What Is Spatial Reasoning? (and how to pass a spatial reasoning test!)

Posted on June, 2022

Many parents find it difficult to help children prepare for their 11 plus exam and part of that test often includes a spatial reasoning test.

This non-verbal reasoning test can cause a great deal of confusion among both students and parents, as it involves dealing with problems that are not usually taught in the classroom.

As such, helping your child prepare for this type of test can be tricky, and leaves lots of parents scratching their heads.

If you’re one of many parents who is thinking:

  • What kind of questions does the spatial reasoning test ask?
  • What skills are needed to pass the spatial reasoning test?
  • How will my child be marked on the spatial reasoning test?

Then keep reading this blog post…

We’re going to tell you everything there is to know about the spatial reasoning test, and most importantly, how your child can master spatial reasoning.

As a parent, we know that your child is your priority. You want to do everything in your power to make sure they are in the best possible position to succeed in their academic journey, and this includes passing their 11 plus exam.

What is Spatial Reasoning?

Spatial reasoning assesses your child’s ability to interpret patterns within shape and space, often with a three-dimensional component.

For example, can you picture a spinning cube in your head?

If you can, then you’re using spatial reasoning, as you have the ability to imagine things in three-dimensions.

This concept is very useful in the classroom when children are being taught numbers. For example, instead of being shown a standard number line with the numbers written in pen, a teacher can use blocks to represent each number on the line. This way, students can visualise it in their heads and also get a sense of magnitude. There is a natural transition from blocks (learning through concrete methods) to number lines and numbers (learning through abstract methods) in the teaching of maths.

It comes in useful when they are being taught rotation and symmetry too.

Keeping with the idea of using blocks, teachers can use a flattened version which is known as a net. This means if you cut the shapes out and fold them back up, it would make the shape of a block.

One practical way you can use these nets is to show your students a collection of different nets, each with a different layout. You can then ask them to choose which net will fold back up to form the shape of a block.

In the spatial reasoning test, questions are multiple-choice based meaning students must choose which answer they think is correct from a list of options as shown in the example below:

nets on white background

Is Spatial Reasoning Relevant for My Child?

The 11 plus exam will often include a spatial reasoning test.

These tests are believed to be relatively hard to prepare for, as many students (and parents) don’t fully understand how to work out the answer.

There is also some confusion about what skills are required to pass, as the full spectrum of spatial reasoning is not a topic that is always covered in the school classroom. In primary school, children are taught to recognise different nets, but things like plans and rotations of shapes are taught much later on in senior school.

However, as these questions can be part of your child’s 11 plus exam, it’s important they understand how to answer these questions so that they can pass with flying colours!

If your child is preparing for a CEM Assessment 11 Plus Exam, there are likely to be spatial reasoning sections included.

For other exam boards, such as CSSE (the Consortium of Secondary Schools for Essex) these questions are incorporated in the maths part of the exam paper.

For example, there seems to be an emerging trend whereby spatial reasoning questions are now classified more broadly under a title which will say ‘non-verbal reasoning.’

Therefore, whilst this does not explicitly contain a section titled ‘spatial reasoning’, your child will still be required to answer these questions.

The CEM 11 plus exams can also include spatial reasoning questions, such as nets and cubes, within the Non-Verbal Reasoning section.

Independent schools are also starting to include spatial reasoning questions as part of their entrance exams, so it’s vital your child is comfortable with this type of test.
boy in red jumper writing

What Skills does the 11 Plus Spatial Reasoning Test Assess?

11 plus spatial reasoning questions assess your child’s ability to manipulate shapes and spaces in their head.

They test your child on non-verbal information in the form of rotating shapes and plans, as well as testing your child on their ability to understand relationships between different shapes. Unlike other areas of the 11 plus exam, spatial reasoning does not focus on vocabulary.

Traditionally, this test was introduced to help remove the barrier of language and therefore help level the playing field between children from various backgrounds.

Spatial reasoning is not featured in the Primary National Curriculum, which means that it’s an area many children find challenging. Children often find this difficult as it will be the first time they have encountered such questions in a classroom setting.

However, like any other area of your child’s learning, the skills required to pass a spatial reasoning test can be strengthened with practice.

As the saying goes practice makes perfect, so it’s time to get those practice papers out!

How Can I Help My Child Pass the Spatial Reasoning Test?

Practise, practise, practise!

The more practice papers your child does that involve spatial reasoning questions, the more confident they’ll be when going into their exam.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, spatial reasoning tests are considered particularly challenging for children as they are not part of the National Curriculum. As such, this tends to be an area that children are unfamiliar with, as opposed to other topics in maths and English.

