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

In our sentence, we can obscure some of the letters of the first two words, leaving four in the middle.


As you can see, regardless of the fact that it’s pronounced differently, the first combination of letters forms a new word – ‘ache’. Children often forget that letter strings can be pronounced differently in English; the point of isolating the letters is that they are less likely to be swayed by the context of the larger word.

Be aware of what format the answer needs to be presented in. Most papers don’t want the word that has been hidden – they want the two words in which the word has been hidden. Therefore the answer is ‘each elephant’ or, possibly, ‘ache’.


In this sentence a four-letter word is hidden at the end of one word and the beginning of the next. Find the pair of words that contains the hidden word.

The beautiful lady sat on her chair elegantly.

Let’s explore the possible answers by imagining what would be visible using the thumbs technique.


Firstly, ‘theb’ and ‘ebea’ are not words. Secondly, although ‘hebe’ is a species of flower (and occasionally a girl’s name) and my fellow gardeners may realise this, it certainly isn’t the sort of word that will be used in a test such as this. Even as I write this on a computer, the red line has shown under ‘hebe’ and I may get some bemused looks if I were to use it in a word game amongst other adults. The answers are always words which a bright child would recognise, even if they couldn’t explain their meaning accurately. There is no trickery in this sort of question and the setter is usually not as interested in testing vocabulary as testing adaptability.

Having failed to make sense with the first two words, we move to the second and third.


The answer here is clearly ‘beautiful lady’ as the word ‘full’ is hidden between them.

Example - In this sentence a four-letter word is hidden at the end of one word and the beginning of the next. Find the pair of words that contains the hidden word.

A bit later my alarm sounded

The first combination of words can only be ‘abit’ which is not a word. The second and third words give a full three options but none of them legitimate words, so on we go to the third and fourth words.

‘Term’ can be formed with the letters from ‘later’ and ‘my’ so this is the correct answer. Be aware that ‘late’ is not an answer as it is not formed from two words. The next examples are based on turning words into new words through the addition of a single letter. This letter is the same as that needed to do the same to another word.

Technique tip:

Use the least familiar word as a starting point. This restricts the number of possible letters to work with. Write down letters you have tried to keep track. Be prepared to look at completed words with a fresh eye – the pronunciation may change totally so don’t think about what the original sounded like. For instance, ‘inter’ and ‘winter’ have quite different pronunciations in most accents.

Example 2

Find one letter which will complete both words by finishing the first and starting the second.

hit ( ? ) hot

The question mark represents a letter and the required answer must be suited to ending a four letter word beginning with ‘hit’ and starting one which ends ‘hot’.

Although not foolproof, there are some tips to save wasting a bit of time. Most people should be able to solve a relatively easy problem like this without much thought as there are only a few possible answers (at most 26, of course) but it’s helpful to gain a few seconds advantage.

In this example the second word will have a second letter ‘h’ and this means that there is a limited number of possible starting letters. Likely answers could be ‘c’, ‘s’, ‘w’ and ‘t’ although these should be starting points rather than absolutes as there are possible alternatives. The answer is ‘s’ because it would create the words ‘hits’ and ‘shot’.

Technique tip 2:

Help your child learn which letter strings go together. This is a useful skill in spelling in general and certainly helps in these sorts of questions as well as other tested types. Knowing which letters frequently precede or follow others is fundamental to spelling and there are common themes despite the English language being so diverse and vague over spelling. There follows a game I use in class to teach spelling and you may want to try it with your child or in a family group. Ensure your child knows that letters like ‘n’, ‘r’, ‘t’, ‘d’ and ‘s’ are common ends to words but if there is a consonant as the penultimate letter it’s much more likely that the final letter is ‘e’ or ‘y’. Common sense and knowledge of letter frequency and phonic blends provides a child with a more targeted list of possible letters to answer a question with, rather than merely going through from ‘a’ to ‘z’ for each one.

Example 3

Find one letter which will complete both words by finishing the first and starting the second.

year ( ? ) early

The simple approach is to start listing from ‘a’ to ‘z’ with the first word and then checking it with the second. For example, the child could create the word ‘yeara’ in their head and dismiss it as not a proper word and progress to ‘yearb’ etc. This is reasonable but there may be some shortcuts.

My technique is to get the child to concentrate on one of the words which seems easier to work with. In this case I would say that there aren’t many words which begin ‘year’ so it may be easier to look at this first as it is more restrictive. Going for a word which seems to have many options only slows you down.

Common sense would say ‘s’ is a good starting point. ‘Years’ makes sense but then ‘searly’ is not a word. Going through common ending letters, the only other letter that makes any sense is ‘n’, forming ‘yearn’ and, importantly, ‘nearly’. ‘N’ is therefore the answer.

If a child cannot make sense of the word ‘yearn’ then they will struggle here. This means that they could find it easier using ‘early’ to guide them to the answer. If they do this they will find ‘d’ (‘dearly’), ‘n’ (‘nearly’), ‘y’ (‘yearly’) and ‘p’ (‘pearly’) all work. Also, misspellings such as ‘m’ (‘mearly’) may creep in. These can all be put at the end of ‘year’ to see whether they create words and hopefully the right answer will be chosen.