11 Plus Guide

What is the 11 Plus?

The 11+ Exam, which governs admission to various types of secondary schools, has been one of the key points in a many children’s lives for more than 40 years. It comprises of papers on literacy, numeracy, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Whether your child is frantically preparing for their 11 Plus next month or is starting a more leisurely journey towards the exam, here are our most essential tips to help your child excel in their 11+. If you are searching for a 11 Plus tutor for your child, we can introduce you to the highest calibre of private tutors in as little as 48 hours.

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1. When should your child start preparing for the 11 Plus?

We usually recommend 12 to 18 months of gentle preparation for the 11 plus exam, starting in the Autumn or Spring term of Year 5. However, this really depends on your child and their current attainment levels. Your son or daughter may only need a few hours of exam practice, and a confidence boost, or if there are any deeper learning gaps, or significant obstacles to learning due to severe lack of confidence in a specific subject or a Specific Learning Difficult, they might need several months of regular weekly tuition. The good news is that any support focused on the 11+ will pay dividends for your child’s schoolwork.

2. How to prepare your child for 11 Plus English

The 11+ English paper can be challenging for most adults, let alone 10-year-olds. It involves composition and comprehension that requires them to be confident about ‘writing from the heart’. In our experience, this is where many children, particularly boys, lose marks. An excellent way to improve verbal dexterity is to tell, or read, your child a story and then talk about it afterwards. Ask them to describe what happened and explain how it made them feel. As well as helping them to unlock their emotions, effective story-telling brings a satisfying increase in marks.


3. How to prepare your child for 11 Plus Maths

It is important for your child to understand the core concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and for them to apply this knowledge under pressure, particularly in problem solving type questions. You should also go over their times tables regularly using games, cards, posters or songs – whichever methods best engage your child.

4. How to prepare your child for Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Papers

Some people believe these papers test innate ability and therefore cannot be coached. However, it is vital to provide opportunities for practice, which can easily be done by using the extensive verbal and non-verbal reasoning books on sale. There is no magic to it, but if the child has not seen these types of questions before the exam, they are likely to be thrown.


5. Keep your cool

With so much riding on the outcome, most parents are quite nervous, as our school heads. It is vital that you don’t convey this to your child. Try to be relaxed and detached. Don’t push, just give gentle encouragement and explain that exams are not the be all and end all. Help your child to de-stress by making sure they take regular breaks. Tired children can easily get frustrated and will find it more difficult to concentrate.

6. Limit the use of technology during breaks

Phones and iPads can prove to be an easy distraction between lessons. It is not good for your child to switch from making ‘brain and pen’ connections to computer games because both activities stimulate different parts of the brain. Your child will need to perfect the management of calm retrieval of data. They also need time to absorb information and some downtime to process the work they have completed and to let the information sink in. This is best done if breaks involve a walk or some other exercise.


7. Organise mock exams

To help reduce your child’s anxiety before their 11+ exams, one of the best things to do is a mock exam. We introduce private tutors who can organise these mock exams and, in fact, make them fun for your child. Alternatively, you could organise your own by hiring a hall or going to a house that is unfamiliar to your child with a group of other children to take a mock test. Keep things formal, give timings and ensure everyone works in silence. The aim is to help children prepare for what happens in the exam setting. After their mock exam, work through their papers identifying the strengths and weaknesses. Bear in mind that mark schemes can be hard to understand and may need expert interpretation. Sometimes a composition piece might look good and be spelled and punctuated correctly, but has nevertheless failed to answer the question properly.

8. When do the 11 Plus results come out?

If your child doesn’t do as well as you expected, you can appeal. Grammar schools have an established process for this. For independent schools, the decision is entirely discretionary. Generally, you are more likely to succeed if you have the support of your child’s head teacher to confirm that the poor performance on the exam day was unexpected. If this doesn’t work, try to stay calm, accept the result and praise your child for all of their hard work. There are plenty of other schools that will be a good fit for your child and with the support of an education consultant, you can get them back on the road to academic success and emotional well-being.


9. 11 Plus Resources

For the 11 Plus, your child will need to focus on exam technique and preparation. We recommend Galore Park as a great source of ISEB past papers with which to practice. Unfortunately, many schools adopt a ‘one test fits all’ methodology, which can fail to take into account the wide variations in development level displayed by children at this relatively young age.

A private tutor will even out these differences in developmental level and can help improve results dramatically. Literacy tutors will focus on the core skills of verbal and non-verbal reasoning and essay composition, encouraging the child to unleash their full creativity and to curtail it in when necessary. For comprehension, tutors ensure that children understand the meaning of different question terms, such as ‘describe’ and ‘explain’. As for all exams, understanding what the questions means is half the battle. For Numeracy, tutors often spend time revising the core concepts of multiplication, division, subtraction and addition before moving on to the more challenging questions. Many children are perfectly able to handle the complex areas as soon as they are grounded in the basics.

Every tutor we introduce has experience of 11 plus exams and the majority have helped to prepare children for the UK’s leading schools, including St Paul’s School, St Paul’s Girls’ School, City of London and Westminster Cathedral Choir School. If you are searching for a 11 plus tutor for your child, please call one of our tuition consultants today.

If you have any comments or questions about this Advice Page, we would be delighted to answer them.

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