Essential Revision Round-up
By Sarah Collins
29 Aug

Essential 11+ Revision – Maths, English, Non-Verbal Reasoning & Verbal Reasoning

Each of our four Summer Challenge blogs looked at a different subject: Maths, English, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. Along with tips to aid your child’s concentration, we focused on securing the basic knowledge and skills that your child needs in order to focus on the problem-solving element of challenging questions, necessary for tackling their Pre-Test or 11+ with confidence.

Here we’ve bought together all the tips and suggestions for revising each topic, and taken out the questions, giving you an easy-to-use guide to the basics, needed before attempting any 11+ exam question. We hope you find it a useful resource to use when helping your child with their revision.


1.  Focus workout

Learning how to focus is like any other skill – it needs working on! You and your child will know the time of day when they naturally work at their best, so pick that time for their 11+ revision.

Taking exercise about 20 minutes before studying or taking a test is known to help boost concentration, so plan a short burst of activity before they begin. Even a brisk walk to the shop or a game of French cricket in the garden will help your child to concentrate for the one or two hours work ahead. These short bursts of work a few days a week are far more effective time than a whole afternoon when they are tired.

Of course, there is always the additional distraction of social media; a trap nearly all of us fall into these days. If your child has access to their phone in their study periods, they might find it helpful to look at one of the blocking apps such as Stay Focused or SelfControl for Mac. These apps allow you to manually restrict connection to sites of your choice for a defined period and can be helpful for maintaining concentration.

The Galore Park 11+ Revision Guides work in small sections of two–four-page sections, designed for small bursts of revision. Each section takes around 30 minutes each to complete and every chapter ends with a short test. 

2.  First steps

The maths Pre-Tests and 11+ do not allow children to use calculators, consequently it is essential that your child is very confident in performing basic calculations. These skills not only cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division but also working with ratios, proportion, fractions and percentages.
The Galore Park Learning ladders (shown at the front of each Revision Guide) help to guide your child through the key steps in their revision from basic skills at the bottom to the most demanding skills at the top. In this blog we are looking at extracts from the first two steps on this ladder.

Maths learning ladder

[graphic from page 6 of the Maths Revision Guide]

3.  Building the basics

Number and place value

Although very familiar skills – reviewing tips to help with mental calculations will enable your child to work to the speeds required in the tests.

Here are some basic rules of divisibility to help your child work out division calculations and factors.

 Maths basics


Finding the revision techniques that work best for your child is an important part of this first stage of revision. We talked about how short periods of exercise can help children to focus more effectively in the Maths blog. In this blog we look at how talking and visualising can help some children to retain important facts, then explain how some basic English knowledge can make all the difference to your child’s exam success.
1.  Use your senses

Research has shown that up to 50% more information is retained if it is spoken out loud, so it might be time for revision sessions to get a little louder! This technique can work well with spelling difficult words as children can pronounce them in different ways to emphasise the way the words are written. 

In fact, most people learn using a combination of their senses and helping your child to understand what works for them at an early stage will make their revision more productive, effective and enjoyable. Some people find listening to an explanation works for them; for others the physical act of writing something down works better. For visual learners, reading, highlighting text and using diagrams is most effective.

Because technology uses sound and graphics as well as text it can be a particularly powerful aid for children who learn using a combination of senses.

Creating revision aids can be part of this learning process and programs such as PowerPoint or a flashcard app on a phone allow children to explore effective ways to learn. They might find that reading the content out aloud, adding colour or animation and even printing out screens then manually highlighting difficult words works for them.

Set aside some time for this exploration as your child begins their revision and revisit these aids during the revision process to help them retain what they have learned.

The Galore Park 11+ Revision Guides all begin with basic facts in the subject and provide an ideal source of information for children to create their own flashcards. The Galore Park 11+ and Pre-Tests Study Skills book gives further tips on developing learning skills and helps you assess the most effective ways for your child to retain knowledge.
2.  First steps

Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar skills are tested in both the English 11+ and Pre-Tests and should have been comprehensively covered in school. Nevertheless, beginning your child’s revision with a review of these areas will plug any gaps and build their confidence in answering these questions.