There’s also this idea that some children are simply ‘better’ at spatial reasoning questions than others. The idea being that it’s not entirely possible to improve on a child’s basic aptitude when it comes to this cognitive area.

However, with the right support, it is totally possible to markedly improve your children’s spatial reasoning abilities over time. This is where the dedicated support of a tutor comes into play, which we’ll cover further down the post.

For now, let’s get back to practice papers.

Like anything in life, practice is key to developing your child’s 11 plus spatial reasoning skill set. This allows them to become more familiar with question styles so that they know what to look out for.

As a parent, it’s important you encourage your child to complete past papers and support them throughout this process.
person using pencil on white paper

11 Plus Spatial Reasoning Practice Papers

No tool is more useful for your child than completing practice papers.

This doesn’t just apply to spatial reasoning, but also to creative writing, maths, and verbal reasoning too.

The more your child can familiarise themselves with the questions being asked, the more confident they’ll feel heading into an exam.

Furthermore, use of practice papers can help both you as a parent, and your child to identify their key strengths and weaknesses. This means they can focus on areas where they’re really struggling so that their 11 plus preparation is more targeted and effective.

At Redbridge Tuition, we’ve created your complete guide to non-verbal reasoning, which includes questions about spatial reasoning which your child can complete.

To get your copy, simply click here.

What Types of Questions are in the 11 Plus Spatial Reasoning Exam?

To help you understand the types of questions your child might face in an 11 plus exam, we’ve created a list of categories that spatial reasoning papers might cover.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, but it should still act as a good guide to give you and your child an overview of key areas.

Plan views

With this type of question, children will be shown a 3D shape. They will be given multiple choices and must work out which of the options is a plan view/ birds-eye view of the 3D shape that is shown.
Elevations

Children will be shown a shape, and will have to choose from multiple options, which is a rotation of the shape that is being displayed. If none of the options are a rotation, then children must mark this as ‘none’.

Compound shapes

With compound shapes, children will be shown a set shape alongside multiple choices. They must then work out which set of shapes can be put together to form the 3D shape that is shown on the paper.

Nets (cubes)

Children will be shown 4 cubes alongside a net. They must work out which one of the four cubes can be made from the net.

All of these questions and more can be found in the Redbridge Tuition CEM 3D non-verbal reasoning book. Get yours here.

Should I Hire an 11 Plus Private Tutor?

When it comes to preparing your child for their spatial reasoning test and their 11 plus exam, having the right support is key.

Having access to a tutor who understands non verbal reasoning style of questions can make all of the difference, as this allows them to strengthen their capabilities in key areas.

Redbridge Tuition has a strong track record when it comes to the 11 Plus Exam.

We are specialists in this field and our consistent success over the last 15 years speaks for itself. Our 2 year course is designed to help ease some of the angst that many parents face when thinking about the 11 plus.

The course is taught in a fun and interactive way to ensure that each child gains confidence and can achieve to the best of their potential. All our sessions are in small groups, are teacher-led, and topic-based. This ensures that all three major learning styles are covered.

At Redbridge Tuition the majority of the material for this course (both paper-based and online questions) is written in-house by our specialist tutors and writers who understand what is required to pass the 11 Plus Exam. This includes helping your child prepare for their spatial reasoning test by enabling them to understand the questions being asked.

To find out more about how we can help your child, get in touch with our friendly team!
young girl on laptop

What Is Spatial Reasoning? (and how to pass a spatial reasoning test!)

The spatial reasoning test can understandably cause anxiety for your child.

As these questions do not form part of the Primary National Curriculum they are rarely taught in the classroom. It can leave your child feeling unsure about how to approach them in the exam.

As we’ve covered in this blog post, preparation is key to passing the eleven plus exam. The more practice papers your child can complete the better, as this will help them become more familiar with the types of questions being asked. However, it is important to note that in our opinion, practice papers should only be attempted once the concept, and how to answer the questions, are both understood.

As a parent, it’s important to support your child throughout this process so that they are in the best possible position to succeed.

Having access to a tutor can help your child on their academic journey, as they can concentrate on the areas they struggle with the most. As opposed to the classroom environment, a dedicated tutor can work directly with your child to build their confidence so that they can achieve their academic goals.

At Redbridge Tuition, we have a strong track record when it comes to the 11 Plus Exam, including the spatial reasoning test. To find out more about how we can help your child prepare, and succeed, simply get in touch with our experts.

Want a free consultation?