11-Plus Exam Vocabulary

Updated:January 12, 2024
Author:Creative Hare

Hello word enthusiasts and future exam conquerors!

If you have child who has embarked on the sometimes nerve-wracking journey towards the 11 Plus exam, you’re probably well aware that building 11 Plus exam vocabulary confidence is your child’s secret weapon.

How, you ask? Well, it all starts with words – those magical building blocks of language that can open doors to success.

  • Having a wide vocabulary is important for the 11-Plus exam. Whilst there are lots of free, helpful word lists out there, there’s no official list that will solve your vocabulary headache!
  • Instead, expanding vocabulary with regular practice (from curiosity) is highly recommended.
  • Curiosity emerges from encouragement and asking your child questions about what they think. This develops their expressive voice and experimentation with words.


In business we’re told less is more – using fewer words and keeping them simple will engage your audience. 

With so much online distraction, who has the headspace to digest long words, anyway?

Yet, for the 11+ (forget few and simple) a wide vocabulary is vital for acing your English exam. An expansive vocabulary will also help your child in other areas of the curriculum, such as maths word problems and history. 


How Much Vocabulary Is Needed? 

There is an obsession with the acquisition of vocabulary for exams. Yes, expanding your vocabulary is important but memorising 500+ new words won’t always help you on exam day. 

However, your child can benefit hugely from word strategies so they feel confident answering the toughest vocabulary questions.

I believe igniting a curiosity for new words is key to retention and long-term application.

11 Plus Exam Vocabulary: 

Google 11-Plus vocabulary and you’ll get a host of free pdf vocabulary sheets. 11Plus words and meanings is also one of the most searched for queries in the realm of all things 11 Plus. 

What do you need to know?

  • Prioritising curiosity as part of your exam preparation is effective 
  • Know that the exam vocabulary standard is very high
  • You can’t predict the words that will pop up in the exam, as there’s no set list that schools use. If that was the case, you’d just need to download a list and learn them. That would be too easy, if only.

11+ Exam Vocabulary 

The English Exam consists of 

  • Verbal Reasoning (VR) 
  • Reading Comprehension 
  •  Creative Writing (used by some schools) 

You’ll need to know the exam boards (GLS, CEM or a mix) for your target schools – the earlier the better. Vocabulary will feature in all the exams, but CEM is known to be toughest on vocabulary testing. 

Most schools administer a weekly spelling test but this is no way enough for 11+ exam preparation. 



Verbal Reasoning (VR)

  • Synonyms (wince/flinch) and Antonyms (plain/unadorned) 
  • Homophones: no/know 
  • Odd one out 
  • Word connections:  dog is to (bed, biscuit, ball) as baby is to (toy, cot, young)
  • Arrange a word out of jumbled letters 

Reading Comprehension 

  • Extracts from English Classics e.g Charles Dickens are common in the English exam. Non-fiction texts and Poems can also feature in the comprehension.


  •  If there’s one thing we definitely know, it’s the text extract WILL contain unknown tricky vocabulary. Expect questions that will test your vocabulary reasoning skills.

Creative Writing 

  • Use of ambitious vocabulary will be awarded with high marks in the exam. 


  • The key is to be confident at using a variety of vocabulary throughout your written piece (character’s thoughts & feelings).


  • Vocabulary should be used naturally rather than feeling forced (this often takes a lot of patience and practice). Too many adjectives in one sentence is normally too much and should be avoided. 



There seems to be an obsession with the acquisition of vocabulary. Learning 500+ new words won’t help you if you have a mind blank on exam day. You need strategies so you’ll feel confident answering the toughest vocabulary questions.


Strategies used in my 1:1 tuition classes

  • Read the word in context – don’t make an assumption – does it sound positive or negative?
  • Word within a word – Do you recognise a smaller word within the word?
  • Does it remind you of a word you already know? (look for prefixes, suffixes) 
  • Work out its word class  then swap it for with another adjective/adverb/verb/noun to test that it makes sense.



But what if English is an additional language in your home? How can you ensure your child has the vocabulary required for the exam? 

The suggestions below can supercharge your child’s vocabulary. However, the way your child engages with the resources is pivotal to success. It’s not enough to complete exercises at random intervals, when your child feels like it. 

When it comes to 11-Plus prep, without a curiosity for words, parents face months of huffing and puffing! This is common in children who do lots of online Verbal Reasoning (VR) testing, without an equal emphasis on fostering an interest in vocabulary.

Yet you don’t want to nag your child either. So, what’s the answer? 

  • I believe focusing on developing a long lasting interest for words is key to success. This is what will fuel regular practice. Consistency (small steps over a long time) is pivotal for success.

5 Easy Ways To Develop a Curiosity For Words

  • Don’t dumb down your own vocabulary
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage expressive language
  • If you don’t know what a word means challenge your child to find out its meaning
  • Use Siri but acknowledge the answer may be inaccurate!
  • Have a good quality, easy-to-use dictionary in your child’s study space
  • Draw pictures to illustrate a character's feelings

Goodies to Buy:

Words don’t have to be boring

  • I encourage my one-to-one tutees to keep a  journal of words. They jot down words they come across – without stipulating a certain number of words, as that takes the fun away.


  • They write down the word meaning, ready to share in our lesson. They then use the word in a sentence or I challenge them to use it in their story writing


  • When the word hasn’t been used in the right context, I praise them for having a go and we discuss why it’s not quite right, in a curious way, rather than finger pointing that it’s wrong. 


One child I teach jotted down a word on a tiny piece of paper she came across at school. She took it home so she could look it up – unfolding this tiny piece of scrap paper in our Zoom lesson – now that’s curiosity in action, a wonder to see. 


  • Bananagrams (easy to pack in your hand luggage)
  • Boggle
  • Hangman
  • I spy…
  • ChatterStars App
  • Wordle for Children


  • The Week Junior
  • The Phoenix


  • Rose McGowan 11 Plus Vocabulary
  • Bond Skills English Spelling and Vocabulary stretch
  • Bond 11+: CEM Vocabulary 10 minute tests
  • Philip Pullman Fiction Books
  • Eva Ibbotson Books
  • Michael Morpurgo Books
  • Audio Books

Your Child’s Vocabulary Adventure

If igniting a spark for words feels like hard work, don’t give up, you’ll get there!

🚀  Are you ready to unlock your child’s creative confidence? Would you like to help them nurture a love of words with ‘Bright to Brilliant?’ – my new and exciting Creative Writing Programme for 9-11 year olds. 📝 

Bright to Brilliant classes are not about dry definitions and tedious drills. Nope, we dive into the world of words with a zest for language that’s as contagious as laughter in a comedy club.

So, grab a cup of curiosity, sprinkle in some determination, and join us on this linguistic rollercoaster as we unravel the secrets of mastering the 11 Plus exam vocabulary.

Have any questions? Book a 20 minute Zoom call with Clare today. Let’s plan your child’s creative writing journey together.