A confidence in spelling, punctuation and grammar will also give your child a deeper understanding of comprehension texts and allow them to concentrate on the creative process in their writing tasks. Writing composition is often an important element in the English tests and can be a deciding factor amongst closely matched candidates.

The Galore Park Learning ladders (shown at the front of each Revision Guide) help to guide your child through the key steps in their revision from basic skills at the bottom to the most demanding skills at the top. In this blog we are looking at extracts from the first two steps on this ladder.

English learning ladder

[graphic from page 12 of the English Revision Guide]

3.  Building the basics


A group of letters added to the end of one word to make another is called a ‘suffix’. Adding a suffix can change the tense of a verb or the word class, e.g. verb, noun, adjective, adverb. Consequently, as well as improving spelling, a basic knowledge of how suffixes work is useful for understanding the grammar in sentences too.   

Verbs and word classes

An example of a suffix changing the tense of a verb is ‘-ed’:

-ed           I call (present)             I called (past)

Here are some examples of suffixes changing the class of a word:

-able        changes a verb into an adjective meaning ‘able to be’     

                                           comfort             comfortable

-ion          changes a verb into an noun       

                                            compress          compression

-ful           changes a noun into an adjective       
                                             event                 eventful

-ly             changes a adjective into an adverb           

                                              slow                 slowly

-en           changes a adjective into an verb           

                                   light                lighten

Knowing these facts about suffixes makes it easier to work out the role of a word in a sentence.

Using the last example in two different sentences illustrates how this helps:

The painter decided to lighten the colour of the background.   verb (‘lighten’ is an action)
The painter gave the picture a light background.             adjective (‘light’ describes the picture)       

Spelling rules

In the examples above, the suffix doesn’t alter the spelling of the word, although there are many that do! Here are a few rules for your children to brush up their spelling skills.

When adding a suffix to a word ending in ‘y’ with a consonant before it, change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ before the suffix:

fry            fried
vary          varied

When adding ‘ing’ to these verbs, however, the ending doesn’t change:

fry            frying
vary          varying

Nor does it change if there is a vowel before the ‘y’:

prey         preyed
stay          stayed

When using the ‘-ly’ suffix, if the word ends in ‘-le’ this ending changes to ‘-ly’.

single       singly                                                                                           
giggle       giggly

If the word ends in ‘-ic’ this ending changes to ‘-ally’.

drastic      drastically                                                                                           
comic       comically

‘Publicly’ is an exception to this rule and there are others.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Having looked at ways for children to maintain focus with exercise and improve their memory skills in the first two blogs, we now look at how short personal goals can be achieved with imaginative daily and weekly rewards.
1.  Great expectations

The first time you pick up a Non-Verbal Reasoning book with a seemly random succession of pictures it’s difficult to see how revision can help. Well in fact it does, as we explain in Part 2, and if this familiarisation work is tackled with imaginative breaks it can even be enjoyable!

Firstly, think about breaking your child’s Non-Verbal Reasoning revision into 30 minutes to 2-hour time slots with 10-minute breaks introduced within sessions (no longer than 40 minutes between stops).
Any activity that refreshes a tired mind ready for another quick session is helpful: dancing to music, kicking a football around, going for a quick walk or a chat in the garden would all work well. 
Activities such as gaming are not a good idea since your child becomes engrossed in the game rather than absorbing the information they have just learned.

Secondly, planning days that are completely away from the revision environment are essential if children are to feel ready for another school year at the end of their holiday. Exercise is ideal, as long as it’s something your child enjoys, although just being away and stimulated by their environment makes focusing on revision much easier.

