What Is on the 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning Exam?

What Is on the 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning Exam?

Non-verbal reasoning is an integral part of the 11 Plus examination for grammar state schools. It requires a child to analyse visual information, identify patterns, and solve problems based on pictures, without verbal cues and language. 

This part evaluates a child’s logical reasoning abilities under time pressure. Because non-verbal reasoning is not formally taught in schools as part of the national curriculum, some students might not have as much exposure to Non-Verbal Reasoning as other subjects. And that is where exam preparation comes in.

What Is the Non-Verbal Reasoning Test for 11+?

11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning Exam

Non-verbal reasoning tests include problem-solving and logical deductions through visual cues. It assesses the capacity of a child to read and act on shapes, patterns, and graphs consequently arriving at solutions even at a young age.

These non-verbal reasoning skills spill over into non-academic or school settings, defining their role in engineering, mathematics, sciences, and decision-making. In essence, it is vital not only for school tests like the 11 Plus but also for different life situations where a child needs to use problem-solving abilities.

What Are the Topics of Non-Verbal Reasoning?

In the Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR) section of the 11 Plus entrance exams, children encounter various non-verbal reasoning questions that assess their ability to analyse visual information and apply logical reasoning. NVR topics commonly found in non-verbal reasoning practice papers and the exam proper include:

  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Analogies
  • Odd One Out
  • Codes and Sequences

Here’s a detailed look at the typical 11 Plus non-verbal reasoning question types.

Spatial Reasoning

Spatial reasoning questions assess students’ ability to understand and manipulate shapes and figures in two or three dimensions. These questions often involve mentally rotating or manipulating shapes to identify relationships or the next logical step in a sequence.

Examples of Spatial Reasoning Questions

  1. Given a 2D shape, identify which of the provided options represents the shape after a 90-degree clockwise rotation.
  2. Select the option that shows the 3D figure that results from folding and cutting a given 2D net.

Strategies for Solving Spatial Reasoning Questions Effectively

  • Practise mental rotation: Regularly visualise a shape from different perspectives to improve your ability to manipulate them mentally.
  • Use the process of elimination: Eliminate unlikely options based on spatial properties to narrow down choices.
  • Look for symmetry: Identify symmetrical elements within shapes to deduce relationships and solutions more easily.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition questions require a child to identify recurring visuals or sequences within images. These could involve rotations, reflections, translations, or transformations of shapes.

Examples of Pattern Recognition Questions

  1. Identify the next shape in a sequence based on a given pattern of transformations.
  2. Determine the missing element in a series of shapes following a consistent progression or rule.

Top Tips for Recognising and Understanding a Pattern Quickly

  • Look for repetitions: Identify recurring elements or sequences within the given shapes.
  • Analyse transformations: Note how shapes change from one step to the next, noting rotations, reflections, or translations.


Analogies in the 11 Plus exam involve establishing relationships between pairs of shapes and applying these relationships to identify a similar pairing or mirror image from a set of options. It tests the ability to recognise abstract connections and apply logical reasoning.

Examples of Analogy Questions

  1. If “Circle” is to “Sphere,” then “Square” is to ___.
  2. Triangle: Polygon – Circle: ___.
  3. Shape A is to Shape B as Shape C is to ___.

Techniques for Solving Analogy Questions Efficiently

  • Look for common attributes: Identify attributes or properties the shapes share to discern the relationship.
  • Use elimination: Eliminate answer options that do not maintain the same relationship observed in the original pair of shapes.

Odd One Out

Odd One Out questions present a set of shapes, with one being different based on a particular criterion or rule. Children must identify the odd shape or pattern and determine the reasoning behind its dissimilarity.

Examples of Odd One Out Questions

  1. Identify the shape that does not belong in the group: square, circle, triangle, rectangle, or oval.
  2. Determine the number different from the others: 12, 18, 24, 36, 42.
  3. Select the symbol that does not follow the established pattern: ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ■ ◆ ◆.

