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Help your child with Non-Verbal reasoning for the 11+ test: A 12-point checklist

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Non-verbal reasoning is an important component of the 11 Plus test, which is used to assess your child's ability to solve problems using visual and spatial reasoning rather than language skills. Unfortunately, it's not part of the curriculum in state primary schools although some independent schools DO have this as part of their curriculum (particularly if they are a 'feeder' school for another fee-paying establishment with entrance exam requirements).

To help your child prepare for non-verbal reasoning questions, consider the following tips:

1. Understand the Format: It's important to understand the format of non-verbal reasoning questions. These questions typically involve patterns, sequences, and relationships in shapes, symbols, and diagrams. For schools in the Birmingham Consortium, all tests are set by GL Assessment.

2. Practice Regularly: Regular practice is key to improving non-verbal reasoning skills. Use practice papers and books specifically designed for 11 Plus non-verbal reasoning. These resources provide a variety of question types and difficulty levels - don't be afraid to use resources set by different exam boards (eg. CEM) as it's always better to be prepared for the unexpected.

3. Start with Basic Concepts as early as Year 2 or 3: Teach your child about common geometric shapes, directionality (e.g., left, right, up, down), and concepts like symmetry and rotation. Building a solid foundation is essential.

4. Learn Strategies: Teach your child various

strategies for solving non-verbal reasoning questions. For example, methods for finding symmetrical elements, identifying sequences or patterns, and visualizing transformations. If you're going it alone, there are plenty of reputable examples on the internet.

5. Encourage Visual Thinking: Non-verbal reasoning requires strong visual thinking. Encourage your child to develop this skill by working on puzzles, mazes, and visual games.

6. Explore Different Question Types: Non-verbal reasoning questions come in various forms, including series, analogies, odd-one-out, and codes. Make sure your child is exposed to different question types to develop a broad skillset.

7. Break Down Complex Patterns: When faced with complex patterns, encourage your child to break them down into simpler components. Analyze the relationships between individual elements before tackling the entire pattern.

8. Use Practice Tests: Regularly have your child take practice tests under timed conditions to simulate the actual test environment. This helps build confidence and improves time management skills. Again, don't be restrained by the exam board setting the test for your chosen school - although this should be your main resource, be prepared for the unexpected by exploring questions set by other exam boards.

9. Analyse Mistakes: Review practice test results with your child. Analyse the mistakes to identify areas that need improvement. Discuss the thought process behind correct and incorrect answers.

10. Stay Calm and Relaxed: Test anxiety can affect a child's performance. Encourage your child to stay calm and relaxed during the test. Deep breathing exercises and positive self-talk can be helpful.

11. Seek Professional Support: If you're unsure about how to teach non-verbal reasoning or if your child is struggling, consider seeking professional support or hiring a tutor who specialises in 11+ preparation.

12. Make It Fun!: Learning non-verbal reasoning can be enjoyable. Incorporate fun activities like jigsaw puzzles, visual games, and art projects to keep your child engaged and interested in developing their visual reasoning skills.

Remember that consistency and gradual progress are key. It's essential to create a supportive and stress-free environment to help your child prepare effectively for the 11+ non-verbal reasoning test.

Useful Websites and Apps:

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