Thirdly, try some family games that help improve skills in Non-Verbal Reasoning. There are many simple activities you can create that concentrate on aspects of the tests such as recognising shapes or spotting rotations. Surprisingly, some questions also involve memory: in these problems several elements can change within the pictures and it is only by remembering what is happening to each element across the sequence that the problem can be solved.

Here are a couple of ideas:

Memory skills

Use sticky notes to cover up headlines and features on a cereal packet then take it in turns to choose a note and recall what is underneath.


Reflection skills [images from p11 Non-Verbal Reasoning Revision Guide]

Pick an emoji with a symmetrical pattern (such as a Smiling Face). Challenge somebody in your family to reflect the face in a horizontal line so that it is standing on its head. Move on to asymmetrical images and reflect these in a vertical line.


The Galore Park 11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guide includes many more ideas for family activities. All revision is broken into two–four-page sections ideal for 30 minute or one hour familiarisation sessions. The Galore Park 11+ and Pre-Tests Study Skills book gives further tips on developing learning skills and helps you assess the most effective ways for your child to retain knowledge.
2.  First steps

Many parents prepare their children for Non-Verbal Reasoning tests by buying a series of practice papers and let their children work through the problems to see how they get on. Given that some exam setters state ‘these tests cannot be revised for’ this approach is quite understandable although does not generally give your child the best grounding to succeed in the tests.
Being thrown in at the deep end with these picture problems can be daunting for children; indeed, many parents find them incomprehensible, so it is not surprising that 11-year-olds do too!
So, to begin with, it’s worth picking a revision guide that demystifies the problems before you start. The Galore Park Non-Verbal Revision Guide does this by breaking questions down into maths skills since questions can involve variations such as changing numbers of items, different shapes and rotations of shapes.

The Non-Verbal Reasoning Learning ladder shows how the two subjects are similar and is used to guide your child through the key steps in their revision from basic skills at the bottom to the most demanding skills at the top.
In this blog we are looking at how to understand Non-Verbal Reasoning problems using some of the maths skills in the first three steps on this ladder: Shapes and shading, line styles, numbers and proportion.

Non-verbal reasoning and maths ladder

[graphic from page 6 of the Non-Verbal Reasoning Revision Guide]

3.  Building the basics

Before looking at number and proportion in actual questions, it is important to understand the basics of how Non-Verbal Reasoning questions work.

Looking for patterns in shading and lines

Many Non-Verbal Reasoning questions look at 2-dimensional shapes, such as squares, circles and triangles. The trick in the question is to find what has changed in the patterns.

Look at these two pictures to see what has changed:

 ball pattern
It is, of course, obvious that both the number of circles and their colour has changed. However, as Non-Verbal Reasoning questions are black and white, colour change is represented with different tints as in the picture below. In this series of pictures you will see that the position of the circles has also changed.

 ball pattern

The ‘colour’ of lines can change in the same way:

 line pattern

Steve Jobs once said, ‘Creativity is just connecting things.’ Understanding how to making connections in new situations is a core element of the 11+ tests and this applies especially to Non-Verbal and Verbal Reasoning since they are not formally taught in schools. Therefore, learning the principles behind the main question styles can give your child a head start over other children sitting the test. Once you take out the element of learning how a question works by doing a little groundwork now, your child will be able to concentrate on the content and use their creative energies to solve even the most challenging problems.

Verbal Reasoning

Now we look at how connections work in Verbal Reasoning questions and how you can refine your child’s abilities by helping them to make some creative connections of their own.
1.  Just connect

Verbal Reasoning tends to be a less daunting than Non-Verbal Reasoning on first sight since they contain words, not pictures – as the name suggests!
Many of the questions look at your child’s ability to make connections between words. These connections can be between two words, a group of words or when they are put into a sentence.
To prepare for the tests, any games where your child is challenged to make word connections will help build familiarity with what is expected in the 11+ Verbal Reasoning exam.
Here are a couple of ideas:

Linking letters

This game looks at letter connections between word pairs.

