Verbal Reasoning. What is it and why is it important?

by Anna Michaelidou

When we hear the words 'Verbal Reasoning' our minds automatically jump to the eleven plus tests that school children sit in various parts of England for a place at a grammar school. But Verbal Reasoning is not just used for the eleven plus. It is also used by many employers to test the skills of their prospective employees and by many graduate training schemes to distinguish between applicants.

What is Verbal Reasoning?

verbal reasoning game

Verbal Reasoning is basically about the way we think with words. It is a form of understanding and reasoning concepts based around words and language. It involves:

  • problem-solving around words
  • thinking about text
  • following written instructions and deciphering a solution
  • understanding letter sequences
  • decoding letter and number-based codes

Verbal reasoning tests judge a person's ability for problem-solving, critical and constructive thinking and general intelligence.

There are many different types of verbal reasoning questions including:

  • Insert a letter, where you must find a letter that will fit onto the end of one word and the beginning of another to form two new words.
  • Find words that do not belong in a set group of words.
  • Find words that have the same, similar or opposite meaning.
  • Find hidden words within a sentence.
  • Work out which number stands for which letter.
  • Word connections
  • Letter and number sequences.
  • Reading information and analysis.

And many more. Verbal reasoning is something that can be improved with practice and dedication.

Verbal Reasoning Examples

word game

Let's take a look at a few different examples of verbal reasoning and how the answers are based on logically working out what is being asked:

1. If A = 4 B = 6 C = 7 D = 30 E = 13

What is C + A + E + B =

Answer = D (Simply add up the numbers represented by the letters and the answer is 30; represented by the letter D)

2. Gerry's dad Mike is three times as old as Gerry was 2 years ago. If Gerry is 17 next year, how old is his dad?

Answer = 42 (If Gerry is 17 next year that would make him 16, meaning he was 14 two years ago. 14×3 = 42).

3. If the code for the word YACHT is BZXSG

What is the word for NLZGH?

Answer = MOATS (This is a simple matter of working out the relationship between the letters. You will notice that Y is to B as A is to Z and C is to X. You should now be able to spot that the first letter of the alphabet transforms to the last letter of the alphabet, the second letter to the second to last letter, the third letter to the third last letter and so on. In this way we are able to work out that the words NLZGH is actually MOATS. You can also check this as two of the letters in the first coded word are also in the second coded word, A and T, so you only have to work out the other three.)

4. Read the following passage and decide which statement is true.

On Saturday Olly, Jim and Christian like to go to the cinema. In the cinema Olly likes to buy popcorn and Jim always gets something to drink. Christian sometimes gets some sweets but will always get what Jim gets too.

A. The boys go to the cinema every Saturday.

B. Popcorn is the cheapest to buy.

C. Christian doesn't have much money.

D. Christian always gets a drink.

E. Jim is the richest one.

The answer is D. (These questions are simply a matter of elimination and again, logic. The statement states clearly that Christian always gets what Jim gets and Jim always gets something to drink. Therefore the only answer that is certain is D).

5. AB is to CD

As EF is to =

Answer = GH (The letters are a continuation of each other in the alphabet)

6. Which number comes next in the sequence?

12 6 16 10 20 14 (?)

Answer = 24 (If you look at the numbers you will notice a pattern. Taking the first, third and fifth numbers they all progress by adding four each time. Then taking the second, fourth and sixth numbers also progress by adding four each time. Therefore the seventh number would just be four more that the fifth number).

As we can see the answers to the questions are based on logic. It's a simple matter of being able to think about what the question is asking and logically working out the answer. There is always a logical sequence, pattern or observation that can be seen; it is just a matter of being able to work it out.

The Importance of Verbal Reasoning

Verbal Reasoning is important both in a child's academic life and their adult lives. Developing their verbal reasoning skills will allow them to become socially independent and succeed in their professional life later on. Having Verbal Reasoning skills will allow your child to develop qualities such as perception, understanding and solving complicated subject questions, empathy and logical reasoning as well as ensuring they have a great vocabulary.

So what do children need to succeed at verbal reasoning tests? Author of Learning Together practice books, Stephen McConkey, states on the website The School Run:

Children perform best in verbal reasoning tests if they're widely read and have an extensive vocabulary... They need a solid grasp of synonyms (words that have the same meaning), antonyms (words that mean the opposite of each other) and plurals, good spelling skills, and strong maths skills. A good general knowledge is also needed for verbal reasoning tests...Even if your child understands the question and can follow the written directions, if one of the possible words in the answer is unfamiliar, they may trip up.

One of the best ways to encourage your child to develop their verbal reasoning skills is to encourage them to read. Reading will not only increase their vocabulary but they will learn to interpret words and understand comprehension. Other ways to help your child develop their verbal reasoning skills are:

  • Play word games; understanding synonyms and antonyms, spotting odd words out and finding word replacements.
  • Word searches and crosswords are a great way for your child to spot new words and find answers to riddles.
  • Spelling tests don't have to be boring and tedious! Challenge your child to learn ten new words per week and test them. Have a small reward for when they achieve their goals.
  • Encourage your child to write stories; these could be anything from something they have done or would like to do, creative fiction based on a book they have read or strange and mysterious tales using their imagination.
  • Improve their general knowledge; learn interesting facts together, visit museums, play science games, take nature walks... there are plenty of ways to teach your child something new.
  • Improve their logic skills by asking them simple questions for them to work out.

Private Tutors are often employed to aid in the learning of Verbal Reasoning. Many tutors have great ways of explaining complex problems to children in a simple, fun and easy-to-understand way.

To Conclude

Some children are naturally very good at verbal reasoning whilst others require more practice and a helping hand. Whatever the case, your child will need verbal reasoning throughout their school days and on into adulthood. Encourage your child to develop their verbal reasoning skills through games, trips and simple tasks at home. This will not only aid them in their academic life but will build up their logic skills, and of course plenty of other skills, for when they grow up.