11-Plus Exam Illustrations - Verbal Reasoning Quiz - VR - Compound Words (Questions)

This article was formerly a part of Compound Words and Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones. For the sake of clarity, that has now been split into two more specific articles. To read the information which used to be included, see Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones.

As we all remember from our English lessons at school, compound words are longer words formed by joining two or more shorter words, to create a new word with a totally different meaning.

Here’s an alphabet of compound words:

Airport
Bodyguard
Catfish
Dropdown
Eyeball
Football
Grandson
Handshake
Icebreaker
Jellyfish
Keyhole
Laptop
Milkshake
Newspaper
Ongoing
Ponytail
Quicksand
Rainbow
Shoelace
Teacup
Underestimate
Vouchsafe
Wheelchair
eXtraordinary (okay, I cheated a little there!)
Yardarm
Zookeeper

As you can see, the newly formed words have some relation to the words used to make them, but their meaning is entirely different.

How Are Compound Words Used In The Exam?

In the Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning Exam, children will be asked to choose two words from two lists to create one new word.

That might sound quite tricky but, if your child has a great knowledge of words, then they should do well. The more they read and the more they practise the exercise below, the easier it will be.

So, how exactly are these types of question framed in the Eleven Plus Verbal reasoning exam? Let’s find out:

Example Question One


Pick two words, one from the top list and one from the bottom list, that together form a new, correctly spelt word.

(hall room call)
(side way phone)

If we go through every conceivable arrangement, we find that there are nine possible combinations to be picked over. They are:

hallside hallway hallphone
roomside roomway roomphone
callside callway callphone

It is clear to someone familiar with the English language that ‘hallway’ is the only combination which is a new word.

Most children should be able to answer a question like this as there are only a few options and some are instantly wrong, however the trouble is that the more you look at words, the more reasonable the wrong ones appear!

A child who is not familiar with the correct answer will soon convince him- or herself that there are words which aren’t sensible. If you live in a building where there is no hallway and you’re not familiar with it, you may start to convince yourself that a ‘callphone’ is reasonable. I’ve seen it happen!

Encourage your child to look at every letter (it doesn’t say ‘cellphone’) and avoid going for ‘something that has two words that are connected’ unless there really is no other alternative.

Technique Tip

In reality there’s no time to write out all the words, so encourage your child to say the combinations in their heads. This will certainly help solve the answers which are compound words. If there is no apparent answer, then look to write out some combinations as you will find that the words change their pronunciation when added together, for example, ‘reap’ and ‘pear’ can be joined to form ‘reappear’.

Example Question Two


Pick two words, one from the top list and one from the bottom list, that together form a new, correctly spelt word.

(electricity farm work)
(meter metre yard)

There is a clear trick here - and often there will be in this section. The attempt by the setter is to make you think that ‘electricity meter’ would be a genuine word. It isn’t, of course – it’s clearly two words. The fact that there are two words that sound identical (homophones) encourages a weak candidate to take notice of these and not the other. All options have to be investigated, potentially by writing things out (albeit not the full nine options) and when you do, you discover the combination which produces ‘farmyard’.

Technique Tip

Bear in mind that there are unlikely to be any obscure, hyphenated combinations of words here. Words formed will be at a level of a bright eleven-year-old and although many are compound words (ones which are made of two clear separate parts, e.g. blackboard) there are plenty which are simply words that can be split to form other words, e.g. reappear. (‘reap’ + ‘pear’; the constituent parts have no bearing on the meaning of the whole word).

Example Question Three


Pick two words, one from the top list and one from the bottom list, that together form a new, correctly spelt word.

(miss throw imp)
(air take pair)

It is worth getting your child – assuming they aren’t in a mad rush – to write out the combination of letters they have chosen to check the spelling of a word in this sort of question. If it’s clear, don’t waste time; where there are several similar answers, a written method helps to confirm an answer.

In the question above the setter is trying to do two things. Firstly, to look at combining ‘miss’ and ‘take’ to misspell ‘mistake’ and secondly to combine ‘imp’ and ‘pair’ to misspell ‘impair’. This is a really difficult thing for a dyslexic child to manage; writing possible combinations would hopefully clarify it here. The answer is ‘imp’ + ‘air’.

Technique Tip

Watch out for spelling things with double letters – ‘reap’ + ’ear’ does not produce a word whereas ‘reap’ + ‘pear’ does. At this point spelling, rather than vocabulary, is being tested. While there will be tricks to watch for, the six-word choices are always genuine and there are never any ‘non-words’ in there, even if your child is unfamiliar with any of them.

Example Question Four


Pick two words, one from the top list and one from the bottom list, that together form a new, correctly spelt word.

(examine thought be)
(nation cause full)

The answer is ‘be’ + ‘cause’ forming ‘because’. The possible pitfall answers are to blend ‘examine’ and ‘nation’ which may sound right, but is wrong when written out, and adding ‘thought’ to ‘full’ which would sound right but is wrongly spelt. ‘Ful’ is a standard ending; ‘full’ certainly isn’t!

I always try to challenge children to think for themselves about words - try asking your child how many words in the English language end 'full'. The answer, as far as I know, is just the one - 'full' itself. All the adverbial endings are 'ful' as are the ones showing capacity, e.g. 'cupful'.

This is actually an example of pronunciation changing in the final word as ‘cause’ becomes ‘cos’ in the way it is pronounced in ‘because’.

As with many of these word-based tests, it's quite reasonable to play games of your own choosing around the basic concept. The best thing for your child is to have them thinking along the right lines whenever they see these types of questions, so here you could have competitions when you're out to see who can find the most words written which can be directly chopped into smaller words. Extra points can be given for words that split into three or more separate words, e.g. cat-a-tonic. Balance out the formal testing with fun activities that challenge the intellect, but spark the imagination of your child.

Sample Tests

So, now that you have learnt exactly what the examiners are after, it’s time to get some practise with compound words. There are four quizzes on the Education Quizzes site devoted specifically to this type of question.

Why not try them with your child. See how they get on and use the hints and tips we have learned in this lesson to guide them.

You’ll find the quizzes in our Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning section or, alternatively, you can follow these links:

Compound Words 1

Compound Words 2

Compound Words 3

Compound Words 4

Good luck!