Play this game as a family or in pairs. You may want to begin with a theme for the whole word chain, although that is not essential. Animals or foods are a good theme to try out first.
Think of the most obscure word you can come up with to make it interesting.

Here is an example:
person 1: wombat    person 2: terrapin     person 3: egret  person 4: tarantula       

Person 2 must come up with a word beginning with the last letter of the first word, then person 3 thinks of a word beginning with the last letter of the second word and so on with person 4 then back to person 1. See how long you can keep one chain going!

Add an adjective
This game looks at connections of word meaning.
Play this game in pairs. First get both people to come up with two or three word starts. These should be nouns that are easy to add adjectives too. The example below gives an idea of words that are suitable. Take it in turns to answer (the first round being positive, the next negative and so on) and the winner is the person to come up with the greatest number of (relevant) adjectives.

word game

Mind maps

Mind maps are a good way to develop your child’s ability to think creatively. They are particularly useful to build skills in recognising analogies and solving the logic problems, common in the most challenging verbal reasoning questions.

Encourage your child to come up with some fun mind maps, associating different ideas they find appealing. Here are some examples:

  • Plots for favourite stories showing how the characters and events link together

  • Favourite things to do at home, school and activities (linking emotions in smaller branches to build up language)

  • Food likes and dislikes, including emotions associated with them. Galore Park 11+ Verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guide includes many more ideas for games and family activities. All revision is broken into two–four-page sections ideal for 30 minute or one-hour familiarisation sessions. The Galore Park 11+ and Pre-Tests Study Skills book gives further tips on developing learning skills and helps develop your child’s ability to think creatively.

2.  First steps

In the same way as Non-Verbal Reasoning has links to Maths; Verbal Reasoning has links to English (there are also some links to Maths though these are not covered in this blog). These connections are illustrated in the Galore Park Learning ladders below and also featured throughout the Galore Park Verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guide.

If you have already worked through the summer English blog you will have already looked at the first two steps of the English ladder.

This final blog looks at the first two steps of the Verbal Reasoning ladder: Constructing words and Understanding word meaning 1.

Verbal Reasoning and English ladder

[graphic from page 6 of the Verbal Reasoning Revision Guide]

The skills in these two steps provide the foundation for more challenging questions (which require the skills at the top of the ladder). In these more advanced skills, your child is expected to work through a complex problem and connect a sequence of numbers, letters or ideas. 

3.  Building the basics

The most straightforward Verbal Reasoning questions look at children’s ability to spell and recognise words. This section illustrates two common question types in this category.

Move a single letter

More common in GL style tests, these questions test vocabulary and spelling. They are a good place to start as they begin to focus your child’s mind on looking closely at how words are spelt which is relevant to many other questions and Cloze procedure tests.

These questions look quite straightforward and many of them are, though test writers use some common tricks to make them more difficult to work out. The examples below show how these questions can vary, with practice your child will learn to spot patterns in the more challenging questions.

This is an example of a straightforward question:

Make two new words by moving one letter from the first word and adding it to the second, without moving any other letters. Write the new words on the lines provided.

stray    pan                  tray      pans
The words used are simple to understand and spell. This level of question often just involves making the second word a plural by moving the ‘s’, as shown here. 

This question is slightly more challenging:

brain        weld           bran      wield

Questions become more difficult when there is an exchange of letters within the word and this may also change the way the word sounds (as in the example ‘weld’ and ‘wield’ above). Imagining reading the words out loud can help to work out these problems.

This final question is harder still:

droops     curt             drops    court

The vocabulary in these questions is more challenging and two letters can potentially be removed from the first word but only one letter can be correctly inserted in the second word (the first word in this case would equally make sense with either an ‘o’ or ‘s’ removed).

It is easy to see that these questions all require a good grasp of not only vocabulary but spelling as well. For example, ‘wield’ in the second example can easily be spelt incorrectly if your child isn’t confident in following basic spelling rules.


We hope you have found these revision summaries valuable and that your child can use them as a reference when embarking on their revision journey.

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