.

Layering

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.

Elimination

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.  

Exams are back!

OFQUAL has announced the return of exams, how ready are your students.

Ofqual’s plans for GCSEs and A levels in 2022

1. Grades will be lower than in 2020, but higher than 2019

Ofqual announced today that grade distributions will be pitched at a midway point between pre-pandemic levels of 2019 and results in 2021.

They will be lower than both years when teacher assessment was used in 2020 and 2021 following the cancellation of exams, but higher than those for the 2019 cohort.

2. Ofqual aims to get back to pre-pandemic grading levels in two steps

Chief regulator Jo Saxton said Ofqual’s “aim is to return to a pre-pandemic grade profile”.

But she adds that “we don’t think it would be fair on 2022’s students to do it all in one go, given the disruption they have experienced”.

“We will aim, therefore, to return in broadly two steps.”

Dr Saxton says exam boards will use prior attainment data as a starting point to align subject standards, as in any other year, and that these will be based on an average of the 2019 and 2021 results for each subject.

3. No new top grade in 2023

Ofqual said there would be no new top grade at A level in 2023, with the aim instead to return grading distributions to pre-pandemic levels at this point.

Ofqual said there will be no grading scale changes in 2023. 

4. Exam mitigations for 2022

If exams do go ahead as planned, GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography students will have a choice of topics in their exam.

For other subjects where optionality is not available, students will have advance notice of exam topics to focus their revision by no later than 7 February 2022. In the event of further disruption to schooling caused by the pandemic, this information could be released earlier.

In GCSE maths, students will be provided with formulae sheets, and they will be able to use equation sheets in GCSE physics and combined science. 

The same adaptations will be available for GCSE maths and English language in the autumn series next year.

For students sitting the autumn series 2021, the grading standard will mirror the results profile of this summer. 

5. Teachers should think about 2019 results when predicting Ucas grades

Teachers are advised to use the 2019 grading profile when predicting Ucas university admissions grades this year – but to bump up borderline students to the higher grade.

“Teachers this term will be predicting the grades their students will receive in summer 2022 for use on their higher education applications,” Dr Saxton said.

6. Results days are back to normal

Results days will be held over two weeks as usual, with A-level results released on 18 August and GCSEs on 25 August. 

This year both set of exams results were announced in the space of three days in the same week.

University Entrance – the dreaded personal statement

The personal statement is a crucial part of university applications in the UK. It’s your chance to show what makes you unique, besides your birth name and UCAS ID. In just 4,000 characters you have to convince your chosen university that you are the best applicant, and that they should make you an offer immediately. These 4,000 characters are your only chance, so your personal statement needs to be good. Really good. Here are some tips on how to write a truly outstanding piece. At the end you should have said why you want to study this course, what led you to this decision and your achievements to date that evidence you as an achiever, team player and above all completer. (Remember the universities in the UK only get all their Government funding on your place if you actually complete the course and graduate). So where do you start?

1. Make a draft without a character counter.

Write freely, do not worry about the character counter, you are doing a draft and you will delete a lot of words and ideas on the second draft.

2. Take your time.

Do not rush it. A superb personal statement will not be ready in a couple of hours. Or even a couple of days. It took is likely to take more than a month to complete the best version. Sometimes it’s worth taking a break for a few days, then coming back to it afresh.

3. Find the perfect words and expressions.

It sounds more professional and elegant if you use ‘accomplish’ rather than ‘do’, or ‘presume’ rather than ‘think’, but try not to use too many fancy words as this could make your statement sound overdone and it will be difficult to read.

4. Concentrate on your strengths.

In these 4,000 characters you are trying to sell yourself to the university. A perfect product proposer is all about how great that thing is, and it’s the same with your personal statement. You should write about your experiences, your knowledge and your future plans. You should NOT write, “I wanted to learn Spanish but I gave it up after a week” or “I am not very good at maths, but I think this is understandable since I hate it so much.”

5. Find the perfect opening sentence.

Try starting with something interesting, unusual or surprising as will give a good first impression and make the admissions team want to read more as well as make it stand out. Just make sure it is relevant. You may be an award winner in some discipline and that is great, it might not be relevant to your course, but it will still show that you commit and work hard.

6. Make it your own work, voice and ideas.

Try not to read any other personal statements before writing the first few drafts of yours. It will simply give you a false idea. You are most definitely unique, and it is worthless to follow some set rules or patterns, or someone else’s ideas. After all, this is about you, not somebody else.

7. Be honest.

Do not write that you are fluent in Spanish if you can only say “I love you” in Spanish. Do not write that you are good at problem-solving if your sole example is a trick of carrying five bottles in one hand. If you are good, you are good the way you are. There is no need to create a false image, and indeed the truth will always come out sooner or later.

8. Get someone to proofread your statement.

Your parents, your teachers, your friends, your enemies… The more people you show it to, the more feedback you will get, and the better the final version will be. Of course, some advice will be better and some less so, but it is easier to ask many people first, and differentiate later.

9. Read it out loud many times.

It helped me a lot when I read my personal statement out to my family and friends. When you are writing it sentence by sentence, you might not realize that there is no cohesion between your paragraphs. But when you read it out, all the vague parts will magically appear, so you can correct them.

