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Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR) Assessment for secondary school entrance exams

I am yet to meet a prospective candidate for the secondary school entrance tests who did not freak out at his/her first sight of this test. Why? Although the general skills required for these questions e.g. problem solving, pattern recognition, analysing nets of cubes etc. are embedded within the primary curriculum, the actual questions are not taught conventionally in primary school.

Your child should not be intimated by the non-verbal reasoning test though. It is simply a test of problem-solving skills by reasoning through pictures, diagrams and patterns. It tests your child’s ability to mentally analyse visual information and recognise patterns. He/ She is required to have a good mastery of geometry, especially dealing with rotation, symmetry and shape recognition.

It is important to understand that non-verbal reasoning does not assess language skills, reading ability or numerical and mathematical skills, instead it focuses on a child’s ability to identify and interpret images.

Check out this post on why students under perform.

NVR skills also enable your child to develop conceptual and imaginative ability, as he/she is forced to face new and unconventional material.

Non-Verbal Reasoning is common in school entrance exams because it allows examiners to judge pupils' visual acuity, speed of perception, and their ability to recognise and manipulate objects. It helps schools to gain a possible insight into the natural abilities and academic potentials of the child.

Check out our Study materials page for relevant exam preparation books.

To be successful in this test, your child will need to:

  • See quickly how objects relate to each other e.g. finding a shape that best completes a sequence.

  • Apply logical deduction skills e.g. why a diagram does not follow a specified pattern

  • Have a good grasp of geometrical concepts such as symmetry and rotation

The skills required for Non-Verbal Reasoning are not as straight forward to acquire as simple literacy and numeracy skills. It requires developed spatial awareness and some children will have this skill naturally. However, for those who do not, it is still very possible to learn good technique by being highly disciplined and systematic, isolating each element of the sequence or pattern in turn in order to rule out the options one-by-one.

Through continuous exposure and practice, children will improve and fully establish their skills in this area.

Asides using formal practice materials, there are numerous activities that can help to develop a child’s spatial awareness, visual ability and non-verbal reasoning skills.

Here are the top 7 activities to develop non-verbal reasoning skills and provide a fun element to help your child relax alongside practising:

  1. Spot the difference

  2. Sudoku

  3. Scrabble

  4. Construction toys and games (Meccano and Lego are great for developing motor skills, developing problem solving skills and creating patterns).

  5. Interlocking puzzles

  6. Visual logic games such as Nine Men’s Morris

  7. Jigsaws

Most selective secondary schools no longer give a separate examination focusing on non-verbal reasoning. However, they may still embed problem solving questions in the Mathematics paper that focus on pattern recognition, looking closely at symbols and figures and spotting the odd one out.

Some children will benefit greatly from having a tutor to help them navigate the unfamiliar terrain of NVR, however there are several resources online to kick start their formal practice.

Here are links to a few…….

I hope this article helps!


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