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11+ Fill in the blank illustration | Upside down house
You may come across upside-down houses in Non-Verbal Reasoning.

NVR Progression - Fill in the Blank (2)

Welcome to the second article in this Progression section of our exam illustrations. As you will remember, these types of question are all about finding the rules which govern a progression within a series, much like the kinds of question found in verbal reasoning or in maths. The only difference is that, rather than letters or numbers forming the series, this time it’s all about shapes.

In the first article we introduced you to these questions and showed you how they are created using rotations. In this one we shall focus on alternating patterns.

How Are These Kinds of Question Posed in The Exam?

These are exactly the same kinds of question we have already looked at. Only the method used to form the series has changed. As you know, candidates are given four or five shapes which form a series. However, one of the shapes is missing and they must find it from a list of potential answers.

Now, let’s give you an example of a Complete the Series question, this time using an alternating pattern:


Pick one of the five boxes on the right to fit in the blank box and complete the series on the left.


As I said, this time we have an example of the alternate boxes concept. What does that mean exactly? Well, you can see that the first, third and fifth boxes are identical – so we just need to concentrate on the second and fourth.

It’s possible that there are several answers to this one – don’t worry though, there will probably be only one option given that will work. If we try the ‘working it out without seeing the possible answers’ approach, ideally we would have a symbol in the space which is identical to the symbol in the second box. Failing this, maybe a shape with dashed lines, or one which is pointing downwards. If the paper has been well written, there will be one clear possibility and four that are just not as logical.

Now we can look at the possible answers – shape (c) is very likely to be right as it is what we expected. But let’s run through the alternatives to see if any are as strong a candidate:

  1. Shape (a) has nothing in common with the required answer except basic shape.
  2. Shape (b) is the right shape and direction but is not drawn with dashed lines.
  3. Shape (d) is dashed but is facing the wrong way.
  4. Shape (e) looks great until you look closely and realise it is drawn with a mix of dots and dashes.

There is no absolute correct answer, but it makes a lot of sense to choose (c) as the answer as it is MORE CORRECT THAN THE ALTERNATIVES. Never be afraid to tell your child that sometimes there is no absolute answer and that they should choose the best one.

Technique Tip

Name the symbols you see regularly. Obviously, squares are squares, but you will soon become familiar with ‘house’ (as in example 2), ‘keyhole’, ‘round shield’, ‘pointy shield’, ‘bacon rasher’, ‘diamond’ and many more.

Pick out the shapes that regularly occur in these illustrations and in the quizzes we link to at the end of each one. These are the same kinds of thing that appear on the sample papers your child will face. Ensure that he or she knows what they are called – let them name them themselves if it helps. Draw and cut out each shape and allow your child to experiment by rotating it. He or she will then be familiar with ‘keyhole facing left’ or ‘upside down pointy shield’ and other combinations which will probably occur at some time on the paper.

Sample Tests

So, now we have studied two of the ways Progression questions can be formed: rotation and alternating patterns. You may feel that you are ready for some practise questions. If so, take a look at the 7 Complete the Series quizzes we have in the 11+ Non-Verbal reasoning section of the Education Quizzes site.

For your convenience, here are links to each quiz:

Complete the Series 1

Complete the Series 2

Complete the Series 3

Complete the Series 4

Complete the Series 5

Complete the Series 6

Complete the Series 7

There are a few more ways that these kinds of question can be created though, which we will look at in the next three articles. It might be wiser to read through them first, before you tackle the quizzes. See you there!


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