In our area Wisbech Grammar School, Spalding Grammar and Spalding High School all require children to sit an entrance examination. This is to assess their ability before offering them a place or not. All of the schools examinations currently include either an entire verbal reasoning section, or elements of verbal reasoning questions within them.
This post is to help parents to understand what a verbal reasoning examination is and to answer a few questions about how they can prepare their child in advance of the examination.
Verbal reasoning is not taught as a specific subject at school. Rather it accumulates a range of knowledge and skills that underpin reasoning that are integral to the teaching and learning in a wide range of subjects. In order to succeed at verbal reasoning one needs to have a thorough understanding of the English language, with its associated rules and patterns, as well as a sound knowledge of basic mathematical operations.
It tests a wide range of skills including alphabetical order and word definitions to logical thinking and problem solving. Because of this it is regarded by many secondary schools as a reliable indicator of potential academic ability.
The process of gaining entry to selective secondary schools is probably the first time that a child will encounter verbal reasoning type questions as a specific test. As this process is selective, there is often fierce competition and pressure around these exams so getting expert help and advice can be an invaluable part of helping the process to run as smoothly as possible.
11+ examinations differ around the country and from school to school. For example the Spalding schools have a Verbal Reasoning and a Non-Verbal Reasoning paper, whereas Wisbech Grammar conducts a CAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) – which includes verbal and non-verbal reasoning along with more specific numerical reasoning questions – and a written element that involves a text analysis and written responses.
Verbal reasoning exams need you to be able to:
- process verbal information
- apply logical thinking and problem-solving skills
- find and follow patterns and rules
- determine word meaning
- spell accurately
- apply basic maths skills
- work systematically within a time limit
Can Verbal Reasoning be Tutored?
There are many differences of opinion related to this question. Some will claim that tutoring is pointless and will not help your child do any better at this type of exam. However, I would disagree. Reasoning can be taught, just like anything else can be taught. Completing an exam within a set time limit is also a skill that takes practice.
There are a certain number of question types within verbal reasoning and having strategies and methods to help understand the question as well as to work out the answer quickly and accurately can be taught.
Do you have to have a tutor in order to pass? No, you do not. But you may find it extremely helpful and beneficial.
Some children find it difficult to study or sit at home and complete a practice a paper, so having a tutor with a regular weekly slot will mean your child will get focused one-on-one bespoke tuition that is tailored to their individual strengths and weaknesses as well as regular assistance and practice.
Does having a tutor guarantee that your child will pass? No it does not. But for the reasons already mentioned it will help them to be in the best possible place in order the help them to do so.
I certainly help those preparing for examinations develop their confidence and examination technique. However, I aim to teach a child a skill they may not already possess, revising these skills to strengthen them as well as learning how to work to a time deadline. I want every child to reach their full potential which reaches far beyond simply cramming for a specific exam – although they will be ready and familiar with the exam that they are about to sit.
How Soon Should We Start Preparing for the 11+ Entrance Exam?
Every child is different so this question is quite difficult to answer. You know your child best, so ultimately you should decide.
However, the optimum time for complete readiness in my opinion is 12 months before the examination.
This means that if your child has just started Year 5 in September, now it the time to book and invest in a tutor if this is what you have decided to do.
The latest I would leave it is January of the year your child sits the examination.
The 11+ examinations in Wisbech and Spalding are sat within the first few weeks of your child starting Year 6 – in September and October – so leaving things any later will not be particularly beneficial, unless you are just wanting a few practice examinations to be done in order to steady nerves.
If you would like me to help your child, please do contact me. I would be more than happy to help.