Back to Basics: Non-Verbal Reasoning

Black female tutor explaining question to Asian girl in classroom

Non-verbal reasoning, sometimes written as NVR, can be a difficult concept to explain, so we are going to try and break it down simply, and tell you about why it is so important for your child to practice their skills. It is a significant part of the 11 plus test which children take to get into grammar school. Some other independant or private secondary schools also use it as part of their entrance examination. The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) exam taken in Birmingham and Warwickshire has a section dedicated to it.

So what exactly is non-verbal reasoning? Put simply, non-verbal reasoning is the ability to analyse shapes and patterns and solve problems. Examples include identifying similar or different shapes, recognising sequences and remembering patterns.

This test measures a child ability to understand new material. These skills are also important in many future careers such as maths, physics, engineering and architecture.

Why Test Non-Verbal Reasoning?

It is important to test non-verbal reasoning because it shows a variety of skills that aren’t just about language and words. These tests are really useful in showing the base level of general intelligence of a child, regardless of whether english is their first language, if they have other communication difficulties or learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

The non-verbal reasoning tests also show a child’s ability to focus on a task, make a quick decision and display their answer within a given time limit. It’s not just the 11 plus exam that contains non-verbal reasoning problems either; some job interviews also include them.


Earlier this year on our Facebook page we featured a month of non-verbal reasoning puzzles.¬†You can have a go with your child. Below, we’ll explain one puzzle to give you an idea of how they work…


At the top is the question. We are looking at a rotation puzzle. The figure on the left is the first thing to analyse. Look at the shape of the curves, the direction the ovals are facing and anything else which might be important. Then we look at the figures on the right. One of them is the same in a rotation. Have a go and see if you got the correct answer at the bottom of this post.

Back to Basics

This blog series is designed to help parents understand some of the terms which they might read regularly. We hope that by providing these blogs, they will help parents better understand the education their child is receiving. Many browsers provide an opportunity to translate text and we hope that in writing this information in plain details, this will help parents for whom English is an additional language.

Smart 11+ Tuition is a specialist in tuition for the 11 plus exam to help gain a place at grammar school. If you are interested in finding out how we help children aged 7-10 to pass the 11 plus exam, fill out the form below:



The answer to the earlier problem is d. The figure has been rotated 90 degrees clockwise. We always recommend to pupils that they confirm their answer by proving why it ISN’T the other answers, so we’ll do that as well. Answer a is actually a 180 degree rotation and mirror image. B is incorrect as the ovals are facing in the wrong direction. In answer C the local is in a different position on the line so it isn’t touching the line to the side.

As you can see, proving a problem is as easy as proving why it isn’t the other answers. As you can see, non-verbal reasoning can be tricky and it is¬†essential children are taught to hone their skills. That’s why we offer practice with this as part of our tuition courses.