Why is vocabulary development so important for 11 Plus success

If you do an analysis of past papers or do exit interviews with children (as we have done to help us understand CEM tests and GL tests) you will find that ALL 11 Plus exams that feature either Verbal Reasoning or English tests are heavily slanted towards rewarding those children with the strongest vocabulary.

In some cases questions which involve vocabulary or spelling knowledge can account for over 30% of the overall marks.

Children with a wide vocabulary will do better than other children regardless of how much technique development the other children might do. The performance difference is most marked in the following areas:

Text Comprehension– Children with a wide vocabulary often read more accurately and quickly and can deal with more complicated sentence construction. Children with a wider vocabulary are more likely to score more marks AND do these tests more quickly.

Vocabulary testing within English Papers– Often these papers (particularly for Independent School entry) will include vocabulary tests (sometimes based on a piece of text). Children with a wide vocabulary will naturally be better positioned to do well.

CLOZE tests– Technique has little importance with these tests, those children who have been exposed to the words in the test more frequently (those with greater vocabulary breadth) are more likely to complete the test more quickly and score higher marks.

Other forms of verbal reasoning test: Synonyms, Antonyms, Odd word out, Multiple meanings. Again these tests require little technique so those children with a wider vocabulary will do better.

Why is vocabulary development so difficult to deliver?

The short answer is that it is such a broad subject area that you just cannot buy a ‘how to’ book and expect to tick it off, neither will doing a succession of test papers help in any real way.

It remains a fact though, that children with a broad vocabulary and excellent spelling skills are much more likely to pass the 11 Plus than those who have ‘normal’ levels of development.