Tips for Recognising and Understanding Odd Ones Quickly

  1. Consider multiple criteria: Evaluate the elements based on different criteria, such as shape, size, colour, or numerical properties, to determine the odd ones.
  2. Identify common attributes: Compare the elements within the set and look for common attributes or properties most elements share.
  3. Look for deviations: Identify elements that deviate from the established pattern or rule within the set.

Codes and Sequences

Codes and sequences questions involve deciphering rules represented by symbols, letters, or numbers. Children must understand the coding system or sequence progression to identify the missing element or determine the next item in the sequence.

Example Code and Sequence Questions

  1. Identify the next symbol in the sequence: A, C, E, G, ___.
  2. Decode the pattern: XWV, TSR, ___.

Strategies for Deciphering Codes and Sequences Accurately

  • Test multiple rules: If unable to identify a consistent rule, try applying multiple rules to different sequence segments to determine the correct answer.
  • Use context clues: Look for contextual clues or relationships between symbols to aid in deciphering the sequence.

How Do I Prepare for a Non-Verbal Reasoning Exam?

Here are some top tips for parents to help their child prepare and practice the skills required for the 11+ Non-verbal reasoning:

Practise and Familiarise the NVR Questions

Regular practice is essential for success in the 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning exam, especially because it is not taught in the school’s national curriculum. Being familiar with different non-verbal reasoning question types builds confidence and improves performance. 

Practice questions expose children to various challenges, helping them develop strategies and skills required to tackle each type effectively. Use various practice materials, including past non-verbal reasoning papers, mock tests with answer keys, and other valuable resource options.

By practising non-verbal questions regularly, you can help your child improve their non-verbal reasoning skills and feel more familiar with the exam process. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Know How to Manage Time Effectively

Time management is crucial during the 11 Plus exam to ensure all questions are attempted within the allocated time. Children should:

  • Allocate time for each question type based on their difficulty and proficiency.
  • Prioritise easier NVR questions to ensure maximum points are achieved.
  • Keep track of time during the exam and move on if a question takes too long.

Seek Assistance from Tutors or Online Resources

Consider seeking guidance from experienced tutors or accessing online resources to supplement your preparation. Tutors can provide personalised instruction, identify areas for improvement, and offer valuable tips and strategies. 

Online resources such as forums, tutorials, practice papers, or quizzes with answers included can also provide additional support and reinforcement of concepts.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid in Non-Verbal Reasoning Exams

In non-verbal reasoning exams, avoiding common mistakes is crucial for achieving success and maximising scores.

Rushing Through Questions

Rushing through non-verbal reasoning questions can lead to careless errors and overlooked details. Ensure you thoroughly understand what each question asks before attempting to answer it.

Pay attention to specific terms such as “complete the series” or “identify the odd ones” to approach each question correctly.

Lack of Systematic Approach

Approaching non-verbal reasoning questions haphazardly without a systematic strategy can result in confusion and inefficiency. 

Develop a systematic approach for each question type, such as identifying patterns or rules before attempting to solve them. 

Overlooking Details

Not noticing subtle details within a mirror image or identical shapes or sequences can lead to incorrect answers. Train yourself to observe patterns, symmetries, or repetitions within the elements. 

Take note of small details and anomalies that may hold clues to solving the question accurately. 

Avoid rushing to conclusions without thorough analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

The content and format of the 11+ exam papers can vary depending on the region, the state primary schools or independent schools, and the exam boards administering the test.

However, there are the core skills needed and common components typically found in the 11+ exam:

  • Verbal Reasoning: This section assesses a child’s ability to understand and manipulate language through identifying synonyms and antonyms, completing sentences, and solving word-based puzzles.
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: This section evaluates the ability of the child to analyse visual information and solve problems without relying on language skills.
  • Mathematics: The mathematics exam tests a child’s mathematical ability and problem-solving skills. Topics may include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data interpretation.
  • English: Some 11+ exams include an English comprehension and writing section, which assesses the ability of a child to comprehend written passages, infer information, and express ideas effectively.