How to Pass the 7 Plus Entrance Assessment
For many families, the 7 Plus is what stands between them and a successful application to prep school. But what is this assessment, what does it involve, and how can children prepare for it?
Finding the right school
As a first step, you will need to choose the prep (preparatory) schools you would like to apply for at 7+. There are a lot of factors to take into account – including the schools’ ethos, location, size, gender mix, destination schools and extracurricular provision. There is also the question of application strategy to consider. At SLT, we always advise applying to a range of schools, including some more ambitious, competitive choices as well as an ‘insurance’ option.
Although many parents can find this range of considerations overwhelming, it is nonetheless vital to get it right. Your child will perform better in an application to a school that suits them, but more importantly, they will be happier and more successful at such a school once they are there. This will also naturally benefit their subsequent senior school applications. Our team of school consultants are experts at finding the right school for your child and supporting you throughout the application process. Please contact us if you would like to find out more about how we could help.
What is the 7 Plus and when does it take place?
The 7+ is used by prep schools to assess children for entry into Year 3, which is usually their lowest year. Children typically take the assessment in the autumn or spring term of Year 2, when they are aged 6-7, for entry the following September.
What is included in the 7 Plus?
No two schools will use identical 7 Plus assessments. It is well worth finding out how your child will be assessed – if this information is not available on the school’s website, ask the registrar. However, most 7+ tests share common features.
Traditionally, the 7 Plus exam tests Maths and English.
The English section typically includes:
- Reading comprehension: children are given a passage of text and asked to answer questions that test their understanding
- Creative writing: for instance, children are given the start of a story and asked to continue it
In recent years, some schools (such as King’s College Wimbledon) have also included a listening section, where children are played a recording and asked to follow the instructions it contains.
The Maths section usually focuses on mental arithmetic, and children can be asked to give either written or verbal answers. Increasingly, the Maths section also includes longer Maths puzzles which require candidates to follow multiple steps to find the right answer.
Finally, while verbal and non-verbal reasoning sections remain uncommon, some schools do include these, so it is worth checking with the school(s) to which you are applying.
Many schools will also include an interview stage. This will typically take the form of an informal conversation between the child and a senior member of staff. It may also comprise a group task which children take part in together, under the observation of a staff member. In these tasks, children are assessed on their ability to communicate effectively and work in a team.
How to prepare for the 7 Plus Assessment
1. Start early and gently
As a general principle, it is important not to over-prepare your child. Firstly, the admissions staff at the school will see through rote learning and answers which are not authentic to your child. Secondly, cramming or over-intensive preparation is ineffective even for older learners and is likely to be doubly so for younger children.
For this reason, we recommend beginning your preparation gently at least a year before the assessment (early in Year 1). This takes the pressure off your child and will allow them to enjoy their learning. It will also give them the time to develop their strengths naturally which will only improve their chances of success.
2. Find out what your child will be tested on
Each school will have their own 7 Plus assessment, so it is vital to target your preparation to the schools you are considering. Speak to the registrars and find out how your child will be assessed. Some schools will include past papers on their websites, so look for these too.
An experienced 7+ tutor can be invaluable here. A good tutor will know the assessments inside-out – what each school tests and what they are looking for. Preparation can then be focused effectively, optimising your child’s chances.
3. Exam technique
Many children will not have taken a formal assessment before and some time spent on basic exam technique can make all the difference. Nearer the day itself, remind your child to read the questions carefully before answering and to go back if they have time at the end and double check their work. Our experience suggests that many strong candidates lose out due to avoidable mistakes rather than a lack of ability or preparation.
For the English section, we recommend reading with your child regularly – even 15 minutes a day can make a big difference. Ask them questions about what you are reading. What is happening in the story? How is the main character feeling and why? Make a note of any words your child does not recognise in a vocab book and gently test them on these once a week to reinforce their learning.
For the creative writing section, you can practise story-telling at home. Just like in the test itself, give your child the start of a story and then ask them to come up with an ending. Start by doing this verbally, then gradually ease your child into writing their stories. Remember to encourage them to use interesting verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns, and to vary their sentence structure.
For Maths, most schools will expect your child to be able to count to 100, if not 200. Mental maths is a key part of most 7 Plus assessments, so practise addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with single- and double-digit numbers.
You can also integrate Maths questions into everyday life. If your child likes baking, ask them to convert kilograms into grams, or to work out the quantities of ingredients they would need if they were baking for 6 people instead of 4. If you are able to make their preparation relevant to an activity they like, they are more likely to remember it and to enjoy their learning.
Success at 7+ interview will depend on your child’s ability to express themselves eloquently. They could be asked questions on anything – from subjects they enjoy at school to their hobbies or describing a recent family holiday.
When practising at home, it is important to encourage your child to give full and relevant answers – no one-word replies or off-topic rambles. It is also vital that the responses they give are genuinely their own and original in the moment – scripted answers are obvious and schools strongly look down on them.
Do I need a tutor for the 7 Plus?
Families can certainly supplement their child’s preparation effectively at home, but there are several key advantages to working with an experienced 7+ tutor.
As mentioned above, a good tutor will know the requirements of the leading prep schools and will give you the inside track on what the assessment will include and how your child can impress. This will prevent time being wasted on irrelevant preparation. Tutors also have a wealth of relevant practice materials so that any areas of underperformance can be targeted effectively.
An experienced tutor will also be able to avoid the pitfalls of over-preparation. We have heard horror stories of children being asked at interview, ‘Why did you say that?’ and answering, ‘Because mummy told me to!’. 7+ tutors should prepare your child to present the best, authentic version of themselves, rather than parroting memorised or stock answers.
Finally, tutors are invaluable precisely because they are not parents! Why does this matter? Firstly, because – as many parents discover – young children will often engage more with their preparation when they are not practising with a parent. Working with a tutor makes the practice seem more serious and worthy of their attention.
Secondly and most importantly, this is a better preparation for what your child will face on the day itself, when they will not be interviewed by their parents or answer questions their parents have set for them. Many children taking the 7+ will never have sat a formal assessment before or been interviewed by an unfamiliar adult. Working with a tutor will make this aspect of the 7+ less daunting – and that increase in confidence can truly make all the difference.
How can Simply Learning Tuition help?
SLT has been successfully providing tuition for the 7 Plus for over a decade. Our support has resulted in hundreds of children securing places at competitive London prep schools including Sussex House, Westminster, Francis Holland, Wetherby and many others. Our service provides a range of unique benefits, and all tutors are personally matched to your child’s learning style. If you have missed the 7+ or 8+ we may also be able to help secure an occasional place for your child. Our School Placement service will also help you find and secure a place at the right school for your child, at 7+ or any other age.
“I feel very grateful to Amy to have helped me. Amy was funny and happy and it helped learning in an easy way. She helped in preparing me for my journey in getting into Colet Court”.
Miss. K, 7+ Preparation for Colet Court
“Russell was really helpful and very lovely; always on time and definitely helped Eren a lot with her 7+ English and interview technique”.
Mrs. I, 7+ Exam and Interview Preparation
“I have been delighted with Natalie and am continuing tuition until September. I am also very happy with all other aspects of the way the company is run”.
Mrs. B, 7+ Preparation