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How to answer the Verbal Reasoning questions in the 11+ (Blog series 1 – Cracking Codes)

Updated: May 18, 2023

Our blog series on how to answer the Verbal Reasoning (VR) questions in the 11+ will take you through five of the common question types, with an examples of how to work out the answers, plus practice questions.

Verbal Reasoning aims to evaluate the ability of a pupil to think constructively rather than just recognise vocabulary. It covers a whole range of question types, however predominantly it is how letters, words or numbers can be used to complete a task. VR is not taught in schools, and puts pupils who do not practice these questions at a disadvantage.

Our blog begins with Cracking codes. In these questions pupils are presented with codes in letter or number form, and need to identify the code and then apply the code to answer similar questions.

We will be looking at one of the main question types in the cracking codes category; letter series.

Letter Series

In these questions pupils are given a series of letter pairs. Pupils need to identify the code that is being used, and then utilise this in order to identify the next letter pair. An alphabet is given at the top to assist pupils.

In this example the first letter of each pair is in alphabetical order: C, D, E, F. The second letter in each pair features twice in the series, and appears in reverse alphabetical order: Q, Q, P, P. Following this pattern, the next pair of letters after FP will be GO.

Your turn (answers are at the bottom of the page)


Q1. YL – the first row of letters is ascending alphabetically one space at a time: U, V, W, X, so our first letter will be Y. The second row of letters are skipping one letter in the alphabet D, miss E, F, miss G, H, miss I, J. So if we miss out the K we would land on L. Thus our answer is YL.

Q2. NC – The first row of letters in descending in the alphabet, but also skipping two letter each time: Z to W skips Y and X, W to T skips U and V, etc. Q skipped two letters (P and O) gives us N. The second row of letters follows the same pattern, so if we go back in the alphabet from F and miss two letters (E and D), we land on C. Hence our answer is NC.

Q3. IA – in this question the first row is ascending in the alphabet each time, but skipping one letter. If we move from G to the right in the alphabet and miss out the next letter (H) we land in I. The second row of letters is descending but skipping 3 letters at a time. From E, missing three letters to the left, gives us A. The answer then becomes IA.

Q4. XU – following a similar pattern to many of the previous questions, the first row of letters is ascending, but skipping three letters at a time. T, forward four spaces (missing three letters) gives us X. The second row of letters is simply descending one letter at a time. T minus one letter gives us U, meaning our answer is XU.

Please note that these are really simplified examples of the questions pupils will receive on the 11+. We have a wealth of experience of assisting pupils prepare for all aspects of the secondary transfer test (11+), including Verbal Reasoning.

For more information about how we can help your child as they prepare to take the 11+ in Buckinghamshire please contact us at, or call us on 01296 931078.


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