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What is Verbal Reasoning?

Verbal reasoning (VR) is, by definition, ‘understanding and reasoning using concepts framed in words – it aims at evaluating the ability to think constructively rather than just recognise vocabulary’.

Verbal reasoning is a test of a skill rather than a test of learned knowledge. The subject is used to determine a child’s critical thinking skills, as well as their ability to use their own knowledge to solve a problem. Verbal reasoning is not taught in most schools.

There are different types of questions asked in a verbal reasoning exam. Some examples are: 

  • Spotting letter sequences
  • Cracking codes based on letters and numbers
  • Following written instructions
  • Spotting words within words
  • Finding a letter to complete two other words
  • Identifying an additional word in a shuffled sentence
  • Rearranging words to make a meaningful sentence

What makes pupils successful at VR?

To succeed in a Verbal Reasoning exam, it is recommended pupils have a wide vocabulary. It is expected that by the age of 11, a child should have a vocabulary of 2,000 words. BOFA offers a spelling database of over 3,000 words, going far beyond what is required. It is generally agreed that children who are widely read are more likely to do well in Verbal Reasoning.

It is also recommended that children have a good grasp of synonyms (words that mean the same thing or have similar definitions), antonyms (words that have opposite meaning) and good general knowledge in terms of Maths and English.

Get an idea of your child's verbal reasoning ability by trying a free BOFA Verbal Reasoning demo test with them:

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How can I help my child develop their Verbal Reasoning skills?

  • Play word-based board games such as 'Scrabble' or 'Boggle'.
  • Encourage your child to play word games such as word searches, hangman and crosswords.
  • Play word games with your child such as spotting the odd word out, solving anagrams, and finding synonyms and antonyms for words.
  • Host spelling challenges with your child, focusing on commonly misspelt words and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelt differently).
  • Excite your child about culture in general, build their general knowledge and cultural capital by taking them to museums, exhibitions and art galleries. Talk with them about what they see and ask questions.
  • Encourage your child not to rush or skim read in their Verbal Reasoning exams. Candidates need to learn to read questions carefully so that they can decipher what is being asked of them and follow the instructions exactly.

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