How to Help Children Improve Their Vocabulary for Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning is a skill that involves understanding and using words, language, logic, and concepts.  It is often tested in exams such as the 11 plus, SATs, or entrance tests for selective schools. Verbal reasoning skills can also help children succeed academically, socially, and professionally as they grow up, and are often a part of IQ tests.

One of the key factors that affects verbal reasoning skills is vocabulary. Vocabulary refers to the words that a person knows and can use effectively. Having a rich and varied vocabulary can help children comprehend texts, express themselves clearly, solve problems, make connections, and learn new things.

Here are some tips on how to help children improve their vocabulary for verbal reasoning.


1. Read widely and frequently.

Reading widely means reading different types of texts from different sources, genres, topics, and perspectives. Reading widely is important for expanding vocabulary because:

  • Reading widely exposes you to new words and meanings that you may not encounter in your everyday communication. You can learn new words from the context, the illustrations, the glossary, or the dictionary.
  • Reading widely helps you remember the words you already know by reinforcing your memory and understanding. You have to recall and apply the words you have learned in different situations and texts.
  • Reading widely reinforces your word knowledge by deepening your awareness and appreciation. Children have to analyse and evalue the words encountered in terms of their usage, connotation, tone and style.
  • Reading widely improves your word skills by enhancing your fluency and confidence.You have to use and manipulate the words you have acquired in your own speaking and writing.

Make it a routine for you and your child – you read to them first and they read back to you. Spend at least 20-30 minutes a day doing this to boost your child’s vocabulary! You can find our reading list for all ages here: Reading Lists – 11 Plus London

2. Play word games like Scrabble

Scrabble is a board game in which players form words from letters in patterns similar to a crossword puzzle. Each letter has a value and those values are used to score the game. Playing word games like Scrabble is good for improving vocabulary because:

  • Scrabble teaches you the vocabulary. You can learn new words and meanings from the game, the dictionary, or your opponents. You can also improve your word-derivation skills by using suffixes and prefixes more easily.
  • Scrabble helps develop your intellectual abilities. You can enhance your memory, concentration, spelling, and logic by playing the game. You can also challenge yourself by using longer or more difficult words.
  • Scrabble teaches you strategy. You can improve your planning, decision-making, and problem-solving skills by playing the game. You have to think of the best words to use, the best places to put them and the best way to block your opponent. All of these are skills needed in a verbal reasoning assessment.
  • Scrabble encourages social cooperation and bonding. You can have fun, interact, and communicate with your friends, family, or other players by playing the game.

Scrabble is a great way to improve your vocabulary while having fun and learning other skills. You can find Scrabble online or in stores, and play with anyone or by yourself. You can also join Scrabble clubs, tournaments, or online communities.

3. Use crossword puzzles

Crosswords are word puzzles that require you to fill in the blanks of a grid with words that match the given clues. These classic puzzles are fun and challenging, but they also have many benefits for your vocabulary, such as:

  • Crosswords expose you to new words and meanings that you may not encounter in your everyday reading or conversation.
  • Crosswords help you remember the words you already know by testing your recall and spelling. You have to think of the correct word that fits the clue and the grid, and spell it correctly.
  • Crosswords reinforce your word knowledge by making you use different aspects of the word, such as its definition, synonyms, antonyms, word forms, word parts, or word associations. It also encourages you to use your logic and creativity to solve the puzzle.
  • Crosswords improve your word skills by making you use different strategies, such as guessing, eliminating, checking, or verifying. You have to use your context clues, word patterns, word families, or word roots to find the answer.

Crosswords are a great way for children to expand their vocabulary while having fun. You can find many crosswords online or in newspapers, magazines, or in dedicated crossword books. Children can also make their own crosswords or play with a friend. The more you play, the more you learn.

4. Conversate with them daily

Conversation is a great way to expose your child to new words and use them in context. Talk to your child about their day, their interests, their feelings, or their opinions. Use rich and varied language, and introduce new words when appropriate. Keep a book with new vocabulary to help your child track all of their new words and test them regularly on them so they remember them.  Listen to your child, ask them questions, and respond to their comments. Encourage your child to express themselves and expand their sentences.

5. Learn a word a week

Learning a new word a week is a simple and effective way to improve your child’s vocabulary, communication, and knowledge. Aiming to learn at least a word a week will help your child express themselves more precisely, understand others better and comprehend what others are writing more.

New words can be found from various sources such as a recent book your child is reading, or from a newspaper or from the dictionary. However, it is likely your child’s school already encourages your child to do this, so you may want to ask your child’s teacher for a list of words they will be teaching your child so you can start with those first.  You can also use different strategies to learn and remember new words, such as using synonyms, antonyms, sentences, pictures, or flashcards.

6. Dictionary/Thesaurus

Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy – physical is better than online as the physical process of flicking through a dictionary helps children master the order of the alphabet which is needed for verbal reasoning question types.

Whenever your child encounters a new word, encourage them to look it up in the dictionary and learn its meaning, pronunciation, spelling, and usage. They can also use a thesaurus to look up synonyms and antonyms to expand their word choices.

Children should then build their own dictionary or thesaurus with all of the new words they have learned. They should write down the definition, an example sentence, and a picture or a mnemonic device that can help them remember the word.


Improving your child’s vocabulary for verbal reasoning can have many benefits for their upcoming exams. By following these tips you can help your child reach their full potential. If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to contact us on or 0203 488 1278.