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Taking the 11 Plus Exam? Here’s How to Prepare


Any parent will know how quickly children grow up. One moment they are tiny babies, and the next they are starting their first day at school. As the years have progressed you may have decided your child would be best suited for a grammar rather than an independent school.

As a result you may have already entered them for the 11+ exam. This will test their English and maths skills, and also their powers of verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

It’s never a good idea to leave exam preparation to the last minute, and you may be keen to begin early so your child has the maximum chance of passing. There are a number of proactive things that can be done to support your child, and you may have already created a comfortable  environment to help them be more productive at home. This article has been written to give you some tips, to help you gain the best possible outcome for your child’s 11+ exam.

Pay For A Private Tutor

11+ tutors are more specialised than general ones, and they are therefore more hard to come by. They can be very useful when children are struggling with the exam preparation in a classroom setting. One to one tuition provides a child with 100% attention, and it can be easier to discover and address a child’s weak areas.

If a tutor comes to a child’s house, a busy parent can be freed up to prepare the dinner. Other options are to go to the teacher’s address, or to find a residential course if one exists locally.

Enrol Your Child On A Summer Revision Course

Whilst it often benefits children to receive extra tuition at home, they can sometimes find it tiring after a day at school. Rather than wanting to brush up on their maths or English skills, they may simply want to curl up in front of the television.

Summer revision courses maximise a time when children are not receiving daily school tuition. This often means they are mentally more refreshed and able to absorb information. When parents are considering a 11 plus intensive Summer revision course they frequently begin by searching the internet. Parents want to discover the dates and times, as well as the session structures. They also want to know what their child would need to bring with them during the course.

Some providers offer similar sessions during the Easter breaks, which can be helpful if parents have booked summer holidays.

Check The Examining Board

This has a direct impact upon the exam content, and it varies according to region. The two examining boards are:

  1. The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM)
  2. Granada Learning (GL)

It will therefore depend where you live, but you may need to phone up the grammar school your child is applying to, in order to be sure.

Begin Preparation Early

When your child is in year three or four you should monitor their English and maths skills. This could involve regularly testing them on their tables, and asking mental maths questions. If your child reads every day, it will stand them in good stead for all their school subjects.

When your child is in year five, they would benefit from becoming familiar with exam conditions (i.e. limited times for answering test questions). BBC Bitesize is a popular learning vehicle because it understands that children prefer small learning modules. When it comes to 11+ preparation, you could create a learning schedule featuring 30 minute sessions each day, rather than anything longer.

Understand The Two Testing Formats

One relates to multiple choice, and the other involves written answers. They are very different from one another and require different skills and strategies from your child.

Parents would therefore be well-advised to involve both formats in their exam preparation.

Use Practice Papers

This is a great technique, just as it is for any exam preparation. It provides a copycat test in the exact format that the 11+ will use.

Over time your child will become very familiar with the format, making the final exam less challenging. You should create exam conditions during these sessions by removing all distractions and adhering rigidly to the timeframe allowed.

Learn From Other Parents

Whilst this may be your first experience of the 11+ exam, you may know people whose children have already taken it. It can be really helpful to gain tips from parents of reluctant children or those whose kids had specific struggles. You can then relax that your situation is not unique, and feel more empowered going forward.

Even the parents who are in the same position as you may have learned some keys that could be of use. Online communities may be something else you could connect to, especially if you don’t know many parents who can help.

Guidance As The Day Approaches

Try not to put your anxieties or exam concerns upon your child. Whilst you will want him or her to do well, they will need to know they are loved regardless of the final outcome.

Children who have healthy bedtime routines and sufficient sleep are more likely to be able to concentrate during exam conditions.  Research shows that it’s beneficial to provide brain fuel in the form of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods. Connections have also been discovered between good memories and eating things like yoghurt, fish and blueberries. On the exam day you’ll need to provide a healthy breakfast so that your child experiences a slow release of energy rather than a quick sugarbuzz. You should also  encourage your child to remain well hydrated at school.

Hopefully you now feel furnished with some helpful suggestions designed to support your child. When the day finally arrives they will be best-placed to complete the tests. This season can then become a springboard to their secondary education, and prepare them for their future life and career. At the end of the day, each child has to take their own journey, and a parent’s role is to simply be there for them with love and encouragement.


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