Preparing for an NVR (Non-verbal Reasoning) exam

by | Dec 16, 2014 | Exams, Non-verbal reasoning, Teach, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Yes NVR tests are tough, but your child can prepare fully for them beforehand. Whether it’s for an 11+ test or a school entrance exam, we explain what is involved and how your child can be up there with the best. Historically, NVR tests were ‘intelligence tests’ but we have twigged now that there are various different ways to be a brainbox. Just because you can’t picture what a slice of a sphere might look like at an angle, or how many changes have been made to a pattern, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a sparky type. Fortunately, if your child isn’t a natural at NVR, it can be taught to a reasonably high level.  Here are the types of NVR that tend to come up in modern exams:

  • Shape transformations: A shape/pattern is given and then transformed. You have to make the same changes to a new one.
  • Spot the odd one out: 5 shapes are given, one is different in some way.
  • Codes: A 2, 3 or even 4 letter code is given for each of three shapes. You have to crack the code, in order to code a new shape.
  • 5-bars: A pattern is spread over 5 boxes, but one box has been removed. You have to pick the missing box in the sequence.
  • Matrices: A pattern is spread over a box of either 2×2 squares or 3×3 squares. You have to pick the missing square in the sequence from those given.
  • Spot the group: A set of shapes/patterns is given and you have to pick one from 5 options that would fit the same rules.

Recent changes to the Kent Test have led to the inclusion of more spatial types of NVR. These might include:

  • Shape slicing: An image of a solid shape is shown with a slice cut through it. You have to choose which shape the slice would be.
  • Cube nets: Either matching a given cube to its net, or vice versa. The faces will have different patterns on.
  • Building blocks: A shape is built from identical blocks (sometimes these are cubes but they develop into sold ‘L’ and ‘S’ shapes). You have to state how many blocks were used in the building.
  • Spot the shape: A small simple shape is given, you have to find where it has been hidden within a complex larger pattern or image.


Recommended resources

Workbooks by Stephen C Curran are excellent. CLICK HERE for the first. Start with this one, but the second book in the series is even better. CLICK HERE for an excellent £2.99 app. Avoid Bond books, unless you simply need a little brain-training. They are great, but the style isn’t close to exam-format. The Bond exam papers are excellent, as are the GL exam papers too. But don’t start exam papers until they have been through the individual skills or confidence is likely to be an issue.  CLICK HERE for spatial reasoning examples. These are new to the Kent Test and resources are appearing slowly.


Buy the Curran book above or the app and let your child work through each skill at a gentle pace over a few weeks. Just 5 minutes per evening will do the trick. Some questions will be tough but as long as the correct answer is fully understood, then learning will be taking place. Once your child is ready, move to the test papers and see how they get on. It is regular practice that improves scores, stay positive and discuss any nasty ones together.