10. Once you submit your university application, stop reading it!

Waiting to hear from universities is the worst part of the whole process (even worse than completing the application form…). After you get the offer you wanted (which you will surely get!), you will know that your application was just perfect the way you sent it.

To sum up, be yourself and write honestly about your experiences. Use your own voice, because that is who you are, and the universities you are interested in. Most schools and many independent organisations will help you.

Entrance Exams

Expert tips for entrance exam success

Applying to a new school that is educationally selective is daunting for parents and students. Always be careful to balance the pressure you put on your child, also please remember that while tutoring a child will ensure they have much needed exam skills and that they have brushed up on all areas of the curriculum, it does not mean they will be accepted and it does not make it the right school for your child.

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Thoroughly research the schools you are applying to. Each school will have a slightly different entrance process and expectation. Most will test English and maths; many will also test reasoning (verbal, non-verbal or both).

Some will hold assessment days, which can come before or after the written exams, or even on the same day. Others will have a more formal interview process whilst some schools will base their decision entirely on the written exam.

Check registration deadlines and know when you have to apply you can usually do this on the school’s website. You may find that two schools that you are interested in hold their exams on the same day. In this case, get in touch with both schools to see if alternative arrangements can be made for your child to sit the exam. If that’s not possible, you will have to choose which school you prefer, as your child won’t be able to sit for both (And you don’t want to end up paying for two sets of registration fees unnecessarily!).

Check exam registration deadlines and know when, where & how you have to apply.

2. USE THE LITTLE & OFTEN APPROACH

When it comes to preparation, we recommend that you start in good time. In our experience, a ‘good’ time is usually one year in advance. However, this can vary from child to child. You may have to revisit certain topics again and again, and at different times during the year. Learning is not linear. Most children benefit from revisiting areas that they might have struggled with earlier. By taking time to gently reinforce, you will be building solid foundations without even realising it! It also ensures consistency and maintenance of the skills they have acquired.

If possible, try and avoid a sudden last minute dash in the final months leading up to the exams. This can create unnecessary pressure and tension for all the family. If this can’t be avoided, still try the little and often approach, breaking down areas of learning into bite-size chunks.

3. MIX IT UP AND KEEP IT FRESH

Similar to the principle of keeping things in manageable segments, it is important to introduce variety. For 7+ or 8+ maths for example, this could mean combining a traditional approach to learning times tables, with some written practice papers for application. Online games and apps can also be useful ways to introduce learning in an interactive yet equally beneficial way.

Practising exam questions is an essential part of the process but there are plenty of other ways to make the experience fun, engaging and interesting for children!

4. IDENTIFY THE GAPS

Strategically speaking, the exam preparation process is all about identifying gaps and addressing them. Your child may be in a school which prepares for entrance exams; therefore your current school will be addressing many of these issues. However, if you are unsure, ask your child’s teacher about the process, your child’s current level, and how they are coping.

If you are in a school that does not prepare its students for exams, or you feel your little one needs additional support, then you may need to start with a professional assessment to know which areas to target.

We work with many of children across this age group and are able to benchmark your child’s performance and give an opinion based on our professional experience of the children we have seen and supported. A Tutor assessment from us will give you a good indication of where your child currently sits, their strengths and weaknesses, and areas which need work. As well as an academic assessment, we also take into consideration a child’s approach to learning, their attitude and personality, in order to provide you with pointers on all areas that a school will ultimately be assessing.

5. SUPPORT YOUR CHILD

Try to get your children into a routine, so they know when they have to work and when they can relax.

Working with your child outside of school is important as it reinforces their formal learning and can positively extend and challenge them. It shows them that you are interested in their learning and support them. This must be kept in balance. The learning process then becomes more mindful. If you feel that you would like external support then engaging the services of a tutor for dedicated one on one support can really help. A good tutor will establish a productive teacher/pupil relationship, which sometimes a parent is unable to do, just by virtue of the fact they’re ‘mum’ or ‘dad’.

Tutors can also help if your child is struggling with a particular area or topic. One-on-one time can be used to explain topics more fully, and allow for targeted practice. For example, in maths, many children find fractions, algebra and multiple-step problems hard; whist in English, inference questions in comprehension papers and creative writing can prove challenging. This is not unusual! Mastering tricky areas like these can be where one-on-one tutoring can really help.

6. USE PRACTICE PAPERS

It is essential that you introduce your child to practice papers at the right time for them. Our specialist practice papers are a great resource, and you can choose how and when you use them. You can tackle them in sections to get to grips with certain disciplines, or you can use them as full timed ‘mock’ papers as a diagnostic, or to simply familiarise your child with the actual exam process.

In terms of timing, we recommend taking a first look during the summer preceding the exams and maybe doing a few questions to get a feel for the format and an understanding of the expected level. A whole paper in one sitting might be too overwhelming at first, but you will get a feel for what your child can accomplish. It is essential however, that your child knows what to expect, so they should be doing full papers on a regular basis and under timed conditions in the build-up to the exams.